The number of Nintendo DS games has been dwindling as the industry prepares for the launch of the Nintendo 3DS. Atlus has already announced Devil Survivor for the new handheld, but before we start to experience things in 3D, the publisher has Radiant Historia lined up next. Radiant Historia is a Japanese role-playing game from the team responsible for games like Persona 3. Members of the Atlus development team include those who worked on Radiata Stories for the PlayStation 2. We recently spent some hands-on time with the game and found that it was easy to get sucked into the world of Vainqueur, which is threatened by desertification.
Time travel plays a major role in the game, and you are introduced to the specifics during your first mission. You play as a young agent named Stocke, who works in the special intelligence unit of the nation of Alistel, which is currently at war with Granorg. It's obvious that you're the unit's prized agent because you're given a mission of upmost importance from the get-go. You're to escort one of your own back safely because he has vital information that will turn the tides of war. Without revealing too much, you're accompanied by a couple of mercenaries, and the mission doesn't go as well as you had planned. But before you left, your superior had given you a white chronicle that holds the power to go back in time, and you have the ability to look ahead into the future. Throughout the game you will use this compendium to go back and find the "true" course of history.
For whatever reason, Stocke is now put in charge of saving the world, and to do so he must make key decisions that will ultimately lead him to his proper destiny. You will be presented with important events, and you have to make decisions that could take you down an entirely different path. With the chronicle (which you can access via save points), you can jump back to important life-altering decisions and play through another storyline.
Radiant Historia is a standard turn-based RPG where enemies are seen onscreen, but the unique aspect to the game is that once you go into battle, your enemies are presented on a three-by-three grid. Their positioning affects how much damage you take when they attack, but you can use your push attacks to move enemies around on the grid. By doing so, you can chain combos with your party members and hit multiple enemies at once. The downside is that if you have your entire party hit one enemy and its health is depleted after the first or second attack, your teammates will continue to hit the same target, so plan carefully. The top screen displays your turn order, and you can swap turns with the enemy in order to go in line with your entire party. By attacking consecutively, you can do more damage, so it's worth moving your turn. However, by giving up your turn in battle, you'll go into baroque state, which makes you more vulnerable to attacks.
Radiant Historia is easy to get into, and while the city of Alistel may seem cold and gray, you'll appreciate the hand-drawn character portraits and Yoko Shimomura's (Kingdom Hearts) touching and heartfelt soundtrack. There will definitely be more Japanese RPGs on the horizon, but it's hard to say how many will be strictly for the DS once the 3DS comes out. For more information on the game, look for our review when the game ships on February 22.