Radiant Historia

Radiant Historia
Radiant Historia Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Time traveling JRPG
MtAMinutes to Action 19
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

Radiant Historia hasn’t been on my radar for very long, but ever since I learned about it a month ago, I have been very excited to play it. As a Japanese RPG from Atlus, the game already has the pedigree, but the story is what really grabbed me. Radiant Historia is a time traveling game where your goal is to correct the timeline and save your homeland. Yes, this sounds a bit like Chrono Trigger, and you wouldn’t be totally wrong comparing them, but Radiant Historia has its own unique twists to offer up.

The game’s timeline is presented like you’re navigating a large skill tree, with decisions made creating forks in the fabric of time. You can revisit these forks and make different decisions, and even learn skills and information in a dead-end timeline to return to the correct route and proceed. This sounded just like the game I’ve been wanting to play for a long time.

Released yesterday, Radiant Historia has been getting some great early reviews. I was able to get my hands on it to present my impressions as quick as possible. Here’s the first hour of Radiant Historia.

Minute by Minute

00 - I select New Game and the first hour of Radiant Historia begins. Expectantly, a cutscene begins the game with some sand blowing, but then it cuts right to some dialog between a young looking brother and sister talking about how they failed to save the world.

01 - “This time, the true history will be written...” Apparently this duo has some kind of power to fix time, we will see.

02 - Now for some information on the world we’ll be in: the world has been engulfed by sand. Desertification has been approaching from the west and wars are breaking out over the remaining fertile land.

03 - The main character is introduced, his name is Stocke. It is also the title of the Prologue. Stocke is speaking with a beak-nosed man named Heiss. Little (...) speech bubbles appear above our characters, just like in Star Ocean 2. But unlike Star Ocean 2, I don’t have to wait for them to disappear before moving on in the conversation. Thank you!

Radiant Historia Grid Battle System05 - Stocke’s job is to rescue a spy who’s returning from across enemy lines. Heiss is assigning me two subordinates and he just gave me a book called the White Chronicle. The book is blank, but Heiss hints I may need it on my mission. Okay, what does this guy know?

06 - I get control and start running around. Woah, I can hear his footsteps... Um, I hope this doesn’t get annoying.

07 - Stocke meets Raynie and Marco, my additional party members for this adventure. They can both use a bit of magic, but Raynie is offensive whereas Marco can heal.

09 - Marco looks like a little kid in a giant fur armor suit. This art is great but much like the Rune Factory series, everyone looks disturbingly under age.

10 - Suddenly, the White Chronicle begins glowing and the screen changes to two people laying dead in a field while it’s raining. Stocke sees this too. Oh, the dead ones are Raynie and Marco. Ouch! Raynie and Marco officially join the party and we head out.

12 - Radiant Historia is one of those games where you auto-run unless you hold B where you walk at a super slow pace. Why even bother with that option, anymore? I can also hit the Y button to swing my sword, maybe like Super Mario RPG to get a jump on the enemy?

13 - I take an elevator down and save my game. One screen down... and I can save my game again? What the heck? To me, this indicates that at some critical point in the game, this fortress will probably be invaded and I won’t be able to access both areas at once.

14 - I’ve decided to forgo shopping for now and head outside, I’m itching for a fight to try out this battle system. As we leave, a giant dude named Rosch approaches. He warns me that this mission will be dangerous, but Stocke says all of his missions are dangerous. Cocky dude. Rosch has a gut feeling I won’t live this one out.

17 - Leaving town for real now brings us to a world map of sorts, I take Stocke away from Alistel to Lazvil Hills North. The rest of the map is clouded.

19 - Raynie and Marco know a shortcut so they run off ahead. They’re attacked by a flaming chicken though so it’s time to fight! I choose to read the Grid tutorial. The top screen shows the order of attacking, like in Final Fantasy X (a battle system I personally love). The bottom screen is the typical JRPG turn-based battle with a 3x3 grid.

20 - You can push enemies around on the grid, not sure yet how this is useful besides knowing that baddies near the front of the grid do more damage to you. We win the battle and collect our experience.

Radiant Historia Sonja Talking

22 - The scene switches to two men named Palomides and Dias, I think they’re the bad guys (and not just chickens on fire, either). The rain has begun, effective reminder of Stocke’s flash forward.

23 - The gang is at the meet-up point now waiting for the rendezvous, Raynie and Marco talk about their past together.

25 - The spy shows up but he’s being pursued, time for a human vs. human battle! Time for another tutorial though. Now I’m learning about how enemies pushed onto the same spot in the grid both receive damage when attacked, great to know. Pushing also contributes to a combo meter which gives bonus experience.

26 - I queue up everyone to attack one guy, but even though he should technically be dead after the first hit, the other two keep hitting him too. Overkill, but it also raises the combo meter to three for that round. Will have to keep this catch in mind.

