If you’re anything like me, the words “time travel RPG” trigger (no pun intended) an explicit response in your brain. They evoke excitement and nostalgia, and bring you back to the days you spent playing ‘Chrono Trigger’ – one of the finest role-playing games ever to grace a cartridge. Now Atlus hopes to capitalize on those fond memories with its own time travel RPG called ‘Radiant Historia’.
Let’s get it out of the way right up front – ‘Radiant Historia’ isn’t ‘Chrono Trigger’. It shares plenty of similarities outside of the time travel theme, but the game wasn’t made as an imitator or a spiritual successor. It’s different in attitude and in gameplay. Yet based on what I saw during a press preview for the game, you won’t be in for disappointment.
‘Radiant Historia’ is a game developed by Atlus and members of the Tri-Ace team, but manages to offer a unique style instead of falling too clearly into the ‘Shin Megami Tensei’ (‘MegaTen’) or ‘Star Ocean’ camps.
There’s a very strong time travel element throughout the game that allows you to go back in time and make different decisions that dramatically affect the story. There are over 100 different nodes that you can return to, and a few branching pieces of story to go with them.
If you end up going all the way through to a bad ending, you can go back in time and fix your decisions to find the good ending. It’s a bit like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book in that way.
The other interesting mechanic featured in ‘Radiant Historia’ is the 3×3 grid that you fight on. It’s not a tactical RPG like ‘Final Fantasy Tactics’ or ‘Disgaea’, but it adds just a bit of tactics into each fight. Your characters have different attacks that move the enemies around on the grid. If you move two enemies onto the same square, your attacks will damage both of the enemies. It’s a simple enough concept and it adds a bit of variety to gameplay.
Atlus estimates that you’ll need around 20-30 hours to play the game straight through. If you start adding in different sidequests and nodes, then you’re looking at plenty more.
There are two things, aside from the cool battle mechanics, that stood out to me when checking out ‘Radiant Historia’. The first is the style. 2D sprites on a 3D background just look so good on the DS, and I’m still partial to a top-down sprite based RPG.
The second is the music, which is absolutely stunning. It was composed by Yoko Shimomura, who also did ‘Street Fighter II’, ‘Kingdom Hearts’, ‘Breath of Fire’, and (one of my all-time favorites) ‘Little Nemo: The Dream Master’.
There aren’t any plans to release the soundtrack in full, but every copy of the game will come with a five track bonus CD featuring piano renditions of some of the songs.
‘Radiant Historia’ comes out February 22 for the Nintendo DS. You can pre-order it now from Amazon for $34.99.