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Today, I'm going to kick off another new blog series, which is inspired by some of my personal favorite games that never really garnered the popularity they deserved. I'm a person who has generally found some lesser-known games as more enjoyable than more popular, "AAA" titles. This isn't always true, of course. But, there are so many games I like that no one seems to be aware of that I think this series will have several entries in it. Today's focus will be a JRPG from Atlus that released in 2011 on the Nintendo DS: Radiant Historia.
Radiant Historia is, essentially, last generation's Chrono Trigger, albeit more linear. The world of the game centers around a continent called Vainqueur. There are several different kingdoms in the world: Alistel, Granorg, Cygnus, and the beast-inhabited Celestia and the village of he Gutral tribe. At the start of the game, the player sees two characters who reminisce about their failed attempt to stop the desertification of the world. Desertification is a process that basically destroys fertile land, and turns everything into sand, making the world uninhabitable for any life.
Like any good RPG, Radiant Historia has two main things that make it really compelling: a fantastic story, and an engaging combat system. Both of them are fantastic, and separately make this a must-play title in their own right: combined, they make this JRPG one of my favorites. Radiant Historia also has a great original soundtrack, and several of my favorite characters ever: four in total ended up on my Wonderful 101 list. Considering that's one, stand-alone game, that's pretty good: no other single-entry game got four representatives in my list. I'll get into those awesome characters later, though-first, let's focus more on the story of Radiant Historia.
I mentioned how this game is like Chrono Trigger, and that's because it's focused upon time-travel. What makes this game different though is that the story is split into two timelines that diverge from an early decision the protagonist Stocke makes, which is to either stay in the Special Intelligence unit of Alistel, or join his friend Rosch's brigade. Each path has a unique storyline, and the timeline expands over a couple months. In one timeline, though, Stocke may hit a roadblock, such as discovering an informant was killed, and he lacks vital information. In order to progress in that timeline, Stock must use an item known as the White Chronicle, which he acquires early in the game, to travel to a point either in the past, or in the adjoining timeline. There, he can prevent the informant's death, and still meet them in the other timeline. This is because the timelines affect each other in small ways like this.
Even though this makes the game very linear, it still feels like time-travel. Sometimes you get wrapped up enough in the timelines that coming into a certain point feels unfamiliar. Time-travel has always played with people, making familiar and places and situations feel distorted, or creating deja'vu. Radiant Historia perfectly achieved this effect for me. The story itself, chronicling the tale of Vainqueur, is phenomenal, wit well-placed twists, as well as moving along at an engaging pace: I clocked over nine hours in the game each day for at least three days, and that was when I was on a family vacation, and was restricted in how much I could actually play at the time. The sidequests are also intriguing, and the timeline indicates where they are, which is very helpful for completionists.
What sets apart Radiant Historia from most other RPGs though is its combat system. Enemies are placed in a 3 x 3 grid, and the player can take actions to move them around that grid. There are Push Assaults, grapple attacks, and other similar moves that can really change up the battles. Enemies being on the far end of the grid means they deal less damage to you, but also that the reverse is true, so there's a risk/reward system in place. The game is also pretty well paced-I didn't find myself grinding very much, and while I was going through the story at a brisk pace, the game took about fifty hours to complete.
Even though I don't love every character in the game, there are some I really enjoyed. In particular, I had a fondness for Stock, his two allies Raynie and Marco, and also Heiss, who serves as the head of Special Intelligence. Over the course of the game, the development between the main trio is really great, even though Stocke is the only one jumping around between the timelines. Raynie and Marco are almost always present, and I had them in my party whenever I was able to. As for Heiss-I can't mention it here, but just know that he's probably the most well-developed character in the game.
To close off today, I think I'll mention the game's soundtrack. It's actually composed by Yoko Shimomura, which explains why it's fantastic: she's worked on Xenoblade, Kingdom Hearts, and a host of other games with stellar OSTs. Everything from the somber tones to the fast-paced notes of the battles is great, amounting to a soundtrack that you'll want to look up online.
Radiant Historia currently sits at the bottom of my top ten games ever list, and for good reason. I enjoyed my time with it very much, and hopefully this blog has convinced you to give it a try sometime, because this game deserves more love. Well, that will conclude the first entry in this new series, and I will be putting out new entries in the near future. Stay tuned for more!