Radiant Historia is Atlus USA’s next release on the Nintendo DS, with a scheduled release date of Feburary 22nd. Members of the game’s development team have worked on such titles as Strange Journey, Etrian Oddysey, Radiata Stories, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne and Persona 3. That’s a pretty impressive resume. Ass on the fact the game also take a page from Square-Enix’s Chrono series with time travel, multiple timelines and alternate universes, and you’ve got a game that, on paper, looks pretty impressive. Thursday evening, some employees from Atlus USA took the take to do a webcast for journalists like myself to show off what Radiant Historia could do, in addition to plugging the pre-order bonus soundtrack like I was watching QVC. Here now is so information about what you can expect when you pick up Radiant Historia.
The game primarily revolves around a character named Stock, who is a special agent/intelligence operative for a country called Alistel. Alistel is at war with Granorg and on a mission to rescue an agent of Alistel who has been imprisoned by the Granorg troops, Stock gets himself and his friends killed…or so it appears. Stock awakens is a land called Historia where time and space are mutable. Two creepy children give him the White Chronicle, which allows Stock to go back in time. We also learn this is not the first time that well…time has started over. Apparently the two kids Tio and Lipti have been trying to get it right for some time much like Yuri in the first two Shadow Hearts. Atlus however makes an awful comparison to plot being similar to the second and third Matrix movies which is probably not the way to go as both movies were lambasted pretty hard for their plots.
Gameplay is pretty straight forward. Player characters are on a column of their own while enemies are on a 3×3 grid. Stocke (and later on, his allies) can push or pull enemies forward on the grid. You can position enemies on top of each other and in doing so, hit all of them at once. The key is to try and get them all in the middle column. The column closest to your team gives enemies an attack bonus but a decrease to their defense, while the column furthest from your team gives opponents increased defense but lowered offense. As the middle doesn’t give ANY buffs, it’s the place where you have the most tactical advantage. The trick to this is that enemies can move off each other at the cost of a turn and enemies will automatically unstuck at the end of a combat round. This is where your ability to change your turn order comes into play. Sometimes it’s better to let the enemy go first so that you can chain your attacks together for a giant combo. The larger the combo, the more bonus experience points and gold you get at the end of a battle. The game also features an auto-battle option, but this mode only allows for regular attacks. The combat in Radiant Historia looks pretty easy and Atlus did say the game wasn’t as challenging as a lot of other RPGs, so those of you worried about instant one hit kills like in Megaten can breathe a sigh of relief. Even kinder, the game brings KO’d characters back to life at the end of a battle, but they are down to only a single hit point.
The game is pretty short for a JRPG these days. Atlus says the game clocks in at 20-30 hours if you’re trying to do everything, but obviously the game’s length will depend on your skill as a gamer. The game doesn’t offer a quick save, which is not something you want to hear about a portable RPG, but you can save on the world map at any time and in battle locations there are occasional save points. The game doesn’t include random battles. Instead you can run from enemies on your screen or strike at them with your weapon to gain an advantage ala Lunar. Enemies do respawn after a screen transition though, so for people who actually like to grind, that option is still open to you. Another note on grinding is that even though you can keep going until you hit the game’s level cap of 99, characters stop learning skills and/or abilities at level 65.
The key feature of course is the White Chronicle. This book is how you travel back in time, allowing you to choose different paths or dialogue options to see what gets triggered and how. The book is primarily consisted of white nodes or markers to show storyline bits or branching paths in a manner similar to the Tactics Ogre remake. Blue Nodes are points where you can jump back in time, while red nodes indicate “bad” timeline choices. Obviously you can keep going on those as far as the game will let you, but it’s also an indication that you probably want to try a different path. Atlus USA did state the game is pretty GRIMDARK and that most of the “endings” in the game are sad, depressing and melancholy. This makes sense considering the game is all about constantly getting a bad timeline and then going back to achieve the happiest outcome possible. However for those of you who like your games a little more upbeat, this is a warning to you. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the White Chronicle is that when you go back in time, you keep your current level, status, abilities, etc. Even weirder is that your entire team keeps their level as well. So if you get your guys up to say, level 50 and you go back to the very beginning…you’ll find your team will be far from the level one neophytes you originally started the game as.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention that preorders of Radiant Historia get a bonus soundtrack CD containing five tracks from the game. The soundtrack was composed by Yoko Shimomura, who is best known for doing the music from the Mana and Kingdom Hearts series. Atlus REALLY plugged the soundtrack for the game and too see why Atlus is really pushing the soundtrack as a selling point, you can even hear a few sample tracks here.
Again, Radiant Historia comes out on Feburary 22nd. To learn more about the game you can visit its official website. Remember that if you want the bonus soundtrack, you’ll have to pre-order the game or buy the full OST from a website that sells the Japanese version. Check back here at DiehardGameFAN.com in a few weeks as we’ll have a full comprehensive review of Radiant Historia then.