The Never Ending Realm
Radiata Stories Review by Samuel Rivera
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Radiata Stories is alongside Dragon Quest VIII Square/Enix newest poster boy. RS was developed by Tri-Ace a team which I personally believe is the best that Square/Enix has at it’s disposal. Yeah Tri-Ace is the studio responsible for the great Star Ocean 3 which might be the best damn Japanese RPG in this generation. Tri-Ace has an excellent track record in what RPGs is concerned, so it was no secret that I had great expectations of RS, unfortunately it seems to me that Radiata Stories was more of an experiment for Tri-Ace; an experiment that might pay off in a possible sequel rather than an ambitious attempt to make a great RPG.

Which is okay, since they gave us the great Star Ocean 3 not too long ago, and even though RS missed the mark, when Tri-Ace misses the mark with an RPG, you can bet your house that the game will still be very good. Which is exactly what RS is a very good RPG, that doesn’t break any new ground.

To start graphically RS is a pleasing game to the eyes, I still think SO3 looks better, especially because that game had rotating environments that were huge, while Radiata has a fixed camera angles and linear environments. However that being said, the extra time with the engine has allowed the team to make some truly stunning almost cel-shaded looking vistas, and it has also allowed for better character animation.

The world in Radiata isn’t as realistic looking as that in SO3 or even in Suikoden 4, but this was done on purpose to give the game more of an anime look. The environments look a lot like those in Kingdom Hearts actually. Graphically the game is as good as it can be on the aging PS2, the game really is aesthetically pleasing even if the promise of a “fully interactive world” was never fulfilled, while there is a large amount of items scattered throughout the world that you can kick , you can’t unfortunately play the camera or walk away to explore the environments, RS follows the FFX blue print of linear environments to perfection.

Musically the game won’t win any awards for greatest soundtrack ever, but the composer Noriyuki Iwadare ( Grandia Series) shows why he is one of the most respected composers in the field, by producing a soundtrack that perfectly fits the mood of the game’s world and story. In other words you won’t be humming most of the tunes in the game any time soon, though through two play troughs they never became bothersome or repetitive to me, in fact in most scenes the soundtrack adds to the drama.

The Voice acting is equally impressive, I loved all the voices during the in game cut-scenes, however the same cannot be said for the voices during the battles which got annoying after awhile, the sound effects are standard stuff though. I must again reinforce that the voice acting actually helped the clichéd plot to rise above the rest of ultra clichéd plots of the RPG world.

As far as Story goes again Radiata won’t win any awards because it is clichéd beyond belief, yet the cast of characters truly saved the game. I can’t never stress enough how an important and interesting cast of characters can really save a mediocre plot (are you LISTENING Sony for next Legend of Dragoon if there is a next one). I hate to say that RS has a mediocre plot because I enjoyed it, but the fact of the matter is that it was tremendously predictable and if it wasn’t for the witty dialog and the charming characters the game story would have stank.

Jack Russell the Main character is a true jerk and jackass at the beginning of the game (in fact throughout most of the game really) but after seeing the credits roll you feel like he has changed as a human being, he makes for some funny moment especially when paired with the clumsy and slow Captain Ganz, and the love interest Miss perfect Lady Ridley. The three of them make for some laughing out loud moments especially Ganz. Unfortunately the game doesn’t keep the amazing trio together for long, which was a disappointment, I think Ganz was under used specially in one of the two story branches.

Ah yes the two branches, the game is as linear as it gets, until you are given the chance about 15-20 hours in to chose between two paths to follow, after that the game takes again the linear path for the remaining 10-15 hours until the credits roll, after that you will really want to play again because the story dramatically changes depending on which path you take, characters that die in one story live in the other or die in different ways for example. It’s truly a testament to Tri-Ace’s talent for character development that you get so involved in the drama that the characters are playing amongst themselves. I despised Cross, and loved Ridley, Jack and Ganz.

The story itself is a war story and you get the opportunity to see it from both sides of the conflict (if you play the game twice with the different branch) and it ‘s interesting even if it doesn’t ever reach the level of emotional impact that Suikoden 3 had. While you can get 175 characters to join your party (This can only be done by playing twice) it doesn’t really affect the story as side characters rarely have a part to play in the main plot. If Ganz would have been a playable character I really believe the story would have earned a few more notches.

Gameplay wise is where Tri-Ace really experimented, first of all unlike most RPGs the game runs in a clock, meaning that like in Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time, day turns into night and so forth. Like Majora each of the citizens of Radiata has a schedule that they performed every day with out deviation so after a while you will now where most recruit able characters are at certain times in the day. That is the experiment the recruitment of 175 party members, some willingly join you and others you have to earned their trust by either beating then at a fight (and yes you can pick a fight with every single citizen in Radiata Human or not.) or you can earn them by completing their requests. Some characters like Gil are worth the trouble of leveling up just to be strong enough to beat them, because they make the bosses fights a lot easier.

This character mechanic feels a bit unpolished (and unrewarding) when compared to Suikoden 3 and 4, but it was a great attempt by Tri-Ace and it will undoubtedly produce a sequel of sorts in the next gen systems.

The battle system is a carbon copy of Star Ocean 3’s a real time action system with preset attack commands to the attack button you can unleash all types of combos depending on your weapon of choice. You can block and dodge, success really depends on how high your level is. But the game is fairly easy, I finished it the first time in 30 hours and my second time around the same time.

The battle system while similar to SO3’s is not nearly as deep or as good looking the game attempts some depth with attack links and what not, but I found it more useful to just go and bash the bosses by pressing the attack button and dodging here and there. So the battle system while responsive is not on the depth level of the premier RPGs of the generation. The fighting also becomes boring sometime during your second play through. However it is nice that after the crazy hard SO3 Tri-Ace was much more lenient with gamers on RS.

The game rewards exploration (namely kicking stuff on the environment) by handing items some useful and some not, also if you prefer to stay at Radiata in the one story branch you can take on missions to make money and move the plot along.

The game however is short and fun to pick up and play , RS is a funny entertaining adventure, that could have been better had it spent more time in development. I truly expect Tri-Ace to build on this concept in a next gen game, as of now however RS stands as a very good RPG, but not the killer epic that some Magazines out there might lead you to believe. It’s still another notch on Tri-Ace’s belt and the best RPG from Square/Enix since SO3.

Gameplay: 7.0-Linear, but offers a bit of freedom when it comes to recruiting party members, the fighting is a bit bare bones, but the low difficulty makes it bearable.

Graphics: 9.0-Great Character design, awesome looking environments, sadly the camera cannot be controlled by the player .

Music: 8.5-Very good job by Iwadare who has slowly earned his cred as master composer, the voice acting was also top notch.

Story: 8.5-Cliched, but the amazing characters pull the story out, the dialog is hilarious. It’s almost a must play just to witness Jack and Ganz’s mis-adventures.

Addictiveness: 8.0- Very addictive the first time through and the second time if you follow a different story branch. However I see few people sticking long enough to get all 175 characters.

Overall: 8.5- A very good effort by Square/Enix most reliable team of developers, a must buy if you are an RPG fan, and even newbies will find much to like. The funny cut scenes and over all solid gameplay make it one of the best RPGs available on the PS2 today.

2003-2005 RicanSaiyan. All works here are copyrighted by their authors.