Tuesday, July 11, 2000

Radiata Stories | 9.0

I am a fan of the Tri-Ace company. Their games have often combined good storylines with excellent music, but most importantly, they have always given the gamer a little bit more. With Star Ocean 2, and even more so, Valkyrie Profile, the gamer was (gasp!) not bored to fight battles, as strategy played a key role in success. Furthermore, SO2 and VP had extensive bonus dungeons and multiple endings (SO2 had 97, if I'm not mistaken), which added to replay value. I was a bit disappointed in SO: Till the End of Time. Although the after-game bonus dungeons were incredible, there seemed to be little originality present (including an item creation system that can only be described as baffling - where was the simplicity of SO2 and VP?). I liked the game, but was left wanting more...

In the case of originality, Radiata Stories (hereby dubbed "RS") delivers. A role playing game in which active recruitment is a driving force (much like Suikoden), you play as Jack Russell, the son of a famous knight Cairn, as he attempts to follow in his father's footsteps by joining the Knights of Radiata. Throughout the game, you will make friends and enemies (there are two separate paths that you can follow!), and in all, you can recruit 177 new members of your party (although I'm not sure that all of them may be called on in a single game).

The graphics of this game are beautiful (I wish that the Suikoden series would take a page out of this game's book!), and the recruiting is quite fun. However, as is often the case with these types of games, the story takes a back seat (it is very difficult to get interested in the events around you when your focus is making friends). Much like Suikoden and VERY much like Suikoden IV, there really isn't much going on here. Recruit people to fight a war that seems ill-conceived (and ill-defined - it is difficult to understand the motivation of the combatants) until you realize that some overarching entity is the true puppet master, in which you stop the entity. Moreover, the ending (or one of the endings - I haven't played through both paths yet) can only be described by "guh?". It is difficult to understand why you are doing anything at all, other than making friends.

But in that respect, the game delivers. It is difficult to recruit all 177 friends, but much of the fun involved is trying! Each person moves through the day according to some schedule, and at times might need your assistance. It is up to you to find those times, however. I found the recruiting to be a blast, in general. Of course, there is a secret character (maybe more, I haven't found everyone) that can only be recruited after defeating an after-game dungeon.

All in all, RS is a compelling title, and worthy of the legacy of Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile. I would however have liked more attention to be paid to the story...

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