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SummaryThe road not taken
The Goodpremise, attention to detail, battle system, artwork, music, voice acting
The Badmediocre -- nothing excels
The Bottom LineRadiant Historia is a turn-based JRPG that asks you to explore the road not taken -- to consider the consequences of choice.
The remake is called Perfect Chronology, because it asks whether you can achieve perfection in decision-making, appealing to players that aspire for excellence.
As the continent loses water (arable land) to desertification, 2 kingdoms war over shrinking resources. You defend your kingdom as an agent. To assist you, you are given a relic that lets you re-visit past moments -- to consider different decisions for your missions. Your goal is to explore the possibilities of different missions in the war. In a broader view, you are also given the opportunity to halt the desertification that threatens the entire continent, which is the root cause of the war in the first place.
Radiant Historia is a respectable JRPG of its time, offering a sensible tactical battle system, and map exploration that is logical and straightforward. The battle system gives you opportunities to create Combination attacks. The foes are easy at first, but become more challenging as you progress, with a reasonable difficulty curve. You may want to grind a little at times, but the grinding is never excessive. Foes are not encountered randomly -- you can see your foes on the map, and run to avoid them. You can also time an ambush on foes, with skill.
Radiant Historia offers plentiful save opportunities, so you don't face any harrowing gauntlets. For the purpose of exploring different timelines, the game provides a Time Map for organization, so you can work through where to go next, without needing a strategy guide. There are a few minor puzzles about placing barrels next to rocks, but there are no elaborate puzzles.
In combat, some foes can also create Combination Attacks on you. You are given the opportunity to change the turn order, to disrupt hostile Combos. Seize the opportunity! Don't let them gang up on a single character! The combat system is similar to Chrono Trigger or Legend of Heroes: Trails.
The artwork and audio are respectable, but not groundbreaking. The voice acting is good, but not excellent. The language localization is decent, but can be sloppy at times. I was not satisfied with the translation from Japanese to English, but there are many worse.
One of the challenging parts about the game is the intrigue between the characters. The protagonist constantly weighs how much someone else knows, or a person's motivation. By adjusting the timeline, you must postulate which character is helping you at that point, or which one is suggesting a bad idea. That asks the question of perfection -- can you be a perfect judge of character? Based on what you know about someone's personality, which course of action are they likely to take? Moreover, if you misjudged someone, you can simply use your relic to return to the decision, and take a different path.
Place in Genre
Radiant Historia is reminiscent of Chrono Trigger, one of the most admired RPGs. However, Chrono Trigger was a high-fantasy world with sorcery, dinosaurs, and robots. In contrast, Radiant Historia is low-fantasy, without any fantastic beasts. Radiant Historia focuses on politics and intrigue. In a sense, Radiant Historia can be called a "poor man's Chrono Trigger" or a grim Chrono Trigger. Chrono Trigger offered superhero feats, while Radiant Historia examines nuances between actors.
Radiant Historia was first published in the year 2011. In the years leading up to 2011, the turn-based JRPG had been in serious decline. JRPG developers turned to the action-RPG, giving us games like Xenoblade Chronicles, or Sword Art Online. Even the Final Fantasy series had eschewed turn-based for the Active Time battle system. Radiant Historia was the vanguard of a new wave of traditional turn-based JRPGs in the 2010s. Although Radiant Historia did not achieve blockbuster success, it proved that there was still a strong market for turn-based games that were meticulously crafted, that dotted the i's and crossed the t's. That's another way to describe Radiant Historia. Although Radiant Historia was not a groundbreaking vision of originality, it was a balanced game that did a respectable job in all areas of game design.
Another strength of Radiant Historia is that it is complex, without being convoluted. You never need a document to explain all of the sudden, wild plot twists, compared to games like Chrono Cross or Final Fantasy Tactics. In Radiant Historia, when a new plot element is introduced, you are always given a gentle, slow introduction to the new plot element. You have time to comprehend and fathom where the plot is going.
Radiant Historia is a solid game that deserves to be played by serious JRPG fans. However, Radiant Historia can come off as mundane at times, or even mediocre. Prepare yourself to think about the possibilities offered by the road not taken.