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On Thursday, February 3, Atlus PR Manager Aram Jabbari hosted a live web demo of their upcoming DS RPG Radiant Historia. Everything I’d seen of it showed promise, so I was more than happy to attend. I went in optimistic, eager to get not only the closest to hands-on I could until the release, but also participate in an open forum and ask the team behind the US release anything concerning the game, from localization decisions to quality control.
The first thing we were treated to was a roughly half hour walkthrough of the introductory portions of the game. Aram provided intel on its technical aspects, story background information, and commentary about the translation and localization of dialogue.
As the opening scenes began, Aram took the time to explain that the world of Radiant Historia is plagued by an ever expanding desert swallowing the land. The two main countries, Alistel and Granorg, are at war because Granorg’s queen seeks to grab all of the useable land she can. The game opens on two children, Teo and Lippti, who are the mysterious guardians overlooking the world of Historia. Expressing concern about what the world has become, they comment hopefully that “true history will rewrite itself” this time. The scene then shifts to the main protagonist – the one constant character players control – Stocke.
Stocke is a special intelligence agent for Alistel receiving his latest mission: rendezvous with a spy to collect information. Along with his assignment, Stocke is handed a mysterious item called the White Chronicle, which will come to play a crucial part in the story and makes its strange powers known very early on. On meeting his assigned teammates, Marco and Raynie, Stocke is hit with the disturbing vision of their deaths, leaving him with questions about whether the future can be changed and if foreknowledge is a blessing or curse.
While there was quite a bit more of the early story demonstrated, a good chunk of dialogue was skipped in favor of showing off the mechanics of the game. In particular, the battle system and time travel systems. The battle system is 3 players vs. X enemies with each side set on their own 3×3 grid. The grid plays a crucial strategic part in battles as players and enemies alike can manipulate each other’s positions, which changes the damage dealt. Those in the back have increased defense, the front row has increased offense and the middle row is neutral. To top that off, players can manipulate their enemies into stacks on a single space, and attack the entire stack in one shot. Adding even more depth is the Change command, which allows a player to swap places in the turn order with anyone, but sacrifices a large chunk of defense until that turn comes around. The staff also indicated that later in the game there will be obstacles on the grids as well as enemies that take up more than one space, and enemies that just can’t be moved.
After demonstrating the core battle system elements and opening narrative, Aram switched off to a save file (which it’s interesting to note had almost 55 hours of gameplay clocked in) to show off the time travel system central to the game’s story. The basic concept of it is that there’s one “true history” that will lead to the end of the game, but there are “nodes” throughout the course of the game where the player makes choices that can cause a branch off into an alternate timeline. The catch is that all of those timelines will dead end eventually, making it necessary to go back to that node again. I was impressed by the sheer number of these nodes, which create more than 200 important choices in the storyline. Interestingly, you can’t always make the right choice the first time. Sometimes you have to go forward in the wrong path, find a skill or item, and carry it back so that you can make the choice. As an example, the first “wrong choice” is the one that leads to Stocke’s vision of his teammates’ deaths. Acquiring an ability that lets them take another route changes that future. While there is no new game option, there’s no need for it. Everything can be seen and done in a single playthrough.
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