Radiata Stories - Review  

Kicking the Competition
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

22-100 Hours


Rating definitions 

   Jack Russell, the son of the legendary knight that defeated a dragon, sets off on his own quest to become a knight. He meets numerous people along the way, most of which can join him on his quest. Radiata Stories mixes elements from other games along with a few new ones to create an excellent game. What really sets it apart from others is Jack's ability to recruit or challenge almost anyone to a battle. As with Majora's Mask, each character has a daily routine and personality that help them stand out in the crowd. Each character also has a set of special abilities to help out in battle.

   The battle system is similar to Star Ocean: Till the End of Time's. Battles take place in large areas where the player freely controls Jack. The other party members are controlled by the AI, which is actually pretty good. Once Jack begins to learn leadership abilities, he can give specific orders or use special leadership abilities such as emergency healing. It is also possible to form links which are essentially battle formations with various effects. Unfortunately, the AI for most of these links is subpar, so many of them are effectively useless except for their other purpose. Characters share special abilities in these links, and Jack can learn the abilities of his friends if enough battles are fought in formation. He can only equip one at a time, but they can be very helpful. Another nice thing about the battle system is that Jack's weapon type and combo setups are taken care of out of battle. This means that Jack's fighting style can be customized and these combinations can be executed without complex button presses.

The battle system at work. The battle system at work.

   Of course, there are also plenty of special abilities that range from a quick and powerful sword stroke to a mighty all-out attack. All abilities draw energy from a Volty gauge. This gauge is build up with each hit the allies land on their foes. Certain leadership commands and formation specials also consume this gauge, so carefully monitoring its usage is vital. While these systems may sound complicated, the game does a very good job of layering them on top of each other in order to avoid confusion. The result is an exciting battle system that is even better than that of most action RPGs.

   Thanks to the careful layering of battle tutorials, most battles are very easy. Despite Jack's ability to carry a good quantity of items, he probably won't need to use them except during boss fights, which are more difficult, but still shouldn't be much of a problem. Money for items and equipment is generally very limited as most enemies drop next to nothing, but there are a few that yield large quantities. This forces the player to make difficult decisions, but it doesn't really affect the difficulty very much.

   The only thing that really adds to a battle's difficulty is one of the game's few flaws: the targeting system. Unless locked on to an enemy, the targeting cursor will often randomly zoom across the screen and choose another enemy for Jack to attack, even if the enemy he is attacking is still alive. Locking on solves this, but it is still a problem after the enemy is defeated if it chooses an enemy on the other side of the screen. That said, the rest of the interface is very good. The controls are good, the shortcut menus are helpful, and the main menu is designed very well. The localization is also excellent and there aren't really any noticeable errors.

   Radiata Stories borrows elements from other games such as Suikoden, Majora's Mask, and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, but it still manages to be fairly original. It does this by combining the aforementioned games' systems in a unique way, building upon them, and telling some parts of the story in an interesting way.

   The story features numerous twists as Jack gains more allies and a greater reputation. There is even a large branch in the storyline that will determine the fate of Jack and some of his closer companions. Though the storyline is strong on its own, there are also numerous side stories created by the game's many characters. Almost everyone has a daily schedule of things they do, places they go, people they meet with, and a personality of their own. These come together very nicely and make sure that even the most minor of characters has an importance in the world. Needless to say, this is a very nice addition to the story.

Jack can get pretty much anyone to join his party. Jack can get pretty much anyone to join his party.

   Since it's possible to gather over one hundred allies in numerous interesting ways, the game can easily take one hundred hours to complete. It also has some replay value due to a branch in the storyline. It is possible to finish the game in about twenty-two hours, but the game's extras are a lot of fun and worth checking out.

   One of the weaker parts of the game is the music. The tracks are in no way bad, but there aren't very many tracks that really stand out . On the plus side, there is a lot of variety in the music. The sound effects, on the other hand, are good, but they suffer from lack of variety. Each character has only a few short voice clips in battle, and most become old very quickly.

   Unlike the music, the visuals are one of the best parts of the game. Faces and expressions were given a lot of effort and it really shows. This really helps the personalities of some characters stand out. The backgrounds are large, detailed, and colorful. Most areas of the game do have a very specific color scheme, but it is executed very carefully and looks good.

   Radiata Stories blends together a strong battle system with a good storyline. It also features decent music and excellent visuals. Unlike most games, the sidequests and optional events are very good and are often well worth the player's time. The game does have a few problems here and there, such as a lack of save points and the design of the final dungeon, but the majority of the game is excellent. All things considered, Radiata Stories is one of the best RPGs of the year.

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