"In just about every way that matters, Radiata Stories is different from your standard RPG. "
Jack Russell is the most idiotic, whiniest punk Iíve ever played as in any genre, on any videogame, on any system. Ever.
ďMy fatherís been missing for about fifteen years now.Ē
ĒWhereíd he go?Ē
My response to Jackís response:
"Heís missing, dumbass. Missing."
Iím paraphrasing, but that was the gist. Itís not just one or two times, either; the entire game is a series of his stupidity. He rushes headfirst into the dumbest of situations. He tries to do things that he obviously cannot do. 50% of Radiata Stories has Jack doing business that common sense should tell him not to do.
When heís not being a dumbass, heís being jackass. The kid goes to the entrance tournament for knighthood, gets stomped by a little girl (albeit, a little girl with a BIG ax) in the first round, gets accepted as a knight anyway just because his dad was famous, and then spends the next few hours being a bitch about the whole deal. Like it was the girlís fault he sucked. Like if he went up against her a second time, the exact same thing wouldnít happen. 40% of Radiata Stories has Jack either getting his ass justifiably kicked or whining about said ass-kickings.
His foot only spends 10% of the game out of his mouth, and even then itís quick to get back in. The moment it seems like heís going to do something cool, the second he looks like heís going to act with some maturity, he says something or does something or has something kick his ass, and itís back to square one.
Oh, and on top of all that, he says Ďeasy-peasyí with a straight face. EasyÖpeasy.
But I like him that way. True, RPGs have no shortage of whiney punk heroes, but they usually have some forced changes; theyíll realize how stupid and wrong they were before the final battle. Jack is a jackass to the very end. He makes stupid decisions. He does stupid things. Not a leader, not a savior. Itís not like heís the ONLY one with the skills needed to save the world, itís more like heís the ONLY one in the right position to do anything about it. He gets thrown into the mix, surviving only through a combination of knowing the right people and sheer dumb luck. And it works.
Heís different. A fool, but different.
Really, the whole game is different like that. In just about every way that matters, Radiata Stories is different from your standard RPG.
Oh, Iím sure it looks like your standard RPG, no doubt there. The world of Radiata has a storybook vibe to it; the valleys, the plains, the cities, and the castles all look like something straight off the page. The characters are in that wide-eyed anime style that some like and some despise, and despite the gameís Teen rating, it doesnít do much to earn it. No blood, little cursing, no nudity (thank God).
The characters themselves are standard, too; if youíve seen Record of Lodoss War, youíve got an idea of what to expect. Dwarves, goblins, elves in both the light and dark variety. They all act accordingly, too; the elves are convinced that humans are the source of all evil in the world, the goblins are the masters of mischief and mayhem, and the dwarves are too busy digging or too drunk to give a damn. Weíve even got some big dragons. Talking dragons at that.
Huh. Now that I think about it, Radiata Stories is like a kiddy version of Record of Lodoss War. Go figure.
But thatís not to say Radiata Stories is unoriginal. Once it sets the stage and introduces the characters, everything gets skewed. The rules are made, then broken.
Take the world of Radiata itself; vast spaces waiting to be explored. Unlike most RPGs that only let you visit the places they want you to go when they tell you to go there, there arenít too many places you canít reach at the start of the game; only a few are blocked for story purposes. A free-roaming world that lets you roam freeÖnice concept. You could probably even visit the final dungeon before the first.
The dungeons themselves? Painless. No blocks to push, no switches to switch. Most are short in size and quick in completion, and even the most complex dungeons wonít hold you for more than a half hour. Some of the later dungeons have annoying little tricks to them, a few traps that might set you back, but itís nothing you canít beat with persistence.
And, thanks to the gameís simple battle system, the fighting part of the dungeons is just as simple as the exploration part. Radiata Stories is made by the same guys who made Star Ocean 3, which would be much more impressive if I didnít think Star Ocean 3 was a piece of shit. Fortunately, that game and this game are distant cousins; the battle system takes the good from Star Ocean 3 and leaves the ugly.
Star Ocean 3 nixed random encounters and put enemies out on the map, starting battles like battles should be started. Radiata Stories does the same thing. But once you walk up to your enemy and start the fight, the similarities fade.
Where Star Ocean 3 brought cheap enemies with cheap one-hit-kill attacks, Radiata Stories makes sure youíre on even ground; as long as you donít run from too many fights, youíll be at the right level. And, unlike Star Ocean 3, staying at the right level is simple; every enemy gives generous experience. Hell, youíll probably average three levels an hour, even if youíre not trying.
They both use a real-time combat system once the battle gets underway, but Radiata Stories actually hooks you up with some decent attacks and some competent allies. You can choose from axes, spears, and swords; each one giving you new abilities and new attacks to learn. You canít switch between Jack and your partners, but you donít really need, too; where Star Ocean 3 forced constant switching just to get away from the bossí badass beam attack, Radiata Stories lets you control them without being in control.
Itís in the commands. You can make them retreat, make them heal, make them fight in formation, make them block, make them circle the enemy and lower the boom from all sides. It actually feels like youíre the leader when youíre leading these guys; they respond just as quick as any real human would. Maybe even faster.
But letís say theyíre not moving fast enough. Letís say the set of bruisers youíre set with arenít up to the task.
By completing simple tasks, you can stock up a list of friends that goes into the hundreds, a full roster of allies available for any conflict. Theyíre not a bunch of faceless stand-ins, either; each one of them has history and a fleshed personality. You can see them walking along the street, heading off to their jobs, meeting their friends, going through the daily routine. And while they might all do the same things each day, itís still better than nameless nobodies walking in endless circles.
You can take them, you can train them, and best of all, you can fight them. It might sound dumb, it might sound mundane, but my favorite aspect of Radiata Stories is the ability to kick people in the shins; a power well within Jackís nature. This feature is actually meant for uncovering hidden items by shifting around furniture, but it has the bonus effect of pissing people off when you do it to them. Kick them once, and they give a warning. Kick them twice, and itís on.
The character battles are one-on-one, duels designed to give you high experience for low effort. You can fight almost anyone in the game, friend or foe, itís just a matter of tracking them down and giving them a few kicks. Granted, there are certain people who can beat you down even at the higher levels, but even if you lose the fight, itís not game over; losing a character battle just knocks you down to one HP. So anytime you need some leveling up, you donít even have to leave town. Everythingís right there.
I donít think it was even meant to be all that big of feature; I only noticed by accident. But itís a great stress reliever. This ugly girl pissed me off when I couldnít find her stupid cat. Two kicks and a few swords slashes later, she knew who was boss. Didnít like an order the king gave me. Still had to do the order, but whapping him in the head made things smoother. For everyone whoís ever wanted to beat up an annoying NPC, this is for you.
Itís just one of the many touches that add to the experience and stretch out the replayability; making sure that, even when youíre not advancing the story or fighting through dungeons, youíre still entertained. Everything comes off smooth and clean. Few hitches along the way. Youíll be challenged, yeah, but never annoyed. The game only takes about thirty hours to complete, but even when youíre done, youíre not really done: You make a choice halfway through the game that alters everything afterwards, a whole new quest from there to the end. Radiata Stories isnít a game; itís a game and a half.
If youíre looking for something new, something different and something fresh, Radiata Stories is far enough from the mainstream. If youíre longing for a taste of the old school, Radiata Stories isnít too far. It strikes a medium between both worlds, and even throws in a few new concepts for its own identity. Original, yet classic. Tried, true and new.
Staff review by Zack Little (October 21, 2005)
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