Summer Gaming Challenge #4 – Radiant Historia

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Quick Info on Radiant Historia:
Console  – Nintendo DS
Release Year – 2010
Metacritic Score – 85
Time it took to beat – About 25hrs

It’s August and I finally beat my first RPG for the Summer Gaming Challenge.  I meant to spread the RPGs out a little more evenly, but… it just didn’t work out like that.  Such is life when you review RPGs and played FFXIV religiously for an entire month.

Anyway, Radiant Historia is one of those titles that I started, then it fell by the wayside when I got about halfway through the game.  And when I mean ‘fell by the wayside’, I really mean it–I ignored the game for at least two years, promising myself to get back to it but not liking the fact that I needed to grind (more on that in a bit).  With the Summer Gaming Challenge this year, topped with Anne Lee’s JRPG July, it was finally time to sit down and knock this puppy out (even if it was a couple days too late for the latter).  And I finally did… but honestly, I’m really conflicted about liking it.

Note: I’ll be going into spoilers for everything beyond this point, including the ending.  I warned you.

Radiant Historia stars Stocke, a protagonist that rivals Squall in terms of the use of silence to convey… um, something.  Usually it’s intimidation.  My joke aside though, I do like Stocke as the main character–he’s pretty morally grey at the beginning of the game, but eventually grows into a semi-proper protagonist, though thankfully he doesn’t have any qualms or sudden mental breaks about all the people he flat out kills.  And believe me, he kills a lot of people.  Oh, and he has amnesia, but really doesn’t even care:  It’s mentioned once or twice in passing by his best bud, but it’s largely ignored until the very end of the game, after the game beats you over the head for ten hours about who Stocke really is (but never says it).

Basically what happens is, Stocke is given the White Chronicle, a book that grants the user miraculous powers, such as the ability to travel through times and go to different timelines.  It’s up to Stocke and (eventually) his little ragtag group of “friends” to stop the desertification that threatens to engulf the entire continent, a remnant of an old empire that misused the power of Mana and ruined the earth’s ability to heal itself (essentially).

Woah, coming on a little strong there Stocke

Woah, coming on a little strong there Stocke

It’s an interesting plot, and with the ability to switch between two timelines, it’s mostly handled pretty well–what happens in one timeline can affect the other, but ultimately they do not intersect, so you get different party members and conflicts in the two timelines.  Also, the world of Radiant Historia is very interesting, though unfortunately a little undeveloped in the end.

However, the story starts to fall apart near the end, in my opinion… because it turns into some sort of weird family drama.  About halfway through the game, we meet Eruca, the princess of Granorg, who looks suspiciously like Stocke.  She is immediately reminded of her long dead brother and so on and so forth… I don’t feel like regaling the whole tale, but it’s obvious the Stocke is Eruca’s brother and the prince of Granorg.  The game always dances around it though, where it and other “foreshadowing” events almost feel insulting.  It’s just a bit annoying, and it’s around this point that the game really starts to focus on the characters, which leads to its own set of problems.

In the main story, Radiant Historia only really focuses on Stocke in Eruca in terms of character motivations and development, where the rest are kind of left on the wayside.  To find out more about the people we’re dragging into battles, we have to do their specific sidequests, but the problem is it’s hard to figure out where these quests are… especially with the time mechanics making it hard to traverse the world freely.  It also is required for the true ending, which makes it difficult to really miss.

But honestly, I didn’t like the true ending.  While the normal ending is purposefully unsatisfying, the true ending kind of cheapens the plot and the revelations that come in the final chapters.  Right near the end, Stocke learns of the true use of the White and Black Chronicles, and that his soul would have to be sacrificed in order to stop the desertification and give the continent more time, so to say.  An important part of this is the fact that how ‘mature’ a soul determines how effective the ritual is and how long the ritual can be delayed until another sacrifice is needed.  So for all intensive purposes, Stocke is the only one with the power to actually sacrifice himself.  So you beat the final boss, the wielder of the Black Chronicle (who is really only trying to stop Stocke from killing himself), Stocke and Eruca perform the ritual, roll credits.

During the true ending, we learn of all the changes that have been made in the world, with all of Stocke’s friends looking for ways to permanently stop the desertification and prevent more sacrifices.  It’s bittersweet, and pretty darn good–a lot of the game involves the characters wondering if there’s another way to magically stop the process, but it’s also made clear that there’s no time to find out, and the sacrifice must be made.

But then there’s the very final scene, where the wielder of the Black Chronicle sacrifices himself in place of Stocke to allows his nephew (yes) to live.  While it was stated that his soul wasn’t mature enough, it’s then figured that ‘seeing Stocke’s resolve’ matured his soul to the point that he could be a proper sacrifice and sae both the world and Stocke, which… well, is bullocks.  It ruins the point of Stocke’s journey and his sacrifice, and also ruins everyone else’s motivations… they’re working to save the world because their dear comrade died, not because the asshole uncle decided to have a moment of clarity.

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I suppose I should stop ragging on the story… it’s not really all that bad, but these nagging issues really bring it down.  Let’s talk about the battle system.  It’s turn based, but you can manipulate turns and enemy positions with skills and special moves.  It requires a little more effort than just simply mashing A over and over.

It can become tedious at times, however.  Especially after a certain point, the difficulty really ramps up, and even normal battles require some concentration.  That can be a bit annoying at times, but ultimately the ability to rack up crazy combos and moves is pretty neat.

That said, I never truly got the hang of the battle system.  It’s likely because I didn’t change my party around much (and as such my levels were unbalanced), but I was never able to get the super high combo levels that I saw in various Let’s Plays and videos.  That’s okay though, I survived well enough with the overpowered Trap moves.

So, Radiant Historia.  I can’t deny it’s a good game, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as most.  The World Ends With You will always be the best original RPG on the DS.

Oh yeah, the music was pretty dope.

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