There was a moment during the middle of the PS3/Xbox 360 generation where niche RPGs were tough to find in the West. Instead, it seemed publishers released these games on popular handheld devices at the time, the Nintendo DS and PSP. It was around this time in 2010 that Atlus released a unique and interesting RPG titled Radiant Historia exclusively on the DS. It’s those unique and interesting elements of the RPG that made me excited that Atlus announced Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology as a Nintendo 3DS exclusive.
Seldom do handheld titles leave such a lasting and positive impression as Radiant Historia, but it could be that this game was just a product of its time and wouldn’t provide that same experience today. With a new generation of RPGs being more action-packed and providing almost immediate player gratification, can Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology leave that same impression as it once did? Well, thankfully Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is not just a simple remaster — what we have here is definitely the best way to play one of the best RPGs ever.
Now I usually begin my reviews by discussing the premise of the game, but this time I’d like to address the improvements made to the systems and UI for players who are returning fans of the original release. Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology shows its improvements as soon as the story begins by the developers switching the screens so that the main screen is shown on the 3D screen of the Nintendo 3DS. Sadly, the game does not feature 3D capabilities, but does anyone play with those turned on anymore? Anyways, this means that maps and character statuses are now neatly organized across the two screens. Designs for menus, text boxes, and shops have also been updated to fit in better with what you’d see from a handheld RPG released today.
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology follows a military agent named Stocke. When the story begins, he is working under a man named Heiss who runs a special intelligence team under the Alistel military. During a mission, Heiss presents Stocke with a mysterious book called the White Chronicle to use as a lucky charm. After Stocke and his new partners, Raynie and Marco, are cornered during the mission, they soon meet their end with Stocke escaping inches from death. If this was any other game there’d be saved by some magical entity, but in Radiant Historia they really died as well as failed the mission.
However, by using the White Chronicle to travel to a place known as Historia, Stocke is able to travel to certain points in time and redo actions in hopes of saving his friends. He soon finds out that he will play a much bigger role and if he fails it means that the world will end. In Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, there are now three timelines, with the previous release only having two: Stocke joining either Heiss or his colleague Roche. The third timeline revolves around a new character, Nemesia, who allows Stocke to take part in scenarios that are a direct result of his actions.
Interestingly, it’s the inclusion of Nemesia that gives a new way to play Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. At the start of the game, players can choose two options, Append or Perfect mode. Append mode basically allows the player to play through the original story without the inclusion of the new storyline, which is then offered as a new game+ option. While Perfect mode will incorporate the Nemesia timeline into the story.
I played the game in Perfect mode since I’ve previously played through Radiant Historia multiple times. This new timeline doesn’t necessarily change the outcome of the game, but it does offer some interesting character scenes and places to explore. This is definitely something that returning players will enjoy playing through because it offers a new perspective on the cause and effect of Stocke’s choices, which directly correlates to the choices they made in the main timeline.
As for the Historia, it can be visited at any time from a save point allowing players the option to jump around to different points in time as they please. Sometimes it’s not made clear on how the player should progress, but through exhausting each option and dying many times, there is always a way. Side quests can also be picked up which could include a simple task of delivering an item, but the more interesting ones involve using time travel to get information and then going to another point in time to deliver it and progress to a new scenario. Time travel can be tricky, but Radiant Historia plays it in a safe way and uses the cause and effect system as the main course of each branching path.
Aside from the story, the battle system of Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is something that I’m surprised hasn’t been recreated in other RPGs. In battle, enemies will arrange themselves on a grid, players are then able to use skills and attacks in order to try and get the group of enemies onto one grid and then unleash attacks on all of them at once. As complicated as this sounds, the battle system is simple to master, with systems that became deeper towards the later chapters of the game.
As the characters level up, new skills are learned at a steady pace, which allows players to experiment with new tactics as well as rack up an extremely high hit count. Even though the battle party size is limited to three, characters who are not in battle will gain experience and also use support abilities to assist the party. Battles can feel slow at first, but after the first chapter of the game it picks up and becomes rather addicting.
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is not a walk in the park and it’s possible to get a Game Over even against a normal group of enemies. Thankfully, there are many save points scattered around the maps as well as a difficulty option. With that said, the difficulty of the game can be unnoticeable if the player spends some time level grinding and equipping their party with the upgraded weapons. In that regard, players will need to take Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology at a slower pace than what they might be used to after playing more modern RPGs.
The updates in Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology are phenomenal. Aside from the UI changes, almost all of the dialog has English voice over with the option to put the story in auto mode. So it’s possible to have the story read to the player. The dialog scenes in Radiant Historia can get lengthy and explanative between each mission, which makes the English audio a much-needed addition.
Also, the sprites and character illustrations have all been updated and look amazing when compared to their DS counterparts. This was such a huge step forward in terms of updates to the overall game’s appeal that I felt like the team at Atlus exceeded my expectations of this remaster immensely. It’s through these updates that turned this good niche RPG into a must play RPG.
It’s true that returning players might be more excited about the updates found in Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, but in the end, I feel like this is a game that can fit in well with the current RPG stream of releases. What makes the game so great is the strong cast of characters paired with a handful of well thought out systems that make for a brand new RPG experience.
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is more than fans could ask for in a remaster of an already great game. If in any case, you happened to have looked over Radiant Historia in the past or just kept it in your backlog all these years, it’s time you give Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology a try. Because ultimately, those who have not played Radiant Historia are in for an adventure with the best version of a timeless RPG.