July 1, 2014

Radiant Historia Review

Posted in video games tagged , at 8:19 pm by riulyn

I’ve let other things distract me these past few weeks (World Cup, Wimbledon, sister in town) so my gaming hours has gone down quite a bit. Still, I just managed to finish Radiant Historia a few days ago so here are my thoughts on it.

TLDR Worth it for the story/idea. Especially if you weren’t like me and didn’t watch a LP of it thinking the game would never price drop and therefore you wouldn’t buy it. A bit weak on the battle system but overall a very solid package.

PLOT & CHARACTERS

Let me start with what I liked. The plot starts fast and soon reveals that not only is the MC no ordinary person, but that the story is no ordinary take on time travel. The game is serious for the most part and does a pretty good job hiding the mysteries until the best reveal points. There are points in the story where you have to choose between two options, leading to different plot events, though almost all of them are bad endings. The game encourages you to explore these endings by having a node (their term for events) count. I don’t think getting all the nodes does anything special to the final ending, but I’m no Radiant Historia expert.

Unfortunately, the main plot is pretty focused on events so side character development is left mostly to character-specific sidequests that aren’t the easiest to find or finish. Without a walkthrough I missed most of the sidequests. Then again, if you talk to NPCs all the time then you probably won’t miss as many of them. Some are really tricky though and easily solvable with a few tips from a FAQ. Other quests give a bit more color to the world. Even so, I would say while the cast is a decently interesting lot, the game doesn’t give you a ton to work off of besides the MC. I wish there were more character-focused sidequests (and not just one ending and some skill hunts).

BATTLE SYSTEM

Your goal in battle (besides winning) is basically to manipulate turn order and enemy position in order to make great damage combos. Enemies are placed on a 3×3 grid. You have techs that can move enemies around or damage certain parts of the grid, as well as normal attacks, elemental spells, and status effects that will hit the targeted enemy. If you gather a bunch of enemies onto one spot on the grid, a single enemy attack will actually hit all the enemies on the spot. In addition, grid position makes some difference in the damage the enemies deal you. Unless a spell is placed on a spot on the grid that modifies an enemy’s attack, an enemy will deal and take more damage the further forward he/she/it is. So sometimes it is a good idea to shove a single, high-damaging enemy to the back in order to mitigate some of his/her/its damage output.

The other major component of battles in Radiant Historia is turn order manipulation. You can see up to 10 turns at a time. When it is one of your three character’s turns, you can actually have them switch the order with another character or even an enemy. This causes the switched character to temporarily be red, a more vulnerable to damage state, until that character has his/her turn. Later on you get the ability to even eliminate/break/remove an enemy’s turn if you have a full burst gauge, which gives you another way to manipulate turn order.

The battle system is fine and it is interesting enough in the beginning. However, I think it takes too long for enemies to do anything interesting with their positioning/attacks and for you to learn grid manipulation skills in order for the battles to not seem repetitive. In addition, I did not find the battle system to be challenging, so having to input commands to shuffle enemies around in normal battles that weren’t interesting became tedious. The only noticeable changes in difficulty really didn’t change my strategies towards enemies but rather made battles longer as I had to deal with increased damage to my characters. There are only a few tough battles in terms of damage that you take that you can’t do anything about, and all you have to worry about is reviving your characters a lot. Which isn’t really a problem since you probably gained so many healing items over the course of the game.

All the characters are useful in battle, though I found myself using the MC (who is required), a big hitter, and a healer/mage for bosses for the most part. In certain parts of the game you have a limited selection of party members due to plot events; characters who are absent for a long time and then rejoin will not have gained experience while they were gone, but they catch up in levels rather quickly. Equipment is probably more important for damage dealing and withstanding, but most skills are gained by gaining levels.

In the end, it feels like a typical turn-based RPG with a twist that seemed better on paper than in practice. It’s not a bad system but not one I’d recommend to imitate.

OTHER

  • I think I have raved about the music for this game before. It is awesome! It is Yoko Shimomura goodness. The OST is horribly expensive but I have listened to it enough times to get my money’s worth, at least.
  • The game is pretty low-budget on the graphics. I wish there were at least changes in people’s expressions while they talked. However it’s pretty easy from the dialogue to figure out what tone they would use, since there is also no voice acting.
  • I’m not sure what I think of those character designs. They aren’t horrendous but they aren’t so great either… At least it isn’t Tony Taka’s art for Shining games… (Don’t worry, I’ll talk about Shining Ark at some point in the future.)

SUMMARY

Radiant Historia is a unique experience that I believe all JRPG fans with a DS should enjoy at least once. If you picked the game apart it doesn’t seem like a game that should feel so different from other games, but as a package it is nicely wrapped up with a nice surprise on the inside.

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