Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (3DS) Review

Born to Change History

The original Radiant Historia for the Nintendo DS was a hard-to-find game released near the end of the portable system’s life. The title has found a new home on the Nintendo 3DS as Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, adding a new what-if timeline, dungeon, and quality of life improvements. As a “definitive edition,” the game is well-suited for new players, but my big question was whether this upgrade was enough to warrant a replay.

RadiantHistoriaPerfectChronology_3DS_Review2.jpg
A classic DS game remastered – Wait, can we call DS games classic yet?

Before diving into the new content, here is a primer for newcomers. The story follows Stocke, an agent involved in an ongoing war between two kingdoms. The source of the conflict is the desertification of the land – transforming into desert sand. During a mission gone wrong, Stocke ends up in the mysterious world of Historia and receives the White Chronicle, a book that allows him to travel through time and seek a timeline that will end the desertification.Time travel is not only the impetus for the game’s complex story, but also the basis for its dynamic time-hopping gameplay. Similar to adventure games and visual novels, Radiant Historia has crucial choice points that lead to different outcomes. After making a choice, you can return to an earlier point on the White Chronicle’s organized flowchart to change your decision. You can freely try different choices at any time thanks to the game’s concept of multiple timelines. In fact, one of the first major choices splits the entire timeline into two parallel universes that you can jump between.

RadiantHistoriaPerfectChronology_3DS_Review3.jpg
This history is a mystery.

What makes the dual universes fascinating is that you must play through one to progress in another and vice versa. For instance, you may get stuck in one timeline because you need explosives to get through a rock blockade. By visiting the alternate timeline, you can save an explosives merchant, which will help you progress in both timelines.

Constantly hopping through time and space might imply the story is difficult to follow, but the game manages to narrowly avoid that in two ways. First, the helpful flowchart details each node’s story and sidequests, making it easy to keep track of everything. Also, the game limits the scope to these two universes, for the most part. Unfortunately, this means most choice points have only one correct answer. The incorrect choice simply leads to a paragraph briefly explaining what goes wrong before whisking you back to redo it. These seemingly rushed endings don’t expand on the intricacies of why Stocke failed. Nevertheless, playing through both timelines allowed me to appreciate this unique brand of storytelling. The excellent scenarios, robust character development, and juicy twists formed a plot that was hard to put down.

RadiantHistoriaPerfectChronology_3DS_Review7.jpg
The timeline flowchart is elaborate and fun to navigate.

The engaging narrative is the highlight of Radiant Historia, but the game is also a well-constructed traditional JRPG. You travel through fields and dungeons with minor navigation puzzles, and you level up characters by fighting and buying better equipment. Although there is no traditional overworld (you select locations from a large map) this RPG excels where it counts: the battle system. To begin an encounter, you simply run into any enemies on-screen. You can also sword slash them for a preemptive strike.

Combat utilizes a 3×3 grid, and each enemy occupies a tile. Special skills let you push your foes around on the grid, and if you manage to get multiple on the same tile, your attacks hit them all simultaneously. This blend of strategy and traditional turn-based mechanics lends to a dynamic combat system. In another strategically inspired mechanic, you can swap your character’s turn with your foes’ to chain more attacks together, further increasing your damage efficacy. It’s extremely gratifying to control the playing field and maximize damage to all enemies at once with a 10-hit combo. There are other niceties in battle such as powerful abilities that consume your constantly filling Mana gauge, but the core mechanics are what define the game.

RadiantHistoriaPerfectChronology_3DS_Review6.jpg
Battles are all about pushing your enemies around. What pushovers…

The story and battle system are mostly unchanged, which is fine since they made the original so enjoyable. So what’s actually new in Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology? Sticking to the topic of combat, characters outside of your main party now randomly show up in battle to use bonus support skills. It’s a nice touch but hardly a game changer due to its random nature. More impactful are the new difficulty settings. Hard difficulty is a welcome challenge to veterans of the original, as battles require more careful planning. On the opposite extreme, Friendly difficulty not only makes battles easier, but outright lets you skip them. By using your sword to slash enemies on the map, you immediately defeat them without battling but still gain the experience and money. It’s cheap compared to the well-balanced Normal difficulty. For players who have experienced the original or want to focus on the story, the Friendly option conveniently bypasses lengthy grinding. The downside is you are locked into this difficulty upon choosing it.

By far, the most notable additions to Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology are Possible History – a new timeline – and the Vault of Time – a bonus dungeon. Between the two, Possible History is more significant as it adds novel what-if scenarios. In this additional timeline, the new character Nemesia tasks you to seek artifacts by completing sidequests. I enjoyed seeing characters in slightly different situations. The missions here weren’t as entertaining, however, and mostly consisted of fetch quests and boss battles – nothing too deep. While Possible History ties into the overall lore and endgame, it doesn’t add anything important to an already complete plot. Rather, it feels tacked on to the point that you can actually play a separate mode that removes the Possible History storyline until you beat the game, which results in a better paced story.

