The Alliance Alive, the new JRPG from developer Cattle Call and published by Atlus USA, sets out to prove two things: Atlus is the best publisher of JRPGs today, and the Nintendo 3DS is the best system for this genre of games. While The Alliance Alive doesn’t do anything groundbreaking for JRPGs, what it does do is create a solid gaming experience that hits all the right notes in story and gameplay, and sucks the player in for 40+ hours of an adventure that spans four unique regions, with almost 10 playable characters, and 12 weapons to master.
The Alliance Alive is the story of a race of higher beings known as Daemons, who have subjugated humanity by dividing the world into four areas, each cut off by a mystical barrier called the Dark Current. This division of the planet cost the lives of many humans, and those that remain exist as subservients, not only to the Daemons, but to the Beastfolk, the appointed masters of the fledgling human race. The game picks up as a group resistance fighters are beginning to band together into a resistance to combat the Beastfolk and free humanity from the grasp of the powerful Daemons.
The story is epic in scope, and fans would expect nothing less from Yoshitaka Murayama, the writer of the Suikoden game series. As the player proceeds across the worlds, they will come across “Guilds” that serve as allies in the rebellion. These Guilds actually assist the Alliance by helping in combat with powerful offensive moves that occur randomly or defensive shields for the party — as long as the battle is happening within range of a Guild tower. There are plenty of Guild towers to activate, which becomes a side quest in and of itself, as the bigger the Alliance, the better the chance for the various parties to survive.
Following the typical JRPG tropes, there are huge open worlds to explore, as well as towns and cities to interact with. Each of the four regions have their own idiosyncrasies. There’s a rainy land that contains humans that have never seen a blue sky. There’s a mountainous volcanic region, with magma flows that cut through open plains, and more. This variety in the lands creates some interesting opportunities to battle unique monsters.
Combat is turn-based, but it’s in the combat where The Alliance Alive begins to separate itself from the games that have come before it. Up to five characters can participate in a battle, and the player can direct where on the battle grid the characters will stand. This creates some welcome strategy to help break up the monotony that comes with grinding in a game like this.
Characters don’t level up with XP, but they get stronger by experiencing, if that makes any sense. HP and SP both rise as the game goes on, based on what that character does in battle. There are 12 different weapons that each player can use and master, and the weapons themselves “level up” by waking up new moves as the story progresses. This process of Awakening a new skill is how characters get stronger. Characters also have a final move that they can use once a meter is filled — usually after taking a beating or if the party begins to wipe. This final move unleashes a powerful hit, but results in the breaking of the weapon. Blacksmiths can repair the broken weapons, but it’s always a good idea to carry a few of each weapon in case you begin to destroy them in various combat scenarios.
Players also earn TP, or Talent Points, in battles, which can be spent on acquiring new talents, like item usage and spells and more. There are so many ways to craft the progress of the different characters, that this is where the meat of the JRPG experience comes from. And that unique take on leveling makes The Alliance Alive a fun adventure to play through.
Music is another huge component of a great JRPG, and The Alliance Alive doesn’t fail. The mixture of different music styles, like teaming a violin with EDM, which work seamlessly to create a fun and hummable soundtrack to the lengthy adventure. The art direction uses a simplistic character design, reminiscent of Square Enix’s Bravely Default series. There is still great detail given to the character designs, but the faces and legs are simple, which works, as it doesn’t draw attention away from the story or the action onscreen.
The world and the story are what sets The Alliance Alive apart from other JRPGs. This genre of gaming has a rabid fanbase — folks who love to grind and put in countless hours developing characters and seeing all that the game world has to offer. The Alliance Alive offers all of that and more, and the 3DS is the perfect system to highlight the game and its features.
I’ve been a JRPG fan since the late ’80s and sometimes I just want to jump into a game like this and lose myself. The Alliance Alive gives me that opportunity and I’ve greatly enjoyed my time playing — and will continue to play it long after the journey ends. That’s always a sign of a good game, and The Alliance Alive is a good game. Now that I’ve talked about it, it’s time to get back to it. The human race needs me; the Alliance needs me. It’s a pleasure being rebel scum.
The Alliance Alive is available now on the Nintendo 3DS. This review is based off a code provided by Atlus USA.
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