Wednesday, March 30, 2011


One of the games I started playing over the past month is Radiant Historia for the DS. Since I've had a pretty good time with the game, I figured I might as well post some thoughts about it. So here goes. Everything I have to say about this game boils down to either its story, or its gameplay.

You play as Stocke, an agent for the Special Intelligence unit of the country Alistel. The world is rapidly deteriorating into desert, and as a result of the increasing desertification the country Granorg has declared war on Alistel, fighting over the dwindling amount of arable land available in the world. You discover that you have the ability to wield the White Chronicle, an artifact that allows you to travel to important 'nodes' in the timeline of your experiences and change your past. You're tasked with the responsibility of using the White Chronicle to save the world from its impending doom.

The story takes place across two timelines (Standard History and Alternate History), each with 7 chapters. I haven't yet finished the game (I've reached up to about Chapter 5-6 on both timelines), but I've greatly enjoyed what has been revealed from the story so far.
You play as Stocke, and from early on in the game you have free reign to travel to any node you've unlocked along either one of the timelines. You'll use this ability to alter history for both the main story and numerous sidequests. It gets a little tedious constantly having to jump across the timeline to complete things, particularly if you're not completely sure where to go. Thankfully, all dialogue can be fast-forwarded with X, and cutscenes can be skipped by simply pressing Start, so it's never too tedious jumping back to the same point in time over and over.

Given that the game focuses extensively on time travel, it's a little unfortunate how linear the game is. You can progress the story along both timelines, but at numerous points in the game you will hit a dead end at a major node in one timeline that you can only solve by progressing the story in the other timeline.

One small thing that I enjoyed was that almost every node involves you making an important decision of some sort, and while it's always a rather stark black and white choice (only one option will result in the story continuing), the wrong option typically leads to a very interesting bad ending.

One of the things I most enjoyed about Radiant Historia is the combat system. Enemies appear on the screen as you explore, and running into one brings you to the battle screen. Your characters (you can have up to 3 participating in a battle at once, though you will end up having considerably more in your overall party) stand on the right, and the enemies are spread out on a 3x3 grid on the left. The turn order is displayed on the top screen, and each group of allies/enemies take their actions all at once (so if you have one character taking each of the first 3 actions, all three of your characters will act at once).
Each character can typically only attack one enemy at once, but many characters have abilities that can move characters around on the grid. If an enemy is moved into another enemy by such an ability, then subsequent attacks on that enemy will hit both enemies. Doing this a lot results in a higher combo, which nets you bonus experience and gold. Characters also have the option of swapping turn slots with another character (or even an enemy) at the cost of being weakened until their next action, which allows for setting up insanely long combos hitting every enemy on the field. Unfortunately, a lot of the enemies are palette swaps, but there's still a large enough variety of enemies, including ones that take up more than one spot on the grid and ones that can't be moved with abilities.

The battle system is one of the primary reasons I got drawn into Radiant Historia as much as I did. The system is simple enough, yet has great depth thanks to the variety of enemies you'll face, as well as the widely varying abilities you'll have access to with your party members. That said, there are still some problems.

The biggest issue with the battle system is that there is no option for switching out your party members in the middle of battle. The three characters in your party are the ones you'll have to fight with, which definitely becomes frustrating when you're attempting to level up a character that's fallen behind (due to not being available in the story as often) and come across a boss battle sooner than expected. There's a sharp difficulty spike around Chapter 4, when enemies suddenly become tougher but your characters haven't yet learned their stronger abilities. Standard random battles sometimes become tedious, as the nature of the battle system inherently requires a bit more strategy. Thankfully (or maybe not, depending on your opinions on how difficult a game should be), the majority of the game is relatively easy, and there's never really a need to level grind to win boss battles.

That's most of what I had to say about Radiant Historia. There are some flaws, and the game occasionally becomes a little tedious, but the problems are definitely overshadowed by what's done right. Overall, it's a great game, and well worth picking up.

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