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on February 22, 2011
Radiant Historia crept onto my radar courtesy of a Game Informer review. As an avid RPG-gamer, I am 100% satisfied with my purchase of Radiant Historia. Those familiar with the 16-bit SNES era of Console RPGs will find similarities to Chrono Trigger (time travel mechanic and depth of story) and Legend of Mana (ambiance and soundtrack), though it was hard to find a comparison to the combat system.

The narrative itself has satisfying depth in an age of watered down scripts laden with overly shiny cinematics and corny dialogue. The game features two parallel dimensions, of which you can travel freely between using a magical book named the "White Chronicle". Events in one dimension have effects on the other, allowing the game to deliver the story in a unique and innovative manner. The game is primarily dialogue, which very few animated cutscenes. This means anyone familiar with the genre should expect a lot of dialogue, though Atlus has done its best to make each NPC have something worth saying while not stripping the world of its life and population.

The story follows a trained military spook named Stocke on a journey to end a war which has stripped the land from hope; however, the game strips away linearity in favor of a time-travel mechanic. You can travel forward and backward through time to any major event in the story. If you lose a party member, you must soldier on until you become strong enough to defeat or discover a way to change the outcome of whatever event it was that felled your beloved friend. The time-travel mechanic can get repetitive at times, but the game keeps track of how much progress you have made toward completing a given "node" (major day) in time. This keeps you from having to search through all of your presently unlocked nodes until you complete an event that allows you to move forward in the main story.

The combat system is where the game really shines. In a fresh spin on the turn-based battle system, your enemies prepare to battle you in a 3x3 grid system (think Final Fantasy I-VI in terms of enemy placement). Each enemies' position on this grid affects its stats. Enemies in the front row will deal more damage than the same enemy in the back row; however the back row offers more defense. Some of your abilities will knock enemies onto the same square, allowing future attacks to damage both at the same time.

Get this game while you can! Being an Atlus game, this will likely have a small print run in the English Market, and the sheer quality of the game will leave very few gamers with a desire to part with it; both of these set up to make Radiant Historia a rare cartridge in the future.
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on February 24, 2011
I love RPG's but I'll be the first to admit, the formula is getting a little stale now. Leave it to Atlus to create a game that completely switches things up and makes the genre fresh again. One of the first things you'll notice about this game is how the battle system has been completely changed from the standard turn based battle style that's been used since the 80's. The grid based battle system is almost like a chess game in that it allows you to position the enemies how you want for maximum damage and also allows you to change the turn order for characters. This last allows you to maximize the damage potential and strategize the best ways to dole out big combos. Also, the battles aren't random encounters, which is a huge plus to me as I feel that random encounters are extremely outdated now. The other new feature in this game is the 'White Chronicle'; a book that allows you to reverse time and change your actions in the past to create a brand new future. While you're playing you may need a skill that you don't possess for instance, just reverse time and choose an alternate path in life. Every decision that you make has far reaching effects on you, your party and the entire world.

While I love the gameplay and story in this game, I find a little fault with the graphics. They're somewhat subpar and could've definitely made due with a little more detail. That's not to say that they're horrible; just not great and probably could've been better. All in all I couldn't recommend this game more highly. Even if you're not an RPG fan I think you'll find a lot of fun here. How many games allow you to play and then go back and choose another path that you didn't take previously to see what the outcome is? I'm an Atlus fan and I think they always put out unique games, this one is no exception.
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on March 22, 2011
If the title of my review hasn't sparked your curiosity, let me explain why Radiant Historia is a breath of fresh air.

So many RPGs are similar in that their plots are linear, even if time travel is a device. Even if you travel back 1,000,000 years ago, you will technically arrive X days since your RPG journey began. Ergo, you can never meet yourself, you can never change decisions you've made, and such. This and many boring RPG conventions are not true for Radiant Historia. Radiant Historia innovates and challenges in plot movement, battle mechanics, and storytelling.

I was charmed by how Radiant Historia approached plot and its gameplay. The fact I could replay a scene I misunderstood, skip parts I had seen before, and choose a different outcome made time control an inexorable piece of the game. Instead of simply being a plot device, I felt that it was an exciting gameplay element. I felt like I needed to be aware of the plot threads left dangling by a poor decision or lack of ability. This was compounded by the fact that the plight of the main character, his world, and his best friend were compelling.

