Radiant Historia, 1 of the best Nintendo DS RPGs made and a personal favorite of mine, was recently rereleased for the 3DS, updated with a lot of new content. And I bought it. Which is something I really never do, honestly, because I’m opposed to the idea of having to pay multiple times for the same game, and I am morally outraged by the scenario of a developer coming up to me 10+ years after I helped support them with my patronage and telling me, “PSYCH! You think you played our game? That was just an incomplete first draft; THIS is how it was made to be played! Fuckin’ rube!” You wanna rerelease your game, fine, but could you maybe not go and add a bunch of new story content to it and make me feel like a fucking fool for having paid full price for what was apparently an incomplete product?
That’s not to say, I guess, that I’ve never purchased remakes before, in the technical sense. I did so for Skies of Arcadia, Romancing Saga 1, and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, after all. But the difference there is that I had never played those games’ original versions, so for me, I was, indeed, getting a new game for the price of a new game. With Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, however, I decided, on something of a whim, to purchase the new release, even though I had already bought and played it before. I really did love RH the first time around, so I figured, what the hell, I’d play the role of the non-thinking consumer just this once, as a thank-you to Atlus for it and the SMT series in general.
And so I bought it, and I played it, and I finished it. I’d planned to do a DLC rant on it anyway, as I do for pretty much any RPG I play which has add-ons, so why not also talk about the new content added to the main game, too? These add-on rants are meant to be kind of a review/warning for prospective buyers, anyway, so in addition to determining whether you should consider buying the DLCs for Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, let’s also take a look at the remake’s new content as a whole, and figure out whether any of it’s worth it.
Spoiler Alert, here. I’m gonna speak about this game with the understanding that you already know the original release of Radiant Historia. I’ll try to keep spoilers for the new content to a minimum, but if you don’t know the game at all, this is not the rant to read for it--or at least, you should skip to the end, to determine whether you should play this port or the original.
New Content: First of all, I’ll credit Atlus with this: they ain’t SquareEnix. Although I would rather a developer not add/change anything when rereleasing a game, if they’re gonna do it, they should at least go all in. When SquareEnix, lazy pack of greedy asswipes as they are, rerelease a game, they basically just slap on a new optional dungeon, maybe a couple extra lines of dialogue to a super boss or two, and call it a day. I mean, Jesus, look at the Chrono Trigger DS rerelease. In SquareEnix’s eyes, 2 dungeons and some incredibly half hearted foreshadowing for a game that already came out over 10 years before is more than worth hitting your bank account for 40 HP. And let’s not even get into the debacle of CT’s recent release on Steam--if you somehow, after the past 25 years, still needed evidence that SquareEnix does not and never will give half a shit about its greatest creation, you sure as hell got it in February of this year.
Atlus, on the other hand? When Atlus decides to rerelease their time-travel classic, they add a bonus dungeon and a new super boss...and also voice acting, new character art, several pieces of art of important moments in the game, over 2 dozen new sidequest scenarios, a huge expansion of the known lore of the world, a new look at several of the preexisting villains as well as a perspective on a vital lore character never seen in the original game, a new hugely important character, and an entire new dimension to the plot that involves a post-game quest which leads to a new, final ending.
See, SquareEnix? This is what “effort” looks like. If you’re still confused, try consulting with your Silicon Studio team or your PlatinumGames group; apparently they’re the only people who have passed through your offices in the last 2 decades who have any familiarity with that term. And while you’re at it, maybe consult with them about the definition of “quality” and “dignity”, too.
So yeah. Atlus at least gave a shit about Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, and I can appreciate that. And I do have to say, a decent amount of Perfect Chronology’s new content is pretty good. Getting to see alternate worlds and explore snapshots of RH’s characters and events in the different scenarios than the main timeline allows for, histories with variations outside of Stocke’s control, is kind of neat at times. And I appreciate the fact that these little sidequests often require you to traverse back to the main timelines to complete them, because it helps keep your time spent with these possible histories connected to the main game--it would be all too easy to make these sidequests feel alien and divorced from the main narrative, given their nature as new content, so having you do the usual back-and-forth hopping through history for them, like you do normally in the game’s main story, is good for keeping them grounded.