RadiantHistoriaPerfectChronology_3DS_Review1.jpg
The new girl Nemesia

Meanwhile, the Vault of Time is even more superfluous but still a welcome addition, providing an extra place to grind against strong enemies. Fighting here earns you a special currency called Mementos, which you can use towards special items, including new support skills. The dungeon opens up and leads to interesting developments as you play through it, but it hardly affects the main story.

The remaining changes are related to quality of life and presentation. Compared to the original DS game, the action is now on the 3DS’ wider top-screen, and the bottom screen displays a map that, while not detailed, is useful for locating room exits. There are now 14 save slots (assuming you have an SD card), eclipsing the original’s three. The character art is also updated, adopting a more standard anime style that radically changes some of their looks. Although I liked the original’s unique artstyle, the anime art is consistently good and lends itself to the stunning animated opening and gallery images. The prerendered backgrounds weren’t changed, though, and look a bit outdated compared to the upgraded assets. Nevertheless, the game sports a charming old-school look reminiscent of sprite-based classics from RPGs of yore. Yoko Shimomura’s signature music stylings deliver an ethereal yet militaristic quality to the soundtrack, which is virtually unchanged except for a few new songs. Finally, the newly added English voice acting is solid, as expected from Atlus. I particularly liked Stocke’s stoic performance.

RadiantHistoriaPerfectChronology_3DS_Review5.jpg
Will playing Radiant Historia be a part of your timeline?

Conclusion

Radiant Historia is an underappreciated gem that is getting a second chance with its enhanced rerelease on 3DS. The additional content may not be substantial enough to entice seasoned players, but it adds to the complete lore, so hardcore fans may find it worthwhile. Not to mention that it adds at least 10 hours to an existing 40-60 hour playtime. Newcomers and veterans who want to relive the excellent story, time-travel mechanics, and combat system will find Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology to be worth their…time.

Score: 9/10

Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was originally written on DarkStation.

What are your thoughts on Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology? Have you played the original? What are your favorite games related to time travel or parallel universes? Please share any thoughts or questions in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading!

Advertisements

26 thoughts on “Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (3DS) Review

  1. Loved your review! I’m a big fan of time-bending adventure games–like Chrono Trigger and the Zero Escape series. I’m glad I was finally able to play Radiant Historia in this new updated version. It’s so fun to play and pretty easy to follow even when you’re jumping between timelines. I love that all the character dialogue is fully voiced and that the battle system has an added layer of strategy compared to typical turn-based RPGs. Enemies are definitely “pushovers!” (especially on Friendly mode shhh). 😉 I’m still in the middle of playing it and I can’t wait to see how it ends (no spoilers!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you as always for your awesome words! I’m very happy you get to experience this for the first time! I always wanted an excuse to get you to play Radiant Historia, and this Perfect Chronology edition is a “perfect excuse” – though I’m sure I could have convinced you otherwise just by saying time travel and Chrono Trigger haha. Speaking of which, the game totally reminds me of Chrono Trigger, even more than Lost Sphear and I Am Setsuna. It has that old-school style and storytelling without depending on the same battle system or even nostalgia. This game was such an awesome treat on the DS, and I think it’s just as good on the 3DS!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great game and definitely a must play if you like RPG’s. The storyline, especially the ending stick out as being better than a lot of JRPG’s I’ve played. I hope new people will check this game out with the re-release and while I have so many new games to play that I can’t go back and play an old game I love right now, I would definitely pick this up down the road just to re-experience this masterpiece!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree Kuribo! Radiant Historia is a magnificent game, and it’s awesome that it’s back! The storyline was a highlight for me too, and I liked how the two timelines flowed. I get such a Chrono Trigger vibe – not to say the two games are identical – but they’re both wonderful RPGs that tried something new with their epic time travel adventures!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t played much of CT but from what I do know, I think it is as close as we’ve had to a spiritual successor in a while (setting aside Chrono Cross of course). I appreciate how the game tries to tell a serious story and make you feel something. Not enough games try (or if they are trying, then they aren’t succeeding!) at this and that is why Radiant Historia stands out in the JRPG crowd. Keep up the excellent reviews 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you so much for your encouragement!! 😀 It’s definitely something of a spiritual successor even though Square Enix (Tokyo RPG Factory’s) I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear are technically THE successors with almost the same battle system and gameplay structure. But Radiant Historia does something completely different while still having time travel, beautiful spritework, and an epic story – which made it feel like how fresh and original Chrono Trigger felt at the time!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic review! I’ll add it to my never-ending list of games I want to play but have no time for 😛 I do think the friendly option is a neat idea! These days I don’t have the patience for lengthy grinding and would like to skip it. But people who enjoy that more classic experience can still have it. I like games that support various playstyles 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much as always for your kind words!! The friendly mode was especially helpful for me playing through the whole thing again – I admit to having one of the files being on friendly hahaha….. But it saved so much time being that I’ve already beaten the game before on the DS. And with Radiant Historia, the story is better than the battling anyway (as much as I enjoy the combat system). It also shortens the game be at least a couple dozen hours if you skip a bunch of battles haha! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I love story-driven games, especially visual novels. Even though Radiant Historia is definitely an RPG (with a fun battle system), it feels like its roots are in a visual novel. It’s a very well-told story with plenty of branch points (thanks to the time travel and parallel universes) and plot twists. I loved this game on DS and still enjoy it now. And since the 3DS version has a Friendly mode where you can take away the battles, you could even skip battling altogether if you wanted to focus on the story!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Surprisingly I haven’t really played any visual novels (yet), and they seem like another type of RPG. I did play the demo of Danganronpa V3 last night, and I think I might pick that up. I keep forgetting I have a PS Vita now, so I downloaded a few demos and bought Actual Sunlight for $5 this weekend!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Most visual novels are barely interactive, less so than walking simulators. They’re very story heavy and depend on players making some choices, though that may amount to a few choices within the span of a 30 hour game. I absolutely love games like Danganronpa V3 and the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series because they’re very interactive visual novels. They require you to pay close attention to clues to solve a mystery, while putting you in interesting court settings to test what you’ve figured out. The plot twists are amazing in those two as well!!

