Radiata Stories - Staff Review  

A Journey With a Jack Russell.
by Baron_Manfred

Easy to Medium
25-75 Hours


Rating definitions 

Enter Jack Russell. A kid with way too much confidence and a smart talking mouth. Prepare to control him through the good times, the bad times, the shenanigans, the rumbles in villages with small children, and the undoing of evil dudes. With Jack as the guide to the world of Radiata, all of the aforementioned activities become a total blast. If looking for something dark and brooding, this is not the place to be. On the other hand, if comedy and lightheartedness coupled with hundreds of fully interactive characters sounds like a good time, please do read on. Radiata Stories is one of the most entertaining games in recent memory, and although it has a few minor defects, the fact that it's simply fun will offset these problems and leave the player smiling when everything is all through.

The game's story is rather simplistic, relying more on character development than narrative to engage the player. Jack, the protagonist, is the son of a famous Radiata Knight. He attempts to join the knights to follow in his father's footsteps, and things pick up from there. Under the command of Ganz Rothschild, he adventures around a bit with the Rose Cochon brigade. After a few expeditions, things take a turn for the worst. With that as the plot premise in mind, it's safe to say at least this isn't the most cliched plot in the world. It has been done before, but overall it is considerably more original than the "troubled youth saves the world" that is often seen these days. It's just a shame that the plot doesn't keep getting more and more interesting as the game goes on, rather it peters out in the last few hours. Despite this, it still remains engaging and original enough to keep the player more than interested until the very end. Possibly enough to do it all over again in an attempt to collect all of the characters the second time around.

The world of Radiata is brought to life through the amazing visuals and fitting soundtrack. The visuals rival any that have been seen thus far on the PS2. In particular, the character models are all precisely detailed, with each character given their own specific model. It's refreshing to have everyone look very different from one another, with the generic townsperson effect long gone. The environments are beautifully detailed and give the player a real sense of being in a living, breathing world as opposed to the bland, wooden environments presented in many other games. The music is admittedly hit and miss, but it hits in all of the important spots. Battle music is upbeat enough to keep the player from getting bored, while one can't help but get pumped up while fighting a boss. In fact, the boss music is one of the most memorable in recent memory. It's some kind of jazz/battle crossover type tune that does a perfect job of creating an atmosphere that should get anyone excited. Also on the topic of sound effects, the voice acting for 95% of the characters is spot on. The voices do a marvelous job of drawing the player in and conveying real emotion throughout the story. This is refreshing, seeing as most voice acting attempts these days are botched and add pain, as opposed to enjoyment, to the play experience.

The battle system is executed in real time, after a "blurry" effect has taken place to transition away from the overworld. Players only need to worry about controlling Jack, while the rest of the characters either do as they please, or base their attacks on a set of tactics that Jack has ordered them to execute. The computer AI is surprisingly smart, coming through and performing very well in almost all situations. The only time they fail is when using the link system. It's a shame, as linking up in formation with other characters could have added some cool possibilities in battle. Fighting consists of mostly hacking and slashing, with the occasional volty attack thrown in. Players can either execute volty blows or volty blasts. Volty points are saved up by damaging enemies, and usually accumulate very quickly. They can also be used to execute commands that affect the entire team, such as casting a healing spell or giving the party some kind of positive status effect. Battles are not usually terribly difficult, however a few bosses throughout the course of the game can cause problems if the player isn't completely prepared. Also, if Jack dies the game is over. It's possible to sometimes be unpleasantly surprised if Jack takes an overpowering Volty Blast and all of a sudden an hour and a half of play time has been wasted.

Elven village ahoy! Elven village ahoy!

Other than the aforementioned problem with the boss monsters, one would expect a new RPGer to have little problem completing the game without too much trouble. This is especially true if the party is composed of some of the best characters. The game can be completed very easily in under 30 hours if no side quests or character recruits are pursued. However, should the player want to complete the collection, count on playing closer to 80 or so. Additionally, about halfway through the game the player is forced to choose between two different plotlines. This helps add to the already high replayability.

The interface to the game is easy to use and straightforward. One of the big pluses of Radiata Stories is how customizable the experience is. The player is left to choose supporting party members at almost all times. Equipping different pieces of armor or weapons results in a distinct appearance change both inside battle and out. The player can equip Jack with a short sword, a two handed broadsword, a spear, or an ax. Each weapon has its own set of attacks and special moves. It's entirely up to each individual to choose which track they want Jack to take with regards to weapons. The game has been wonderfully localized, complete with excellent voice actors. The script has been translated well, and it appears that many of the jokes and bits of humor were either edited for America or made it over successfully. Special care has been given by the creators to make each and every part of the game as polished as possible. NPCs all have their own specific schedule, following a routine each and every day. They have their own story, and almost anything that moves can be recruited by helping them out in some way. A forking plotline, a few extra sidequests, and recruiting all of the characters further the feeling that attention was given to make this game as special as possible.

Workin the pain train Laying down some pain.

Despite the things that make this game such a blast, there are a few shortcomings that prevent it from becoming an all time favorite. The second half of the plot, in particular, is disappointing. The game starts out so promising, so funny, and so much fun. Shortly after the split in plotlines, some of this vanishes. Humor isn't gone entirely, but it is certainly toned down, and that's a shame. Given the first half of the game, the second half really shouldn't take itself seriously. Of course there's room for seriousness, but it's overdone and kills the mood a bit. The only other minor gripe is that save points are usually very far apart. Sometimes over an hour has to be played before reaching the next available save point. Had these issues been addressed, and the pure fun that accompanied the first 3/4 of the game lasted until the very end, this could have very well been a contender for game of the year/generation.

Despite the plot falling apart at the end, Radiata Stories remains what an RPG really needs to be in the first place; fun. If there's a desire to play something that's nothing but fun, look no further. Neat characters, a highly customizable battle experience, a mostly entertaining plot, and an immaculate attention to detail on the part of the designers is what makes this game a treasure. Should someone be looking for a fun RPG experience that will endear itself immediately, Radiata Stories does a fantastic job and should not be missed.

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