I also think it’s very cool that the rerelease finally allows you to see and engage with the Prophet Noah in these possible histories. Noah’s lack of appearance in the original game wasn’t a flaw or anything, mind you (it’s a pretty vitally important plot point, in fact), but it’s nonetheless very cool to have the opportunity to actually see and hear this individual whose influence is so hugely important to the game’s lore. And while we’re talking about new characters being introduced, I do quite like Nemesia--she feels pretty superfluous at first, I’ll grant you, and a little bit out of place, but her personality and her character history wound up being a definite positive to Radiant Historia. Finally, it’s cool that the new content actually allows you to see the post-apocalypse world of Radiant Historia. I never realized that getting to actually experience the world’s ruin firsthand was something missing from Radiant Historia’s original iteration, but in retrospect, it really was. There’s only so much you can really get from having 2 time guardian elf kids tell you over and over about the world’s desertification--far better to actually allow the audience to see it, feel its desolation. This new addition to RH isn’t a masterful narrative stroke like Chrono Trigger’s revelation of 2300 AD was, but it’s certainly a plus.
I like the voice acting, for the most part. I think Raynie should have a slight accent to fit her dialogue, I guess, but overall, everyone pretty much sounds the way they should, and does a competent job. The game’s better for it.
That’s the good stuff. The meh stuff would be the new bonus dungeon (it’s boring), the new artwork (you get used to it, and in a couple cases I even prefer it, but overall, the original RH’s character art was a perfect signature to the game’s atmosphere), and several of the ways that the new post-game content interacts with the story. It’s like...I’m okay with the idea of redeeming Queen Protea, but it feels pretty spontaneous and tacked-on. Redeeming Dias and Selvan seems even more unnatural, and stretches the already difficult-to-swallow concept of Stocke’s actions in different histories having echoes in other timelines a little too far.
And come ON, Atlus, are you for real? Redeem Protea, okay, her flaws weren’t beyond overcoming. Redeem Dias and Selvan, well, I don't like it, it’s not realistic for their characters, but at least Dias and Selvan were always interesting in the fact that, duplicitous snakes though they always were, they had moments of depth through which you could see a greater regard for their nation than you would expect from an otherwise 1-dimensional villain. But Hugo? Hugo as redeemable? Hugo as redeemable because he actually was devoted to the Prophet Noah? Are you shitting me? If ever the human race creates a Virtual Olympics, then Japan would do well to send the RH rerelease writers as their representatives, because to look at Hugo’s actions and words throughout Radiant Historia and say he was doing it all for his misguided belief in Noah instead of just using Noah’s name and image as an excuse for his own ambitions requires some gold-medal-level mental gymnastics.
And that’s my transition into the negative parts of this rerelease’s additional content. I like a lot of the new content, I like the new characters associated with it, and I think most of the new lore it introduces is alright. But the problem is that it all is tied to the purpose of the new, post-original-game quest and “true” ending. And honestly, it’s just not right. Radiant Historia’s original true ending was excellent, a perfect blend of happy conclusions with bittersweet moments of longing, culminating in a redeeming sacrifice that fully embodied the idea that while it’s not right to be forced to give your life for something as immaterial as a cause or a concept, willing sacrifice for the people and places we know and love is a beautiful and noble thing. Radiant Historia’s original true ending was an excellent conclusion, and more than that, it was exactly the right conclusion for the game, invoking feelings both joyous and melancholic perfectly in tune to the game’s atmosphere, and embodying its themes and purpose. It was a happy ending, but not a homogeneously happy ending, and that was what was really right for the game.
The new ending to Radiant Historia is just positive, no mixture of the bittersweet to it. And, I mean...I like it, I do. I like happy endings! I almost always want everyone to come out of a story well off. But more than my subjective desire for positivity from my RPGs’ conclusions, I prefer an ending which is right to the game, that concludes the game in a way that is true to its tone, direction, heart and soul, and one which underlines the purpose of the story. And while this new True Ending honestly is a pretty decent finale, and is more purely happy...ultimately, it’s just nowhere near the original True Ending, and replacing the latter with the former is a serious negative to Radiant Historia. The original simply had more substance.
