Man, 2018 is turning out to be a really weird year in gaming. You’ve got your Sony exclusives that are tearing it up, Microsoft is ramping up the backwards compatibility on their Xbox One and Nintendo’s unofficial 2018 slogan for the Switch is “Year of the Port.” However, if you’ve got a few minutes to spare and can put down your current-gen console of choice, there’s actually quite a unique thing going on right now with the Nintendo 3DS.
Here’s the thing about the 3DS – it’s not really getting the death blow from Nintendo following the arrival of the Switch but it’s not exactly getting a huge vote of confidence either. It remains in this weird purgatory whereby we acknowledge its quality, admire and appreciate it but also find it a little superfluous at this point. Our handheld gaming experiences are most likely being played on the Nintendo Switch right now (pour one out for the PS Vita). That’s not a bad thing. It just makes you wonder what role the 3DS will play moving forward.
Enter Atlus USA.
I’ve already written at length about their other big 2018 entry in Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. It’s as close to a masterpiece as I could expect on a handheld console these days. But recently, they (along with developer Cattle Call) gave gamers another helping of pure JRPG goodness in the form of The Alliance Alive.
The Alliance Alive is a spiritual successor of sorts to the 2015 title, The Legend of Legacy. You start the game playing as Galil and Azura, on a mission to free the world from the control of “beings” called Daemons. You will head out on foot to traverse a world map with inaccessible parts, head over to Guild Towers to find other characters and communicate with other Guilds via a Telegraph system. This eventually leads to Towers and Guilds gaining experience and allows the unlocking of new abilities.
The combat system is fairly tactical as well, placing you on a grid and giving your characters the opportunity to fight these Daemon with various weapons. There’s a large array of weapon types in the game to mix things up and there’s depth to the proceedings with unique defensive and offensive posturing. Daemon, of course, are using magic alone to fight you and these exchanges can be rather challenging depending on the Daemon and where you find yourself on the map.
Your goal, should you choose to accept it, is to free your people from subjugation and fight off the Daemon horde, taking back control over the world and all humanity and besting an energy known as the Dark Current. Simple as you like, right? Lucky for you, the game throws a few challenging curve balls along the way, the difficulty of the battles is just right to make the experience tough but rewarding and the characters themselves are unique and pretty cool.
I won’t go into much more detail describing the game. The story is refreshing and different and deserves to be played through rather than talked about ad nauseum. If you’ve read this review, you’ve no doubt seen the word “challenging” a few times. That’s because it’s one of the things I enjoyed most about the game. It’s tough on a novice player. You don’t get to have your way the minute you fire this bad boy up. Lose enough battles and, well, you find yourself back at the start of the game. A shocking wake-up call for some. A reason to keep playing for others.
Sublime soundtrack and art style
Characters you care about
Maybe a bit too challenging for some
Daemons can feel a bit boring at times
I don’t really have a bad thing to say about The Alliance Alive. It took me a while to get to this review because, you know, life happens but after plenty of time with it, this title is really worth everyone’s time. Atlas USA is putting together some stuff that makes me fondly recall a time in the mid-90s when everything Squaresoft touched felt like pure gold. I’m hesitant to say we’ve quiet reached that level yet but there’s something special going on right now with their 3DS adventures. The Alliance Alive is just another notch in their belt for 2018 and the year is only half over. Is it as good as Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology? I dont think so. But to be fair to TAA, it’s not an enhanced remake. This is new material for JRPG fans to sink their teeth into and if you love your 3DS, it’s easily a must-own title.
Top shelf chili. Spicy, full of flavor and occasionally brutal on the stomach.
Download code provided by Atlus USA for the purpose of this review.