Unique and innovative, Radiant Historia offers a fantastically complex plot that involves a romp through time.
Now, the effect of time travel is a popular ability in the world of plot writing, and it is prevalent in video games as well. The ability to be able to travel back in time and manipulate an even to produce a different outcome is something that could positively effect the plot - but on the flip-side, there's also the chance of severely devaluing the plot by making the concept of time travel available for easy use. Has someone just died? Oh, let us just go back in time and prevent it. A certain battle not go your way? Easily solved. Using time travel can easily make the most aspiring of plots fall into mediocrity if used in the wrong manner. Has Radiant Historia also fallen into this habit?
Thankfully, the answer to that question would be a no. The power of the White Chronicle is limited, and Stocke can only travel back or forward in time by accessing the option with a Save Point or on the World Map. Once accessed, Stocke can travel to various points in time by using what is known as a Node, a point in history where Stocke can influence the outcome of history drastically. This ability is invaluable, but it does not go as far to make it seem like you have unfairly influenced history. When you first begin, you have the choice to walk down one of two paths, each having dramatically different outcomes. While players can go down whichever path that they want, they will be required to advance in the other time line in order to continue. Throughout the game, you will also be faced with a decision that has multiple choices. The "right path" will keep the time line on the right path, and the story will continue on as normal, while the "bad path" throws the time line off track, with it eventually leading the time line you worked hard to shape to a bad ending. Both tracks are interesting to watch and it really emulates the feel of cruising through time and correcting wrongs.
Sadly, the novelty of time travel does not last long. The White Chronicle makes the game feel linear and forced - you may feel like you are correcting wrongs, but it does not feel like you are actually shaping history with your own hands. The paths you have to go down are oftentimes obvious. The timeline also rarely explores other ways of advancing the storyline; you almost always have to use the White Chronicle to forge ahead on your adventure. It makes the storyline feel incredibly streamlined and painfully obvious. The side quests also suffer from having to use the Chronicle so often, as many of them merely involve going back to a specific time and playing the game over until you reach the point where a particular sidequest becomes available. While it is not a bad method of advancement for a game that is built around time travel, it would have been nice if we did not have to rely on the chronicle so often.
Additionally, forcing the player to switch to an almost entirely different story whilst they are enjoying the current adventure negatively effects the experience. Both plots are dramatically different, both in terms of storyline and character roster, and being prompted to switch to the other timeline effectively ruins the flow of the one you had been playing up to that point. You will also see familiar faces in both versions of the timeline, but switching to another storyline will not retain the current team you have put together and you will be required to use characters that you may not be entirely comfortable with. While this comes with the added convenience of allowing most of the player characters to develop their characters more so than they would be able to if they were in the party the entire time, it is oftentimes forcing the player to use the characters that come into the party the most, rather than building a team based around personal preference.
Though time travel does bring about some choice problems, it is definitely not something that has been used improperly. The story of Radiant Historia is an excellent one and it is often upbeat, dramatic and exhilarating to behold. Neither of the stories are carbon copies of each other, each providing a unique narrative experience for the player to enjoy. It is evident that both plot lines were intended to be two full fledged scenarios as both of them, for the most part, hold their own. One is not merely thrown to the side so that the superior timeline can bask in the spotlight for the entire game. And that is exactly what makes this plot so endearing.
During battle, enemies appear on a 3 by 3 grid. The back grid increase defense and makes their attacks and your attacks less effective, while the front grid does the exact opposite. The goal of the battle is to manipulate the grid using various attacks and abilities that are at your parties disposal to defeat your enemies, while staying alive yourself. Each member of Stocke's party has a unique set of skills that they can use to turn the battle to their favor. Whether it is knocking enemies into a booby trapped tile, or using powerful single target attacks, every character has a unique play style. This system is very similar to the usual run-of-the-mill turn based battle systems so prevalent in role playing games, but the grid introduces the need for strategy and allows for much deeper battle experiences.This system may start off complicated and require a bit getting used to, but it should ultimately satisfy those who are interested in role playing games.
Graphically, Radiant Historia is reminiscent of older games. It employs the use of sprites and 3D backgrounds. While it may not be the most modern game, it does make the game feel very nostalgic. Instantly striking, however, are the beautiful character portraits for each of the characters. Unfortunately, there is only one portrait for each character. More than one would have definitely improved the feel of more dramatic scenes, but the ones that are used still do a fabulous job at representing the general personality of each of the characters. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is one of the more impressive aspects of this game. Each piece delivers powerful meaning to events and battle. The many excellent, high quality music that is encountered in Radiant Historia is something to be truly appreciated.
While the time travel mechanic is relied on a little too much, Radiant Historia deserves a clap on the back for delivering a prime example of how to do time travel correctly. The intricate and well crafted storyline will leave fans clambering for more, even after the 40 or so hour experience of the main storyline. If you are a fan of role playing games, there is a good chance that Radiant Historia is right up your alley.