        A warning about Danganronpa V3 by the way – you need to play the first 2 to really get what’s going on there. V3 is a stand-alone story, but really asks you to be familiar with the first 2. It WILL spoil those games for you, so if you want to check the originals out, I’d recommend playing through Danganronpa 1 & 2 Reload, which gives you both on the PS4 for a cheaper price than V3. I actually wrote a review for it when it came out if you want to know about Reload: https://www.darkstation.com/reviews/danganronpa-1-2-reload-review

        If you do pick up V3 first (which I thought was just as awesome as the first 2), you could look up the first 2’s plot to be caught up, but again, that will probably spoil the excitement of those first 2 amazing games.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh thanks! I’ll probably do that then. I don’t want to be spoiled. It’s why I avoided reading anything about any of the other 999 games. I do prefer to experience things in order. Phoenix Wright is another one on my backlog.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You’re seriously naming 3 of my favorite series! 999 (Zero Escape) is also excellent and actually reminds me of Radiant Historia, due to its extensive use of flowcharts. Each series is excellent and I think is best played in order. Obviously, older games won’t necessarily be as refined as later entries in the series, but they’re excellent games in their own right that set up he narrative and gameplay for the rest of the games. Plus you appreciate the later games more and don’t end up being spoiled which the later games for each series do… a lot.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Flowcharts! I love flowcharts and spreadsheets lol. I recently acquired Radiant Historia from Cheap Boss Attack. I’m trying to decide what I’m going to play next. I need to finish FFV, but I could still play something on a handheld 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Oooh that’s awesome! I hope you enjoy it!! And oh my gosh, my wife is actually playing through FFV RIGHT NOW. Like literally, she’s playing it while I type this. She’s playing a bunch of the older Final Fantasy games for the first time, and so she’s currently on V and she loves its job system – which is great because I think it’s one of the most refined systems in all of Final Fantasy! FFV is so underrated.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Where is she in it?? I finally got out of Karnak Castle, and it wasn’t nearly as difficult to beat the boss this time. I just did the Ancient Library and am currently on Crescent Island. I just switched Galuf to a Ninja from Time Mage. He’d been a White Mage so I still have White Magic. I do like that after you learn something, you know it for good.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. She’s further in the story, so I won’t spoil it. 😉 I LOVE the job system in FFV. The ability to combine jobs and abilities is so wonderfully executed. I can have barehanded white mages in the front row and other overpowered combos thanks to the system. Getting ability points after every battle is so rewarding. I also like the characters, so it’s a joy seeing the game in action again!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review! I picked this game up recently and I got the launch edition, which is pretty neat! I was interested in the DS version but never really saw it in stores, and then when I learned they were remaking it, I held out for this edition. I’m glad I did! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words as always!! That’s awesome! I hope you have an amazing time with it! 😀 I also completely understand not being able to find the game in stores. I couldn’t when it first came out and the game was gonna for hundreds of dollars online. Thankfully, Atlus reprinted it eventually and I was able to get it for the actual price on Amazon just a year or 2 later. The 3DS was already out by then so this was pretty much one of my last DS games!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review! Time travel is underutilized in video games (outside the Zelda series, but even then), so it’s exciting to see one take full advantage of it here! The next time I’m looking to play an RPG, I might give this a look!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much my friend! Time travel is so good in any media, and some games execute it really well! I know we’ve talked about this before, but I would highly recommend Chrono Trigger as the go-to RPG with time travel. Bonus: you basically get to play as red-haired Goku!

      Like

Leave a Reply to Mr. Panda Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s