With so many JRPGs available for 3DS, here is one that you definitely don't want to pass up.
You start The Alliance Alive playing with a party of two characters: Galil and Azura. Azura convinced Galil to go on an excursion just outside their hometown to look for a mysterious painting that is said to depict a blue sky. After all, Galil and Azura live in the Rain Realm, a place where it rains all day and the thought of a blue sky sounds like a bunch of hogwash to the average citizen. When the pair finally arrives at their destination, they're joined by another group of curious characters that show up on the nearby beach via a giant ark.
The story then rewinds back in time a little, switches to some of the characters on the ark, and you start to play out their story to find out why they arrived like they did to meet the original two. The Alliance Alive does a similar plot shift at one more point then you're introduced to all of the main characters. It's a really unique and fun way to add party members to a team in a JRPG and succeeds at making you invested in their stories.
Daemons are considered to be a higher class than humans in the world of The Alliance Alive which is an interesting dynamic considering the average JRPG often puts humans on a higher level. Daemons look down on humans and for the most part, humans are kept in their place, especially in the Caged Realm where you'll come across a big jail in a walled off area that cannot be accessed from the outside. You'll also venture into the Burning Realm (filled with volcanoes, lava, and a mechanised city), the Snow Realm (with snow-covered mountains and an Asian themed village), and finally, the Crystal Realm (complete with giant crystals dotting the landscape).
Each realm is very large and has interesting terrain to traverse. To help you get around, you'll make use of a few different vehicles that unlock as you play. The fact that they unlock and allow you to access parts of the terrain that you wouldn't have been able to before adds replay value. You start out with the Ornithopter which allows you to fly from high terrain down to lower then make your way to the Swan Song which is basically a giant metallic duck that has high heat resistance and can walk through lava. Eventually, you'll acquire the Brionac ark, Snow Rabbit, and Wyvern. These vehicles are quite unique when compared to the average JRPG which usually only give you a ship and something that flies. Walking in lava in a giant duck with a rubber dingy around its waist is also entertaining to watch.
You may be able to tell from my descriptions so far that The Alliance Alive's world has many unique qualities to it. It oozes with character and charm at every turn, making it a joy to experience its story and characters. I'm also happy to say that the gameplay won't let you down, too. You'll recruit nine unique characters by the time the story really gets going and you swap them out to make your five character party. There are also unique formations that you can place your characters in to boost their attack, defense, speed, or healing properties. The selection of weapons and armour feels a little lacking until well into the game as I often found myself being surprised whenever I actually found a better piece of equipment.
There's a job system called talents, too, and most characters can have any job they want but some are locked in to a subset and one can only make use of their big gun. The talents that you can specialize in include: general abilities, traversal abilities, unarmed attacks, spells, sigils, and weapons such as staff, sword, bow, great sword, shield, spear, axe, and cannon. As you complete battles, you unlock points that are spent on gaining more talent abilities. Anyway, I found it tough to acquire enough points so I could actually unlock something but thankfully, for the weapon-related talents, you unlock moves by using that weapon. Unlocking talents mostly increases the speed in which you gain moves, provide stat increases, or reduce the amount of SP that you have to spend when using a given move.
The battles are turn-based and allow you to swap between your equipped weapons as you please. You also always have the choice of using unarmed skills which is pretty handy when you have a character who specializes in weapons that the enemies you're facing are strong against. As you unlock more abilities for a given weapon by using it, you'll find that the earlier moves start to become pretty useless against the average enemy. It would have been better to simply level up a given skill instead of adding another to the roster and making you scroll through a list while checking the attack attributes of your skills to make sure you're using the right one.
Aside from the regular battle skills, each party member also has an Ignition mode that allows them to use a final strike ability on an enemy which causes massive damage. The gauge to use the ability increases with the character's determination which skyrockets when a party member is knocked out and also slowly increases in longer battles against bosses. Using an ignition ability is often hard to do because by the time you amass enough determination to trigger it, you're often struggling to keep your character alive so you must hope that you get to use it before that character is knocked out. I actually enjoyed this dynamic because it adds to the satisfaction of finally using a very powerful move only when you absolutely need to. However, even with the ignition ability, I wish the battles required more strategy as I typically found myself just cycling through the abilities that an enemy wasn't strong against without much thought.
As you traverse the world of The Alliance Alive, you'll come across various guilds including ones focused on intelligence, smithing, library, tactics, and spells. Unlocking a guild location on a map provides support in-battle when you're in range of the guild's structure. For example, the library guild will show you stats about your enemies to help you hit their weaknesses and the smithing guild sometimes provides a powerful attack when you start a battle. Guilds become more central to the story and gameplay when you advance later into the campaign as they introduce a recruitment system and add to your roster of battle skills. You can even place new guild towers on the map which increases the spread of battle support in tough areas. It's a very unique and rewarding mechanic.
The Alliance Alive delivers a charming and satisfying JRPG adventure with a mix of traditional and fresh gameplay elements. It's simply a joy to experience the characters and their engaging story as they traverse their varied and vibrant world. It's a must-have 3DS JRPG.
- + Charming characters and world
- + Interesting overworld terrain with a variety of vehicles to unlock
- + Fun guild and recruitment system
- - Battles could use a bit more strategy
- - Equipment variety is lacking until about halfway through the adventure
- - Ever-growing list of skills gets messy