Radiant Historia DS Import Review

Publisher: Atlus  Developer: Atlus, Headlock  Genre: RPG  Players:Age Rating: 16+ 

Release Date: Nov 3rd 2010  Other console/handheld formats: 3DS

With the likes of Resonance of Fate, Final Fantasy XIII-2 and The Last Story, I have to strongly disagree that the JRPG has become stale and, if you look hard enough, there are still plenty of creative juices flowing throughout the genre. Radiant Historia, with its time travel element and refreshing battle system, can also be added to this pile.

The world featured in Radiant Historia stars Stocke, an experienced spy of sorts, and after a mission goes dramatically wrong, he gets his hands on the White Chronicle, a book that has the power to rewrite the past. There’s also an opposing black chronicle that, unsurprisingly, is in the possession of an evildoer, and it’s up to Stocke to create the true history by jumping between and influencing the events of separate timelines.

The time travel comes into play early on, when you’re given a choice that results in two disparate timelines: one where Stocke remains in his squad and the other where he joins the army. This perhaps suggests an open-ended story filled with possibilities is awaiting you, though this is rare and most often when you’re offered choices there is a right answer that results in progression and a wrong one that results in failure and a brief description, which describes where you went wrong and sends you back to an earlier point in time to choose the other option for more positive results.

All the time travel business is done through a simple menu, with nodes that you’re able to choose to send you to a certain point in time. There’s also descriptions for each story event, giving you a chance to better follow the intricate narrative.

It might well be more linear than it may first appear, but its structure is nevertheless interesting and often intriguing. Because of the two timelines, the story can on occasion be somewhat hard to follow, but it still manages to be an engaging, well written yarn, with a cast of characters that are never insufferable but always likeable.

Unsurprisingly, side quests see you jumping between the two timelines, though unfortunately a number of these are too obscure in where you’re supposed to go and, unless you’re keen on experimentation, it’s likely you’ll use a walkthrough to help you on the way. Thanks to the time travel aspect, there are no missables allowing you to progress, knowing that you’re always able to travel back to previous points.

The overall world is relatively small with just three towns and a handful of dungeon environments, and backtracking is commonplace throughout. You’re also often forced to retread dungeons that you’ve previously explored, of which can get a bit wearying from time to time and is easily the games most profound flaw.

The combat system is a grid based affair, where characters turns are determined by speed. You are able to manipulate the positions of foes, by pushing them around the battlefield, allowing you to push hard, hitting enemies right to the back to diminish the damage that they inflict up on you, or to push enemies on to the same space to damage them at the same time. For this reason alone the fighting requires some degree of thought, to fight at the most efficient level. Unfortunately many enemies are simply palette swaps and the game would have benefited from more variety in this regard.

There are also combos, which you unleash by attacking in subsequent order, with each attack inflicting greater damage and increasing your post battle exp. You’re also able to have an influence on turn order by using the change command, allowing you to group character turns together to craft devastating combos. Though you’re able to use the change command at will, it however comes at the cost of a temporary drop in defence; nothing good comes for free after all.

Away from its premise, structure and engaging combat system, you’ll find all the standard RPG things, so you’ll visit towns and chat to the locals, stocking up on stronger equipment. It’s an RPG of a basic form lacking the complex character growth methods, crafting and other complexities that many in the genre adopt today and, instead, keeping most of the basics at a simplistic level. Its charismatic sprite based visuals and stirring (though limited in its pieces) midi musical score also brings to mind 16-bit RPG’s.

Radiant Historia somewhat fittingly seemingly exists within two seperate timelines. It’s progressive with many of its systems, but also steps back into the past for inspiration, so it’s as nostalgic as it is novel and as flawed as it can be excellent and also often exciting in its forward thinking. It’s all enough for the results to be impressive, but its limited world also means that it doesn’t manage to wholly fulfil its potential either.