Posted 2 years ago By - David Slauenwhite
It’s all about old school JRPG fun in Radiant Historia on the Nintendo DS. Coming from Atlus - who is well known for these kinds of titles - Radiant Historia really brought back the type of nostalgic experience we all grew up on. Packing several story arcs, time travel, side-view battles, side quests, magic, weapons, and the many trappings of a classic RPG; Radiant Historia has it all. Right off the bat I felt the thrill of the memories of days gone by for this genre. After a few years of a market filled with RPGs that were trying to find some middle ground between either more MMO-esque type play, or mash ups of third person and first person shooters, it’s nice to see someone going back to their roots.
Let’s first set the scene and have a look at the story; which as odd as it may be, can often be one of the weaker points of RPG’s. The game kicks off showing you two rather odd children in discussion about how they once again failed to prevent the destruction of the world and they are forced to try, try again. Fade to black and the game begins with the introduction to the main character what will become his journey through time.
You take on the role of Stocke, who is pretty much your standard issue hero found in a lot of games of this type. He suffers from “Cloud Syndrome”, i.e. he’s not very talkative, and when he does have something to say it’s usually short, direct, and to the point. More often than not, in the course of the dialogue his main response to any situation is the classic three dots. Silence seems to be his best defence in every interaction. The development team either doesn’t want to inject too much personality into the character you’re controlling or maybe whatever he happens to think doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
As Stocke, you are part of the Kingdom of Alistel’s intelligence service or “SpecInt” (huzzah for catchy acronyms.) Reporting to Heiss, the head of the organization - who right away comes off with that kind of shifty personality of someone you can’t really trust - he leads you to acquiring the White Historia, a book of unknown origins that for whatever reason Heiss thinks you should have with you. There is several support characters throughout the game, some join your party, and others just pass in and out as the story progresses. Eventually, through the course of the opening sequence, Stocke is drawn into Historia, a world within time that is the way station between timelines. In it, Teo and Lippti (the children from the beginning) help guide you on your travels through time. (Yes think the End of Time from Chrono Trigger)
Anywho, you eventually start travelling back and forth between timelines and as you progress, you will come across situations where your choices will either dead end to an ending of the story or progress further along the particular time stream that you are in. There are two main time streams of which you will encounter the same NPC’s, but with different outcomes and different reasons. These are aptly named, “Standard History” and “Alternate History”; no sense making them overly complicated to remember. One difficulty out of all this time progression business is that your main adversary has the Black Historia - which is a book similar to the White one you carry. As you can imagine, the carrier of the Black Historia is up to no good and is using it for evil intent.
You do have to work your way through both time streams as you might get stuck in one and the answer will be found at a similar location in the other. Even a random encounter in one could lead to a significant development in another, either in terms of the main arc or the conclusion/continuation of some of the side quests. Were it not for the text skip button that will motor you through dialogue sequences you’ve already experienced, these could take a long time to get through with all the bouncing back and forth.
In both histories, it’s all about the conflict between Alistel and Ganorg. Either you are working for Heiss in SpecInt or you leave SpecInt to join your best bud Rosh in his new regiment. Moving through the world a-la the world map (Final Fantasy Tactics Style), you will learn more and more about the land, the various conspiracy and plots, and eventually find a way to stop the desertification of the planet. If I have one main complaint about all this time stream hopping, replaying of scenes and fighting in the same zones repeatedly can become a tedious chore over prolonged play sessions.
Now then, on with the core gameplay. The battles themselves are blessedly not random encounters, which is nice for revisiting different areas per time traveling back into the key events. (Oh hello Doctor, no I didn’t steal your TARDIS). Enemies are all visible on the map, moving about. You have the option to run away or around them, or knock them back with your sword to either buy an extra second or better still, stun them to gain an advantage at the beginning of the battle.
The battle system is something of a hybrid, with a mix of good old fashion turn-based side view RPG action and tactical RTS grid work. The enemies have a 3x3 grid area in which to work with, the front row of course doling out more damage than those in the back. They can also form into combination placements or cast spells that affect either one grid spot or several. While your characters are confined to their spots, different characters in your party will have special skills that allow you to push enemies in various directions. Most significantly you can stack enemies up on one spot and do damage to an entire group rather than fighting one enemy at a time. Coupling this with area of effect attacks, skills, and spells provides you with the chance to make short work of each encounter. The only real impediment to getting these combinations in play is how the turn spacing sits. If you’re unfortunate enough to have enemy turns interspersed with your team’s turns, it can make battles prolonged or even a heavier challenge.
Additionally, there are Mana Burst abilities that you obtain by getting your hands on either White or Black book pages. These are special excerpts you acquire that unlock special skills (much akin to Limit Breaks) that have varied attributes based on the party member you’re using. However, all party members share the “Turn Break” skill which can allow you to force an enemy to skip a turn, making your combination play more effective if you find yourself in a prolonged battle jam. The battle system overall is a nice mix of different elements, many of which we’ve seen and played before, but they combine to good effect - if not always to our advantage - and can either make for ease of play or provide some tricky moments to get things lined up.
Visually, the world and its characters are a delightful set of sprites set in a 2D world that is charming in its nostalgic look. Cutscenes are done in the good ole anime still-picture style and fortunately can be skipped without any trouble. Battle animations work out well and there weren’t any noticeable errors to be found. The only issue I had at any point was those times when I had to push a barrel or crate to a certain point and misjudge the landscape which took a moment or two to get it back on track towards my intended destination.
The audio is solid, if not uninspired, and while hearing zone music repeatedly as I traveled through the timelines might get a bit tiresome, they are well crafted and fit in with the genre. Voice acting, as expected with a DS title, is largely minimal aside from the occasional grunt or cry.
While it’s main premise isn’t something entirely new and there is a lot of comparisons to be drawn from other titles of the past - both by Atlus or other companies - Radiant Historia is an experience I enjoyed greatly and it was a nice departure from many of the recent RPG titles of the current generation. The only real complaints I have lie in the prolonged repetition of different scenes or zones along with the grinding that needs to be done as you go through the game. I did encounter one of those “brick wall” moments where I jumped into a timeline and my character levels weren’t a high as perhaps they should have been. These issues however are negligible in my mind and I ultimately had a great time. I’d recommended it for any JRPG nut (like myself) who wants a play experience that hearkens back to the good old days. It’s games like this that makes you think twice about your decisions and provides something different from the popular action RPGs on retail shelves today.
+ Solid gameplay and battle systems
+ Interesting story that doubles play time through different story arcs/time streams
+ Cute graphics and art style
- Can brick wall eventually if not enough time spent grinding up a few levels
- Not exactly a new plotline even if told in a different manner
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Release Date : 2011/02/11
System : Nintendo DS
Publisher : Atlus
Category : Role Playing Game
ESRB : E10+
7.0 / 10
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