Games Review: Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (3DS, 2018): “I Don’t Like Sand”

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is a game about cause and effect – the consequences of fate, and how the smallest decisions can change an entire history. In Radiant Historia, the kingdom of Vainqueur is under siege on all sides. Tensions are rising in the cities of Alistel and Granorg, and a mysterious force known as the Sand Plague is decimating the lands food supplies.

Protagonist Stocke, an agent in Alistel’s Special Intelligence Unit is tasked with preventing this war, and sent out on a mission to recover a double agent. Along the way, he’s entrusted with the mysterious White Chronicle, a tome whose pages are entirely blank. After the mission goes wrong with deadly consequences, Stocke unlocks the true power of the White Chronicle, coming face to face with its keepers, Lippti and Teo.

After discovering the consequences of his decisions, Stocke is granted the ability to travel back in time to pivotal moments in his life, and change the fate of the world through his decisions. Burdened with the responsibility of saving the warring land of Vainqueur, he plays a key part in saving the world from the devastating Sand Plague and bringing peace to the kingdoms of Alistel and Granorg.

The sci-fi Butterfly Effect story is a breath of fresh air in this unique JRPG, particularly given its Fire Emblem stylings. With its high fantasy setting and steampunk aesthetic, I was prepared for a generic turn-based beat-em-up telling tales of princes and castles, but Radiant Historia stands out among its competitors, and continued to defy my expectations as I played.

How the story plays out depends directly on player choice, as Radiant Historia allows you the choice of which path you’ll take. Keep in mind there is only one ‘true history’, and in order to complete the game, you’ll have to make the right choices.

This means that backtracking is essential to the title, and timelines can be crossed at any time through the use of the White Chronicle. Travelling through alternate histories is a worthwhile endeavour, as it forces players to analyse the direct consequences of their actions. It makes for a highly unique mechanic in a solid, beautiful game.

For those unfamiliar with the title, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is a remake of the original Radiant Historia, released in 2011 for Nintendo DS. Improvements to the original title include brand new story mode options as well as a new timeline to travel through, redesigned character art, multiple difficulty option, and fully-voiced acting for all characters in the game. The changes make for a stellar new presentation, updating the classic game while retaining all of its original charm.

If you’re just looking to enjoy what is a brilliant, well-rounded story, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology’s new features bring the goods with a seldom seen ‘friendly mode.’ This allows players to skip lengthy, grinding battles with enemy grunts, while still gaining full rewards and experiences from the fight. While boss battles aren’t optional, reducing the sheer annoyance of being bombarded by hoards of lower powered enemies makes for a far more enjoyable game, and one that feels entirely more balanced.

Radiant Historia is very aware of its dedicated fanbase, with options to skip repetitive boss battles, as well as a secondary mode known as ‘perfect mode’, designed for those who have played the original Nintendo DS instalment. This option weaves in new story content and an entirely new timeline throughout the title, making for a more intriguing experience for those who’ve already played through the original title. Alternatively, ‘append mode’ is designed for brand new players, allowing you to unlock the alternate timeline after you’ve played through the initial story content.

Combat is deceptively simple, relying on turn-based combat much like classic Final Fantasy titles, while injecting its own sense of flair. Basic attacks can be undertaken, but utilising two or more characters to dispatch enemies will create a powerful combo move designed to inflict higher damage. While concentrating on your own team is important, focus must also be given to where enemies are situated on the battlefield.

A nine square grid determines the power of enemy attacks, and certain formations allow for devastating moves. Breaking up formations by pushing back or defeating opponents becomes an important strategy for continued success. The turn-based nature of the combat can become quite repetitive at times, but with its quirks and constantly changing formula, it was different enough to keep my attention.

Gameplay itself is phenomenally gorgeous, filled with stylish pixel landscapes and intriguing characters. The world of Radiant Historia, while unique in its own right, finds itself somewhere between the royal majesty of Fire Emblem and the dense cyberpunk world of Final Fantasy VII. Travelling across the kingdoms of Vainqueur is wild and beautiful, and the title is buoyed by the brilliance and charm of its world.

With numerous enemies and bosses to work through and over 280 choice-driven memories to unlock, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is a hefty beast of a game. While the story has a tendency to get bogged down by grinding enemy battles, these can easy be skipped with the brand new ‘friendly mode’, making for a unique storytelling experience. A robust story and a great cast of characters round out what is a stellar game, and one that comes highly recommended for JRPG fans.

Review Score: 8.5/10
Highlights: Unique premise, gorgeous world, interesting characters
Lowlights: High level of grinding, story drags near the middle, slow combat
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus, Deep Silver
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS

Reviewed on New Nintendo 3DS XL with a retail code provided by the publisher.