Some games are legendary for their quality, some are legendary because of how terrible they are and some are legendary because it’s just damn hard to find a copy. Several of the exclusives for the GameCube, for instance, haven’t seen ports to other platforms; good luck finding a copy of Eternal Darkness, for instance. Radiant Historia, an Atlus RPG for the DS released back in 2010, is another example of this; a sizable and well-made adventure that saw a relatively short print run, making it difficult to find today. Now it’s got an enhanced port on 3DS in Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, allowing players who missed out on the original to check it out.
Special agent Stocke is known for taking the most dangerous missions without a second thought. His latest assignment has something of a twist, though; Stocke’s superior Heiss requests that he bring along a mysterious book as a “good luck charm.” When things go wrong during the mission and Stocke is nearly killed, the power of the book, the White Chronicle, becomes clear: it’s a means of traveling through time, which saves Stocke’s life but also introduces a heavy responsibility. With the Chronicle, Stocke can change history and explore the myriad possibilities that arise from the decisions he makes…but bearing the Chronicle also means that it’s now Stocke’s job to construct a true history that will save the world from a quickly-approaching apocalypse.
The premise might remind some readers of the classic Squaresoft RPG Chrono Trigger, but in reality Radiant Historia owes more to that game’s sequel Chrono Cross. The focus tends to be on determining how different decisions can have far-reaching consequences, presented as a timeline that splits apart into many different branches as you progress. In the original Radiant Historia there were two main branches; Perfect Chronology adds a third, optional branch that presents new scenes and introduces a new character, along with a new optional dungeon; options are available at the start of the game to determine if you’d rather play with or without many of the new story elements.
The correct options aren’t always necessarily clear; in fact, making the wrong decisions can sometimes end the game right then and there, though Stocke can immediately return to a critical moment before his mistakes doomed the world. There aren’t any permanent consequences for experimenting, so exploring the timeline and finding out what each possibility can bring is a captivating experience. Later, some quirks to this system are introduced; changes to one timeline might affect another, for instance, so you may need to swap back and forth to clear a path or save a life.
Fooling with time isn’t all you’ll do, of course; there’s plenty of combat to go around as well. While the White Chronicle is an interesting enough plot device that I found myself wanting to get back to messing with time instead of fighting, battle has some twists and isn’t too much of a chore. Radiant Historia uses a turn-based combat system with a focus on positioning enemies to get the most out of your attacks and limit your foes’ offense. Characters can use special attacks to move foes around; stacking enemies up allows future attacks to hit every enemy in the stack, which is both more efficient and more damaging than attacking each enemy individually. What’s more, pushing enemies back on their side of the screen reduces the amount of damage they cause.
Radiant Historia was originally released on the DS and Perfect Chronology doesn’t make any sweeping changes to the presentation. While you shouldn’t expect this game to push the limits of the 3DS, it does look nice enough, and the character and enemy designs are interesting if not especially innovative. Perhaps the most significant upgrade aside from the new content are the voiceovers added to many of the cutscenes throughout. They’re well done and help make the extensive plot a little easier to get through.
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is an extensive JRPG, clocking in at 50-60 hours, and it’s surprising that it didn’t receive a huge amount of attention back when it initially launched. The relative difficulty of finding a copy certainly didn’t help matters. Today, thanks to the ubiquity of digital distribution it shouldn’t be an issue to give this one a shot if you’re interested. Dedicated role-playing fans with some time to burn certainly should be. Just don’t burn too much; there’s only so much time to go around.