Radiant Historia Playtest: The Complexities Of Time-Travel

By Ishaan . March 1, 2011 . 3:46pm


Radiant Historia’s story takes place in the continent of Vainqueur. Large portions of this continent are undergoing desertification. While some nations like Alistel continue to prosper despite this, thanks to their use of technology, others like Granorg are running out of arable land. In order to find more arable land, Granorg is attempting to invade Alistel. This war ultimately results in all of Vainqueur being turned into a desert.


In order to prevent this, ex-Alistel military man (now a top intelligence agent), Stocke, is blessed with the power of time travel through a book called the White Chronicle. Using it, he must travel back and forth in time to deter Granorg’s invasion and attempt to somehow prevent Vainqueur from suffering its terrible fate.


Time-travel is tricky business both in terms of understanding how it works and keeping track of its consequences. Radiant Historia acknowledges this and tries to present time-travel in as simple a way as possible for the player: through a visual time chart. Here’s a rough example of what it looks like:


You’ll be seeing a similar screen a lot during your time with Radiant Historia (minus the dinosaurs), so let’s get acquainted with it. Radiant Historia consists of two timelines, both of which have blocks scattered across them. Brown blocks on the timeline represent events during the story. Blue blocks represent points in time that you can travel back-and-forth between. Most blue blocks also represent a point where you have to make a decision by picking between one of two choices. Finally, the maroon blocks represent death.


On the example timeline above, you see four points at which you can make choices. (1) is a point at which you’re asked by a comrade whether you’d like to return to Alistel’s military (Stocke was originally a military man in the past), or whether you’d prefer to remain in “Specint” (special intelligence). Choice (1) is the point at which the game splits into its two timelines. I chose to remain with Specint because I was rather intrigued by Heiss, the mysterious Specint boss who seems to have his finger in many, many pies.


Heiss eventually sends you on a mission to meet up with an Alistel informant planted in Granorg who has valuable information to share regarding Granorg’s ongoing military tactics. Unfortunately, when you get to the rendezvous point, the informant doesn’t show. This is choice point (2). You have to decide if you’d rather wait for the informant to eventually turn up or make your way to the Alma Mines, which is where he was last.


I chose to go to the Alma Mines, which resulted in my immediate death from being ambushed by Granorg forces. To rectify this, using the White Chronicle, I travelled back in time to (2) and chose the other option: wait it out a little longer. Unfortunately, the informant still didn’t turn up. At this point, the game was kind enough to suggest — all within the context of the story — that I travel further back through the timeline to see if I couldn’t figure out what had happened to him. Taking it up on its suggestion, I travelled back to (1) and chose the option I had declined the first time: to quit Specint and rejoin the military.


What happened next was interesting. It turns out your squad’s first military operation is to go to the Alma Mines and head off a division of Granorg’s army that’s trying to sneak into Alistelian territory. At the mines, you’re supposed to rendezvous with two individuals: an informant and a merchant, who will provide you with information on the Granorg troop headed your way, and explosives to hinder them, respectively.


Once I got there, I found the informant waiting with his intel. After he’d delivered his information to my squad, he made a hasty exit to proceed to what he said was his next mission. Unfortunately, the merchant who was supposed to deliver me explosives to deal with the Granorg troops at this point was mysteriously absent. This is choice (4). You can either send troops to scout around the area and search for him, or move on ahead to try and ambush the Granorg troops without the explosives. I chose to move ahead.


This resulted in another death, which meant I had to find the merchant somehow or the other. Using the White Chronicle, I travelled back in time to (4). This time, I chose to send scouts out to look for our merchant. Sadly, doing this proved to be futile as well, as our man was nowhere to be found. However, there was another solution.


Now that you’ve relieved the informant of his duties at the mine, he’s on the way to his “next mission”…which is to meet with an agent from Specint. Since, in the other timeline, Stocke is the agent he’s meeting with, I promptly travelled to choice (2) once again, and sure enough, when I chose to wait for the informant this time, he turned up (and made a comment about how I looked vaguely familiar…). After meeting with him, a quick look around the area also netted me another missing person: the merchant. The poor chap was being harassed by bandits nearby, to whom my party gave a sound thrashing and chased off.


