I was one of the two million gamers blessed enough to acquire a Nintendo Switch at launch. The promise of being able to play anywhere in addition to on my TV at home had me ready to sell my 3DS in a heartbeat. Don't get me wrong, I love the system and I'd go as far as to say that it is my favorite handheld/console of all-time. However, my days of playing it were already over long before beating Pokémon Sun & Moon last year.
The same week I planned to get rid of my 3DS, Atlus announced Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. I was both angry and ecstatic, as this was a title I had always wanted to play but never got around to. But, it would require letting my 3DS collect more dust until next year. I reluctantly delayed my plans to sell my 3DS. Atlus wasn't done, though, recently delivering another one-two punch announcement of Etrian Odyssey V and Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux. Atlus had single-handedly sealed the deal for me keeping my 3DS.
Fortunately, I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Atlus this week at E3 and try out both Etrian Odyssey V and Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. Below, you'll find my impressions of each JRPG.
Etrian Odyssey V is Too Much of the Same
The saying "you can never have too much of a good thing" couldn't be more than wrong and Etrian Odyssey V is a perfect example of that. I've only played the fourth installment and The Millenium Girl remake of the original, but even so, Etrian Odyssey V feels too much like a copy-paste of previous entries. While the first-person dungeon crawling experience is still the same tried-and-true formula of venturing out into a dungeon, mapping a few floors, completing some side quests, gathering materials, and then returning to town to reap the rewards.
However, the PR representative from Atlus could've told me that it was Etrian Odyssey IV, a game I've already played, and I would have totally believed him. The dungeon in my demo was the same recycled green forest that has been featured in just about every game thus far. It doesn't help that the graphics are starting to really show its age. The last numbered entry (that wasn't a remake) released back in 2013 in North America and Europe, and the graphics haven't changed one bit since then.
When I asked what's new in the game, my only response was new classes and the Adventure Log. What's really cool about this title is that you can select between four different races: Earthrun, Lunaria, Therian, and Bronie when creating your party of five. The classes you can pick from are tied to their respective race. My predetermined party were all new classes, but after several battles and sifting through their skill trees, they all seemed more like reskins of previous classes than anything else.
The Adventure Log is slightly more interesting than the new classes, but even it is an expansion of an already existing feature. In previous Etrian Odyssey titles, you could encounter small optional events like whether or not to take a suspicious fruit from a tree. You never really know whether the result of your action will be positive or negative. The Adventure Log adds to those risky events by giving more text to read, turning it into a short tabletop story that grants your party significant EXP regardless of your outcome.
Radiant Historia is Chrono Trigger Meets Zero Escape
My time with Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology was the exact opposite in every way. Not only was it my first time playing the title, but it has been improved in a lot of ways for the 3DS. The most apparent change is the enhanced graphics. Radiant Historia will look familiar to anyone that played the original, but with more vibrant colors, sharper art, and better animations.
A classic 2D turn-based JRPG, Perfect Chronology is pretty to look at and fun to play. My preview began in a barren desert ravine where I was faced with challenging monsters. While roaming around the map, you can attack enemies with Y to stun them before engaging in battle to get a better chance of receiving a preemptive attack. Once transported to the battle screen, the gameplay is traditional turn-based with an extra strategic touch in true Chrono Trigger-fashion.
You have your basic skills, attacks, spells, and so on that you'd expect, but enemies are placed on a grid. Some skills have a movement aspect to them where it can push an enemy left, right, forward, or backward. This simple addition made me have to rethink how I played, because of the possibilities it opens up. In my first battle, my party wiped because I didn't quite grasp the importance of the grid and tried to play it like a typical JRPG. In my next, I destroyed all three foes in one single turn.
The difference was how I executed my attacks. I began with using a pushback attack to force one enemy backwards into the same square as another, followed by a left-focused skill that grouped the third monster with the other two, and finally, a fire spell that hit all three at once since they were together, wiping them out in one blow. What was impossible to win before was suddenly an easy feat just with a little tactics.
After experimenting some more with enemies, I proceeded to check out the time travel aspect of Radiant Historia. From a save point, I went into the White Chronicle and got to see the two parallel timelines its story revolves around. Like one of my favorite series, Zero Escape, there are multiple points you can jump to in each timeline. I was guided by the representative to select one particular point that sent me to an industrial city reminiscent of Final Fantasy VI's Narshe.
My preview concluded with an encounter with Nemesia, a charming girl with a witch hat that is new to this remake. I was persistent in my curiosity as to whether or not she would join your party to no avail. However, I was able to get the Atlus PR representative to divulge some information about the role she will play. She is a mysterious new character that is the key to unlocking the new third timeline in the story. While I don't know how extensive of a timeline it is (could be a simple epilogue or whatnot), it already gives me a lot more hope for Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology than Etrian Odyssey V, and reason enough to keep my 3DS around until it releases in early 2018.