Review: First you tell me it's a game about radiator stories. Now that I play it, I find that it's another RPG filled with adventure, treasure, and babes. You are such a Square...Enix!
Clobber the man-eating colossus. Defeat the dastard minions. Safeguard the princess. Uncover the magical crystal. Live the epic and unforgettable adventure of an unlikely hero who becomes the chief character of a story so magnanimous, it's etched into gamers' minds forever. That's one way of making an RPG. It's traditional, and it's worked many times over in the past. So sometimes you have to ask yourself, "Is this always the story I want to live out for the rest of my role-playing days?" Usually the answer is yes, as long as the characters, battle system, settings, and every little thing changes to a certain degree except for the type of direction the game usually flows in. If you abolish a central villain and slap together a comically driven story instead, can the same effect apply for Square Enix's newest RPG attempt, Radiata Stories? That's the kind of question the company now asks, hoping the response is above all a positive one.
Not your average RPG plot, and yet oh-so-familiar: Radiata Stories is a tale about the mysterious loss of a father and the quest for his son's first steps into the world. Known as a legendary hero throughout the folds of the land, Jack Russell's father's whereabouts were last known in his confrontation between himself and a two-headed blue dragon. When you face a monster of that size, you've got to be either crazy or very skilled. Since his father wasn't known for his lunacy, you can estimate who this guy really was. However, his safe return was never established, and so something happened to young Jack's father. In Jack's world, the day has finally arrived for when the knighting ceremony will see who is fit to become one of the honorary souls in the Radiata Knight's squadron. Arrogant and unprepared, sixteen-year-old Jack goes to face his future. Unfortunately, his adversary is none other than Ridley, a disciplined young girl who's been training her whole life to become a knight. Even in defeat though, story protagonists are never fully beaten. For the cause of Jack having his father's blood, he's given the opportunity for knighthood anyway. So with his stern teammate and his enraging spite for her, Jack becomes an emotional, egocentric hero to prove he is the greatest in the land. Better than his father, and better than his pigtailed new partner, Ridley Silverlake.
Developer tri-Ace isn't exactly new to the comedic side of RPGs. Humor is their spice of life, as evidence has shown throughout sections chronicling their entire RPG time line. Then again, their game r?sum? isn't one for boastful proportions, even from one of the most high profile RPG developers in recent times. Fame resonates in tri-Ace's hands as the longtime team behind the popular Star Ocean saga. Having just finished with their third Star Ocean game last year though, tri-Ace has only managed to imagine one other known franchise all together. That game: a quirky PlayStation RPG called Valkyrie Profile. Adding to but a handful of RPG titles in their near-empty lot, Radiata Stories is only a third notch in the old tri-Ace belt residing in their ten years of existence. Being a new game series for them and all, it's easier to judge Radiata Stories harsher, quicker, when it's a newbie you're unfamiliar with. Raising a nose at Radiata Stories for its inhibited stray away from a greater originality and its very lengthy steps to getting where it needs to go next are some of the game's bad points that will drive a nail into the head of Radiata's quicker from the outset. A cheesier storyline than usual doesn't help make matters better for those in search of a more compelling plot. Despite its foibles, Radiata Stories still finds comfort in the same surroundings where enjoyment of the game isn't generally found to be as strong as it would for a number of RPG classics. Still, taking a trip into Radiata Stories doesn't hurt so badly as some other known action-based RPG titles have been known for over the years.
Pie isn't always as easy as it sounds. Pie looks good when cooked right. Pie even tastes great when it's a favorite flavor. But pie is a crusty and gooey substance all at the same time that gets sliced into several pieces. In a way, Radiata Stories is kind of like a pie. It's warm on the inside and hard on the outside. Only because it's packaged in a game case, idiot. Getting serious though, it's really about the divided sections of the split circumference that need to be considered to comprehend the whole diameter of this kooky game. Radiata Stories isn't just one game, though. It's more like a mixture forming an entire piece that again is served in multiple directions. One such condition is the battle system. Another is party recruitment. Then another is just plain, simple, time. Unfortunately, none of these facets contributes toward valuing Radiata Stories in a position where the game will standout on its own. Instead of decorating itself with truly original RPG concepts, most of the game will feel borrowed. Take one of Radiata's biggest attractions for instance -- its ability to recruit a whopping 177 characters. Indeed, 177 is a major number in anyone's book. Reflect back to Chrono Cross though, and an identical gimmick was pulled off five years earlier. More than 40 possibilities of party members aren't as eye-popping an amount, but it's still a pretty big figure. And basically, it's the same technique being used again once more. Night turns into day and day into night. Throughout the Radiata Kingdom and beyond, time is a revolving clock that will eventually allow for Jack to finally hit the road on his own, and return home with strangers of all kinds. Depending on the hour of day, a recurring schedule dictates each NPC action inside towns and out. Based on this momentous clock pattern and sometimes Jack's ability to completely "earn" their friendship, new friends will tag along with Jack to be summoned whenever needed to form out a foursome. People requesting help of some kind or are particularly interested in something or someone are usually the breeds that Jack can drag into his bag. One such individual is a pig owner. His three little piggies have huffed and puffed their way away from home. Find them and the owner is yours for the taking. A fat lady is singing for her cat's name, and it's up to you to find him. Do it and you've got yourself another fighter. Answer three questions in a daily quiz given by a desk clerk, and she's yours. Locate and defeat monsters from a man in immediate danger, and he'll be another partner in your debt. Search for missing contacts in the sewers, grab a book from a distant fairy land, or simply talk to a guy. It's mostly a matter of fetch quests that'll net you some quality team members. It's not a requirement for Jack to actually load his cart full of friendlies, but it doesn't hurt to do it all the same. Not to mention this enlisting segment gets to be kind of addicting, only furthering the length of the game's replay.
