You know how everyone and their dog is porting their game to the Switch? Seems like we’re getting remasters of everything now. A lot of them, we don’t need. But NIS America has a very cool collection of 3DS-exclusive titles that would find a perfect home on Nintendo’s hybrid console. The first one to receive the treatment is The Alliance Alive. Was it a port worth doing? Or should this RPG have been forgotten in the annals of 3DS history?
Actually, The Alliance Alive HD Remastered is probably one of my favorite-ever ports brought to the Switch, and here’s why.
It starts with the story. While the characters are a mixed bag (some bordering on annoying), the story has very, very good metaphors and undertones that completely transform this game in terms of storytelling. Here’s the official description of the story, by our friends at NIS America:
An age of darkness has befallen the world. The Dark Current, a cataclysmic event caused by the Daemons’ emergence, has decimated the population and divided land into separate regions, leaving the survivors to be subjugated by Daemonic overlords. To reclaim their home and free their people, an unlikely fellowship of heroes will band together to spark a fiery revolution. Explore various realms, gain new skills in the heat of battle, and form alliances to stand against the Daemons!
The different realms really do feel different, and I’m particularly fond of the Eternal Rain “feature” of one of them, because it has very obvious nods to mental health and other personal, mature content (not in that way). On the surface, it’s still an enjoyable story for RPG newcomers and younger people, but older folks like myself will find the metaphors a very welcome change from the heavy-handed morality of rival titles.
The next best thing, and perhaps the longer-lasting one, about the game, is the combat. Characters can use pretty much every type of weapon and you can learn new skills (though in a somewhat randomized manner). There’s a lot of freedom in terms of character selection, thanks to how flexible it is to make any character fight the way you want. Combat feels really, really snappy and quick, so “grinding” does not feel like a grind at all, but rather like a super-quick way of leveling up and “awakening” new skills. You can also develop very useful alliances with guilds, which will support you in combat and really make advancing through the campaign, if not easy, then at least a balanced challenge.
My biggest gripe with The Alliance Alive HD Remastered is the remastered portion. It does feel like the bare minimum was done in order to bring this remaster out: the menus and a lot of textures look good, with characters in particular looking amazing (cell-shading and hand-illustrating really set it apart). But some environment textures look upscaled rather than remastered, bringing the presentation down a bit. For example, there are areas where the wall texture will look very low quality, but the rest of the game looks fantastic around it, so it can take you out of the experience.
Another issue with the presentation, though this one was also present in the original, is the lack of voice acting. It makes a huge difference to not even have grunts or some sort of sound effects for characters when they speak. I know it didn’t make sense financially, probably, to inject full voice acting, but some sort of “arg!”, “wow!”, or stuff like that, would have been a very welcome addition.
Overall, however, this is a fantastically fun game, with engaging combat and a very distinctive art style. It runs perfectly well, too, in both handheld and docked mode. I really like the more adult-undertones in the story, while the characters feel a bit… well, not great. It’s a great point of entry for newcomers to heavier RPGs, too: if you’re coming from, say, Pokemon, this is a good middle-ground before jumping into very heavy RPGs like those in the Final Fantasy franchise. I do wish more had been done in terms of bringing stuff to the Remastered version, but if you haven’t played The Alliance Alive before, and you’re looking for a visually unique RPG with snappy combat, you cannot do much better than this.