At least let's just mention Radiant Historia with a sad nod

Radiant Historia came out with a whisper sometime during the empty, headlineless Winter leading up to Pokemon Black & White's Spring Twenty-Eleven North America release. What sold Radiant Historia was not any kin or kind of advertising or public presence, none at all beyond youtubable trailers and gameplay footage, but rather its anomalously high scores on aggregate review sites. What was this late 90s-looking RPG, with its review scores in the 80s and 90s despite its sort of uninteresting-looking cast and gimmicky time travel gimmick, what were its intentions, and, well, was it actually, like, anything? Could a game so seemingly identity-less at first glance actually do anything worth looking at or reading through, or, as it would so happen, playing and replaying through in small chunks over and over again throughout the course of the game probably a total of like 20 or 30 times per chunk?

Yes, it could.

Radiant Historia, despite inflicting on its players one of the most punishing gameplay mechanics in recent memory, and doing this often, is a home run, a game with objective goodness, a rewarding experience. Its intentions are innocent and ambitious and happy and smart. It's a gorgeous, albeit flawed, masterpiece of fun. The time travel stuff is beefed by weirdly tight writing and ingenious storytelling tricks, but encumbered with too many hours' just holding the fast-forward button throughout the same dozen or so text-heavy cut-scenes. So many ten minute scenes smooshed down into minute-and-a-half-long fully-automatic flurries of sifty-sounding dialog-go-by noises, visited and revisited and revisited and revisited. But goddamn if that battle system doesn' t just completely absolve the game of whatever gameplay diseases from which it may suffer. Such intense variety in the way characters handle, and such gratifying results for those who master them all. Such challenges, at certain points. Such a good battle system.

Had it come out at a better time, back in '07 or '08 when the DS was still hot and momentous, Radiant Historia probably would have gotten more of the widespread affection it deserved. Instead, it remains just a beautiful little secret told to a handful of lucky passersby. 2011, you were a banner year for the console, an exciting year for games overall, but a quiet, dust-collecting year for the Nintendo DS, Pokemon B&W notwithstanding. No, Radiant Historia probably isn't quite good enough to be anybody's GOTY, not against the inimitable console competition of 2011, but those of us who've played it, who've warmed our hands by its small fire, out there in the middle of nowhere, who've known that puzzle-flavored battle system and its thousand joys, we know what I mean when I say we should at least just mention Radiant Historia, now, with a sorry, distracted nod, it being GOTY season and there being still the issue of deciding whether Portal 2 or Arkham City was the greater sequel and whatnot and so on to attend to, and Radiant Historia being just one more small, good game worth noting amid no one knows how many.

14 Comments
14 Comments
Posted by mrburger

Radiant Historia came out with a whisper sometime during the empty, headlineless Winter leading up to Pokemon Black & White's Spring Twenty-Eleven North America release. What sold Radiant Historia was not any kin or kind of advertising or public presence, none at all beyond youtubable trailers and gameplay footage, but rather its anomalously high scores on aggregate review sites. What was this late 90s-looking RPG, with its review scores in the 80s and 90s despite its sort of uninteresting-looking cast and gimmicky time travel gimmick, what were its intentions, and, well, was it actually, like, anything? Could a game so seemingly identity-less at first glance actually do anything worth looking at or reading through, or, as it would so happen, playing and replaying through in small chunks over and over again throughout the course of the game probably a total of like 20 or 30 times per chunk?

Yes, it could.

Radiant Historia, despite inflicting on its players one of the most punishing gameplay mechanics in recent memory, and doing this often, is a home run, a game with objective goodness, a rewarding experience. Its intentions are innocent and ambitious and happy and smart. It's a gorgeous, albeit flawed, masterpiece of fun. The time travel stuff is beefed by weirdly tight writing and ingenious storytelling tricks, but encumbered with too many hours' just holding the fast-forward button throughout the same dozen or so text-heavy cut-scenes. So many ten minute scenes smooshed down into minute-and-a-half-long fully-automatic flurries of sifty-sounding dialog-go-by noises, visited and revisited and revisited and revisited. But goddamn if that battle system doesn' t just completely absolve the game of whatever gameplay diseases from which it may suffer. Such intense variety in the way characters handle, and such gratifying results for those who master them all. Such challenges, at certain points. Such a good battle system.

Had it come out at a better time, back in '07 or '08 when the DS was still hot and momentous, Radiant Historia probably would have gotten more of the widespread affection it deserved. Instead, it remains just a beautiful little secret told to a handful of lucky passersby. 2011, you were a banner year for the console, an exciting year for games overall, but a quiet, dust-collecting year for the Nintendo DS, Pokemon B&W notwithstanding. No, Radiant Historia probably isn't quite good enough to be anybody's GOTY, not against the inimitable console competition of 2011, but those of us who've played it, who've warmed our hands by its small fire, out there in the middle of nowhere, who've known that puzzle-flavored battle system and its thousand joys, we know what I mean when I say we should at least just mention Radiant Historia, now, with a sorry, distracted nod, it being GOTY season and there being still the issue of deciding whether Portal 2 or Arkham City was the greater sequel and whatnot and so on to attend to, and Radiant Historia being just one more small, good game worth noting amid no one knows how many.

