When games involve time travel it’s not hard to get me on board, yet I somehow managed to miss Radiant Historia the first time around. Funnily enough, that’s making me appreciate its story all the more, what with how it deals with the importance of decisions made and writing wrongs in the past. With just a single chapter under my belt at this point I already feel myself drawn into its world and characters, and find myself looking back even further to the best qualities of SNES RPGS of yesteryear.
From the get-go the game lays the story on pretty thick, introducing us to main character Stocke and his work as a covert ops agent for the kingdom of Alistel. Constantly at war from a neighboring nation and on the brink of desertification (exactly what it sounds like: sand is spreading and spreading fast), things aren’t exactly great — but with a turn of fate, Stocke can make a difference.
Over the course of the Prologue I gained the cornerstone of the game: the White Chronicle. With this mysterious magical book’s power I gained the ability to travel back in time and even undo death itself. Having set “nodes” in time that make it possible to return to whenever I like makes the gameplay compelling. Unlike, say, Chrono Trigger these points seem to be fixed from a story perspective. You can revisit scenes and characters but use the knowledge, skills, and experience you’ve gained to alter your personal history and create a new future.
Once I entered the first Chapter, this branching time stream concerned Stocke’s friend and ally extending an invite into his army squadron. It’s up to you to decide if you’ll accept or maintain your current position, and while it may influence the flow of your story, you can travel through both of these decisions to see just how things would go. By hopping back and forth between them and affecting events in each, the game allows you to gain a further look at the world and story without withholding any of its chronal twists.
These story beats have been compelling enough to hold me, and the pacing and delivery makes for a unique RPG experience. It definitely leans more heavily on story than it does gameplay, but they’re integrated well so far and make me want to learn as much as I can in each separate time branch. All of this is bolstered by great character art and music from the one and only Yoko Shimomura.
Combat hasn’t been as engrossing, but there’s definite promise. Your party of three characters will fight enemies populating a 3×3 grid, with certain attacks moving them around the board. By hitting them into each other, changing your turn order, and connecting multiple attacks in a row, you’ll up your combo in each individual battle to increase your rewards. It adds new layers to what could’ve been a very “generic” battle system, though not without a few issues. Killing an enemy doesn’t redirect your planned attacks to a still fighting one, for example (because that’d get in the way of your potential combo), which is taking some getting used to.
Without spoiling anything for new players, I can see why this game got the love it did when released and became a renowned cult classic. The remake feels deserved, though as I head into the “new” content in the package I’m excited to see what awaits in the White Chronicle’s pages. For those who’ve played before, you can integrate these new scenes and mysterious characters into the flow of the game, while first-timers can experience the game as it was made and then enjoy the new bits via a choice made at the game’s beginning. Whichever way you go, you’ll be in for a story for the ages and what’s shaping up to be another worthy RPG from Atlus.
We’ve played through the Prologue in Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology and recorded every moment of our journey so far. Come get a closer look at the game that will be officially available for the 3DS on February 13th!