Live A Live (ライブ・ア・ライブ Raibu A Raibu, stylized as, LIVE A ƎVI⅃) is a role-playing video game developed by Square (now Square Enix) for the Super Famicom released in Japan on September 2, 1994. It was never released outside Japan, but it has been unofficially translated into English.
Live A Live's story begins with a series of seven seemingly unrelated chapters that can be played in any order, based on popular genres such as Western, science fiction, and mecha. Each chapter has its own plot, setting, and characters. Although the basic gameplay is the same throughout the game, every chapter has its own unique gimmick, such as the stealth elements in the ninja chapter. After the first seven chapters are completed, the game's final sequence plays out, linking the previous chapters together and resolving the story.
Live A Live contains the basic elements of a role-playing video game. The characters explore dungeons, towns, or similar areas, fight enemies, and gain experience points to level up. However, the game eschews some elements typical of the genre, such as magic points and money.
The game has turn-based, tactical battles that play out on a grid. Certain attacks can change tiles into damage zones. More powerful skills often have long charge times, which commits the character to that single attack for a long time, and gives the enemy an opportunity to interrupt them. Characters can be inflicted with status ailments, and certain items, attacks, and skills can raise or lower a character or enemy's stats while in battle. When a character's hit points reach zero, they collapse and are unable to move, but can be revived by using a healing item or spell. However, if they are hit when in the knocked-out state, they permanently disappear from the battle.
In addition to these basic gameplay mechanics, each chapter contains some variations on the standard formula.
Live A Live has a large number of characters. The main character of the prehistoric chapter, Pogo (ポゴ), is a young caveman who has just come of age, who is only capable of saying the word "love." Master Xin Shan Quan (心山拳老師, Shinzanken-roushi, Xīn Shān Quán-lǎoshī) is an old kung-fu master seeking to pass on his art before he dies; his three pupils are an obese yet agile man named Sammo Hakka (サモ・ハッカ Samo Hakka), a female bandit named Lei Kuugo (レイ・クウゴ Rei Kuugo), and a boy named Yuan Jou (ユン・ジョウ Yun Jou) who stood up to the local gangsters. Oboro-maru (おぼろ丸) is a ninja of the Enma with great potential sent on an important mission. The Sundown Kid (サンダウン・キッド Sandaun Kiddo) is a wandering cowboy famous for his skill with a gun. Masaru Takahara (高原 日勝 Takahara Masaru) is a wrestler with the dream of being the strongest fighter in the world who possesses a strong sense of justice. Akira Tadokoro (田所 晃 Tadokoro Akira) is an orphan in the near future with psychic powers. Cube (キューブ Kyūbu) is a self-aware robot created by the mechanic Kato (カトゥー Katū) aboard the spaceship Cogito Ergosum. Oersted (オルステッド Orusuteddo) is a famous knight in the realm of Lucretia, betrothed to the King's only daughter. Odio (オディオ Odio), whose name is Latin for hate, is the Demon King and the main antagonist of the game.
The first seven chapters can be played in any order, and the final two chapters open up after they are completed.
In prehistoric times, a tribe of cavemen prepares to sacrifice a woman named Bel (べる Beru) to their deity, a living Tyrannosaurus rex named O-D-O (おーでぃーおー Ōdīō). She escapes to the south and hides in a cave belonging to another tribe, stealing their food to survive. She is discovered by a young caveman named Pogo, who falls in love with her and decides to help her hide from the rest of the tribe. The northern tribe attacks to retrieve her, but Pogo repels them. However, Bel is discovered in the process, and the elder exiles them. Eventually, Pogo is forced to fight O-D-O, and is assisted by a warrior of the northern tribe named Zaki (ざき). After the beast is defeated, peace is established between the two tribes.
In ancient China, an old kung-fu master of the Xin Shan Quan tradition takes on three students to pass on his art before he dies. While the master is away one day, the dojo is attacked by a rival dojo seeking revenge for an insult. Two of the students are killed (the surviving student being the one the player trained the most), prompting the master and the surviving student to avenge their deaths. The rival school, led by Odi Wang Lee (オディワン・リー Odiwan Rī), is defeated, but the master dies afterward, having used the last of his strength in the fight. The student succeeds him as master of the tradition and takes a new generation of students.
In feudal Japan, a mysterious figure named Ode Iou (尾手 院王 Ode Iō) is trying to throw Japan into chaos. The ninja clan Enma sends one of their ninja named Oboro-maru to rescue a prisoner who can stabilize Japan, then kill Ode Iou. After being rescued, the prisoner joins Oboro in the battle with Ode Iou. After Ode Iou is slain, the prisoner reveals that he is Sakamoto Ryōma. Oboro is then given the choice of returning to the Enma or joining Ryōma in his plans to rebuild Japan.
This chapter takes place in the American Old West. An outlaw called the Sundown Kid and his rival, a bounty hunter named Mad Dog (マッド・ドッグ Maddo Doggu), arrive in Success Town, a place terrorized by a group of bandits called the Crazy Bunch (クレイジー・バンチ Kureijī Banchi), led by O. Dio (O・ディオ O Dio), the last remaining survivor of the 7th Cavalry. Sundown stands up to the bandits, and they decide to raze the town in retaliation. Mad Dog agrees to help Sundown and the townsfolk prepare the town's defenses. After the town emerges from the battle victorious, Mad Dog challenges Sundown to one final duel. The player has the option of killing Mad Dog or running away.