The battle mechanics in the game make me feel competent, yet continuously challenged. Typical RPGs' feature battle difficulty by wars of attrition--Radiant Historia has left that in the dust. The first few battles in the game show how to move enemies around the 3 x 3 grid to defeat them quickly. That hooked me. I felt that "planning ahead" and playing with time had extended its emphasis into battle. Battles can be difficult, but never frustrating or unbalanced. This makes each battle feel more like a strategic compromise between defeating a few foes at a time or making yourself vulnerable to have one massive combo attack. Even when winning was distant, it was always just within my reach. I could easily avoid encounters or even run from battle when I didn't need to fight.

Finally, Radiant Historia manages to evoke emotion from me by telling a story well. It's been a long time since a game has made me feel even the slightest emotion. However, it manages to draw me in with spectacular storytelling and plot. In a literary sense, RH uses foreshadowing well (to make you wonder if clairvoyant visions, as well as evil intent come true), dramatic irony (between the main character's foreknowledge of events versus his friends' ignorance), and great characters. Finally, the plot conspicuously ignored telling me the hero's back story long enough to make my discomfort about my ignorance another motivating factor in the game. Many games try to use plot twists to compensate for bad storytelling, but Radiant Historia does not need that. (To be honest, deliberate omission/delay is going to be a storytelling tactic I will forever remember, now.)

Ever since picking up Radiant Historia, I haven't put it down. Make sure you get everything done before buying this game, because you won't work until it's over.
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on February 12, 2012
[2/12/2012] If news hasn't spread yet, Atlas has issued a re-release of this game 1 year after its original American release. Why? Mainly due to profiteers and collectors buying up many multiple copies of this game, either because for "collecting" reasons, or because long ago, many have found out that Japanese RPG video games come to the Western world in (somewhat) limited quantities compared to more "mainstream" releases, and have sought to profit from it. DO NOT BUY THIS GAME IF IT'S OVER $35 NEW OR USED! Skip the high offers and go for the cheap ones when this game becomes available.

As for the game itself, I have only heard good things about it and am thinking of getting a DS or 3DS just for this. Why? When several commenters made that this was in the same iron vein of the legendary SNES title, Chrono Trigger, I think you're onto something great.
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Update (12/10/2011): So the difficulty takes a huge hike early on in Alternate History chapter four. I'm really pleased with this, though I got destroyed very quickly because I wasn't expecting it. And I'm well leveled. There is a LOT more strategy required for the battles now. So I'm more impressed overall. I've been playing a few other games in the meantime (Solatorobo and Atelier Totori), but I've been taking a few swings at this over the last few weeks and will complete the game then update the review further. Just note: Much more difficult now, so disregard the earlier posted comments on how easy the game is.


Update (10/12/2011): Well into the game and nearing the end of Chapter 3 (out of 6 I believe). Finally we get to see some other characters to use in battle, and actually get a pool of several characters to choose from. The story really gets into gear in chapter three. Pretty gripping stuff. The music has improved with access to new areas, there are several new scores instead of the usual 5 or 6 from the first couple of chapters.

Also of note with the music, the regular battle music is rather... not intense? It has a pretty good sound overall. But when you hear the three or four boss music scores... those are a vast improvement. And I like that they have several different boss music beats, that way the more intense and troublesome bosses have the more sinister music. Nice!

Another note: There will be times in chapter 3 and on where it would be... inadvisable to do a timeline jump since there are not any nodes to bring you back to the current timeline. This is nice because it keeps the story moving very well. You 'can' do a jump, but then you would have to jump back much earlier in chapter three and re-work through much of that timeline to get to where you were. Just saying that the developers seemed to say: "Hey! Stick with this storyline a bit longer, it's just getting good!"


Update (10/5/11): Despite the game starting off ridiculously easy... it suddenly goes into extra tough overdrive about 4 or 5 hours in. More than level grinding, what is required of later battles is a smart sense of tactics. Many opponents will arrange themselves in the grid for a special attack, or hit certain points on the grid with enhancements, such as a MAJOR attack increase. Your top priority at this point is to use your players to keep these opponents off those parts of the grid or to immediately knock them to a different point on the grid.

Also, there are a few techniques you gain which enhance the exploration aspect. You receive a technique to chop trees allowing you to access previously blocked chests/areas, and later you gain an ability to 'sense' hidden treasure and items on the exploration screen. Give this game 4 to 6 hours and you really get into the meat. It really doesn't even get going until the end of chapter one/ start of chapter 2.


Things that I enjoy? First and most notable is the music. The tunes are great old school RPG style songs with good variety. They're catchy and mood fitting for the most part. I also loved the included CD with the piano arrangements. Awesome extra for those like me who pre-ordered (though there may be some with the CD still around).

