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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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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.

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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!"

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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.

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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 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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on February 28, 2015
I bought this because I wanted to try an Atlus game before dropping $50+ on Persona Q. Yes I realize it's very old.

Pros
1. Really interesting story line. Love the time travel bit, the characters are likeable, and it has the classic fantasy RPG vibe.
2. The battle system is interesting and fun. Definitely different from ATB and still way faster than a strategy RPG.
3. The menus are no nonsense. You get what you need, and nothing else.
4. The game progresses quickly. I hate games that take eternity to go nowhere. Inside of an hour and you're already time traveling.
5. The character art is really good. A little grungy but distinctive.
6. Over 200 nodes. That means you can travel back to over 200 points and do side quests or change history. That's a lot of content.

Cons
1. Uses the bottom screen for main game play while the much more glorious top screen is stuck showing stats. I've always disliked it when games did that.
2. The game is very basic. The story is deep, the battle is deep, but it seems like it's built on top of nothing. It's little things, like after battle screens, the menu, battle menus, etc. There just doesn't seem to be a lot there and it feels off. It's a design thing and not detrimental to the game. You have the tools to play, but you only have the tools to play.
3. I know it's from 2010 but even for 2010 the graphics seem a bit old to me. Chrono Trigger seemed more polished graphically. Doesn't ruin things but a little bit more polish would've been appreciated.

Overall, this is a great game. Lots of story, and it's a good story. After playing this, I have a lot more confidence in Atlus' other titles. Here's hoping they're a bit more polished than this one =)

*Update*
I have since finished the game and am upping my rating to 5 stars. Amazing game. Tons of story. Still wish the UI had better polish, but extremely satisfied. Will play again.
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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 October 18, 2013
This game is an excellent example of what made the Super Nintendo, Sega Saturn and PlayStation era so special. It is a traditional RPG quest game with very lovable characters, a deep storyline and a simple-yet-incredibly-deep combat system. Graphically, it looks amazing, like something one would play on the Sega Saturn back in the 32-bit era, with rotations, well-animated sprites, colourful settings and detailed character portraits. The music is a delight for the ears, orchestrated beauty.

This game is well worth your time and money, whether you play $15 or the exhorbitant prices it commanded a few months ago. It is one of the diamonds in the wild of the Nintendo DS library.
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VINE VOICEon May 30, 2014
When I ordered Radiant Historia back in February 2013 I'll readily admit that I played for only a few hours before I let it, and my 3DS, sit and gather dust. At the time the cheapest new copy of the game I could get was $70, so I was expecting much more from the game.

However, a few months ago, after finishing Ghost Trick, I decided to give Radiant Historia another chance. And now here I am, a little over a year and a quarter from when I first picked the game up, writing a review, having just finished it a few hours ago.

I don't exactly recall what caused me to put the game down, but having now gone through the game I think it may just been the wrong time for me, as both the story and music - two of the major reasons I typically enjoy RPGs over all other genres - are pretty dang good.

The musical score at times reminds me of Final Fantasy VI, Nier, and Lost Odyssey. The branching storyline reminds me of Chrono Trigger (albeit it's definitely not as complex). The character art reminds me of Blue Dragon (or maybe just Raynie reminds me strongly of Zola).

The gameplay is perhaps the one slightly insignificant aspect, as while it does feature some complexity when it comes to moving the location of enemies on the 3x3 grid they inhabit, I found myself using 4 characters (including the main one who can't be swapped out) for most of the endgame, depending upon who I had access to in the storyline.

In short, I found the game to be really quite good, once I was able to really get into it. However, I'm not sure how much of the 40+ hours I put into the game will stick with me down the road, especially given the fairly safe ending.

I give Radiant Historia 4 of 5 stars, primarily because of the great music and story/mission structure.
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on September 23, 2014
Radiant Historia instantly pulled me in, and kept me interested for the entire 40+ hour journey. (My completed time was 47:30.) The story is fantastic, and it has the best use of time travel in arguably any game, including Chrono Trigger. (Gasp! Blasphemy!) Very early in the game, you come to a choice, and it splits the timeline in two. There are characters in one storyline that you can't have in the other, and the story splits itself a few times along the way, based on the decisions you make. There are certain side quests you can do that unlock the "best" ending, I'd recommend looking it up first before you play (just because one of them you have to make specific decisions early on) and have a checklist of things to do.

The characters are well designed, and the music is fantastic. The battle system is your party up against a 3x3 grid of your enemies, and combat is turn based. But, you're able to manipulate the turn order, to make sure that you get a heal off before a boss attacks, or bunching up all your characters' turns after having your enemy attack first a few times for a ton of damage at once. Your characters have abilities that move your enemies around the field, and pushing enemies into each other allows you to attack all the enemies on that square in a row, and they stay put until all your characters' turns are done. The way you can use that to your advantage is really intriguing, and makes battles a lot more fun in my opinion. For turn-based combat, battles flow really well, and grinding isn't so... well, grind-ey.

It all comes together into a beautiful package. The DS had quite a lot of good RPGs, but this stands near the very top. If you own a DS and you love RPGs, you can't overlook this game.
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