The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Role-playing games have become complicated over the years. They
feature lengthy cinematics, emphasize player choice, and present
gigantic worlds to explore. These advancements aren’t bad; they have
given rise to some of the most compelling and successful titles in the
industry. Even with these great modern RPGs, sometimes I wish I could go
back to the genre’s 16-bit era – a time where titles like Earthbound,
Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy represented everything I wanted from a
video game. If you’ve ever felt the same way, you should play Radiant
You control Stocke, a member of a secret intelligence
agency who is the key to stopping a brutal war between two powerful
nations. Stocke isn’t your typical plucky young hero wading through a
sea of fantasy clichés; he’s a competent and efficient warrior who knows
that dumb luck and hope won’t lead to victory. This refreshingly novel
attitude suits the plot of Radiant Historia well; events often take a
turn for the worse, and rash decisions have dire consequences. Expect to
see the death of multiple party members.
That may sound like a
spoiler, but nothing is set in stone. By using a mysterious book called
the White Chronicle, Stocke has the ability to travel freely between
various key points in the game’s timeline. You may see one companion
fall in battle, but then return to that moment later with an item that
will save his life. Adding to the complexity, the timeline splits into
two parallel branches early on, and the alternate histories also affect
each other. This structure is a brilliant way to deliver the plot,
steering away from cookie-cutter moments and taking some surprisingly
dark turns. Radiant Historia’s storytelling provides an innovative twist
that defies the predictability of traditional RPGs.
As much as I
enjoyed the story, the most entertaining part of the package is the
battle system. It seems to follow a worn pattern at first; you have
three party members who are queued up in a turn order and proceed to
unleash attacks and special abilities. Your enemies aren’t just standing
in a row, though. They are arranged on a 3x3 grid, where those in the
front do more damage, and those in the rear have higher defense. Since
many of your characters’ skills involve batting foes around the grid,
your battles are fun strategic endeavors that have you clustering
enemies onto a single square to damage them all at once.
mechanic is more than just arranging your opponents. The turn order
isn’t static, so you’re free to swap one party member’s turn for
another’s later down the line. You can even switch with an enemy, which
sounds crazy until you consider that your damage increases with each
consecutive ally attack. The result is a tactical system that has you
prioritizing enemies, managing the turn queue, and setting yourself up
for massive attack chains that lead to immensely satisfying victories.
unique combat and story are supported by a traditional RPG framework
that any fan of the genre will recognize. You level up, learn new
abilities, visit towns, and buy new equipment. Side quests require you
to hop around in time to solve problems, and multiple endings (most of
them resulting in horrific failure) give you a reason to revisit
previous decisions. These aspects – along with the visual style –
comprise the game’s familiar core and make it feel like an old-school
RPG at heart.
Some genre conventions in Radiant Historia have aged
better than others. Retreading previously crossed areas is dull, and
you do it a lot as you move between timelines. I also would have
appreciated more unique enemies (instead of palette swaps), which could
have added some extra flavor to the combat. Lastly, I got sick of
skipping through a bunch of dialogue every time I jumped to a different
point in history. These issues don’t ruin the game, but they are enough
to make small stretches more annoying than entertaining.
top-down view and some sprites aren’t all it takes to capture the
essence of a classic RPG. Many titles have tried to capitalize on
gamers’ nostalgia for the 16-bit era, but most end up feeling like
hollow and archaic imitations. Radiant Historia succeeds where those
attempts fail; it is an inventive role-playing game that delivers the
sensation of playing one of your old favorites for the first time.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.