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November 26th 2011 4:15 pm

Radiant Historia a must-have for all DS owners who like JRPGs

Wow, I picked up a used copy of Radiant Historia for the DS a few months ago and have been slowly chipping away at it. I am now about 20 hours in and am absolutely hooked. This has easily become my favorite RPG ever. The story and character development are even better than my previous favorites, Final Fantasy IV (aka II), Final Fantasy VI (aka III), Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, and even Cosmic Fantasy 2 (an old TG16 CD game that had my favorite story up until now).

I have tired over the last few years of games that require a lot of grinding to level up, so I am enjoying the combat system and EXP system, which have virtually eliminated the need for grinding while still keeping combat a fun and integral part of the game.

The music is superb. It might not have as many tracks as other games, but it uses every one perfectly to create mood and tension in the story. 20 hours in and I have not tired of any of the music, and I am still listening to the music on grooveshark.com sometimes at work during the day.

While maintaining enough JRPG conventions to feel familiar and comfortable to long-time fans of the genre, it mixes things up enough with new ideas to make it feel very unique and not like another Final Fantasy clone.

The story really is excellently written and paced. The time travel and alternate history element may confuse you a little at first as it is so different from other games, but once you get a few hours past the introduction of the split timeline, you will find yourself having no problem keeping the characters and storylines straight. Part of the reason for that is the character development. I haven't found myself so engaged in the characters in a game since Final Fantasy VI. There is a lot of subtlety in the narrative which forces you to pay close attention to every word and expression (symbols in word bubbles are used to for expressions) so that you don't miss the hidden nuances happening between the characters. This only further draws you into the characters, creating a great deal of attachment to them as the story progresses.

Seriously, if you own any of the DS systems, are an RPG fan, and have never played this game, get yourself over to amazon.com or your local GameStop and pick up a used copy ASAP. This is the kind of game you will want to curl up in the recliner with over your Christmas break. If you keep waiting, the price on this one is only going to go up as this game will surely be ranked at the top with Chrono Trigger years from now after it breaks out of the relative obscurity it suffers from now.

Rating: 9/10

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What do you think is the estimated completion time of the main quest? 40, 50, 60 hours? (This is not counting side quests or New Game + stuff, if such exist.)
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It is hard to say... at almost 20 in, it still feels like there is a lot to go with both of the story lines. I am guessing it must be between 40 and 60. There are some minor side quests, but those seem like they will take very little time to complete as long as you remember to go back in time to take care of them right after unlocking a "node" in the story trees. I hope to finish it during Christmas break if not before, so I will try to remember to post back here. I am playing for :30 minutes every work day while I eat my lunch, and as often in the evenings as I can sneak some time in, so it will probably require Christmas break to finish for me.
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I finally finished it tonight, and ended up with a total of 52:26 on my "Clear data" save game that it let me do after the ending. The cool thing about it is that it returns you to the node in the timeline right before the final battle when you reopen that save game (there is a star on it to denote it is a completed save) so that you can go back and do all the side quests before finishing the game again. You can unlock different endings by completing the side quests, and will get the true ending by unlocking all 10. I did not get all 10, so I am going to put more time into it to get the good ending, so I guess I'm in for 5 more hours at least.

After having finished it the first time, I have to say this is my favorite game of all time. The story is amazing and is filled with tons of character development. It is practically like reading a book, and they really should commission someone to write a book of this story at some point. The use of music in setting the mood for certain scenes is as well done as in movies, and there were times when the sad music would kick in as a scene played out, and I would feel like I wanted to cry as I realized that the music meant something bad was about to happen to the character in question. This is game music at its best.

Speaking of music, I never once throughout those 52 hours turned the volume down, even during battles. The music never got old. In FF games, I usually end up playing with the volume down when I am leveling up because the battle music wears thin. The two times I had to stop progress to level up some, I spent several hours total and never muted the sound. In fact, when I was playing in places where the music would distract others, I put my headphones in so I could keep the music going.

The only real complaint I have is that the sound of your steps while walking around can sometimes distract from the music depending on what type of surface you are walking on (the sound changes on different terrains).

The only other thing I would have changed is adding some save places throughout the last dungeon. You get spoiled by copious save places throughout the game, then get to the last dungeon and have to play probably two hours straight to get to the next save game place. This kept me up way too late on a work night as I kept trying to get to a save.

The final battle is pretty epic. You can get through it without a big problem if you use good strategy, but, even then, the battle takes a LONG time. I think it took almost the entire first half of the Broncos vs. Steelers playoff game for that battle. If I had gotten near the end of the boss battle then died and had to start it over, I probably would have been fairly annoyed. I was in 50+ levels on the characters I used for the battle. I would recommend people who are less strategy minded level up a good bit more if they want to get through it without a lot of frustration.

My only regret is that I bought a used copy from Gamestop, so I don't have the case or book for the game. I will be keeping this game forever, so it would have been nice to have it as a full set. Oh well, I did get it for a mere $14, and the going price for it is pretty high on Amazon, so I can't complain too much.

For me, this is the Game of the Year for 2011, and ranks in the top 10 of all time. It is a sleeper hit, so it will probably be 10 years before it gets the full recognition it deserves. I do believe it will one day be ranked at the top with Ocarina of Time, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy VI.
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