PS2 REVIEW: RADIATA STORIES
Please note there is a second Radiata Stories review located below this one.

Radiata Stories is an entry-level RPG that might even manage to impress some mid-level enthusiasts. It does have a little of its own personality but it's completely built on the foundation of past classics.

It's not hard to detect Radiata's influences. You'll see elements of games such as Kingdom Hearts, Majora's Mask and Star Ocean to name a few. The characters are likeable if not so much memorable such as Jack the dimwitted star of the game. He's so much the anti-hero that you can't help but like him. In my opinion the game is absolutely saved by its sense of humor. It's not original in any way but like your favorite sit com it follows a predictably comfortable premise and pattern.

Choose your side, either the humans or the elves. In any case you can replay the game from the other perspective. This will give you about 50 hours of gameplay time. The unfortunate thing about this game is that you can't play as any other character other than Jack. You have a party consisting of three other characters but you can't switch between them. Through strategic maneuvers and the ability to issue commands you can control them by proxy. They instinctively know what to do and don't get in your way as they do in some RTS games. These guys are so good that it almost makes it too easy to tackle enemies which is why this game is great for novices.

Jack is very easy to control. He hacks, slashes and blocks. You can modify some of the moves and earn a few more including some special attacks. You're not bogged down by a series of button commands or an arm's length of inventory items. The combat and subsequent gameplay has been simplified to good effect.

Mechanically the game is solid. It has a nice presentation with lengthy cutscenes which are well acted and animated. The story is disappointingly clichéd but the presentation makes the journey more interesting than the destination. The music accompanies the situations perfectly with all forms of musical dynamics including foreshadowing that hints at things to come.

When all is said and done, Radiata Stories will be relegated into the void of forgettable games. It's like a Little Debbie Cake that you enjoy throwing down your pie hole for the time being, but it never gets a second thought afterward, nor is it even considered when you recall some of the best meals you've ever had. At least you won't be in any danger of puking it all back up.

Review By Fenix
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
4.5
VALUE
3.5

And now for something completely different... If you've been around the block and recognize that intro from Monty Python's Flying Circus, you might just appreciate the off-the-wall nature of TriAce's Radiata Stories. Unlike previous RPG offerings from Square / Enix which are usually more epic in nature, RS is a breath of fresh air filled to the brim with colorful characters and corny situations. In fact, you could think of Radiata Stories as the sitcom of role playing games. It's not quite as deep, but it's entertaining in small doses.

Starring as Jack Russell, a teenage boy who simply assumes that due to his father's heroic nature that he'll follow in the same footsteps, players will have their work cut out for them to transform this zero into a hero. Unfortunately, tried and true heroism seems to skip a generation. However Jack pays no nevermind as constant setbacks and defeat will not deter him one iota. Maybe the kid's a hero after all.

Starting out in the Rose Cochon Brigade, Jack, Ganz (a big dude) and Ridley (smart ass girl) take on various heroic tasks but their idea of swashbuckling devil-may-care action turns serious when Ridley is attacked by a couple of bad ass orcs and almost dies. An elf saves her life which ends his own and thus starts the ball rolling for Radiata Stories as the elf's bro isn't pleased at the altruistic actions that took his siblings life. Eventually the humans are drawn into a war with the elf people which are comprised of elfs, orcs, dwarves and goblins and RS branches off into two directions and you'll have to make some choices.

Contrasting greatly with Square/Enix's own collection of epic RPG's, Radiata Stories takes the road less traveled and breaks tradition by keeping the dialogue light and entertaining and the gameplay extremely accessible to all players. It's not Final Fantasy For Dummies by any stretch but there will be a line drawn in the sand between the two camps of players who enjoy this RPG-Lite approach to the overly dramatic offerings and vice versa.

Where RS excels is in the wonderfully entertaining NPC's that Jack encounters. You'll spend the majority of the time following these people around, trying to discover what makes them tick. If they've got that special something you can even ask them to join your party. The only drawback is related to the amount of time you'll have to spend with each NPC before you can ask them to join. A full day/night cycle will have to pass before you're given the opportunity to have them join your little gang. It's not too punishing if you're into that sort of thing, but after the first dozen or so, I found it hard to get enthused about repeating the process. With over 150 characters to interact with, you'll need to have the patience and curiousity of a New York Times reporter coursing through your veins to continually muster the energy to follow a new recruit.

