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2015’s The Legend of Legacy was an original and fun RPG in the vein of the classic SaGa games, but it felt in some ways unfinished. Character storylines suggested at the start of the game never really materialized, making the choice of a starting character mostly pointless, and though the setting was interesting to explore it just felt like more was needed to really flesh it out. Enter its spiritual successor, The Alliance Alive. Building on the great SaGa-like battle system from its predecessor, The Alliance Alive from the start presents a world that is all its own.
Likely thanks to the scenario being written by Yoshitaka Murayama of Suikoden fame, The Alliance Alive weaves a fascinating tale of a human world divided into sections by invading demons, and the human resistance looking to restore it. As you might expect given the pedigree of the writer, the resistance unites the guilds of the world and a major component of the game is finding NPCs to join and improve various guilds, which unlocks new gear and spells and the like. To accomplish this, the player gets a party that is about as unique as they come, including everything from a mad scientist driving a mech modeled after a duck and a spell-casting penguin, to an eccentric demon sympathetic to the humans and her constantly complaining butler.
With a fantastic localization from Atlus, the game and its world are brimming with character, and it’s an absolute joy to explore. The game opens up pretty early on, allowing players to gather guild members, fight challenging monsters, or just explore at their leisure before continuing the story. The non-traditional SaGa-style battle system is far easier to grasp than it’s ever been, and the variety of tools and party member combinations available to the player provide everything needed to get past even the game’s most difficult challenges. The Alliance Alive fulfills the promise that the SaGa series always had, and it does so in its own spectacular, unique fashion.
The game-within-a-game thing has been tried before but CrossCode puts a neat spin on things. Rather than trying to display it as a cutting-edge title that really just looks like every other modern game because that’s as far as current graphics can go, the game does a nice job interspersing its futuristic ideas with the 16-bit style graphics from the ’90s. It offers some fresh takes on the traditional amnesiac and silent protagonist tropes that are highly effective, with plenty of creative puzzles and challenges. After many years of almost annual by-the-numbers Sword Art Online games, CrossCode is a very welcome change to the formula.
Level-5 could’ve stuck to the formula it had already created from the first game for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom; however, it decided to bring in a near complete gameplay overhaul. Combat has been given a complete revamp, with many new elements to keep battles nice and varied. Another huge addition is that of a new kingdom-building mode combined with its own RTS. The sheer quantity of ideas and features may have over-complicated things, but there can be no complaints of Level-5 creating a by-the-numbers sequel here.
by Mike Apps and Alex Fuller