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The Alliance Alive

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Atlus U.S.A.
Developer: FURYU Corporation
Release Date: March 27, 2018

About David Silbert

I'm a recent college graduate from Boston, MA. When I'm not writing for WorthPlaying, I'm probably researching Celtics trade rumors or struggling to keep up with the growing library on my Nintendo Switch.

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3DS Review - 'The Alliance Alive'

by David Silbert on May 4, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

The Alliance Alive is a JRPG that merges old-school RPG gameplay with modern aesthetics.

Buy The Alliance Alive

When Japanese publisher FuRyu (Atlus in North America) and developer Cattle Call released The Legend of Legacy in 2015, many considered the game a missed opportunity. Despite the dream team of talent that developed the game — comprised of designers and artists from the Final Fantasy and SaGa series and the scriptwriter behind Chrono Trigger — the game felt largely uninspired compared to its legendary inspirations.

During the two-and-a-half years since the release of The Legend of Legacy, Cattle Call has gone back to the drawing board and returned with The Alliance Alive. While retaining much of the same core team members and ideas from The Legend of Legacy, The Alliance Alive takes several confident steps forward from its spiritual predecessor, in the process distinguishing itself from even some of the genre's greats.


With its intriguing scenario, distinctive perspective-swapping narrative, and flexible battle system, The Alliance Alive provides an impressive and accessible hook for its 30-hour campaign. Easy combat, underdeveloped mechanics and sub-par production values prevent it from being a must-play, but The Alliance Alive is a worthy JRPG for 3DS owners who are craving something new.

The Alliance Alive opens on a bleak reality. For 1,000 years, humans have lived under the authority of powerful entities called Daemons and their subordinate race of beasts known as the beastfolk. While cities remain populated with both humans and beastfolk, the former are discriminated against by the latter; they're talked down upon, relegated to the worst seats in restaurants, and generally treated poorly.

As opposed to other JRPGs that deal with stories of warring nations or encroaching darkness, The Alliance Alive provides a shockingly hard-hitting scenario with themes far too often ignored in games. Within these opening minutes, it's easy to draw parallels between the plight of the humans in The Alliance Alive and that of other, real-world communities marginalized throughout history. African-Americans, Native Americans, Jewish people ... the list goes on and on.


Human NPCs often reference the injustice that they face. Beastfolk NPCs, meanwhile, tend to perpetuate and make light of this inequality. Of course, whenever a god-like Daemon shows up out of the blue, both human and beastfolk alike gasp out of fright and pledge allegiance in fear for their lives. While these NPCs are not necessarily the most complex side characters in a JRPG, they add some welcome flavor and gravitas to a series that had previously lacked oomph. While The Alliance Alive still dips into the melodrama that JRPGs are unfortunately known for, its premise feels surprisingly fresh and made me want to learn more about its world and characters.

This freshness carries over into The Alliance Alive's character-swapping narrative. Unlike many JRPGs that put players in control of a single protagonist, The Alliance Alive swaps players between three groups of different characters before having them all converge midway through the campaign. First, there's Galil and Azura, a pair of childhood friends who work for a resistance group known as the Night Ravens to improve the human cause. Across the globe, a sympathetic Daemon noble named Vivian and her aide Ignace search for Professor Tiggy Alstein to learn more about the mysterious Dark Current dividing the world into pieces. Finally, Gene and Rachel, a pair of mercenaries, are enlisted by the merciless Daemon Grossa to investigate the Night Ravens and unearth their motivations.

While these protagonists (there are a total of nine) may not be the most complex of characters, especially when compared to those found in JRPG series like Persona and Final Fantasy, The Alliance Alive does a great job of using them to further its lore and world. These characters all come from wildly different backgrounds, races and social classes, and yet they all manage to rally around a common goal. At its very highest level, The Alliance Alive is a story about the injustices of the world and a group of heroes willing to tear down barriers to provide a peaceful future. As with the initial premise, its overall narrative kept me engaged throughout its meaty campaign.