RS wouldn't be an RPG if it didn't force your hand into all sorts of side quests that will lead you into many forms of danger on your hunt for items you probably don't care about - which will net you items from townsfolk that you do happen to want. For once, I'd like to see an RPG where some poor bastard in a town said "I'll give you the key to the gate if you slay the dragon in the Moorbog Cave and bring me his pewter heart" and your character said "If I've got the power to slay the dragon in Moorbog Cave, certainly I could just grab you around the neck and take the key myself, thus saving me and the dragon a lot of useless busy work." Some day someone will make this game and I will play it and fall in love.

Anyone having spent time with Star Ocean: Till The End of Time will recognize the improved battle system. Battles take place outside of town (duh!) and can be avoided at certain times since you can see the enemies roaming the countryside. If they charge and hit you though, that'll get the party started. Once in battle mode, you can target lock your enemies, strafing and dishing out various attacks and combos dependent on what weapons you have at the moment. Magic does not play a part in RS, so you will have to settle for collecting volty points which will allow you to do special attacks if you have enough of them. You might as well call it "magic" but it's not really...but it's kinda close...but yet not... Various formations can be achieved with your party which will help dish out more damage depending on what you have chosen. Your party members work independently from you unless they are in formation, although you can bring up a menu which will tell them to defend, attack, recover, or provide support. The formations can be assigned to the D-Pad for easy access and since you're more powerful in this mode it becomes fully necessary to rely on it during heartier battles. The only sore spot that I had during battles was the somewhat A.D.D. locking reticule that would bounce around. Since most enemies aren't that tough and can be exploited easily, it wasn't a big issue. Boss battles on the other hand are a nightmare unless you come prepared with strong characters and can heal, heal, heal.

The visual style of RS is as appealing and varied as the plethora of characters you'll find within. The exaggerated anime art direction will draw in that particular demographic and the glib dialogue will also appeal to this consumer target. The environments are extremely detailed and fun to explore, while brimming with little eye-catching touches such as blowing trees, roaming animals, falling leaves et al that simply help to bring this colorful world to life.

The music and voice-acting is top notch and I found myself really loving some of the more upbeat musical stylings that played in certain areas. Some of the more serious musical arrangements seemed a little out of place considering the light-hearted foundation the game was based upon (until the end that is) but I doubt anyone would accuse them of being totally out of place. Since there is a lot of recorded dialogue in RS, you'd expect a few real clunkers to ruin the experience, but I spent a lot of time talking to a lot of people and found that the acting was high quality throughout the entire game. Impressive.

Radiata Stories is a charming game that provides a 20 hour + adventure the first time through and due to the branching paths, provides gamers with enough incentive to play again to see what other choices would have resulted in. I would highly recommend this to anyone who played last years Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and enjoyed it, while I would be hesitant to encourage Final Fantasy purists to rush out and buy it. The games biggest selling feature is the various characters you can interact with. Like any good story it's not always about the adventure, but how entertaining the narrator is. RS will captivate you in ways that have nothing to do with playing a game and that's the magic behind it.

Preview By Vaughn

The Japanese version of Radiata Stories hits stores today. We haven't received word on a North American version but we can almost guarantee you'll be playing it in English before 2005 takes its final bow.

TriAce, previously known for Valkyrie and Star Ocean has been hard at work reinventing the RPG wheel. With the current love of real time combat RPGs, Radiata Stories continues this somewhat new tradition and allows an innovative new way of controlling your AI teammates via the "Link System" which allows your party to assemble into various formations. The formation you choose will determine exactly how much punishment you dish out, in real time, with the press of the X button.

The main character is a 16 year old boy named Jack Russell, a fencer whose father was a hero defeated the raging dragons.Jack will travel with a female friend named Ridley Timberlake, who is a knight. The story takes place in a world in which human race and monster clans once lived peacefully together, until one day the monster clans suddenly starting to attack human.

In the Kingdom of Radiata, where the game's story will take place, four guilds have been established: The warrior, the monk, the wizard and the thief guild. At those guilds, players can listen to people offering them to do missions for a reward. Depending on the risk of a certain mission, players will receive a higher or lower reward.

The child-like visual style might not appeal to Fable connoisseurs, but we think Square Enix fans will dig it. We hope to score an import review soon. Stay tuned.

System: PS2
Dev: TriAce
Pub: Square Enix
Release: TBA 2005
Players: 1
Review By Shelby
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
4.5
VALUE
3.0