I have played a lot of games, I have a full-sized dresser filled to the brim that can attest to that. More than any other genre of game, I have played role playing games. Radiata Stories is a typical RPG that doesn't exactly make an effort to be anything different than the normal RPG. So why is this seemingly ordinary game one of my favorite games compared to such amazing titles like the Final Fantasy Series, Tales of Series, Elder Scrolls Series, or the Dragon Age Series?
While I like almost every game in the aforementioned series titles, none of them have completely engaged me like Radiata Stories, except for maybe certain Final Fantasy games. However everybody likes those. Barely anyone has ever given Radiata Stories a chance.
What really makes Radiata Stories an engaging RPG is that it doesn't "try too hard" or "take itself seriously". Most terrible RPGs come with a relatively generic story, you know the one, hero has to save the girl and defeat the evil. They do the same thing that every role playing game does and forces their characters to spout out dialogue that really does not make you care.
The story follows the young hero Jack Russel, son of a famous knight and dragon slayer, he goes to Radiata Castle to follow in his father's footseteps to join the knights. Jack is assigned to the Rose Cochon Brigade with the snobby nobles' daughter Ridley and the oafish Captian Ganz. However, after a mission goes awry Ridley is nearly killed by a blood orc. Her life is only saved by combining her soul with that of an elf in a transpiritation ritual, never before preformed between elf and human. Due to this whole blunder, the brigade is disbanded.
Jack then joins up with the local warrior's guild called Theater Vancoor. However, things are becoming politically unstable between the human kingdom and that of the non-humans. Jack is faced with a choice to either side with the humans or leave with Ridley to join the non-humans. Either path will lead him to facing what would be the end of their world.
The story is presented through a series of cut scenes that are usually fully voiced, which is always a nice feature for a role playing game to have. However, while the characters are serious at the right moments, it also has a very light hearted feel to it. Jack Russel is, at heart, a loveable goofball and his dialogue is often so silly, it is hard to not smile at it. That is what really lured me in, Jack Russel added a little comedy to the world on the brink of war.
The story also splits into two paths at a certain point in which you can side with the humans or the non-humans. This adds a certain amount of replayability that, at the time when Radiata Stories was released in 2005, was somewhat rare in this type of RPG. Depending on what side you chose, when you were traveling along the road, you would face soldiers from the opposing side. So if you had fought with characters during your stay at Theater Vancoor, but chose the non-human route, you might find yourself fighting against those people. It is small little details like that that really caused me to fall in love.
Aside from the replayabilty from the two paths, Radiata Stories did something with this game that I had never experienced before. While you can only play Jack Russel directly, there was a cast of 50+ other characters you could recruit and use in battle. It is not just 50+ generic characters either. These characters all had vivid and interesting character designs, and when not in your party, they even had routines walking about town. Again, it is the small details that make great games. Not all the characters are easy to recruit either. The stronger ones take time and reasonably hard quests to get. Recruiting some of the strongest and most legendary warriors to fight beside you is reason enough to go back and replay the game.
I like a lot of little details that are put into the game, as I have said, this includes the artwork. Radiata Stories did nothing particularly unusual with their artwork. It is a bright and crisp anime style and has the character designs that match. What makes the artwork pop is that while you only have relatively linear paths to travel on, the background to them is alive. There are creatures you encounter on the road grazing in the fields, the sun rises and sets, there are even farmers in the fields. It is just a nice touch to make the world feel alive around you.
I have ranted and raved about all the great things in this game, but it is far from perfect. The battle system is one of cons of this game. It is stupidly simple. When you enter battle, you mash the attack button to earn volty points which allows you to use your ultimate attacks. You can use formations and battle commands to tell your party members what to do, but mostly it is button smashing and running around. One point of combat I did like was the ability to equip Jack with different weapons and armor. What made that even more special was that when you used different weapons and armor, it actually changed the appearance of the character, something I have seen utilized in later RPGs. Clearly because people like me liked it!
With all the ranting I have done about this game, it isn't hard to figure out why I like it. Really it comes down to all the little things Tri-Ace put in this game. However, if it has all these great little features, why has no one ever played it? Radiata Stories even got positive reviews of 7's and 8's from popular gaming sites. The problem with Radiata Stories was the timing. It came out in an age where the RPG market was oversaturated with subpar role playing games. What is worse, all these RPGs looked the same, they looked just like Radiata Stories. They were all happy and cell shaded in the anime style and most of them were just so terrible. A few bad RPGs really put gamers off buying another RPG that looked like the same crap they played before.