Also, of less importance, there are a few aspects of this new ending that don’t add up for me. Like, first of all, there’s not even a mention of Kiel in it. Stocke’s achieving the impossible in the original ending by managing to save Kiel and the rest of Rosch’s troop was a linchpin of the game’s conclusion, a final example of just how great and impressive a man and wielder of time Stocke truly was. I guess we can assume that Stocke does the same thing this time around, but still, it’s really weird that the new True Ending wouldn’t even acknowledge Kiel’s fate when it was such a huge turning point in the story and conclusion.
Also: seriously, Stocke and pals? You didn’t tell Viola that [name redacted]’s alive? Fucking HUGO gets to know, but Viola doesn’t? You complete assholes.
Finally, while I do overall like the new information about RH’s setting provided with this port, all the stuff about the empire that caused the desertification...I have to say, the history of the Red Chronicle and the truth of the desertification’s cause is a bit out of place. It’s okay, I guess, it just feels like it was designed for a different RPG. And the fact that it also allows us to boil down the problem of solving the desertification to “kill a big monster” feels pretty damn cheap. That’s like the oldest RPG cliche in the book.
Anyway, that’s about all I have to say about the new content to the game. Let’s move on to DLCs.
Bathing in Mana: Oh for fuck’s sake, Atlus. A bathing spring fanservice DLC? Are you fucking kidding me? Jesus fucking CHRIST. It’s bad enough when this shit shows up in SMT Persona, or Fire Emblem, or Tales of games, but as much as I hate them there, those are RPGs that make it a point to include sexuality into their nature, in at least some tiny part. Radiant Historia just doesn’t DO that. It’s not what it’s ever had the slightest interest or focus on! Why not just make a DLC with a fucking car chase? Throw some ninjas, spaceships, and bright cartoon ponies in while you’re at it! It’d be just as in character to Radiant Historia as a fucking fanservice bathing DLC!
Do you SEE what you made me do, Atlus!? 12 years of self-control, 12 years of suffering the slings and arrows of EA, SquareEnix, Bioware, Kemco, whoever the inhuman monsters were who created Lunar: Dragon Song...and YOU, Atlus, YOU are the one to reduce me to the helpless fury of EMOTICONS.
Ugh. Alright, so, surprise surfuckingprise, this DLC is worthless garbage! Who could have possibly guessed? The conversations you can have with each of the characters mostly just retread old ground; there’s nothing there that actually develops them at all. In fact, here, I’ll just tell you them all so you don’t have to buy this garbage: Marco thinks about the fact that he’s the team healer and decides to drink pool water, Aht says she’s gonna be a shaman and demands that Stocke wash her as the FBI breaks your door down, Rosch hammers home the fact that he and Stocke are war buddies and is concerned about how to treat Sonja right, Eruca confirms those awkward suspicions we’ve always had that she’s not quite 100% romantically disinterested in her brother, Gafka is a damn dirty ape, Nemesia is an exposition machine, and Raynie wants Senpai to notice her.
Also, I’m reeeeeeeaaaaaaally not comfortable with seeing a full-on shot of 9-year-old Aht’s bare satyr butt and topless back. Keepin’ it classy there, Atlus.
Credit where it’s due, I guess: Eruca actually does converse about her personal maid and their history together, which is something new for her character, and not unwelcome, although also pretty unnecessary. And I guess it’s at least refreshing that this is an equal-opportunity fanservice event--most of the time, these things are obviously geared entirely towards showing off the female cast members, but Bathing in Mana doesn’t hold back with the shirtless, wet beefcakes, containing scenes for Rosch, Stocke, Marco, and Gafka that, if anything, are more fanservice-y than most of the women’s scenes.*
But yeah. This DLC? Garbage. Don’t buy.
