FuRyu has a rather interesting catalog of games. As a developer, they seem to come up with unique gameplay features and characters, as seen in Lost Dimension and Caligula. However, these titles seem to miss the mark on other gameplay systems that players demand and the games lose their chance to reach a more broad audience.
The Alliance Alive aims to bring the developer back to the roots of the JRPG genre. The game doesn’t seem to push any boundaries graphically, but it carries the appeal of a classic JRPG that nostalgic fans demand from time to time to clear their palettes as they wait for the next high budget JRPG release. The Alliance Alive checks all the right boxes for a JRPG adventure but also takes liberties with unique systems of exploration and a story that players will want to see through until the end. Although this might be seen as “playing it safe”, I found that The Alliance Alive has a lot more to offer than it shows within the first couple of hours, most of could be thanks to the game’s writer and Suikoden creator Yoshitaka Murayama.
The Alliance Alive begins with a world controlled by Daemons, an alien race that invaded the world to stop them from discovering a raw source of power. Since the invasion, a thousand years have passed and humans have to deal with the repercussions of the war, one of which has the world completely covered by clouds. The story follows two main protagonists, Galil and Azura, who are a part of a resistance group called the Night Ravens, which is run by Azura’s father. Early on, the two find themselves sneaking into an ancient museum where they discover that the skies used to by blue and this is motivation enough for them to figure out exactly what the Daemons are hiding. Sadly, the two are discovered and their adventure is put into gear in order to escape imprisonment and find the blue sky.
As far as the premise of The Alliance Alive goes, it doesn’t change the genre or do anything too daring, but it does beg the question “If you’ve never seen a blue sky, how far would you go to find it?” And that’s exactly what the cast of characters did, all while doing their duties as resistance members. The main cast of characters are charming, but the story really only centers around Galil and Azure, while the secondary characters receive minimal spotlight. However, characters like Vivian and Tiggy definitely prove to be worthy secondary characters to the overarching story.
Being a new IP, The Alliance Alive tells a really good story that gives you a handful of memorable scenes. The dynamic between Galil and Azure was interesting to witness play out and the conclusion left me satisfied. The Alliance Alive can be completed in around 35 hours, but the world has plenty of places to explore using an array of different mechanisms to get around.
Exploring the world map brings unique features such as wings that allow you to glide across valleys, boats, and airships. To be honest, I was rather impressed with the world map and I thought it looked great for a 3DS title. There is so much to explore and every time I unlocked a different mode of travel I would go back and see if I could access any new dungeon or retrieve any special items. Dungeons have their own themes and gimmicks. Puzzles in the dungeons can get semi-complicated, but there are plenty of hints to lead you down the right path. I enjoyed the subtle clues that were left and felt like they made the dungeons feel bigger than they were.
Sadly, maps in the dungeons were not helpful at all, but it is explained in the game that they are hand-drawn by someone, so I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on this feature. However, I would have liked the maps to make a bit more sense being that I’m a completionist and tend to try and explore everything before moving on. Although, I did enjoy the variation between dungeon themes because the world is huge and there’s a lot of them.
Battles are as straightforward as JRPG battles could go. Players choose a skill to attack with and the battles play out like you’d expect a typical JRPG battle to do. Although what’s more interesting is that during battle characters are able to learn new skills with their equipped weapon. These skills are specific to the weapon equipped, which can be upgraded using Talent Points received in battles. Each weapon has different enhancements that the player is able to unlock, but I found myself sticking with the weapon class that the party member came with and upgrading them to their fullest. However, there were times when I had to equip a brand new weapon class to a character after using their Final Strike, which breaks whatever weapon they are holding and causes a large amount of damage to the enemy.
The weapon upgrading system in The Alliance Alive is deep and after some time making my way through the menus and learning how to properly distribute my points and also how to upgrade Etheract weapons, I was mowing through all enemies in sight. Sadly, this presented an issue for me, The Alliance Alive requires very little grinding and there were times when I felt way too powerful in dungeons. This might be due to the feedback the team received on The Legend of Legacy, which was a very hard game, which left The Alliance Alive way too easy at times. However, there were some bosses that put my skills to the test which I appreciated. The Alliance Alive might be best played without taking the time to level grind and just run through it. Furthermore, there is a fast forward and auto feature that makes battles on the world map rather fast to get you right back to the adventure.
The Alliance Alive also has a sort of a side mission that allows the player to recruit NPCs and add them to certain guilds, yes, this does sound like Suikoden. There are five guilds and each has its own potential for player support. It’s left up to the player to decide where to distribute these NPCs depending on the support they are looking for. For example, adding support in the Recon Guild could lower the number of monsters in a dungeon or adding support to the Library Guild could lower the defense of enemies. It’s possible to balance the number of NPCs between each guild, but unlocking some of the more powerful and interesting buffs.
Where The Alliance Alive falls short is the lack of voice acting, which might be enjoyed by some players, but the cinematic scenes could have really used them. Additionally, the game doesn’t utilize the 3DS’ 3D effect at all, except strangely in towns when the camera pans back. Do these make the game less impactful? Now really, but it does leave room for improvement.
The music in The Alliance Alive can be relaxing when it needs to be exciting during huge battles. It went well with the game’s visual appearance and art style, which I also enjoyed. Character designs are minimalistic but full of expression and personality. If anything, The Alliance Alive proves that you don’t need to create a graphically impressive game in order to tell a compelling story in this generation.
The Alliance Alive doesn’t raise the bar of the JRPG genre, but it does enough to allow it to stand out. Players will find many interesting systems in the battle menu as well as a large world map to explore, but fans of the genre might miss the hours of level grinding that this genre usually has.
I had a lot of fun learning about these characters in search of a blue sky and I appreciate FuRyu taking chances on new IPs in a generation full of sequels and remakes. The Alliance Alive is a straightforward and fun JRPG with enough to keep the player invested throughout its story, but it could use some work on difficulty balancing and the inclusion of voice over.