Radiant Historia Review

By Gus Mastrapa - Posted Feb 01, 2011

Radiant Historia transforms the classical, Japanese RPG into a Groundhog's Day-style time-traveling adventure where there's always another chance to get it right.

The Pros
  • Time-travel plot lets you explore multiple fates
  • Subtle spin on turn-based combat
  • Classy localization, music and visuals
The Cons
  • Spiky-haired guy saves the world again
  • Wide-open time-line makes it easy to feel lost
  • Reliving the same moments over and over is the new grind

Radiant Historia Review:

It's always cool when a videogame lets you call the shots. The problem with choice is that nagging feeling that you should have chosen the other door. Gamers, of course, buy insurance before making these life-changing decisions. We save our game before every fork in the road, just in case things don't turn out the way we like it.

Radiant Historia, a new role-playing game for the Nintendo DS, plays into this desires by giving gamers access to the entire time-line. In this imaginative turn-based adventure  every decision can be revisited, failed pivotal points in history can be re-approached with new abilities. Fate, through trial and error, can be averted.

Radiant Historia

The Future Is Not Set

Radiant Historia takes place in a doomed world. A mysterious “desertification” plagues the land, turning people and places alike into lifeless sand. At the end of time a pair of mysterious children chose to step out of line and undo the world's undoing.

They find a hero in the past, an ambitious adventurer named Stock, and grant him the powers of The White Chronicle. With this tome Stock can explore the forks and cul-de-sacs of fate until he finds the path to redemption. But the forces of entropy have themselves a secret hero as well. Some jerk is in possession of The Black Chronicle. And he's doing everything within his vast powers to stop Stock from saving the world.

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Order of Battle

Radiant Historia
makes subtle, but meaningful tweaks to old-school encounters. Brawls follow the traditional turn-based model. Combatants take turns whacking on each other until once side remains standing. Only here enemies fill in a three-by-three grid. Player attacks can send your baddies reeling.

When a two or more enemies share personal space player attacks hit them all. So much mental energy can be spent devising way to stack bad guys into a neat pile and dispatch them with maximum efficiency.

Player also have the power to control the order of battle. They can switch places with anybody in the turn-order, postponing their actions until later or giving another character a cut in line.

This ability may seem only moderately useful at first, when fights get more hairy the order of your attacks become key. And when you're absolutely sure the encounter is going your way it is possible to pile onto one target and earn better loot by exceeding the amount of damage necessary to drop the monster.  Gamers who dig pushing combat systems to their limits will enjoy futzing around with Radiant Historia's modest, pleasurable action.

Radiant Historia

Choose Your Own Adventure

Sure, Radiant Historia isn't the most original role-playing game. It, like most of its ilk, is deeply indebted to games like Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger. But innovation isn't everything. Here, execution is the key.

Radiant Historia pulls its time-traveling mission off with a level of class rarely seen. Atlus' localization of the game is quite good. It helps that the source material is strong. And though the game trades in JRPG cliché it manages to sidestep the stink of fan service. The affair is elevated by lovely, retro-styled sprites, haunting and expressive music and a plot that puts a meaningful twist on the players decisions. For would-be JRPG adventurers this one choice is clear: you should play this game.