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Radiant Historia - Preview

posted 5 Feb 2011, 12:31 by Knuckles Sonic8   [ updated 5 Feb 2011, 12:46 ]
Five days ago, I received an invitation to attend a live web demonstration of Atlus' upcoming RPG, Radiant Historia. The invite-only event took place this past Thursday, Feb. 3rd, hosted by PR Manager Aram Jabbari. For a title that has already shown so much promise through gameplay clips and screenshots, I went in with fairly high hopes that I would come away feeling excited. Here are just some of the highlights of the hour-long session I'd like to share with our readers.

For the first few minutes of the demo, I got to see some parts of the intro story sequence. Starting from the very beginning of the game, players are first introduced to two guardians named Lippti and Teo. Both of them express deep concern over what Historia has become, and yet still remain hopeful that "true history will write itself" this time around. To be sure, there's a lot of mystery surrounding these two individuals and the kingdom at large. But before you can really reflect deeply on all that's going on, the story's main protagonist comes onto the scene. 

Stocke, a Special Intelligence agent, gets called in to receive his latest mission: meet up with a spy at a designated rendezvous point. Before embarking on his journey, he is given a strange artifact known as the White Chronicle. Exactly what this special book does is part of the discovery process players will undergo in this game. But you don't have to wait long to get an idea of the mysterious power this item holds. Just as you meet your new teammates, Marco & Raynie, a white glow engulfs the screen. When the fade passes, a rather disturbing scene is set before you: these two new allies have been killed! This leads Stock (and ultimately the player) to ask such questions as, "Is everything set in stone?" and "Could this foreknowledge be detrimental in the long run?"

Although some of the dialogue was skipped in the demo, I could still appreciate the fact that the introduction won't be long and winded. And yet, they've successfully instilled a sense of mystery right from the start of the adventure, which is great. Another key point to emphasize was the fact that the game wastes little time in getting to the core gameplay principle. That's something that definitely struck me as well. Without getting into too many details, Radiant Historia's story takes a very interesting turn about 15-20 minutes in, where this time travel aspect is realized in a greater sense. And then there's all the cool effects that come with it, which includes (but is not limited to) the ability to make decisions that may produce negative consequences.

The battle system was shown off quite a bit as well. Once again, I came away feeling rather impressed with this element. When engaging in an attack, the top screen will display the turn order, while the action-packed gameplay takes place on the touch screen. All enemies are positioned in different places on a 3x3 grid, but by using special skills, you can actually affect their placement on the battle field. This gives you the opportunity to pull off combo attacks by doing what's referred to as "stacking" enemies. When two or more enemies are located (more or less) on the same spot on the grid, your attacks can damage multiple foes simultaneously. Needless to say, this adds a whole new level of strategy previously unseen in other turn-based RPG's. Plus, the team confirmed that additional obstacles will appear on the grid at certain points in the game to further capitalize on this tactical approach to gameplay.

There are six main selections on the battle menu: Attack, Skill, Change, Item, Guard, and Escape. Most of these are pretty self-explanatory, but one feature that does deserve more of a spotlight is the Change option. At any point during a fight you can adjust your position in the turn order list, which is actually quite innovative. Using this tactic comes at a price, though. As you wait for your next turn, that character is more susceptible to attacks than usual. But that's something you'll have to consider beforehand. Either way, I think it's a pretty cool ability.

Anyone who's interested in this title will be thrilled to hear that Radiant Historia will last you a long time. At one point during the demonstration, Aram switched over to a save file that was already well along in the game. And as he accessed the Timeline spread, I noticed lots and lots of time branches which immediately took me by surprise. I'm not kidding - there are more than 200 different entry points (there's your "Wow factor" right there!) each representing a key event that occurred in the storyline. Really then, there's no need to worry about replay value, especially if you love to explore a lot.

Over the course of the demonstration, I was exposed to some really emotion-filled songs as well. They conveyed sentiments very well, even without a large degree of musical depth. What added to this powerful effect, too, were the realistic sound effects. In one particular instance, there was a distressing scene where heavy rainfall was descending to the ground as soothing music played in the background. All the while, the characters fought to express themselves without letting their emotions get the better of them. I was pleased with both the songs I heard in-game, and the sample treats from the Bonus CD (which, by the way, will be packaged with pre-order/launch copies of the game). The music thoroughly grabbed my attention as one of the most striking parts of the game, and I eagerly look forward to hearing how the audio develops as time goes on (no pun intended). 

I can't think of any good reason why anyone would not want to put Radiant Historia on their list of games to keep an eye on. I wasn't disappointed in the slightest by what I saw. In fact, quite the opposite. Now I'm even more pumped for this release; furthermore, there's ample reason why you should be too. I've gathered that the game is built on a really solid foundation, and core features to the game that I've been exposed to are really strong in what they bring to the experience. I honestly feel they have real gem on their hands. And considering the handheld's lifespan is coming to a close, something tells me Radiant Historia will be remembered as one of the last great games to release for the DS.