Complementing The Alliance Alive's story is its flexible and tactical battle system. Like with most old-school JRPGs, combat in The Alliance Alive is turn-based. However, that's about where the similarities end. Battles put an emphasis on weapons and their various techniques. By equipping and attacking with a particular weapon type (an ax, spear or sword, to name a few), characters undergo "awakenings," learning new and more powerful moves for that weapon. For example, Galil might end up specializing in sword slashes and spear strikes, while Ignace might focus on shield and two-handed techniques. While these skills ratchet up in power, they also ratchet up in cost (SP), so conserving more powerful moves is an important part of combat.

Thankfully, SP gradually recovers at the end of each battle, while HP is replenished completely, à la Final Fantasy XIII. This allows players to focus on individual battles as opposed to worrying about managing health in the overworld. This is reflected by the game's stat progression as well; gone are traditional levels, instead simplified to either max-HP or max-SP increases granted at the end of battles.

Another aspect of combat The Alliance Alive shares with Final Fantasy XIII is its approach to character positioning. Similar to FFXIII's paradigm shifts, The Alliance Alive allows players to switch between various "formations." The "3 Heroes" formation, for example, promotes all-out attacks by boosting the entire party's strength, while the "Triangle" one places a defender in front of two attackers to provide a safer attack strategy.

As players gain access to up to five party members in battle at a time, these systems only get more complex and engaging. Throw in magic, items, and an "ignition" system that allows party members to break their current weapon to initiate a powerful limit-like attack, and The Alliance Alive has plenty of layers to its combat for those looking to dig deep.


As interesting as combat may be, though, it's hampered by some unfortunate drawbacks. Difficulty in The Alliance Alive is often far too easy to force players to make the most of combat. For most of my campaign time, I was able to get away with spamming the same attacks on enemies, riding high off the fact that health replenishes after every battle. This is exacerbated by a 2x and 4x speed option for combat, which allowed me to whiz through battles without so much as a passing care for individual enemies. Of course, the occasional boss fight or high-level enemy would force me back into playing strategically, but far too often, the enemies of The Alliance Alive are too weak and feeble to push combat to its limits.

The Alliance Alive is further weakened by the inclusion of some frustrating mechanics (or lack thereof). There's a "talent" menu that allows players to spend talent points on new in-battle and out-of-battle perks, but the game is far too stingy in giving out these points after battle, making the rewards feel weak and irrelevant unless players are willing to grind for them. Enemies move about the world map at frustrating speeds, often triggering an unavoidable "chain" sequence that forces players to fight through more than one battle in a row. Finally, the battle descriptions for weapon abilities and items tend to be vague and unintuitive; with nothing in the form of a tutorial in the menu to guide players, I was often left to guess which attacks were more effective than others in certain scenarios. While none of these elements are game-breakers, they make navigation and combat more frustrating than they needed to be.

Visually, The Alliance Alive isn't much of a looker. While it borrows much of its art style from Square Enix's Bravely Default series, from its simplistic 3D character models to its whimsical, painter-like towns and cities, the game looks far muddier by comparison. The world lacks much of the vivid colors that made Bravely Default so entrancing, and textures on the whole are blander and less detailed. To make matters worse, The Alliance Alive eschews the 3DS's 3D effect, making an already tired-looking game appear even worse.


This lack of production quality carries over to the dialogue. None of the CG or in-game cut scenes are voiced, resulting in a bizarre silence that accompanies every character interaction as white texts pops up over a cinematic black bar. While the story remains easy to follow, it's disappointing that FuRyu and Atlus couldn't invest in voice acting for, at the very least, the main cast.

Thankfully, The Alliance Alive's presentation is held up by some phenomenal music. Composed by Masashi Hamauzu, who also created the music for Final Fantasy XIII, The Alliance Alive's soundtrack is a beautiful mix of orchestral and synth-heavy tracks that breathe life into the world and characters. It may not fully make up for the low production values, but it certainly is a welcome addition.

The Alliance Alive is a good game that's held back by some unfortunate missteps. Its fantastic premise and strong narrative provide a storyline that feels surprisingly fresh compared to other JRPGs, while its combat provides some welcome depth to its turn-based gameplay. The title often feels too easy, even by JRPG standards, and several features could have been better fleshed out, but the overall product is a stark improvement over studio Cattle Call's previous effort. With the 3DS on its way out to pasture, those with a hankering for an old-school JRPG with some new ideas should find something to like with The Alliance Alive.

Score: 7.7/10



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