When I finally laid down my 3DS after more than 50 hours of JRPG goodness that I will never forget, my first thought was "let's do it again!" Despite completing just about everything that you can do in Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, all I wanted to do was keep playing. More importantly, I wanted to go back and see everything through different lenses, knowing all of the secrets and twists beforehand.
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is a remake of the original 2011 DS JRPG with a ton of new content and improvements that will appeal to newcomers like myself and even those that have already combed through all of its timelines, side quests, and endings.
Radiant Historia Review: A Tale as Old as Time
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology contains a story that is completely unlike the typical tried-and-true Japanese tropes, comparative to only a few classics like Chrono Trigger and 999. In it, you play as Stocke, a Special Intelligence officer stuck in the middle of a war-torn continent that is slowly decaying and turning into a desert wasteland.
During this war, Stocke goes through traumatic events that result in him crossing paths with the White Chronicle; a mysterious book that allows him to command time itself. Using that book, you play through two very distinct timelines that depict alternate versions of the war between the nations of Alistel and Granorg.
In one timeline, for instance, someone could be dead while being alive in the other. You can even have an enemy in one branch who is your ally in its parallel counterpart. These two timelines differ in such a way that the story will always keep you on your toes.
Radiant Historia Review: Unbreakable Bonds
Through your journey across the two parallel worlds, you'll encounter many significant characters that are all fully voiced and well-written. It's surprising, honestly, that Atlus was able to craft such a memorable cast that will have you invested in them, despite being rather large in number.
Each character's motivation and backstory has been given the time and care to flourish in the story. Even the seemingly predictable characters will have you questioning their true motives and allegiances. As I approached the end of Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, the complex nature of its plot left me pondering who the real villain was.
Surprises and twists are to be found around every corner, enhanced by the exceptional performance of the entire voiceover cast, a new addition to Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. Don't let the poor English voice-acting of other Japanese-developed games deter you because the actors are able to bring a level of emotion that would be missing otherwise.Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology felt like a really great season of TV that had me coming back over and over to see the next episode. It's the comfort food of video games, made better by the fact that I had a direct impact on what happened next.
Radiant Historia Review: Back to the Future
The game's time-traveling story is seamlessly woven into its core gameplay. With the White Chronicle in your hand, you're able to go to any save point and use the book to switch between timelines instantly. It's all presented in a complex web of interconnected points that you can jump to, similar to games like Virtue's Last Reward.
It isn't just for looks, either, as it's like a puzzle that you need to solve. Frequently, you will encounter major choices that will affect how the story plays out. Do you wait for reinforcements or make a move so you don't lose the enemy? Your decision creates a new branch in the White Chronicle that allows you to come back and change your mind should your choice result in a bad ending.
This also allows for time-bending puzzles where you will come to a standstill and have no way to proceed without jumping over to the other history. For example, there comes a point in which Stocke and his crew want to infiltrate a city without getting caught by using the guise of traveling performers.
In order to successfully sneak in, you must travel to the other parallel universe and find someone that will teach Stocke how to perform, so he can successfully complete his mission. This is but one of many time-related puzzles that require you to think outside the box (literally) to solve it.
This creates a sort of meta-challenge that isn't always the easiest to solve, as the game doesn't treat you like an idiot and hold your hand. Sometimes, it can be almost too vague or confusing, but those moments were rare. Usually, it requires you to simply jump over and progress through the story of the other history that you aren't currently working on. This keeps you on your toes and engaged in everything going on.
Radiant Historia Review: Strategic Turn-based Combat
Even outside of the meta-narrative puzzles, the combat itself can be challenging and smart. Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology's take on turn-based JRPG battles is unique, to say the least. Enemies are placed on a 3x3 grid, each taking up one or more spaces on it.
Though it isn't a full-on strategy RPG like Final Fantasy Tactics, it has elements of that genre sprinkled throughout. Your team has the typical spells and physical attacks you'd expect, but some of them affect the placement of enemies. The Push Assault move that Stocke has hits the enemy and pushes them back to the last row on the grid, while Left Assault pushes them left and Right Assault pushes them right.
Those simple moves open up countless possible combos with your party members. Stocke can push an enemy into another one, allowing for his teammate to then smack them both with a fire spell since they are now in the same space, saving you turns and health. There are also various traps that you can place on specific spaces to then push the enemy into it and blow them up.
It is intelligently designed, even playing a major role in boss battles. A boss might have a vanguard of weaker soldiers that are set up to guard the boss, requiring you to break their formation before being able to focus on the leader. Other bosses can turn spaces into healing circles that you have to figure out how to maneuver them out of. It is a complicated puzzle within the turn-based action that challenges the player.
Radiant Historia Review: Time After Time
On its own, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is already extensively replayable for those that are new to it. However, fans of the original game will be happy to know that the new content makes it definitely worth a repurchase. For starters, the biggest addition is the third timeline.
Adding up to several hours of new content, this timeline revolves around a character named Nemesia. At the start of your game, you can choose whether to play Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology the way it was when it came out in 2011 or with the new timeline included. This timeline, while not nearly as deep as the other two, gives some much-needed context and lore for the world.
You essentially play through it in bite-sized episodic chunks. Nemesia will give you quests to go to histories that are different from the ones you know. This is great, as it allows you to understand more of why the desertification is happening to the land, and you even get to meet some interesting fellows that weren't seen in the main game.
Beyond that, the graphical and musical enhancements are the other biggest changes. While the characters still look really small on 3DS, the environments are certainly pleasing to the eye. Each location you visit looks lovingly hand-drawn, using a nice blend of 2D and 3D art. As for the soundtrack, it has been improved to sound even better on 3DS. The score is one-of-a-kind, each track carrying so much emotion and heart.
Radiant Historia Review: Conclusion
If you own a 3DS, go out and get Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. This JRPG is a gem among gems that nobody should miss out on. Everything in the game works so cohesively to create a masterful package. The wonderful story flows evenly with the memorable characters that battle it out in a strategic twist on turn-based combat.
With the new timeline and improvements, this is the best way to experience this unforgettable game. It will have you laughing, crying, and thinking about it long after you complete Stocke's journey. Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology isn't just the true successor to Chrono Trigger; it's one of the greatest JRPG's ever made.
A 3DS copy of the game was provided by the publisher.