Now that the merchant was rescued, I had created two choices. Let’s call this point (3). I could either proceed ahead with my Specint operation (after all, in this timeline, I had declined the military’s offer), or I could travel to the other timeline to see what effect the merchant — now proceeding with his own mission to deliver explosives to Alma Mines — would have on the military operation. I chose to do the latter and jumped back in time to (4) again.


This time, sending scouts out to search for the merchant resulted in them finding him soon enough, now that he was out of danger and trying to make his way to the mine. With explosives in our possession, my squad was able to deal with the Granorg troops attempting to sneak through the mines and the immediate threat was dealt with. Once again, after this point, I was free to continue through this timeline, or jump back to any other point in time I wanted…like, say, to (3) — the point at which I rescued the merchant — to see how my Specint operation would turn out.


In summary, Radiant Historia consists of two primary timelines, and explores “options” and “what if” scenarios in both. Acts you perform in one timeline affect the other, and vice-versa. The game keeps things on track by providing you with freedom within a relatively linear structure.


This sounds confusing on paper, but Radiant Historia’s timeline keeps you updated on everything that you’ve experienced so far. Highlighting any of the blocks on the time chart gives you a short summary of that particular event, and the chart constantly updates itself to add new events and changes to past events once triggered. It’s also a convenient way to catch up with all that’s happened in the game’s story so far.


Interestingly, deaths from bad decisions count as “events,” too. The game encourages you to explore different options, so you’ll find yourself at a “death-end” all of a sudden, every now and then. Fortunately, since deaths play out very quickly, they don’t feel like a waste of time or overly penalizing.


In addition to giving the game an interesting framework, time-travel in Radiant Historia has another advantage: making it so that no one series of events feels too long or drawn out. When given the freedom to jump between timelines even without any particular reason to do so, I always made the jump, just to give myself a change of pace from the ongoing events if I was starting to get bored of them.


That doesn’t mean Radiant Historia is a boring game though. The game is smartly written; perhaps more so than any other Japanese RPG in recent memory. Aside from the odd line here and there during the first 30 minutes, the dialogue is believable, and the drama that takes place within Alistel’s ranks — especially the rivalry between Specint and the military — is convincing. The city of Alistel itself is rather interesting, seemingly constructed entirely from some kind of metal from what I can tell, and powered by an energy called “Thaumatech,” which gives it a bit of a steampunk feel sometimes.


Stocke as a protagonist is interesting, too. He’s a man of few words, but not in an angsty way. Stocke’s always willing to chat with his teammates, learn more about their pasts, and look out for them during missions. He’s just…not very excitable, which is appropriate for an experienced soldier. Similarly, party members and the supporting cast, too, are all convincing in their own ways. Heiss, being the head of intelligence, in particular is most curious.


Food for thought:


1. Yes, items do carry over along with you, when you travel back and forth in time. So do your party’s injuries.


2. Revisiting events in the past means you have to sit through the dialogue all over again. Luckily, Radiant Historia lets you fast-forward through it all by holding the X button, or skip it entirely by pressing Start (thanks to ThurstTheSky for pointing out the latter).


3. I personally love the classic PS1 look a lot of Nintendo DS games with 3D art have. Knowing that Radiant Historia is one of the last of its kind as we move on to a new age of portables systems almost makes me a little sad.


4. I usually don’t say this about games, but Radiant Historia is a game that would benefit greatly from voice-acting, just because some of its characters are interesting, and Atlus USA usually pick great voice-actors.


5. While time-travel is Radiant Historia’s primary point of interest, the battle system is rather interesting, too. Catch up with our preview to read about how it works.

Read more stories about & & & & on Siliconera.

  • I’m looking forward to getting this game.

    Interestingly enough, it sold out over here… *sadness*

  • I’ve been playing this game. So far, it’s awesome. I also like how everyone loves the main character for some reason. He’s a TOTAL tsundere.

    • … If you’re going to label him with a “-dere”, wouldn’t he be a kuudere?

