After dealing with the crap news of Capcom, and a certain other anime game I shall mention in the next review, and having to give up my Xbox 360 in fear of the dreaded Red Ring of Death, I really needed something to help get me out of my funk. And whenever I think of good games that can satisfy me, only one gaming company can truly help me: Atlus, the same makers of the epic dark Shin Megami Tensei series, and also apparently was involved in translating a number of games, a number of which are Super Robot Wars games. Having fun with those titles, I thought that maybe something like Radiant Historia might be good, despite a small fear of it being a Chrono Trigger rip-off.
Let me tell you right now: this isn’t a Chrono Trigger rip-off. Yes, time travel is a big part of the game, but it doesn’t go back in centuries or millennia like that game does. Rather, the small amount of time between each chapter is actually very well done, with a variety of quests, ten of which can impact the very ending of this game. In fact, you need to complete them in order to gain the true ending, while the rest were optional in order to gain new skills or perhaps even fight the ultimate/optional boss, or maybe even just to experiment and gain more information in the world.
Another thing to consider is the fact that your decisions actually have a large impact on the gameplay, and by that I mean you can potentially get a very bad ending if you make the wrong choice. Thankfully, the game is forgiving, allowing you to view those very endings just to see what would go wrong if I made choice b, rather than choice a. And while some are just text scrolls, others can be a bit more than that, as well as incredibly surprising. Luckily, you have infinite chances to correct your mistake in the past.
As far as stories go too, it is pretty good, but the main bad guy is far too obvious, and ruins the usual surprise games like Persona had me with. All the main villains need are mustaches, and you get the instant spoiler. Nonetheless though, they are fun to interact with throughout the story. You take on the main role of Stocke, a soldier working under Heiss that is one day sent on a dangerous mission. After receiving the White Chronicle, a book of incredible power, he is unfortunately faced with a suicide battle during a mission, and it looks like he is doomed. However, it turns out the White Chronicle will allow him to go back in time to be able to save his comrades, although his injuries cannot be healed with the book, thus making keeping Stocke alive a no brainer. Afterwards, it’s all about saving the world, all with the help of Stocke, the Chronicle, and the two children to be able to save the world from the horror of Desertification, as well as the wielder of the Black Chronicle.
Gameplay is actually more fun than it appears to be. When you first play the game, it will no doubt feel like a Final Fantasy game, with your characters assigned actions before going all out, but the thing is that the characters all attack at once depending on how many of their icons are above. The same goes for the enemies however, and if you aren’t careful, they can pound you with lethal combos again and again. Another factor is positioning. Sadly, you can’t move your characters, but you can move the enemies with special attacks, and when you confine them on a single space, further attacks not only do more damage as the combo goes on, but you can hit both of them at once, either will physical attacks or spells.
Speaking of combos, they shall be your saving grace in battle, and are extraordinarily fun to carry out. Each physical and magic attack tends to only get one level of a combo, but the next move afterwards can gain a bonus level, so long as it isn’t the same kind of attack. For example, do a physical attack, that will do one level, while magic after that will rise it to three, and then the next physical will earn a level five. And there are even some characters who gain two levels with their basic attacks. The same holds true for multiple targets, but this combo can easily break if you decide to heal in the middle of one or something. The only downside might be that you will undoubtedly burn a lot of MP during all of this. So why do it? Well aside from quickly getting rid of enemies, doing these can also boost the amount of gold and EXP you gain in battle, thus making power-leveling that much easier.
And aside from battling, you can initiate contact by running into enemies while out on the field. Get behind them or stun them, and you gain a bit of an advantage in a battle. Don’t do this and let an enemy hit you, and you are in for some brief pain as they get their turn, and a lot of them too. As you progress through the game, you will also gain abilities, such as stealth, finding hidden items, or even a mana burst bar, which allows you to lessen enemy turns, or later in the game, use your very own special techniques to take down tons of enemies or single targets, all while building up the combo meter to boot. And the skills mentioned earlier can also help make backtracking easier and get items inaccessible before.
And while I like the story of this game, there are drawbacks. You may notice a plothole or two, or several if you are smarter than me, but if you don’t let those bother you, you can have some fun. Another drawback is the music. Yes, it isn’t half bad and can fit the mood, but it’s not my cup of tea when compared with the Shin Megami Tensei games. But even then, I don’t necessarily hate it, and they could have done far, far worse. Even with all of these though, they are minor compared to the rest of the game. I tried very, very hard to find faults with this game, and if I had one major complaint, it was that it wasn’t completely engaging like some of the other RPGs I have played. Plus, the lack of being able to customize anything aside from standard equipment was a bit sad. And when you look at it, you might realize this might be the last great old school RPG you may get in this life. And for old schoolers, this is a must to pick up for you DS. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun though. Just don’t rush through the game, and you’ll get your money’s worth easily.
Overall, I have to admit, I love this game, a lot. Yes, the minor faults get on my nerves a bit, but this game is well done, and I was surprised to see scores averaging at 7 out of ten. No, this game doesn’t get a full five, but it comes damn near close with its great story, interesting cast of characters, cool combo combat system. I only wish more was a bit done, like customization in other games.
But for this old school RPG, I give Radiant Historia for the Nintendo DS a well-deserved 4 out of 5. If you don’t have this game in your library, GET IT NOW!
And stay tuned in for the next review, which technically won’t really so much as a review then so much as a warning. What is this game you ask? I’ll give you a hint: anime, made at the start of the last gen era.