Rage of the Fallen: This little DLC costs $2.50. That’s not much, but it’s still more than this thing’s worth. Rage of the Fallen isn’t bad, exactly, but there’s just absolutely nothing to it--you go through a small dungeon, you rescue Aht and Marco, and Aht fixes a problem with a lost soul. There’s no real character development for Aht or Marco, or at least, nothing that isn’t already covered much more comprehensively during the main game, and the adventure itself doesn’t have any sort of message or interesting angle to it. You simply gain absolutely nothing from playing Rage of the Fallen, plain and simple. It wouldn’t be a waste to play if you got it for free, but there’s nothing here worth even a dime of your money.
Under the Moonlight: Also $2.50, this package is a little better than Rage of the Fallen. I guess. Basically, you get to see Stocke have an intimate conversation with either Raynie or Eruca while on a mission, and then you complete that mission by beating some guys up. The conversation with Raynie is a complete waste of time--she basically just asks Stocke about whether he’s given thought to his future after the conflict, and then brings up the possibility that they could be together at that time, and Stocke agrees. It’s nice and romantic, yes, but it’s also essentially just a copy of the same interaction they have in the main game, on the same topic. Were the writers really just that out of ideas for how Stocke and Raynie could interact? Eruca, at least, has a conversation that develops her character to a small degree, as well as her former relationship with her brother, and it’s pretty sweet. I don’t think that’s really worth 2 and a half bucks, but I could at least see this as being worth it if it ever went on sale, at least for Eruca’s side of the DLC.
Meeting in the Chasm: Ah, now, see, this one’s actually kind of good. It gives you a more personal perspective on the events in Nemesia’s past that led to the whole desertification thing and her quest with the Red Chronicle, which is good, and although it’s a quick and simplistic quest (basically just beat up a couple bad guys and watch the cutscenes), it feels like this event actually means something, since it’s the event that ties Stocke and Nemesia’s destinies together. At 15 to 30 minutes long, Meeting in the Chasm is criminally short for $2.50, honestly, but...I reckon the content is just decent enough that it wouldn’t be a mistake to purchase it. Certainly the best of these add-ons thus far.
Settling the Score: You show up to help Rosch and Gafka, and beat up a bunch of enemies who became time ghosts because they’re annoyed that Stocke killed them. If that only sounds a little boring, then I’ve definitely oversold this last DLC. Don’t bother with it.
So, what’s the verdict? Well, as far as the main new content of Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology goes, it’s neither good overall nor bad overall. The new conclusion is just a huge black mark against this port of a game that ended perfectly in its original form, and there are some other problems with the newer content, such as an insistence on redeeming villains who frankly just don’t seem like they would ever want that redemption. And honestly, there are times when Nemesia’s story of saving the world almost seems to be trying to turn Radiant Historia into a kind of RPG that it wasn’t meant to be.
On the other hand, though, expanding the history of the game’s world, adding in all these other snippets of possible histories, and the addition of Noah and Nemesia are all positive qualities. So in the end, I guess I would say that anyone who hasn’t ever played Radiant Historia before might want to play this version...but anyone who has played the original, or is considering playing the original instead because they have less expensive access to it, should not worry that they’re missing anything vital. All that really matters, honestly, is that you do play Radiant Historia, in 1 form or the other.
The downloadable content situation, I am less positive about. It’s not the worst pack of add-ons Atlus has come up with, but there’s really only a single DLC in this bunch that’s really worthwhile--and strangely, that’s the 1 that focuses entirely on the new character Nemesia. That’s the major problem with the rest of these packages--they don’t have any idea what to do with the major characters of Radiant Historia, the ones you know and like best. Either the DLCs just don’t do a damn thing with the characters they’re supposed to be focused on (Marco, Gafka, Rosch), or they just repeat characterization moments that you’ve already seen in the main game (Aht and Raynie). They’re clearly just a lazy cash-grab, as is so frustratingly often the case with downloadable content. You get a D- on Radiant Historia’s add-ons, Atlus.
I miss The Witcher 3.
* “Most” being an unfortunate key word here. To my resigned annoyance, Aht is by far the most exposed of the cast in these things.
1 of these days, the entire nation of Japan is gonna get invited to sit down and have a cookie with Chris Hansen.