      • SolidusSnake

        Unfortunately I’m not enough of a creepy otaku to debate the finer points of creepy otaku linguistics, but tsundere is probably the wrong terminology since Stocke isn’t a lovesick troll but a highly competent and professional military man who keeps his cards close to his chest.

        • … Neither am I, but going through the pages of TV Tropes a couple of times and having a decent memory span have given me the unfortunate consequence of remembering the terms.

          • SolidusSnake

            tvtropes is the root of all evil -_-

          • I.. I can’t stop reading it. ;___; It’s just so.. soo.. captivating.

        • Apollonis

          Hey, there’s nothing creepy about categorizing the important aspects of life :3

      • :O Well, I’m not very knowledgable about -deres, I suppose. But I swear, Stocke is a big softie in the inside.

        • Well… I can’t argue with the fact that he’s a softie. Just not big enough to be “dere” Although… there is that quest with a certain (female) character that just melted my heart with both results. It’s partially because she’s tsundere though. =3

    • SolidusSnake

      lol it’s because he’s a super badass. Stocke is like the JRPG version of Solid Snake.

      • Exkaiser

        Great, now when I play, I’ll just be imaging Stocke mumbling things like “The White Chronicle!?” and “Historia..?” all game.

        Not like that’s a bad thing or anything.

        • La Li Lu Le Lo

          • The mission is a failure. Cut the power right now. Don’t worry. It’s just a game.

          • Exkaiser

            Why not? This is a type of role-playing game.

    • Umm, i dont think Stocke is tsunedere, he never tries to hide his feelings, he just says what is necessary to be said, and do what he has to do.

      Pretty badass, as err.. SolidusSnake said xD, he is pretty close to snake, let’s say Stocke is what you call a “Professional”

      • Are you serious? He loves his teammates, but doesn’t say anything about it. And everytime Kiel fandomizes him, he just turns the other way and blushes.

        • Because is not necessary :). He always says he trust them though, even with his life

  • Letiumtide

    You can also just skip scenes by pressing start.

  • Well guess I will avoid this game; it seems utterly confusing and I would need a guide (reminds me of the traveling back and forth in Disgaea Infinite, I could never get more than 3 of the endings :( )

    [stupid troll comment edited by mod]

    • Volcynika

      Where did you read “tragically flawed”? I read it would greatly benefit from it. That’s a weird way to twist a comment.

      Or maybe you have issues reading. And I doubt you’d need a guide. Just go to all the nodes and explore all your options.

      • Well I must have misread…

        • alundra311

          Wow. The “master of the American language” misreading. Shocking.

    • Zero_Destiny

      You’re just saying that because you missed your chance to Day-1 baby this aren’t you? lol

      • He says that because he plays all games (or just rpgs) with a guide -.-‘, im really doubting his “day 1”, i mean, he would always need to wait for the guide to appear on internet…

        • I didnt use a guide for Persona 3 Portable nor Persona 1 Portable (well I had to ask someone on finding that mirror but that was it thus far). I was not using one for Hyperdimension Neptunia, Sakura Wars So Long My Love, Disgaea 1, Disgaea 3, Disgaea 2 Dark Hero Days I did buy a guide (those enemy layouts on the penultimate chapter were just aggravating), nor a guide for Suikoden Tierkries(sp, which reminds me I need to play it again), nor Super Robot Wars OG Saga Endless Frontier…ultimately, if the game seems to be that it can split off into multiple paths or have tons of sidequests then I search out a guide for it. Ive played Golden Sun games without a guide and then with a guide the second time to get all the Djinn, and Eternal Sonate without a guide to 40 hours in then I restarted using a guide…

          • Most of the side-quests in this game are simple to find if you do the standard “speak to every NPC” thing that most RPGs have.

          • You used for FF14, that’s all im gonna say.

            And… The day you need a guide for Disgaea game (to beat the game normally, i dont think you would go to do all the extra and hardcore stuff Disgaea has to offer) will be the day when Catherine becomes a game targeted for female audience.

            And persona 3, Sakura wars didnt really needed a guide either… Suikoden either, can’t say about the others because i havent played them, but those games are pretty lienar.

