Developer FuRyu, much like Tokyo RPG Factory, set out on a mission a few years ago to create an RPG that harkens back to what many refer to as the “golden age of RPGs”. In doing so, they created the nostalgia inducing and somewhat innovative first attempt in The Legend of Legacy, a game that checked all of the gameplay boxes but left players wanting more in character building and plot. Now, FuRyu is back at it again in the shape of Legacy’s spiritual successor – The Alliance Alive (yeah, they’ve got a thing for some over the top alliteration). The question we’ll seek to answer today is whether the game accomplishes what it was meant to and whether it stands out on its own.
As you load up The Alliance Alive, you’re greeted with the soothing sound of rain set to a moving verdant landscape. Slowly, the images transition to other settings of the game (along with the matching atmospheric sounds, which is something that Alliance Alive really does well). From these simple and brief glimpses of scenery and the accompanying sounds (there isn’t a second of music on the title screen), you – well, if you’re like me – are instantly absorbed into the experience. I could close my eyes and lose myself in the sounds.
As you load up the game, however, the sounds drift away, and music, action, and plot take hold. Visually, The Alliance Alive is a pretty stylized entry on the 3DS. Character sprites have personality (often enhanced by humorous emoji-like icons that pop over their head) inspired by anime but with a feeling all of its own. The settings are a mixture of your classic RPGs and a little flair of Bravely Default, maybe, but they’re beautiful, nonetheless. My biggest gripe with the visuals is how the enemy mobs look on screen (they’re shadowy figures that represent the type of monster you’ll be battling).
Speaking of combat, the battle system in The Alliance Alive is a pretty unique feature. Borrowing heavily from The Legend of Legacy, The Alliance Alive features a two weapon, turn based combat system that doesn’t really have character levels. As you utilize your weapons (and invest talent points into upgrading your ability to use them), you learn stronger skills and power up said skills. Instead of gaining character levels, your party members can increase, say, HP or SP after combat. During battle, you can switch between either weapon each character is using to choose the tool best suited for each situation. For example, a staff or blunt weapon excels against skeleton enemy types, whereas an axe may work best against the small blobs. Additionally, if your party is overmatched and heavily damaged, and if you attack, defend, and take enough damage, you can unleash a special attack mode where you can use a final weapon strike. Doing so will break whichever weapon you use, but you’ll deal massive amounts of damage – typically enough to defeat any foe.
Accompanying the combat is a pretty decent story. You take on the roles of multiple characters, beginning the game as Galil and party and switching around chapter 7 to Vivian and company. WIthout spoiling too much of the story, Galil and his friends are part of a resistance against the villainous Daemon conquerors, eventually plotting to leave their section of the world in order to save their friends. Vivian and Ignace, two high ranked and high blooded Daemons, have come to the human world in order to, simply put, explore and learn. The character dynamics are interesting, and the plot, whilst a bit slow paced, stands on its own.
As the game pieces together, the experience begins to improve and impress. The soundtrack – outside of the aforementioned atmospheric ambiance (had to put in some alliteration, after all) – is pretty solid, too, blending a mix of beautiful orchestrated and piano pieces with music reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII (a blend of sublime electronica-ish with the backing of a solid composition and string work). One thing I found particularly cool was, for example, when traversing the world map and engaging in combat, there was no music transition. The map music was the battle music; it was a small thing instantly noticeable, and I rather enjoyed it. That’s not to say there wasn’t battle music; no, dungeons and other scenarios transitioned into battle music when appropriate. Everything about this game felt deliberate, and that’s something I can really appreciate.
The reason I bought my Nintendo 3DS half a decade ago when they launched was for Nintendo’s immaculate RPG track record. And while it took some time for the 3DS to gain as much traction as its predecessor when it came to RPGs (and, in my opinion, it still lags behind the oft forgotten Vita), it has a sterling library to choose from. The Alliance Alive is perhaps my favorite 3DS RPG I own (so much so that I will be purchasing the physical copy, as I utilized a review code for this piece). The improvements over The Legend of Legacy are palpable, even in the combat sector (continuing your progress is not hindered like it was before, which required countless return visits to your hometown to rest up and head back out), and the overall experience will please both RPG fans of old and new. If you have to splurge on only one handheld RPG this year, I highly recommend playing The Alliance Alive.