Radiant Historia, as explained to us by Atlus USA, is one of their most ambitious Nintendo DS releases to date, and it's easy to see why. Developed internally by Atlus' main Japanese branch, Radiant Historia combines members of the Shin Megami Tensei team (including some who worked on the Persona titles) alongside certain members of tri-Ace in one interesting mash-up. Topping this off is the inclusion of Yoko Shimomura composing the game's soundtrack, who is most known for her work in Legend of Mana and the Kingdom Hearts series.
As expected from the game's title, Radiant Historia deals with the past, but with a unique twist: time travel. The game takes place in the nation of Alistel, where the protagonist Stocke, a member of the nation's intelligence agency, is sent out on a rescue mission to recover a fellow agent from behind enemy lines. Before Stock heads out, he is handed a magical book known as the White Chronicle, being told it will aid him in his mission.
Without spoiling what happens next, Stocke eventually learns just what that book can do. The White Chronicle keeps track of of the various choices you make throughout the game. Events where you'll be required to make a decision that affects how you proceed in the game, which can be traveled back in time to using the book's power. The book also keeps track of the dead-end and bad-end points in the game, and your levels, items, etc. will be carried over no matter where you jump in time to (the party members available will change, however).
Some might get a Chrono Trigger-vibe here and think you will be required to play through the game multiple times to experience everything. While there are two timelines present, each with their own unique feel that which branch off into several smaller paths, one can always jump back to an earlier period in time, so those who put enough time into the game can unlock everything if they wish. Radiant Historia has multiple endings with two "true" endings that can be obtained. The first is the regular ending, while the other is an extended ending that can be unlocked by completing every event in the game.
Unlike most Nintendo DS RPGs, Radiant Historia allows you to choose your battles. Enemies appear on the screen and can even be ambushed and attacked for an early strike. Once the player attacks or gets attacked by an enemy, the battle starts, wrapped around familiar turn-based action, but with a slight twist. Both the enemies and the player's part are set on their own 3x3 grids, and characters and enemies can both move around. The characters have a unique ability in the fact that they can alter the turn order, which can be seen on the handheld's top screen.
This ability, called "Change", can be used to have all of the party members attack one after another in succession, at the cost of taking increased damage till their next turn. This ties into the grid system, which can have enemies moved around by getting attacked by specific skills. Utilizing this ability becomes key in the game, as combing enemies on the same tile will deal damage to all of them at once. As for the party members, only three are allowed on the field at any given time, but up to seven party members can be found to create one's 3-man party from. Atlus also stated that occasionally enemy objects may be present on the field, blocking opportunities to group enemies together.
While we didn't get to see it much in action, there will be objects such as vines that can be slashed down with Stocke's sword to gain access to secret treasure and objects. The game doesn't feature quick saving, but there did appear to be an ample amount of save points, so those who play for shorter amounts of time shouldn't have any issues. The game also has full support for the touch screen and dialogue can be skipped in parts or entirely if one wishes.
It should also be noted that the game's presentation is exceptionally detailed and lavish. The game takes on a very steampunk-ish feel and the graphical presentation hearken back to games such as Xenogears. This, complete with Yoko Shimomura's score, brings a very unique feel usually only seen in console RPGs.
Radiant Historia is set to be released on February 22, 2011 in North America for $34.99. Those who pick up an initial copy of the game will get a exclusive piano selections soundtrack CD, featuring piano arrangements from Yoko Shimomura's exquisite score.