Radiant Historia is one of those once in a decade games that should not be missed!
Graphically, Radiant Historia definitely takes inspiration from the SNES RPGs of old. No fancy cinematics, voice acted characters, or overly flashy graphics. In this case its a good thing. Painted character portraits during conversation are very well done and give each character a distinct look and feel. The world and interface is beautifully drawn and there isn't a single second where any of it feels repetitive or recycled. The graphics are not bad, but they're definitely not going to be the reason to play this game. I'd even say they are a bit below what DS fans would call a standard, but again that's ok, and you'll see why.
Radiant Historia is the first DS game I've played where I felt literally compelled to put in a pair of headphones. I've never heard the DS output such incredibly beautiful audio and music. Yoko Shimomura has definitely pushed the DS to new limits in this regard. The music is absolutely brilliant, and it was the first DS game that made me immediately pause the game buy the soundtrack.
Atlus scores brilliantly in the end for some of the best gameplay I've had the pleasure of experiencing in a long time. Finally, another story dealing with Time Travel, done in a way that feels new and creative. Unlike its heavily influencing predecessor, Chrono Trigger, you're not going back through different eras of time. In this case you're going back to moments you've already experienced. Throughout the game you reach points where an obviously important decision must be made. Every one of these events (of which there are MANY) are intense, and the decisions are rarely easy or cut and dry obvious as to which is right. Some decisions literally can end the world. But that's ok! You can go back to "Historia", a sort of limbo where you can revisit your decisions by using The White Chronicle (a book that records your major decisions and quests.)
Each decision can result in a branch in the story, which then will have seperate branches of their own. You can quickly imagine how massive this game becomes. Atlus definitely does not disappoint in this area. You'll eventually create a massive web of plot and twists, and it can almost seem overwhelming, but the White Chronicle does a great job of keeping things ordered and showing you the results of your previous actions.
The scope of Radiant Historia is simply massive. There is a ton of side plot that you can choose to pursue, and the main plot alone can take you upwards of 40 hours of gameplay, and none of it ever feels contrived or tacked on for the sake of length. The plot is another thing deserving praise. Finally, an RPG where you're NOT starting out as a seemingly unknowning weakling and becoming all powerful. Plotwise, the main character Stocke comes off as a badass from the start of the game. He starts out as a secret agent who's reputation precedes him seemingly wherever he goes initially. Its a refreshing change from playing the usual unknown hero who becomes godlike and famous.
The main gameplay mechanics revolve around time travel through Paralell Universes, where decisions made in one can have residual effects in the other. While not giving too much away, while you're actively making changes to positively affect what could be considered "your" history, another force is working against you doing the same thing, attempting to corrupt the timeline for their own means. The plot comes off as mature and very well written. Be prepared to see friends fall in battle, and feel a twinge of remorse, followed by the hope that you can go back in time and change the terrible outcome. For a system that normally has games with a more family friendly atmosphere, Radiant Historia definitely aims to tell a much more serious, deep and dark story, and it does so incredibly well.
Combat is a blast, plain and simple. Combat plays out on a 3x3 grid, where damage and effects are determined by how close enemies (and characters) are to the "Front line". There is also a battle queue that shows the attack order for each enemy/character. Any character you control can "change" their spot in that queue with anyone (enemy or character) at anytime, at the cost of a reduction in defense until they take another action. Its all simple when you first learn it, but it adds up to strategic combat that stays fresh and challenging from start to finish. Radiant Historia is defintiely a challenging game, and does not hold your hand by dishing out massive amounts of gold and items with each fight, but never seems to feel unfair or cheap. Its just the right amount of difficult to make each victory feel like an accomplishment, and each equipment/item purchase meaningful and used where its needed most.
In conclusion, Radiant Historia is simply a must play for any RPG fan, especially those that list the "Chrono" games in their favorites list. For those willing to put up with a more challenging than average game, Radiant Historia will provide an experience that is definitely not one any RPG fan should miss.