Nintendo’s current-gen handheld system has never enjoyed consistent releases of good games. This year, however, seems to be good for the system with 999 and Ghost Trick reeling in a cult following. Adding to the list of great DS games will be Radiant Historia, slated to be released on the 22nd of this month.
The production team includes many members of the teams that put together Atlus’s spearhead Megami Tensei games as well as members of the Square Enix team responsible for Radiata Stories, which can be considered a distant relative to this game. The monikers of the companies shine through in this game. There is even a character who resembles Final Fantasy‘s iconic moogle.
Turning the Hands of Time
The compelling aspect of Radiant Historia is the ability to travel through time. The concept itself isn’t new ground for video games (even the aforementioned Ghost Trick used time travel as a plot device!). For that reason, the application of the concept becomes the driving force here. Whereas many time travel adventures don’t offer you explicit use of the ability to travel back in time, Radiant Historia does. The idea of being flung backwards and forwards in time isn’t a device simply used to further the plot – it’s a device that alters the plot. When the player makes the decision to travel backwards or forwards in time, they do so with the intent of ultimately creating a better world. Of course, you can never be sure if you made the right choice which is why the game allows you unlimited chances to revisit past events and seek all the possible endings. This concept drastically adds to the replay-ability without making to quest to find all the different endings a tedious experience as it was in 999.
New Grounds for Combat
At its core, Radiant Historia is your typical role-playing game. The bulk of the game consists of you moving your player, Stocke, across the map screen where you can manipulate objects, scour for enemies, or save your progress. When you manage to come across and enemy or are placed into a battle, you get a taste of the quirk that makes Radiant Historia different. The top screen displays the order of attackers, an innovative and useful planning device popularized in Final Fantasy X. The bottom screen displays your characters, enemy units, and is used to select battle commands. The key to winning battles here is to alter the formation of enemy units. The field is divided into a 3×3 grid, and by stacking enemies on top of one another, you’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone.
The Artful Song of Time
Radiant Historia has some of the most beautifully drawn characters in a DS game. The character portraits are all drawn in an anime style, which is the animation norm in Japan where this game was originally developed and released. Characters are colored with many shades that bring them to life and give breath to the serious nature of the story. On the other hand, the character sprites are more “cartoony” but still manage to live up to modern standards with their fluid movements, in battle and out.
The musical score here is highly reminiscent of the Kingdom Hearts series. The connection is no coincidence when you take into account that the compositions are produced by same composer for Square Enix’s highly popular series. While not entirely original, the melodies are lively and energetic, it is a good fit to the character and background designs.
Time To Change History
The Japanese version of the game gives a good look at what we can expect here in the states. Radiant Historia will likely be one of the last great games to be released on the system with the coming of Nintendo’s new 3DS.