The Strongest is set in the present day. Masaru Takahara strives to become the strongest fighter in the world by fighting the masters of different fighting disciplines to learn their techniques. However, another fighter, Odie Oldbright (オディ・オブライト Odi Oburaito), has the same idea, but deliberately kills each of his opponents during the fight. He then challenges Masaru, who defeats him.
In the near future in Japan, a biker gang called the Crusaders has been kidnapping people with unknown intentions. A young orphan with psychic powers named Akira Tadokoro grows up in an orphanage with his sister. One day, the Crusaders kidnap one of the children from the orphanage, so Akira and his friend Matsu (無法松 Muhoumatsu) set out to rescue him. Akira learns the location of the Crusaders' base, and discovers a plot by the Japanese government to liquefy people and use them to power a giant idol named Odeo (御出居). Matsu then sacrifices himself to power an ancient mech called Buriki Daioh (ブリキ大王 Buriki Daiō, "Tin-Plated Great King"), which Akira uses to destroy Odeo.
In the distant future, a space ship called Cogito Ergosum is returning to earth carrying a dangerous alien called the Behemoth (ベヒーモス Behīmosu). The mechanic, Kato, creates a spherical robot and gives it the ironic name of Cube. The player takes the role of Cube as it explores the ship and meets the crew. However, things begin to go wrong as the ship malfunctions and a crew member named Kirk (カーク Kāku) dies in a freak accident. Soon, the Behemoth is released, and it kills more crew members. The remaining crew members continue to blame and mistrust one another, but it is finally revealed that the culprit is the ship's computer, OD-10. Cube hacks into the computer and defeats it.
After completing the first seven chapters, the medieval chapter is unlocked. A brave knight named Oersted, a hero beloved by the people, defeats his best friend, the wizard Straybow (ストレイボウ Sutoreibou), in the final round of a fighting tournament, winning the right to marry Princess Alicia (アリシア Arishia) of Lucretia (ルクレツィア Rukuretsia). That night, she is kidnapped by the Demon King (魔王 Maō). The next day, Oersted and Straybow set out to rescue her. First, they find the heroes who defeated the Demon King thirty years prior, the knight Hash (ハッシュ Hasshu) and the priest Uranus (ウラヌス Uranusu), and convince them to join. They fight and defeat the Demon King, but Hash dies due to the plague, Alicia is nowhere to be found, and Straybow is seemingly killed by falling rocks. Oersted and Uranus return to Lucretia in defeat. That night, Oersted is tricked into slaying the King of Lucretia by an apparition of the Demon King. He is accused of being the Demon King himself, and is imprisoned. Uranus helps him escape, but is killed. Oersted returns to the mountain of the Demon King and finds Straybow alive, having faked his own death. Straybow reveals that, out of jealousy for Oersted, he sold his soul to become the next Demon King, and tricked Oersted into killing the King. Oersted is forced to kill him. He then rescues Alicia, but she confesses her love for Straybow and blames Oersted's heroism for Straybow's fall to evil, she then kills herself. Oersted, in his grief, searches through his memories and realizes that Alicia never loved him and had been manipulating him so that she and Straybow could be together while he took the fall as the Demon King. Oersted snaps, sacrifices his soul to become the next Demon King, and names himself Odio. He then takes revenge on all of Lucretia, killing everyone.
In the final chapter, Oersted summons the protagonists of the first seven chapters to Lucretia, which is now colorless and depopulated, for a final battle. The player's chosen hero meets and recruits the other six heroes. The chapter is full of optional dungeons containing powerful equipment and in which they can encounter Straybow, who laments what his jealousy had caused. Once ready, the group confronts Oersted, who questions the heroes' motives, and then transforms into a monster to fight them. Once defeated, he reverts to his human form, and asks the hero to kill him. The hero refuses, so Oersted attacks again, forcing each hero to fight the incarnation of Odio from their chapter. After the heroes win again, Oersted is unable to understand why he cannot win. The hero explains what he or she fights for to Oersted—each one having a different reason. He is finally moved, and so agrees to return them all to where they came from. He dies, and Lucretia is restored.
If the player chooses Oersted as the final chapter's lead character, he will take control of the seven different incarnations of Odio in each chapter in turn. If he defeats each of the heroes, he is left to wander in an empty Lucretia. Alternately, he can choose to cause armageddon, inexplicably destroying all of space-time instantly.
The characters of each of the game's chapters were illustrated by a group of different manga artists involving Yoshihide Fujiwara, Yoshinori Kobayashi, Osamu Ishiwata, Yumi Tamura, Ryōji Minagawa, Gosho Aoyama and Kazuhiko Shimamoto.
Live A Live's soundtrack was composed by Yoko Shimomura. The Live A Live Original Sound Version, a single CD containing 41 songs, was released on August 25, 1994. A promotional Mini CD was included with the "Live A Live Perfect Strategy Guide Book." It contained two arranged medley tracks, and was released on October 21, 1994. Both items were published by NTT Publishing. In 2008, the tracks "The Bird Flies in the Sky, the Fish Swims in the River" and "Forgotten Wings" were included on Drammatica: The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura, a compilation of the composer's work at Square Enix.
On release, Famicom Tsūshin scored the game a 29 out of 40. In 2011, GamePro included it on the list of the 14 best JRPGs that were not released in English, adding that "rumor has it the game was originally slated for a US release, making its absence here sting all the more."