Radiant Historia offers all the best elements of a Choose Your Own Adventure book in game form. Players will make many important decisions along the way, but through the power of time travel, will always be able to—and often will have to—go back to see what would have happened if they’d chosen differently.
Players control Stocke, an elite intelligence officer. On a routine mission, he and his subordinates are killed, but that’s just the beginning of the story. A pair of powerful beings intervene, informing Stocke that he has the power to use a book called the White Chronicle to travel back in time and correct the missteps that led him to this fate. He’s then pressed into disrupting another time traveler’s machinations in order to save the world from becoming a lifeless desert.
An early big decision creates two distinct timelines, and you must move between the two to progress the plot, coming back with newfound skills or information. Some decisions lead to dead ends, resulting in catastrophe and sending you back to base. The game is packed with side quests, which also require time travel to solve.
At pivotal points, you’ll want to use the White Chronicle to return to a time where you had access to an inn, to let your party recuperate. Managing resources is important, as you’re out in the field for long periods. Battles are always stacked against you, with your party of three fighting up to nine monsters. You can run away from foes on the map, or try to knock them out and sneak by. Once you get into a fight, success depends on tactical use of the combat system. Players can rearrange when their characters act, swapping turns with monsters to ensure that all the party members act together, or changing with other party members who might have more useful skills for the situation. Monsters are arranged on a 3-by-3 grid, and your skills can move them around the map, stacking them up to make them vulnerable to attacks from the rest of your party. The result is a fast-paced combat system that’s still strategically satisfying. Radiant Historia isn’t the first game to use time-hopping as a mechanic, but it uses it very well, and has no major weaknesses to bring it down. It’s another great JRPG title in Atlus’ ever-growing library.