What do you get when you cross parts of Final Fantasy IX, the Suikoden, Star Ocean and Legend of Zelda series, together with a splash of Disney? Something that probably should never have been released, some of you might think. Well I beg to differ. Let me explain.
|6 september 2005 (US)
The resemblance with FF IX comes from the game’s feel. You really are in this world and you accept everything for what it is. There’s also the fantasy/medieval touch and a character named Jasne – who brings the horrific queen Brahne to mind. You’ll know what I mean when you play the game… And there’s one other thing too, but I don’t want to bring spoilers into this review.
Radiata Stories borrows what partly made Suikoden so great. There are tons of people that can be recruited to fight alongside you. The Suikoden games have 108 stars of destiny; well here you have a whopping 177 characters that you can try getting to join your party. It’s not an easy task; you might have to help out with something first, accept a quest or what have you, be at the right place at the right time or just stay in that person’s face until he/she caves in. Great fun, but time consuming. Radiata Stories is a game that can take between 25 to, I’d say, well over 80 hours to complete, all depending on what the gamer prioritizes.
From the Star Ocean series (and this is not really a surprise since RS and SO share the same developer – tri-Ace) we have the real time battle system; simple and fun and with actions so far unique to Radiata Stories. Like the link system, where you can make your team stand in a certain formation by a simple push of a button. These link chains can make battles much easier if used wisely. You can also give your characters orders that apply to everyone (these work great) and individual orders through your main character Jack, which could need some adjustments. For example, I tried to get my healer Flora to aid Jack, but she kept healing someone else. Getting stuck handing out orders can become frustrating, especially in a boss fight. What I really like about Radiata Stories is the non-use of MP. Meaning you can order poor Flora to heal constantly without ever having to worry if she’s up to the task. But there is something called a volty gauge – and to be able to give certain commands (or execute special attacks), you need to have at least some points (3 when calling for healing). But don’t worry, when I played, the volty gauge was maxed out most of the time, and it will fill up with every blow you or your friends deliver. The only thing that bothered me about this game is the repetition of quite annoying shouts from your characters during battles. Jack says “alright” so often, it’s just not alright anymore…
So where is the similarity with The Legend of Zelda? Well, Radiata Stories include both night and day. A very nice touch and time doesn’t flow too fast either. People can be found at different places at different times, so try to get around Radiata Town as much as possible. The music changes during day and night and the score is done by no other than Noriyuki Iwadare (Grandia, Lunar and Langrisser). The music is a lot different from tri-Ace’s regular composer Motoi Sakuraba, but its cheeky tunes work well while playing. Sadly, the soundtrack does not have the required high quality in its melodies for it to be enjoyed from a CD. Motoi Sakuraba would have pulled it off though, I’m sure.
But what does Disney have to do with RPGs (except Kingdom Hearts)? Well, let me tell you this, that the graphics are stunning. Made with cel-shading, the graphics have a very unique watercolory look, and are at the same time quite cartoony. Truly awesome and when running around towns, dungeons, fields, mountains and particularly forests, you cannot help but fall in love with these visuals. So let’s just call it the Disney-touch, as if taken from the movie Pocahontas.
Now, the quality of this game needs to be stressed. First of all, don’t be intimidated by the vast amount of playable characters. They are all very well put together, both when it comes to their looks and personalities and this goes for the NPCs too of course. I was so surprised at myself when I discovered that the character I found most lovable, just one hour into the game, was the chubby knight Gantz. The voice acting throughout the game is splendid, and Gantz with his British accent – how can you not love him? Not to mention Jack – a perfect main character; naive of course – but energetic, funny, head-strong, willing and caring. Truly, even if this game had crappy music, no story and horrible graphics, the characters alone would suffice to make this experience worthwhile.
Speaking of story, the player will be facing a very cruel twist. Halfway into the game, you will be forced to make a decision, a decision that will change everything. What I did then was creating two different save slots for each of these two choices. I have yet to play the second option, but I am really looking forward to it, getting to see things from another perspective. Another fun surprise is the New Game+ function. Start the game all over again – but strong from the beginning.
When it comes to exploring the world, tri-Ace came up with just the thing for our rascal Jack – kicking things. That’s right – kick everything in sight because this is the way to find items. There are a few treasure chests here and there, but if you really want to loot a store for example, start kicking. You can even kick people – but watch out, you might start a fight. Another fun or annoying (take your pick) little detail is that you can’t enter all of the houses in Radiata, but at least you can knock. In fact, Jack is very well brought up compared to other RPG characters, he knocks on pretty much every door there is. The residential houses can’t be entered, even if someone’s home. This can be disappointing for some I suppose, but remember what I said before about how you accept this world for what it is. Radiata Town is not even close to the “towns” of Shining Tears – now that was a real, not to mention frustrating, disappointment.
In the more technical department, just as in Tales of Symphonia, the game has a fixed camera that follows your every move and gives you a good view of your surroundings. But of course there are always times when you wish you could control the camera as in Ocarina of Time, especially when you’re standing on a bridge and you can see miles ahead. Most of the time when Jack is on the move, the camera will view him from the side, making the game feel like 2D. Especially in dungeons – which reminds me of Valkyrie Profile. Yes, Radiata Stories sure is full of bits and pieces from other games, but has successfully converted them into its own. Although you can spend hours and hours in this amazing world filled with different creatures and people, I always seem to want more. Take your time when you are playing Radiata Stories. Feel it, live it, love it.