Considered by many to be the golden age for JRPGs, the 16-bit era of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis was a critical period in the emergence of the JRPG genre with legendary series like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Breath of Fire and The Tales Of Series have all become deeply established, with strong identities and international fan bases at that time.
Perhaps more than any other Japanese publisher at the time, Square was one of the most prolific Japanese role-play publishers before merging with Enix. They had many great internationally successful games like Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger and of course their partnership with Nintendo for Super Mario RPG.
But not every game during this time made it out of Japan. As is well known, there were a number of games that never made it to international players for various reasons. Perhaps due in part to the cost of the localization process, possibly due to the significant costs involved in producing and shipping game cartridges at that time, or possibly because JRPGs were not yet a guaranteed top seller outside of Japan, there were many different games available only for the Japanese market released.
There are several signs that Square Enix looked at the catalog today and wondered which games might be suitable for a modern international re-release. There was Seiken Densetsu 3, also known as Trials of Mana, which was first released outside of Japan last year, twenty-four years after its original Japanese release. Similarly, Romancing SaGa 3 was first released outside of Japan last year.
Could Square’s next classic 16-bit role-playing game have been accidentally revealed for international republication? We think this is a pretty safe thing. Over in the Australian brand database we see that Square-Enix has registered a brand for “LIVE A LIVE”. I suspect they hadn’t planned for people to notice. This would make perfect sense if a game went back and translated for an international audience. It is very much in the same category as games like Trials of Mana or Romancing SaGa 3, as a game that may have had success in English-speaking countries in the past, but never had a chance.
It is an ensemble role-playing game in which you take control of a different character for each chapter, with a different perspective on the developing story and unique characteristics. It’s also historically significant, just because of the association where it’s the first game developer Takashi Tokita worked on as a director before later staging Chrono Trigger, considered by many to be the best JRPG of the time, if not ever . You can see some sprouts of the ideas that led to Chrono Trigger in a formative incarnation in Live A Live, though it’s certainly not as well polished as Chrono Trigger.
We can very well imagine that today’s Square-Enix would be interested in using Live A Live globally. This is a genre that’s alive and well today, but it’s also full of nostalgia. There are many players who enjoyed the classics for the first time, but either had to fiddle with translation patches to play games only for Japan, or simply missed certain titles. There are also newer players who weren’t alive in the 90s, but can still get a kick out of classic games if they are easily accessible with a modern digital version. It’s not hard to imagine that releasing a classic game is also a great way to test the water before doing anything more ambitious across the board with the series.
This is far from being officially confirmed. We read a few lines between the lines to guess that this most likely means republishing is on the way, but it could also bind a brand to keep future options open. It could also be for a non-game project or maybe a sequel. We’ll be on the lookout for more news as soon as this happens.