Back in 2011, acclaimed developer Atlus released Radiant Historia for the DS…and it was good. Critics loved the dark storyline and unique battle mechanics. Now, six years later, Radiant Historia has been remade for the 3DS as Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, with new features added to the lovable classic.
Lock, Stocke, and Two Smoking Timelines
Radiant Historia follows the adventures of Stocke, star of Alistel’s special intelligence division. Entrusted with the mysterious White Chronicle, he uses its powers to rewrite his own history to protect Alistel from the evil Granorg empire and the encroaching desertification that is turning the entire continent of Vainqueur into sand.
The powers of the White Chronicle add an interesting twist to the classic “save the world” storyline. To solve puzzles and advance the plot not only will you need to travel back to fix problems before it’s too late, but you’ll also frequently find yourself traveling to a timeline where the choices you made caused events to unfold entirely differently to get the knowledge or items you need to proceed.
I did feel a little disappointed that they didn’t do more with this system however. For the most part, there’s just two timelines based on a choice made early on in the game. Branches after that point are either short sidehops that don’t significantly change things down their timeline, or one of the game’s many bad ends. That said, it’s awfully amusing to see the many different ways you can cause the end of the world.
Just as unique is the battle system. Classic JRPG combat is enhanced with the ability to manipulate the turn order and the enemy’s formation to devastate entire groups. Mastering these mechanics is the key both to surviving the world of Vainqueur and obtaining bonus gold and xp for skilled play.
The combat was easily my favorite part of the game. It’s a simple kind of tactical, just complex enough that you have to think to get through fights, but simple enough that you’re not endlessly pondering your best option. It’s quite satisfying to find a pattern in the enemy formation you can abuse to stack them all up before smashing them with an elemental weakness, and trying to brute force your way without paying attention to mechanics often leads to getting your face smashed in due to the overwhelming number of foes to tackle one by one.
… Make That Three
All of the above was part of the original DS title, but Perfect Chronology adds new content via an additional timeline exploring several “what-if” scenarios. This can either be done in “Append” mode where the original game is preserved until beaten once, or “Perfect” mode where the new timeline is seamlessly integrated into the main game.
Even integrated with the main game, the new timeline isn’t intrusive. Entering it makes it very clear that this is side content you can enjoy at your leisure without affecting the main plot. It also helps to flesh out the world a bit more, exploring how various characters’ lives would be different had events unfolded in a manner wholly different from either of the game’s two storylines, letting you get to know them just that bit better.
Another new addition is the Vault of Time, a new dungeon where you fight to earn a new currency that can be spent on fabulous prizes, with the caveat that you have to spend any currency or lose it before you can leave to rest, so endurance is key. It also handily solves one of the of issues the original had with party members falling behind in XP if you grinded without them in the party, as all party members you’ve met at least once are here.
The last major addition is the “Friendly” difficulty. This vastly reduces the difficulty of the game, allowing normal enemies to be defeated with a single swipe of your sword on the overworld, avoiding combat entirely while earning their xp and loot. It doesn’t make the game a COMPLETE cakewalk – bosses and such still need to be fought normally – but for those looking to enjoy the wonderful story without spending hours grinding, this is a much-welcomed feature.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a remake without improved aesthetics. Perfect Chronology also comes with improved sprites and splash art for the major characters, new tracks, and surprisingly nice voice work. Along with a few other small tweaks here, it’s hard to find something that hasn’t been improved in some way by the remake.
Not Quite Perfect
Unfortunately, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology does suffer from a few issues here and there. While the graphics have been cleaned up, the spritework is still mostly clearly from the DS era, in a full price 3DS title.
In addition, the game can feel quite grindy at times, especially concerning equipment upgrades, with fights dropping maybe 20 gold when your next equipment upgrade costs over 1000 for a single piece of equipment. Being a mobile title means it’s easier to grind on a bus ride or lunch break, but it still often feels like a bit much, even for a JRPG.
Lastly, the time travel mechanic can be both a blessing and a curse at times. On the plus side, being able to repeat boss fights makes grinding significantly easier. On the downside, you can only warp back to specific nodes in the timeline, and if you find yourself needing to jump back for any reason before hitting the next one (Such as needing to visit, an inn as the game loves to lock you in to dungeons once entered), you’ll need to re-do any bosses since your last node.
Improving on Success
Some minor issues aside, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology was immensely fun to play, and I found myself having trouble putting it down. While the new additions may not be worth a $40 price tag on their own if you’re already familiar with the original, if you happened to miss out on it before, do yourself a favor and pick this up.
~Final Score: 9/10~
Review copy provided by Atlus for 3DS. Screenshots acquired from Atlus’ Radiant Historia official site.