            Anyhow, this game is not complicated at all, and the main character always point the obvious in case you didnt got a part of the game. Everything is always indicated in the time line…

          • I used a guide for FF 13 because the guide looked glorious, same for Assassin’s Creed 2 and Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2, lol (probably same for Dragon Age 2). I have done the extra stuff in Disgaea, all I have left to do in Disgaea 3 is actually to keep grinding so I can defeat the final boss, then repeat it in that Land of Carnage is it…

    • SolidusSnake

      Oh wow, someone actually liked this comment? For shame.

      • I cant believe I was modded, its as embarrassing as when it happens on gamespot/gamefaqs boards. Verily, its shocking.

        • SolidusSnake

          Hmm nothing personal but you pissed off quite a few people by bashing this game when the first screens came out last year so I’m not terribly surprised.

          Maybe you should play the game before you write it off? It’s not confusing at all, since the game keeps track of every major story point for you (all but ruling out any need for a guide) and there are only two timelines anyway, so even if you’re scatterbrained you’re unlikely to become confused.

          • Well it may have been an extremely tough bullet for people to bite back then, but in the end my statement did verify.

            “Really retro art design leads me to think that it wont have any bit of voice acting, just tons of text, making it a game that most likely wont be fun and therefore of bad quality.”


          • SolidusSnake

            Nope, your statement was 100% faulty, since the game is extremely fun and high quality. I’m very sorry for you if you’re unable to appreciate its good qualities.

          • That quote is just offensive to people that have been playing RPGs for most of their lives. I feel bad for you if you can’t enjoy a game that doesn’t have voice acting in it.

          • It’s not that the game suffers because there’s no voice-acting, but the dialogue is so good that voice-acting would have enhanced the already great experience. You’re just twisting Ishaan’s comment horribly to justify things for yourself.

          • @Tommy Lee Dude, lol, what? Im not twisting anything. Where did you read that for clearly Mr. Ishaan’s statement testifies, that the game the game suffers because it does not have voice acting. Its clearly not benefiting by not having voice acting.

          • … Something that would benefit from having something does not equal it suffering from not having it. If you can’t understand that, then there’s nothing more to say.

          • what if the voice acting was really bad? Like in Suikoden Tierkreis? Wouldn’t that ruin the game?

    • Saraneth

      I’m playing the game right now. It’s very good and actually isn’t confusing at all since the game itself keeps track of everything in the White Chronicle. You should play it. It’s very good. The story is very interesting.

      • Maybe I will consider getting it, Im just a bit scared since it has no voice and really retro art design. As I keep reading peoples comments on the games, maybe I will think about investing.

        Oddly only one person has mentioned anything about the actual gameplay, so I assume it vastly pales in comparison to the storyline and the time traveling mechanics (battle animations, battles, well, are there even battles).

        • SolidusSnake

          Nah, the battle system is actually good and quite an original take on turn-based combat. Basically, you get bonuses by hitting the same enemy repeatedly. You get extra experience and gold for combos, and you can add to the chain by switching up between physical and magical attacks, juggling enemies in the air, using traps, etc. You can knock enemies into another enemy to hit two at once, you can set up traps to knock enemies into, etc. Also you can switch places with your character or even enemies for the purpose of setting up combos as well.

          That sounds like a lot but it’s set up so intuitively and cleverly that you can easily jump into the game and start beating the crap out of enemies in no time. It’s a really clever battle system.

  • Fonic

    Not too far in it but I’m loving it so far. Wish more games today were like this. Too bad it will probably sell poorly.

  • You don’t have to complete the White Chronicle for the true ending. Only certain key side-quests are required to so. Then again, every event is interesting anyways, so might as well fill everything out. =)

    • Ahh, you don’t? I recall Atlus telling us you did…

      • I recalled that too, so I filled it up as much as I could. I hit 222/236 and then I gave up after trying to figure out what I was missing. It turns out 13 of those nodes were ending nodes. (10 of them were based on the key side-quests.) The last one was a variant version of a scene that I pressed start to skip over and over again(4 times) until I realized I should have actually watched the scenes in that node to see if there in fact was a variant scene. (I was expecting an additional scene instead of a variant.)