Graphics are amazing. They remind me a bit of Xenogears from the PS1 without the ability to freely move the camera. The sprites are chunky little 2d things but the use of character portraits helps to personify the main characters and overcome this. If you really look around you can see the rich detail in almost every setting.

Battles are fun and the use of the grid system really adds a bit of versatility. It seems this may have worked well as a Chrono Trigger like system with more are and line attacks and combos, but despite the seemingly simple system it works. And you do gain better rewards after battle with higher combos. I could sit here and describe the system and bore you to death, but better to check out an online video.

The time travel element adds a nice touch to the game. At certain points history diverges and there are nodes created to when you may return. It makes some parts repetitive, but you can rapidly skip text in the blink of an eye, just not speed up character actions (like little clouds of annoyance or people walking about etc...) so some of the repeated points in history can get a tad annoying.

The real gem of this game is the story. You immediately dive into a complex and rewarding story. Some of the other characters might get a bit annoying, but most villains and heroes are complex and rather a treat to engage with. It is one of the deepest and most interesting stories for any DS game (the exact opposite of Final Fantasy Tactics A2!).

If you enjoy deep stories, engaging characters, and fun battles then you ought to pick up a copy before they become hard to find and double in price. This is a late release for the DS, but another of those classic style games that makes me a huge DS fan!
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on September 21, 2012
This game started off amazing, and the battle system was extremely well done and unique. This game was a lot of fun....for a while.

After a while, you begin realizing that you're fighting the same enemies over and over again, walking through the same areas over and over again. The battle system that was fun in the beginning becomes a chore. You realize that you're skipping battles because you don't want to have to pull strategy, you just want to get to the next part of the story. But you do need to grind too a bit, so you're forced to battle. And because so many areas look similar, you can get lost VERY easily.

The story is interesting, but because of the way the game is designed you find yourself doing the same things over and over again. You can skip certain dialogues, but you'll have to find your friends again, and other repetitive and annoying tasks.

It's overall a good game, but you have to have the right mindset for it. I put it down, don't know if I'll pick it back up again.
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on July 20, 2014
Time travel has been a part of RPG storylines for many generations, dating back to SaGa 3 (known as Final Fantasy Legend III outside Japan) on the original GameBoy, although the one RPG that perhaps made the concept famous in the genre was perhaps Chrono Trigger on the Super NES. Radiant Historia for the Nintendo DS itself features a plot where time travel is central, with its development team consisting of members that worked on titles such as recent Megami Tensei titles, the Etrian Odyssey series, and Radiata Stories. Upon its release in North America, Historia received mostly favorable reviews, and mercifully lives up to the hype.

As most any RPG should, Radiant Historia features visible enemies in dungeons and on fields, with foes attempting to charge the player’s party when they draw near. The protagonist, Stocke, can slash enemies with his sword to drive them away, sometimes putting them to sleep, in which case the player can score a premature strike against the enemy party. Enemies, however, can prematurely strike the player’s party, and if neither side surprises one another, the battle begins normally, with turn order dependent likely upon character and enemy speed.

Fortunately, a turn order meter on the top screen takes the mystery about who will take their turn when, this feature pretty much a necessity in any turn-based RPG. The player’s party of up to three active characters squares off against a certain number of enemies that appear upon a three-by-three grid, the heroes themselves being gridless. In a break from other turn-based RPGs with similar progression such as Final Fantasy X, where attacks execute immediately after input, attacks don’t execute until the player has inputted commands for all characters who have turns before an enemy takes theirs. When enemies take their turns, their attacks sometimes execute simultaneously much akin to battles in the Suikoden series.

Character commands include attacking normally, using an MP-consuming skill, defending, using an item, changing their turn with an enemy or ally (which results in a penalty of receiving more damage that lasts until that character executes their command), or attempting to escape. Many special skills can move the enemy around the battlefield, with the player able to move enemies into the same square or squares and attack them simultaneously with attacks that typically only affect one enemy, one row, or one column. As characters attacks, they chain combos together if attacking the same foe or foes, with the chain ending when a character attacks a different enemy or the enemy reaches their turn.

Winning a battle, like in most other RPGs, nets the player’s characters experience, money, and the occasional item, with fights generally moving at a quick pace, especially if the player takes advantage of the enemy’s grid to gather enemies into the same square to simultaneously slaughter them all. It’s not a game-breaking flaw, but it might have been if the player’s characters stopped attacking an enemy when they lose all their health, and the ability to swap active characters with those in reserve would have been welcome as well. However, these flaws are negligible at best, and the developers definitely deserve credit for assembling a superb battle system.

