The roleplaying genre has certainly proved to be a crowded one over the years, but every so often a game will come along that proves to be a standout from the pack. First releasing for the Nintendo DS at the tail-end of that system’s lifecycle, Radiant Historia managed to combine an all-star team of developers with a classic approach to the genre for what was ultimately a stellar game.
Radiant Historia’s development team combined people who worked on Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey with those who worked on Radiata Stories. From Strange Journey was Mitsuru Hirata, who had worked as a battle and fielder planner and made his debut as a director on Radiant Historia; joining him were planners Tatsuya Watanabe, Sawao Kato, and Kenichi Takamori as well as programmer Daisuke Yajima. Meanwhile, Satoshi Takayashiki co-directed and Hiroshi Konishi was the character designer, both having previously worked on Radiata Stories. Also of note on the game’s staff was musician Yoko Shimomura, who is known primarily as the composer for the Kingdom Hearts series.
The game’s story focuses on a spy named Stocke, who, before departing on an escort mission, is given a mysterious book called the White Chronicle. After his mission goes awry, Stocke is transported to the realm known as Historia, and is told that he can use the White Chronicle to travel through time and have another shot at certain events. Stocke uses the White Chronicle to make his initial mission a success, and eventually continues to use it in order to travel between two different timelines in order to save his homeland from the onset of the Sand Plague and the desertification of the continent. Stocke runs into a man wielding the Black Chronicle, a twin to his own book, several times over the course of his journey; that person tries what he can in order to interfere with Stocke’s efforts. Eventually, it’s discovered who the mastermind behind the game’s events really is, and the game’s ending unfolds differently depending on how strong Stocke’s bonds are with his companions.
While Radiant Historia received praise for its story and characters, of particular note was its battle system. Battles played out in turn-based format – pretty standard for JRPGs – but it differentiated itself with the grid system. Enemies appear in spaces on a three-by-three grid, and Stocke and the party can knock enemies around into different spaces in order to chain attacks together and strike more than one enemy at once. It provided a greater level of strategic thinking than what is commonly seen in the genre.
An enhanced remake, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, released for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems in June 2017 in Japan before making its way to the U.S. on February 13, 2018. The game received a new animated opening from A-1 Pictures, new character art from Masaki Hirooka, and an entire new third scenario path which focuses on a new character.