28 - Our team levels up and we learn a few different push maneuvers including Push Left (instead of just push back).

29 - The spy has joined us but he won’t actually fight, we have to return to the fortress to deliver his intel. Since I didn’t actually run to this location, I don’t really know where to go, but it seems rather linear at this point.

Radiant Historia Stocke Walking

31 - A cutscene begins when we reach some crossroads... oh no! The spy has been shot dead by a sniper (arrows, not bullets). Stocke dashes after him but he’s already gone.

32 - So did the spy write down his intel, or is it as dead as he is? Not good. I run about 20 feet and another cutscene begins with some soldiers.

34 - Another tutorial, this one about “changing” the order of fighters mid-battle. Characters can wait for an enemy to attack so you can combo your moves together. But while waiting, your character takes more damage and this also affects something called Baroque Mode. What’s that? Guess I should have read the instruction booklet.

36 - After a bit of pushing I don’t take any damage at all! It seems that characters in the back rows can’t actually attack until they’re in the front row? Will have to keep experimenting.

Radiant Historia Battle Suprise Attack38 - I slash a bad guy with my sword with the Y button, but he only appears stunned for like a split second. Another thing I’ll need to work on to figure out the timing. Marco learns some skill called Grapple. Ah, it pulls the enemy forward!

39 - There’s an auto-battle option that actually has the characters fighting smartly, as in not continually beating down on a dead enemy. Okay, this time I managed to hit them with my sword and get a pre-emptive strike! This actually let’s me set up some nice set of attacks that nets me a six hit combo.

42 - Oh oh, it’s Palomides and Dias, the guys from the earlier cutscene.

44 - HAHA! We fight them and Palomides does over 1200 damage to me, I have just over 100 hit points. Obligatory must-lose battle. Somehow, Stocke is still alive and runs off, Raynie and Marco are definitely dead though, just like how Stock foresaw.

45 - Stocke is surrounded on a bridge over a rushing river, wonder how he’ll get out of this?

46 - Hopefully the White Chronicle is waterproof because Stocke just took his leap of faith. Palomides assumes I’m dead but sends his subordinates to check on me anyway. Stocke wakes up in some mystical crystal place, the two kids from the beginning show up and transport me to some Escher like world.

48 - The kids tell me I’m not dead, and call me the Keeper of the Chronicle. Their names are Lippti and Teo. We are in Historia.

49 - They tell me my crucial moment of error was heading north at the crossroads. They tell me I can rewrite history: “Create a chain of decisions that will guide history to its true conclusion.”

51 - Stocke returns to the real world with the knowledge (and wounds!) of the future. We’re at the crossroads, time to head south.

Radiant Historia Stocke Raynie Marco Battle52 - Wow! Stocke was able to save the spy from the bowmen snipers, nice! He reveals himself a bit when he says “this time” we’ll make it. Will we make it past this new barricade to the south, though?

54 - Stocke in the opening scenes seemed very hard and cold, but after witnessing the deaths of his subordinates, he is very concerned about them. It’s nice to see some character growth so early on.

55 - Stocke is still facing an impenetrable barricade, until the time twins grant him super strength to move it out of the way. They sure are meddling a lot.

57 - In the next battle, the enemies create some kind of formation, I think they’re gearing up for a big attack next round!

58 - Ouch, they almost kill Raynie in a triple attack! We win the battle though and all level up, with each of us learning another new skill. I also have Marco heal Raynie up via the menu.

60 - We reach Alistel and the spy runs ahead to deliver his information. That’s the end of the first hour of Radiant Historia.

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 19

What I loved: Geez, nearly everything. In its first hour, Radiant Historia presents a deep battle system and starts laying out the time traveling elements it developed. A big task, but it pulls it off really well. The in-battle tutorials are short and to the point, and do a good job showing instead of telling. The time travel example used early on is effective, especially with the pathos experienced from watching your comrades die.

The game’s graphics are also extremely impressive. I will admit, when I first read about Radiant Historia in Nintendo Power, I thought I was looking at a Wii game (you should have seen the huge smile on my face when I saw it was a DS title instead). This holds over to the actual game, which features some excellent sprite graphics and top notch animation. While anything less this late in the Nintendo DS’s lifespan would have been somewhat disappointing, it’s still wonderful to see it actually pulled off.

What I liked: Though a bit wordy at times, Radiant Historia is delivering a wealth of information in a short time span and it does so pretty effectively. I could have done with a bit less (...) bubbles but that might just be me.

What I didn’t like: When I first heard Stocke’s footsteps, I was a bit worried this would become one of those annoying sound effects that forces you to play on mute, but I didn’t even notice it after that. What a relief.

Would I Keep Playing? Yes. The story of this game grabbed my attention immediately, but its execution is what pulled me in. The battle system doesn’t seem like it will get old and as long as the game doesn’t get bogged down with all the in-game politics, I think we have a mighty fine title on our hands in Radiant Historia.