I apologize to my non-existent readers for the lack of posts (broken water heater, Christmas stuff, fantasy basketball drafts, and laziness). Anyway, let’s carry on with subjective opinions and nonsense! *clap*
Today, I’m going to be talking about what was my “favorite” game of 2011. Don’t get me wrong; Skyrim, Skyward Sword, Uncharted, etc. are probably better games, but the game I am about to talk about deserves some love too. I understand that not many people have played this game, or probably even heard of it, but damnit, I’m going to write about it anyway!
Most people just said “lol wut,” while a very small number of awesome people just said “yessss.” That’s right, screw all your fancy lookin’ shooters and western RPGs, my favorite game released in 2011 is Atlus’ Radiant Historia for the Nintendo DS.
As I have discussed in previous posts, the video game market we are in this generation has forced a lot of JRPG developers to switch to handheld systems. While this may be alarming for some, Radiant Historia may help relieve some of your fears. Radiant Historia shows just how great JRPGs on handheld platforms can be.
Radiant Historia has everything that its console counterparts have, and in some cases, it offers even more. Great gameplay, music, graphics, story, and length; the restriction normally placed upon handheld games absolutely do not apply to Radiant Historia. Once again, Atlus has proven that it is the true king of the JRPG genre.
Instead of treating this like a review, I’m just going to point out a couple of things that make Radiant Historia stand out as my favorite game of 2011. Perhaps the best thing about Radiant Historia is its battle system. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but Radiant Historia MAY have one of the best battle systems of all time. It’s a bit hard to describe without seeing it with your own eyes, but think of the battle system as blend of traditional turn-based combat with some additional real time strategy aspects thrown in. Enemies are placed on a 3×3 grid. You can use your characters’ skills to push and pull enemies across this grid. If you can get multiple enemies on one block, you can attack that block to deal damage against all of the enemies standing in it. Also, one of your characters can lay down traps, while the others can try to force them into it. It sounds kind of complicated at first, and my shoddy description isn’t really doing it justice, but the strategical aspects this game offers is what makes it that much more fun.
Another strategical element Radiant Historia offers is the option to manipulate your characters’ turn order. You can allow your opponent to attack earlier so you can get more consecutive turns later. You deal more damage when you have a higher combo, so stockpiling turns is usually a good way to dish out a ton of damage against bosses. However, if you give your opponent too many turns, they will kill you. Radiant Historia also has a nice amount of difficulty to it. You need to know what you are doing; you can’t just spam your strongest attack and expect to win. However, the game still eases you into this system flawlessly. Take it from someone who normally blows at anything having to do with strategy and contemplation, the game will make sure you are comfortable with its battle system before it throws anything overwhelmingly difficult at you.
Radiant Historia’s also boasts an amazing storyline filled with a cast of endearing characters. You play as a man named Stocke, a young soldier working for a country named Alistel. Due to his skills as a soldier and the compassion he shows for his companions, Stocke is granted the power to travel back and forth in between different timelines. Stocke must use his time traveling abilities in order to find a way to end a long lasting war between Alistel and the nation of Granorg, while also ensuring the safety of his comrades and friends. The story has its fair share of twists and turns that will keep the player entertained and interested in what will happen next.
While the story itself is very good, what really makes it stand out is Stocke. Stocke has become one of my personal favorite lead characters in any RPG game. What makes Stocke such a good character is that he (for the most part) is fully developed at the beginning of the game. Most JRPG protagonist have to go through some sort of life-changing process that finally shows them what kind of person they should be. It’s refreshing to see a character who doesn’t start out as either a complete asshole (I’m lookin’ at you, Squall), or a complete wuss (I’m lookin’ at you, Tidus). Instead, Stocke always does what is best without bitching and moaning about how his actions may or may not negatively impact himself.
Stocke shows how good JRPG characters can be by finally going against typical JRPG tropes
So… When I first decided to do a post on Radiant Historia, I only expected it to be about 300-400 words long. Yeah… I was wrong. This just shows how much I loved this game. In my opinion, Radiant Historia is the best RPG to be released since Shin Megami Tensei: Person 4 (December of 2008). It has absolutely everything a JRPG fan could want, despite the fact that it is on a handheld system. Even if JRPGs continue to be forced onto handheld systems, I will have absolutely no gripes as long as they can match Radiant Historia’s quality.