Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (3DS) Review
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Raidant Historia: Perfect Chronology is an updated edition of a DS game that came out in 2011. It's not a remaster, as it looks near identical to the original, but it's not a rerelease either, as it cleans it up and adds a substantial chunk of gameplay and quality enhancements as well. While first views of the game may appear dated, the polish involved in the title easily makes it worth checking out seven years later.
Radiant Historia tells the tale of Stocke, a Special Intelligence officer, in the middle of a war. The world is turning into desert, and warring lands are fighting over what land is left. It's all standard story fare, until you find yourself at an impassible failure. It's here where the White Chronicle, a mysterious book that allows Stocke to revisit turning points in history, comes in. There are day-to-day choices that won't effect the path of time, but certain choices are life and death, whilst others change the course of time itself. Think of it like the Sports Almanac in Back to the Future II. When the choice happens, time diverts into a separate timeline. Meanwhile, Stocke can move back and forth between these alternate timelines, learning more information that benefit him on the other side of the choice. And, just like time ripples around constants in Back to the Future, certain tasks completed in one variant can strangely effect the other, like saving a merchant from a troupe of bandits in one timeline can cause him to make it safely in another.
While the time travel mechanic is central to the story and makes you feel in control, it's largely a story with defined parameters. You will hit a brick wall in Timeline A, and have to go to Timeline B to solve it, working your way through chapters. The rule of not telling a single other person means you can rewind as you see fit, and push through some leveling if you need to. In field scenarios, enemies are visible on the map. A swing of the sword can stun them, and you can then touch them to attack at an advantage or avoid them completely. It's satisfying, as you can dodge when you are weak, and come back at another, yet same time with higher levels and more powers and wipe the floor with those enemies, as well as the boss who challenged you earlier.
Radiant Historia's battle system is very addictive. Enemies are set in a 9x9 grid. As you advance, certain abilities will allow you to hit enemies from one grid block into another, and grouped enemies can be hit with a single attack. Add to this the ability to shuffle turn order by swapping places with another friend (or enemy) for maximum damage. Even when you are overpowering the enemies, you can't just "press A to win" your way through. It takes a dedicated strategy to organize turn order to shove all the enemies into a single grid square then rain down the fire with a powerful attack.
The "Perfect Chronology" edition of the game allows the time travel to feel more free-flowing. You meet a new character named Nemesia early on in the game. She adds whole new scenarios from the Main and Alternate timeline, labeled as "possible histories." These are extra twists in the story not present in the original game which add a whole new layer of choices. While it doesn't really change the story as a whole, it's a great treat for people who played the original. At the start of the game, you are given the option to play through the game in it's original state and have them added in after you beat the game, or fully integrated into the story. While I appreciate that this exists, I do wonder why. Old players will want the new story, while new players will wonder why the option is there to remove content from the base game. Purists will still have the other modifications as well. I'm sure some will appreciate it, but most will like to start in "Perfect Mode."
Other additions to the game from the original include a Hard and Friendly difficulty setting, and a much appreciated set of Support Skills. I've often wondered when a party of seven is out to save the world why only three of them matter. Extra characters who are with you but not active might pop in mid-battle to add an attack or spell. It's just enough to make the world a bit more living. There are new character portraits that line up the art styles a bit more with each other. Diehards may complain, but they are clean and well done, allowing the characters to better emote during conversations. Also added is a slew of voice acting, with most lines from main cast members being fully voiced. One thing I'm surprised isn't added is 3D capability. I know a lot of people are shying away from that gimmicky feature, and I don't know how hard it is to implement, but the backgrounds in the game are beautiful, they are built in a 3D environment Even a 2D styled game can look amazing if dressed up right (look at the upcoming Octopath Traveler on Switch, which looks deep even without the literal 3D effect). The game is well polished up to work on the new hardware, and looks crisp and clean throughout. There's a new intro video as well that looks beautiful and adds to the game very nicely, and upcoming DLC that will add some new story elements, as well as a few items intended to make the game easier for leveling and money management. Yet another DLC will allow you to return the portrait art to the original DS edition's style.
Radiant Historia is a wonderfully deep RPG that shouldn't be missed, and the Perfect Chronology edition allows you to travel back in time and fix that mistake if you chose the bad timeline back in 2011. It's always amazing when the heart of a JRPG, the fighting mechanics, turn out to be so enjoyable, and it comes along with a storyline full of twists and turns where you actually get to see what comes out of changing a major decision. Even as a rerelease, Radiant Historia will easily fit in as one of the best RPGs of 2018.
-Grid based RPG battle tactics mash up feelings of Lunar, Final Fantasy Tactics, and traditional turn-based RPGs
-New timeline options let you see the original story as well as some new "what if" scenarios, further branching timelines
-Smart use of time travel as a story mechanic really makes you feel in control
-Reviewing this prerelease, I have no information on the DLC. It was a staggered release in Japan. Roughly translated, it added about $10-$15 to the price. I would prefer to have all the story at once, and wonder why certain story parts were added for the special edition whilst others are held back as DLC.
-Original Edition lovers may not like the portrait changes, having seen them through the entirety of their original playthrough, but this is being fixed in DLC as well.
Special thanks to Atlus for giving us a chance to review this wonderful title!