Control is largely solid as well, with few problems with the menus and shopping, and while the game largely keeps track of the player’s current objective, there are maybe a few moments where the player might have trouble finding out where in time to go next to advance the plot. Automaps are also unfortunately absent, although dungeon design is largely decent, and save points are often poorly spaced, with no quicksave feature, and the player instead needing to rely on the DS’s sleep mode if they need a break. In the end, however, interaction is definitely above average.

The time travel plot is solid as well, chiefly dealing with two parallel timelines between which the player must travel to advance through the game. There are plenty of premature bad endings stemming from players choosing the “wrong” decision of a pair typically offered at many points throughout the game. Granted, the plot tends to eschew character development in favor of the time travel aspect, although the ending is reasonably lengthy, and the story is ultimately a decent reason to play the game.

Yoko Shimomura provides the soundtrack, with plenty of decent tracks, alongside good sound effects, although there are some occasional silent cutscenes. The visual presentation is solid, with 2-D character sprites and 3-D scenery, a combination that looks nice, with vibrant colors that are never out of place, and good character artwork. Overall, both the aural and visual presentation are well above average.

Finally, the time necessary to beat the game is somewhere from twenty to forty hours, even more if the player wishes to complete the timeline, something they can accomplish post-game. In conclusion, Radiant Historia is perhaps one of the best RPGs to come out near the end of the Nintendo DS’s lifecycle, given its solid battle system, control, story, music, and graphics. It does have some minor interface issues, although these hardly detract from a superb time-travel adventure.

The Good:
+Solid battle system and control.
+Great story with multiple endings and top-notch localization.
+Superb music and graphics.

The Bad:
-Some occasional poor direction on how to advance.
-No automaps.
-Some silent scenes.

The Bottom Line:
Probably the best time travel RPG since Chrono Trigger.
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on March 21, 2013
Radiant Historia is a masterpiece.

This game is one of the best RPGs I have played in years. I picked up this game on recommendation, since it's initial release was not too loudly heralded at the game store that I go to. Atlus studios overall is releasing excellent games lately, and I have become a fan of this studio's efforts.

The battle system is satisfying and fun. What is most outstanding about this game is the game writing and characterization. Though the characters stand out as individuals, they do not descend into overly stereotypical, annoying caricatures.

Also, if you play this game for a while and then leave it alone, and forget what you are doing, it isn't impossible to resume gameplay after a long break. The mechanics manage to guide your skill threshold higher and higher, but if you don't play it every day, you won't lose any ability to finish it.

Ideologically the game focuses on the importance of making choices, and the consequences of these choices upon the future. Though most of the choices in the game are impossible to choose correctly the first time, the game does make you think about how history can turn out different if just one person had chosen another path.

It's cool. It's interesting. It will entertain you and make you think. However you can, play this game!
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on November 11, 2011
I have heard absolutely fantastic reviews for this game, and so I finally got it.

And am I happy I received this gift for my birthday! The game has a wonderful story, reminiscent to Chrono Trigger, in that this game also involves time travel (though beyond that I won't say. I want to avoid a spoiler-rific review).

The music is also fantastic, as is expected of Yoko Shimomura, who also composed the music for Kingdom Hearts. The battle system is unique, in that it combines a grid where you can push enemies around, and you aim for massive combos. Again, the story is also engaging, where it actually breaks a few typical JRPG elements of story, and the general steampunk atmosphere is a wonderful addition.

I highly, HIGHLY suggest this game to veteran JRPG fans. If you are new to JRPG's, I would suggest starting with another game, as if you don't know how most JRPG's work, a guide might be needed.

As a final note, to those who may be struggling, there is a wonderful detailed "Let's Play" on Youtube by HCBailly. It is basically a walkthrough, while the uploader inserts their own commentary. The same user also has a thorough guide in the description of his first video of the Let's Play.

Happy gaming!
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on December 3, 2011
I'll admit that I have been a little disappointed with Japanese RPGs of late, and have found it difficult to really get engaged in any of them. I will make an exception for Radiant Historia. I haven't gotten very far yet but I love what I have seen so far. The story is very complex without being convoluted, the combat is a new twist on an old system without being Tedious or Haphazard, and the characters are likable without being annoying. Probably the most important element for me is the story, the time travel aspect might remind some of Chrono Trigger but the way time travel works is very unique. Also I find that the dialogue was translated quite well and is not specifically aimed at being accessible to young children. The content is also rather mild and unoffensive, without feeling childish, thus proving that a game does not HAVE to be rated T or M to appeal to a more mature audience.
Overall Radiant Historia is fantastic game that people from all ages can enjoy so if you are looking for a good Japanese RPG on the DS,look no further.
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