Posted by McGhee

Your distracted nod has been noted.

Posted by Contrarian

I like your review, it didn't have a score, but clearly you impression is positive.

I have the game myself, but ashamed as I am, I did my usual upon a game purchase - I put it the console, played for about 30 mnutes to just check it out, then filed it for a future play, then went back to what I was really playing. You have piqued my interest to give it a proper run though. Good read.

Posted by WhyBeAre

I actually have never heard of this game before as I really don't follow DS releases. From what you have said though I am mildly interested in it now. I already have a bunch of RPGs on my DS that I am working through right now but I may add this to my list of them as it seems like an interesting game.

Edited by DeF

Imported it day one but still haven't gotten around to playing it :(

Love the piano soundtrack CD by Yoko Shimomura that came with it though!

Posted by Catolf

Love the game from beginning to end, it took me a while to beat and i do admit the difficulty can be a little crushing at times, but as long as you had the right tactic and knew what the enemy was weak against/smacked them all together, it wasn't too bad. I'm trying to work on finding all the nodes currently.

Posted by mrburger

The game rewards being played with a walkthrough. That's probably why you didn't get far. Also, the combat system doesn't blossom wide open until about 15 hours in.

Posted by sewageking1

Radiant Historia, along with maybe The World Ends With You, is my favorite DS game. Although it doesn't do anything DS-specifically interesting, it is simply one of the best RPG's I've played. As a fan of games like Final Fantasy VI, Xenogears, and Vagrant Story, I love how Radiant Historia functions in a similar mold to games of that era, but with the with the more sophisticated storytelling that comes with 15 years of advances in video games. I thought before that the game had been hugely overlooked due to when it was released, but apparently Atlus is rereleasing it -- so I guess it must have done better that I had thought.

Edited by pekoe212

I'm looking forward to playing my copy when I get through my backlog of games. I'm glad I bought it already, apparently it went out of print a few months ago. They recently announced there has been enough demand for Radiant Historia that they are making more copies and it will be back in stores in late March. :-) I remember paying $70 on eBay for a new copy of Persona 3 when it went out of print a few months after release. I didn't realize this is how Atlus works, very short print runs, then more if there is demand. They did the same thing to me with SMT: Nocturne. How was I supposed to know they'd start reprinting it a year later? I love Atlus but they've made me a little paranoid.

Posted by Zephyria

Atlus's short print runs is one of the reasons I make a habit of buying their games when they're still pretty new. I tend to like what they put out so it's not much of a problem. I'm thinking I'll put this game to the top of my to-play list when I get it. My backlog is too full, but this game looks really good.

Posted by Lepruk86

I love this game but like others, am only a few hours in. It's a really kool story and the time-lines fit fairly seamlessly together. I'm about 3-4 hours through currently. It had me charmed for a while and then I kind of shamelessly forgot about it. I need to finish it >.>...

Posted by AndrewB

I could mention a number of other short print-run international releases that deserve your attention. This is the one I'd focus on.

This is an old enough thread to mention so, but I've heard enough good about Radiant Historia in the past few weeks to give it a consideration despite its high costs. I've been rewarded numerous times going with highly recommended niche titles and genres that my curiosity is piqued.

Posted by mrburger

Dude. 999 is another masterpiece I cannot recommend forcibly enough. Absolutely play it, and get every single ending. And then once it's out of the way (it only takes like a weekend to 100%) go and play Radiant Historia. The combat is its own game within a game, and it's an amazingly fun thing in its own right; plus, the game it happens to be inside of, the one with all the crazy interlaced timelines, that game's pretty great, too. Atlus went balls to the wall with this one.

Posted by Mcfart

Bumping an old-ass thread to say that just finished RH, and loved it. The story was great, and kept me intrigued throughout (and the main villain's relationship with the main character was awesome). It does have some problems, however:

A - Slow ass start. You don't have interesting attacks, and the first few instances of jumping between timelines are contrived and weird.

B - Tons of repetition of music and revisiting areas. Lazvil hills is the first dungeon you go to in the prologue, and you'll go to it many, many more times *cries*

C - Lack of character development. The side characters get more development then most of the playable characters, which made me wish they were my party members instead.

Now let me state my favorite plus about this game: no permanent missable side quests. You can jump to any point of the story, so you can do side quests whenever you feel like it rather then "oh I just got to this exciting part of the story, but this is the only time I can deliver these feces to this guy before the quest closes, so I better start delivering"

Some beginner tips for if anyone reads this:

A - Especially in the early/midgame when you mostly have single target spells, clump enemies together and then magic then all at once

B - Raynie's your magic, but you can't tell that from her inital stats. In Chapter 1, you will go to the Sand Fortress. Outside is a guy who sells weapons.They are expensive for your point in the game, but BUY RAYNIE'S WEAPON FROM HIM. It will carry you for the next few sections of the game with its huge magic bonus.