Ever since high-definition took over the console sector of the game industry, JRPGs have been flocking to handhelds thanks to lower development costs and a larger Japanese user base. One of the side effects of this is that the games have, in many ways, returned to their 16-bit roots. Radiant Historia is a game that looks, feels, and plays like something you might have seen on the Super Nintendo in the mid-1990s, but with enough modern twists to make it stand out among today's more complex games.
Backed by a mature, thought-provoking story involving politics, espionage, and war, Radiant Historia plays with time travel mechanics in a way that no game before has ever done. With two distinct storylines each leading to an inevitable conclusion, actions in one timeline affect the other, creating a unique method of storytelling that is simultaneously linear and nonlinear in nature. Couple that with an engaging combat system that brings to mind the Shin Megami Tensei series, a beautiful visual style featuring a subdued, faded color palette, and a terrific soundtrack by veteran composer Yoko Shimomura, and it's no wonder that Radiant Historia is not only the best DS RPG of 2011, but one of the best RPGs on the system period.
Our runner ups here didn't do much time traveling, but both had a creature focus. In Joker 2 we were doing our best to capture and train monsters, but in Solatorobo we were playing as critters. Both of these DS titles offer a lot of portable entertainment and we highly recommend them even though they couldn't overcome our love for Radiant Historia.
by Adriaan den Ouden and Michael Cunningham