Those familiar with last year's Star Ocean: Till the End of Time should also feel close to home when diving into Radiata's battle plan. Picking up from there, the attack system is not so much different in Radiata Stories as onsets take position in a separately squared off 3D action window after spotting a creature resting or running around on top of a fixed track. Now unlike in Star Ocean 3, the main world outside of towns was more open. Differently for Radiata Stories, trekking from one town to another is done so along branching paths that put up somewhat interactive and animated backdrops with limited space and boundaries, cutting off any or much exploration into the environment besides where Jack and friends are enabled to burrow into. Enemies that are spotted along these narrow trails can either be approached and then fought or avoided all together. Consisting of animal, plant, and bizarre things, opponents in the game range from flying bats, to evil trees, enormous skeletal dinosaur heads, rhinoceroses, saber-toothed tigers, sludge monsters, giant armadillos, crocodiles, ants, orcs, and yes even humans at times. Placing Jack and the rest of his gang onto a flat and spacious 3D map against targets, each foe from here on can be honed in on with a lock-on cursor in place (R1), then beaten using either the circle button or square buttons (and X for parrying). The difference between these two methods is that while pressing circle engages in a standard combo-based weapon attack, the square mode is the more powerful option that deals damage to all surrounding enemies inbound in two directions. Of the two exist a smaller sized volty attack, and a much more destructive one that comes unleashed when Jack's volty bar has reached its potential climax. This scheme is all relevant to what's known as the volty gauge, a measure of points that accumulate every time Jack strikes an enemy with his principal melee attack, which maxes out at 100 points. The volty gauge's purpose basically serves as a substitute to magic, as there really is no such spell system present in the game. Its usefulness doesn't stop there though, as it also empowers a number of other battle processes, be it to supply a healing spell to allies or to open up the party's linking system, which in itself is one of the few actual unique portions of Radiata Stories that ties all team members together with an adjoining field surrounding the enemy. Links both strengthen your offsets (as the entire party bashes singled-out enemies together), and can commonly trade skills with allied members through this means just the same.
The thing about skills is that each party member comes equipped with their own weapon, volty blows, and of course skill. Jack will start out with Luck Plus, for instance, a determining factor in his ability to perform better in that climate of battle. This boosts his luck for him. It's also one of the few character menu aspects that can be toyed with, as the others would be item and equipment menus, and then the combo selection for Jack. Each weapon is fitted with a CP amount (Combo Points). Based on the CP value, whatever weapon Jack latches onto can retain a certain number of composite blitzes. Combos here are aggressions that are randomly taught through fighting off enemy hordes. If Jack has an axe equipped and defends himself against a whole mess of adversaries, eventually his slate of question marks will transmute into the names of new blends of assault types that can be applied to his menu's customizable combo plate. If one fitted combo totals 4 CP points and his weapon holds up to 6 CP slots, two 1 CP combos or one 2 will only be open for selection from there on in. Killing off enemies also grants Jack and his team of followers experience and moolah (or Dagols, as its currency term is phrased). Outside in the ordinary, day-to-day world with his earned pennies, Jack can visit shops (for weapons or protection, health, status, and even a few specialty helper supplies), which is kind of cool but also kind of annoying that stores only open during the given business hours. When day turns into night, Jack will often have nothing to do but wait until day breaks again. Though in reality, each day cycle lasts about 15 minutes or more. Jack can use this time for recruiting the nocturnal folk, or he can just perform one of the actions he's best at. Jack has something very special on his hands. Or, that should be his feet. Quite literally, Jack can kick just about anything and everything in the world of Radiata Stories. Treasure chests don't unhinge by examining them in this game. Punt chests or really anything seen along outdoor aisles, in towns, in buildings, or anywhere else instead, and hidden goods oftentimes are delivered that are embedded within rocks, beds, chairs, dressers, clocks, slanted planks, buckets, stools, and much more. If it looks like it can be moved, kick it and money or items can be yours. Inanimate objects can't fight back, but living things can. The concept behind Jack's twitchy leg is trying not to hit a person or creature. If he does so, expect to bruise in battle alongside your torture victim: either by Jack whooping them or by them whooping Jack.