        • Post edited! Thanks for pointing that out. :)

    • SolidusSnake

      Damn did you already beat it bro? I’m only about 15 hours in… GREAT game so far I’m really blown away by the great writing and the clever time travel system, even the battle system is a fun and unique take on turn based combat.

      • I was so drawn into the game that I used most of my spare time to play it, stayed up on the weekdays as much as possible, and pulled an all-nighter during the weekend, just to see how the story would conclude. It’s a (bad) habit of mine when I find that a story in any medium is just that good. In the end, I spent 50 hours on it.

        Battle system was fun indeed. The turn changing system allowed for an excellent risk vs. reward system, and since I like taking risks, I was rewarded greatly for doing a 10 turn chain over and over again. Sure, it drew out battles a lot longer than they should have, made me burn through items and I turned out slightly over-leveled because of that, but the net gold gain for doing the best combos was satisfying to execute them as much as possible.

        • DanteJones

          Gotta agree with Tommy, games or books even that have an awesome story are impossibly hard to put down. Its usually the only thing on my mind when I’m at work or doing something where I’m not able to play/read, haha.

    • Gonna say this in the most spoiler-less possible way, still be aware for those who have not played the game!

      You already beated it?! Well im taking my time on it, im in the part, in the “Big red guy” storyline, where they get tricked and something “meanie” happens when you reach a node, and you find a letter where Stocke can see that everything was a trap.
      I imagine im supposed to go back from when they start protecting the Sand Fortress and at some point again Stocke will give the card to the Big guy right?

      • Nope. Just go to the beginning of the chapter.

        • The problem is that the node before that one, you never meet the red big guy… he was already in that mission, the last time you see him is after you win the sand fortress part. D: freaking backtracking

          • SolidusSnake

            You have to give the letter to Viola at the beginning of the mission and she’ll mobilize the Thaumatech troops to protect Big Red.

          • Good, you made me savea lot of time xD, and man, this game just keeps getting better and better now O_O, i still feel there is a lot to do, and i love when i feel that

      • SolidusSnake

        That part was pretty depressing D:

        • That part is what really motivated me to finish the game. Defeating *spoilercensor* felt really good when the time finally came to do so.

  • Zero_Destiny

    I SO want this game but I’m too poor right now. It’s torture to walk into Gamestop and look at it and it’s pretty boxart (in that bigger-ish cardboard box that I LOVE Oh so much). :( But must be careful with spending there’s still some really cool game coming out. If only I had a white Chronicle. Then I could back in time and tell myself to save some more money up. Also all the reviews I’ve seen so far are really good for the game. I’m atcually impressed. Places that usually give RPG’s a hard-time seem to really like it. :D

    • DanteJones

      Not to torture you more (sorry if this does :< ) but the game is REALLY good, one of the better RPGs I've played on any of the consoles. Like, if you have some games to trade in, or maybe a kidney/liver (you don't need those right? right.) to pay for it you totally should! :D

      • Zero_Destiny

        lol I already gave away those organs for other games. >_< I'm not too worried since I think I'm the only personal in my whole region who likes these games. My Bestbuy still has like 5 or 6 of these guys all on the self. No one touched them. I don't know if I should be happy or sad about that. I'll get it in like a week or two. Whenever I get paid. $35-$40 is TOO much. (At least I keep telling myself that lol) I'll probably get it when I buy Pokémon White.
        @Ishaan or another staff member thanks for deleting my double post. DISQUS was acting up. Thankfully the quick browser update I was ignoring for like an hour seemed to fix it.

        • DanteJones

          Ah yeah, I hear yah, I’ve got a juice box as my replacement bladder myself. :< And nice! I didn't know Bestbuy carried games like these, haha. Worst case scenario you can probably find one somewhere online too.

          • Croix

            In my case Best Buy doesn’t carry games like these. At least, none in my area have ever really had any games that aren’t guitar hero or other party games. Why it’s only party games, I have no idea.

