Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is consistently great, often amazing, and rarely disappointing. An enhanced port of the 2010 original, Perfect Chronology lets players relive the time-hopping adventure loaded with twists and political intrigue. This version offers basic improvements and new features, such as a lore-expanding timeline called Sub-History. Perfect Chronology offers a sizable number of minor improvements and extra content that expand the offerings of the original game without stepping on the toes of the delicately crafted story.
Radiant Historia takes place on the doomed continent of Vainqueur. For generations, Vainqueur has suffered from rampantly accelerating desertification that now threatens the subsistence of the entire continent. Two major towns of Vainqueur, Granorg and Alistel, are in a back-and-forth war over the quickly-shrinking plots of arable land. The adventure begins in Alistel when the player assumes control of Stocke, a special intelligence soldier who is preparing for a routine extract mission. While preparing for the mission, Stocke receives a mysterious book called the White Chronicle. After the mission goes awry, the White Chronicle awakens and takes Stocke to an unusual place called Historia. There, Stocke meets two tight-lipped beings named Teo and Lippti, who explain that forces of evil have interfered with the true course of history so that the continent’s desertification will soon reach an unstoppable pace. Teo and Lippti explain that the White Chronicle gives Stocke the power to navigate the branching timelines created by this interference in history. Stocke’s mission is to visit, revisit, and influence pivotal moments and encounters in time so that history can return to its intended path.
Stocke spends a lot of the ensuing journey in battle. Radiant Historia has no lack of common RPG cannon fodder such as forest goblins and slimes. You will often face groups exceeding five enemies at once. While challenging, this is not as daunting as it sounds thanks to the battle system’s use of turn-changing and positioning. Enemies are faced on a 3×3 grid. Their position on this grid is important, as numerous special attacks enable characters to push and shove enemies into single squares. Once this happens, even standard attacks will affect multiple enemies at once, provided they’ve been shoved into the same square. Players also have the ability to manipulate attack order—you can trade a party member’s turn with another party member, or even an enemy, so that you can set up devastating combos. These twists on the standard turn-based battle system add strategy to even the simplest encounters. There are few battle systems that provide more satisfaction than when you successfully wipe out five enemies at once at the end of a carefully planned succession of pushes and spells.
Aided by the White Chronicle, Stocke is able to succeed in his original mission. He then embarks on an epic adventure rife with warfare, political power plays, and numerous possibilities held within parallel timelines. Along the way, a strong cast of characters comes together. The main villains of the game are a high point, ranging from terrifyingly unstable to coldly understandable in their motives. The pacing is mostly excellent; during my playthrough I constantly found myself eagerly working towards the next big moment in the story. The lone weak moment came in the last few hours, when a cumbersome and repetitive dungeon wore down my excitement after a climactic reveal. Once that dungeon was over, the game recovered in time to ensure a gripping final hour, capping off one of the most complete RPG stories I have encountered.
Being an enhanced port, Perfect Chronology makes a few additions to the original game. The most notable addition is a third timeline of sorts, called Sub-History, where players navigate a wide range of alternate history scenarios by completing quests under the guidance of a secretive new character named Nemesia. This timeline offers several quests that ultimately add at least a few hours of streamlined gameplay to the overall package, and will be the main draw for players who already completed the original Radiant Historia. The alternate histories explored in Sub-History place interesting twists on familiar characters and locations, and completed quests shed light on the lore of Vainqueur, making the relatively simple battle and fetch quests worthwhile. Perfect Chronology also adds a new dungeon called the Vault of Time, where players face an onslaught of increasingly powerful monsters in an attempt to earn exclusive items. The added English voice acting was mostly well-done, and dialogue was smoothed out slightly, although several lines came off as cringey or overly explanatory. Every time the game wanted to foreshadow something, you would hear a line like, “I have a gut feeling that that man is very important to Alistel’s future.” Perfect Chronology also adds new character portraits, although they are not any better or worse than the portraits from the original game. A few new songs have been added to the game’s score, most of which appear in the Sub-History timeline. In addition to all of that, there a few minor QOL improvements, such as revamped menus and a new mini-map.
Flaws are few and far between, although they are hard to ignore when present. The most obvious issues with the game generally appear in the battle system. The biggest issue comes with party management. Due to the game jumping between different timelines, having a party member with you at one point in the game is no guarantee that they will be available for use when you jump back to the other timeline. If you travel back in time, your party is limited to whoever was accompanying you on your adventure at that point in time—so you can’t take a party member introduced in chapter two into the prologue with you. On top of timeline constraints, party members will frequently leave your group throughout the story. This discourages experimentation with party members outside of Raynie and Marco, Stocke’s original partners, who spend most (but still not all) of the game available for use. This issue becomes more serious during any one of the game’s many scenarios where you are very suddenly forced to enter battle with a predetermined party that very well may consist of members that you have only tried once. In extreme cases, you may even need to take a break from the adventure to grind a few levels for a character that you have no interest in using.
Other battle issues are less noticeable, one being that if you queue all three of your characters to attack an enemy soldier and the soldier is out of health by the second attack, your third character will still target the already defeated enemy and deal points of useless damage instead of attacking a different enemy. This is especially frustrating in battles that come down to the wire. Furthermore, wooden barricades will sometimes appear on the battlefield to protect enemy soldiers. These barricades are treated as individual enemies; they occupy a space on the grid, they have a health bar, and they have turns (during which they sit and do nothing). The battle will continue on until those barricades are defeated along with every actual enemy. This resulted in several intense battles, including one boss fight, ending with my party unceremoniously beating up a barricade that was defending nothing but fallen bad guys. Along with some other minor nitpicks, such as the auto-battle function not actually speeding up battles, these issues are perplexing and at worst a little annoying when encountered. Ultimately, except for the issue of your limited party choices, these problems do not hamper the overall experience.
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is a fantastic JRPG. The expertly-crafted story comes together bit by bit as Stocke and Co. find answers hidden across time. Players will fall in love with the strong cast of heroes and they will come to fear the well-crafted villains. Gameplay feels fresh for an RPG: traveling between different points in time to advance the story adds an engrossing element to story progression, and the position-based battle system adds a layer of strategy that makes even the most basic skirmishes exciting. A beautiful soundtrack will follow players wherever and whenever they go. Perfect Chronology’s additions are substantial enough that those who are craving a return to Radiant Historia will be more than satisfied, thanks to the Sub-History timeline’s exploration of entertaining “what-if” scenarios and the expansion of the game’s lore. JRPG enthusiasts who never played the original Radiant Historia owe it to themselves to check this one out, and even those who already enjoyed the original should strongly consider a return to Vanqueur.