|Release: February 22, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Joshua Wirtanen
Do you remember that scene in Back to the Future 2 when Doc Brown draws the diagram on the chalkboard to demonstrate the way space-time can be altered? He explains that Marty McFly, by not being careful enough in the year 2015, has disrupted the space-time continuum, causing a branch in time and thereby making an alternate version of the year 1985. It was a bit confusing, but the chalk diagram was immensely helpful in helping us make sense of the whole thing.
The upcoming Radiant Historia for Nintendo DS is completely based on the idea of alternate timelines. In this steampunk RPG, important choices the protagonist Stocke makes will have a direct (and often cataclysmic) impact on the future. But if you are unhappy with the way things work out, you can always have Stocke travel back in time to see what would happen if he would have let things play out differently. Every time he revises a decision or action, another branch in the timeline is opened. In order to keep you from getting too overwhelmingly confused, all of these divergences are recorded in a book called the White Chronicle. This book also serves as a time-traveling device, allowing Stocke to revisit any alternate timeline he has already opened up.
But that's where it gets even more complicated. If you created an alternate future with a bad ending, you can use the White Chronicle to travel to a different branch on the timeline, learn a new skill, then return to the "bad" timeline and use that skill to change the outcome once again, usually opening up yet another branch in the space-time continuum.
And if having to deal with multiple timelines isn't enough to worry about, there is also a mysterious person using a second time-travel book, the Black Chronicle, to make an even bigger mess of history than the one Stocke is trying to clean up.
But there is good news. In order to help Stocke make sense of the White Chronicle, two guides named Teo and Lippti will occasionally show up to explain things. They also have some insight into the Black Chronicle, which will be incredibly useful as the game progresses.
And there will be additional warriors to help out, though Stocke will have to leave them behind when he makes his leaps through time. To make it less difficult to spend time away from these friends, they will still level up when not in Stocke's party.
Radiant Historia manipulates time in another way as well: it transports players to a bygone era of gaming by using 16-bit sprite-based visuals common to mid-1990s RPGs like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI (originally called Final Fantasy III in the States). And just like those beloved classics, the combat is turn-based. However, there is a twist on the traditional turn-based combat style: you can line up your characters in various ways to allow them to form powerful multi-character combos. In order to do this effectively, you have to mess with the turn order of your characters, often exchanging turns with your enemies. You will probably find yourself passing up turns so that your enemies strike first but are walloped with a massive combo later in the fight.
The storyline of Radiant Historia sounds quite intriguing. The land of Vainqueur is drying up as a desert slowly spreads across it (sort of like in the Dune book series). The rapidly vanishing farmland is turning up the heat on an already intense war between the kingdoms of Alistel and Granorg. Stocke works for the Special Intelligence branch of Alistel's military, but in his time-hopping he gets to see the conflict from the point-of-view of both nations. While we can't be sure exactly how this will play out, this basic plot structure has some huge potential for incredible storytelling. It sounds like we will probably come to sympathize with both sides of this war.
The icing on this already delicious piece of role-playing cake is the soundtrack composed by the legendary Yoko Shimomura. (In case you've never heard of her, she has written music for over thirty-five video games, including Street Fighter II, Kingdom Hearts, and Super Mario RPG.) With such an established body of phenomenal work, her work on Radiant Historia should bring an additional layer of emotional depth. In fact, as an added bonus, the first run of Radiant Historia will include a soundtrack CD with piano versions of some of the songs from the game.
With its unique time-travel element and new twist on the classic turn-based combat of RPGs from yesteryear, added to a soundtrack that promises to be absolutely top-notch, Radiant Historia is a game to look forward to with great anticipation. If only we could get our hands on a White Chronicle of our own that could transport us to February...
CCC Freelance Writer