        • It wasn’t your fault! Disqus was just acting up like it tends to, every now and then. No problem. :)

  • Dooooo waaaaannnntttttt >_____<

  • DanteJones

    Definitely gotta recommend this game to anyone on here that likes RPGs even in the slightest. I can’t say its the “BEST RPG EVAR” but its pretty high up there. Also, don’t let the fact that its on the DS fool you. It feels like a full-blown RPG complete with a solid story and battle system.

    I think if I absolutely had to choose one thing to complain about it would be that the battles felt a little too simple to beat sometimes. Honestly though, these thoughts started cropping up when I was close to the end of the game, so it wasn’t bad at all really just y’know, if I had to choose.

    The short of it is as thus: BUY IT NOW DO IT DO IT DO IT.
    I get the feeling its gonna be one of those games that’ll happen to sell out everywhere once the majority of people find out just how awesome it is.

    • I think it’s a certain skill that draws everyone to the center of field that breaks the game’s difficulty, especially since the character with said skill can also use a 9-hit move that affects only the center. Battles without the character were tougher, but not too tough though. Then again, I replaced with him the princess and watching her getting hit by the Thaumatech enemies was really painful. Another thought is after the Master, everything else seemed easy compared to him.

  • Zero_Destiny

    Also does anyone know who the artist was for this game? I love the chara designs. :)

  • Wackoramaco87

    I find myself really, really enjoying this game and (not to rub it in for those who haven’t had a chance to play it yet!) so very happy I got it early! =D It’s one of those lovely games where I find myself going back to constantly, despite it being midterms and the like. I really like how one has so many choices to re-do things!

    Question for those who are playing and/or have finished- for the side quests, is there a limit on when one has to finish them by (I’m on chapter 2 for one time line, and 3 for the other) or can you just go back later and do them?

    • There’s no limit, but besides the skill items, most of the rewards you get are only good for the earliest point you can clear the quests, and maybe a little bit after that.

      • Wackoramaco87

        Ah, gotcha. Thanks so much!

  • For my. This game was one of the best rpg for Nintendo Ds.

  • For some reason… I want Radiant Historia 2. But with another characters?… well if Stocke is there will be awesome.

    PS: Stocke is a Badass.

  • alundra311

    And here I thought Siliconera forgot about Radiant Historia. :)

    Just got this game yesterday and played it last night. This game is amazing. The story, the characters, and the battle system is so good. But even though I find the game amazing, I do have some very minor complaints (actually, it’s just me being nitpicky).

    First, the 3D graphics aren’t very good, but then again, this is for the DS so this can be forgiven. But I wish they could have just gone all 2D which would make the graphics a win for me. Second, the sound effects aren’t very good either. Lastly, I find the music unmemorable. Maybe if I play more it will grow on me. The first two complaints are probably just limitations on the hardware (especially the graphics) so it can be forgiven.

    Even with these very minor complaints. I still find this game one of the best for the DS. Thank you, Atlus.

  • this looks sw33t, ah yeah!!!!!!!

  • Xien12

    Um, is it just me or is the fact that doing one thing on another time plane affects the other time plane in a different way not how time travel works? I understand going back and forth through the current timeline, but going going back and forth between two of them where actions in one timeline affects the other? It’s strange.

    • This is just a hypothesis, but Stocke probably has a proxy doing things for him in each timeline, i.e. someone is going to be assigned the Specint mission, regardless of whether or not Stocke decides to stay with them.

  • Vino (Tim N)

    I really got to put down Rune Factory 3 and start playing these gosh darn games. I have like a hundred games on backlog now, and I really want to play this. But after Ghost Trick, and maybe before Dragon Quest: VI…

  • Jirin

    I really like this game so far, but here’s my only issue with it.

    I feel they could have been more internally consistent with their time travel mechanics. I would have liked if they made the two timelines interrelate so you’d learn what happened in one timeline, then you’d have the intel to prevent it in the other. But instead, first they say that whenever Stocke goes back history resets for everyone but Stocke, but then they say saving somebody in one timeline saves them in the other. You don’t really have to figure anything out — you just mess around in one timeline and it lets you proceed at the other, as if the only reason they put it in is to force you to keep going back and forth between the two.

    Other than that, really fantastic game. Might be the first handheld RPG I play all the way to the end.

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos