There’s something very comforting about the concept of tradition. If there’s something you’ve always enjoyed doing or experiencing, then whether something earth-shaking has just happened or not, that tradition can make you feel calm and relaxed. This goes for everything from clothing to music to video games. Some games exist simply to say “yes, this is more of the thing you love, so come on in and make yourself feel at home”.
Maybe that’s not the most flattering description, and maybe it isn’t one that The Alliance Alive HD Remastered developers Cattle Call and FURYU Corporation would like to hear, but it’s the truth, and it should be embraced. The original The Alliance Alive was a 3DS game back in 2017, and when it was realised that the game could have cross-platform appeal, a remastered version was announced for PS4. Will the game make the transition to its new platform unscathed?
Here’s the setup. A nasty race known as Daemons has blotted out the sun. Try not to think about the scientific implications that would have; The Alliance Alive HD treats it more as an artistic conceit than a realistic one. The nine central playable characters of the game are members of an organisation called the Night Crows, dedicated to shutting down the Daemons and ending the world’s eternal night. It’s a nice, uncomplicated JRPG setup.
If you’ve already played the original The Alliance Alive, there isn’t a huge amount here to convince you to revisit the game. One or two improvements have been made for convenience’s sake, but they’re mostly the sort of thing one expects from a JRPG being brought into the modern era (so to speak): skippable battle scenes, difficulty balance, visual polish, and so forth. This is an HD remaster, not a remake, so if your copy of the original is already starting to get dog-eared, don’t expect to get too much out of this.
For everyone else, The Alliance Alive HD Remastered is definitely the ideal way to experience the game for the first time. Where the original 3DS version had its peaks and troughs, this remaster mostly evens them out, creating a more even-handed and reasonable JRPG that doesn’t always hit the highs but keeps more consistently away from the lows. If you played The Legend of Legacy, you’ll know what to expect, as this comes from the same developers.
The Alliance Alive HD Remastered is effectively an entry-level beginner’s course in how to create a JRPG. It’s got everything you might expect from this genre: turn-based battles with light strategic elements, dungeons with some puzzling involved, towns to explore, and a suitably crazy plot that gets more and more ridiculous as you near its conclusion. You already know if you want to play this game based on that description.
For what it’s worth, The Alliance Alive HD Remastered is a rather lovely JRPG. Its visuals are beautiful; the sumptuous, painterly art style works well with the super-deformed character art and gives an impression somewhere around Bravely Default. The transition to PS4 has happened mostly successfully; there are one or two minor graphical glitches and technical problems, but for the most part, it’s a pretty smooth and sleek experience on PS4.
This is quite a classic JRPG, so you might find some mod cons slightly lacking. For example, there isn’t much of a sense of direction. Characters will often talk about their next destination and not repeat themselves, which might mean you find yourself stuck more often than not. Dungeons don’t have much in the way of helpful minimaps - in fact, most of the game’s maps aren’t great - so traversal can be a little tricky at times. This isn’t something that can’t be fixed with a little exploration, but it’s grating.
The Alliance Alive HD Remastered also suffers from that most common of problems: overstuffed combat. There are a wealth of combat options available to each of the game’s nine characters, but we never found ourselves needing to explore this aspect of the combat too much. Instead, we did what we always do in turn-based games; threw out attacks, healed when we needed to, and kept an eye on the stats. In this way, we managed to make it through most of the game completely unscathed.
It’s not likely that you’ll care about these issues if you’re a dedicated JRPG fan; indeed, you’ve probably been putting up with them for a long time in some of your favourite games. If you’re looking for something more challenging or more holistic, then The Alliance Alive HD Remastered probably won’t fill your schedule for very long. This is a classic JRPG through and through, complete with whimsical dialogue, exaggerated characters, and a fairly bog-standard (if beautiful) fantasy world.
If there’s a saving grace for those who aren’t into bog-standard JRPG gameplay, it’s the presentation. The gloomy environments and moody dungeons of The Alliance Alive HD Remastered are gorgeous. The music, too, is excellent; pianos plink away sadly in the background, reminding you of the stakes and what you’ve lost. You’ll want to simply sit and soak up the atmosphere in many of the game’s locales, even if they aren’t particularly varied.
In the final analysis, there’s not much we can say about The Alliance Alive HD Remastered that you don’t already know if you’re a JRPG fan. It’s a game about (mostly) teenagers saving the world from an evil menace. It’s got overworld-town-dungeon exploration structures down pat. It’s not overly challenging and it’s not overly concerned with theme. It is, however, very good fun. Formulaic doesn’t have to mean bad.