Radiant Historia

This is a little bit different for me, although I’ve done it once or twice before.  I’m here today to talk about a video game.  Radiant Historia is a game for the Nintendo DS that came out a couple of years ago, and I just finished plaything through it.  I had a couple of issues with the game, but it did some interesting things with the storytelling.  And being me, and this being my blog, I’m going to focus mostly on the story of the game, and it did some interesting things with the story.

Radiant HistoriaI’m going to warn you that some of the things I’m talking about might spoil some later parts of the story, so if you’re interested in playing the game and don’t want it spoiled, stop reading here, go play the game, and then come back to read the post.  I’ll try to avoid directly spoiling everything, but it’s going to be hard to talk about a couple of the things I want to mention without some spoilers.  If you don’t care about playing the game, keep reading because I might just type something clever, you never know.

So the first thing that I have to talk about with the game is how the basis of the story is one of my biggest pet peeves in storytelling, that’s right, it’s time travel.  In some ways I don’t know if it really ends up being time travel, it’s almost more of a split universe where the main character is going back and forth between the two universes as you go through each storyline.  Thinking about it after having finished the game, I think that having time travel as an element of the story was necessary for one of the major plot points.  The crux of the game is that your character monkeys around in time so that he can find something to care for, ultimately because he is due to be used as a sacrifice in a ritual that will save the planet (there’s the biggest spoiler, you were warned).  He is one of two people who are placed in that situation.  The way the game presents it towards the end is that he is looking forward through time through the use of his Chronicle (magic book), which the other character is looking backward using his Chronicle.

The world of the game is in a rough shape, an empire long ago nearly destroyed the world, and now the only thing that can stop everything from turning into sand is a sacred ritual that requires a human sacrifice.  The idea that looking through time would prepare you to sacrifice yourself is an interesting one, but the way that the game twists it is fun.  The character who looks forward in time sees hope for the future, and because of that he wants to save the world.  The character you oppose looks back and sees the generations of punishment that the world has gone through, and he decides that it would be better if the world were destroyed.  Ultimately this makes him a very effective villain because in a sense, he wants the punishment that the world is going through to stop, and he finds what he thinks is the best way to get it to stop.

The story also raises a very interesting question.  In a world where there is a huge amount of suffering, is that world really worth saving?  Lets look at The Lord of the Rings for a second.  Lets turn the story into a tragedy and say that Sauron came back and the ring wasn’t destroyed.  In the kind of world that would probably come from that ending, it would most likely be a pretty bad place to live.  If you didn’t know that you could fix the problem, it might be better just to end the world.  It’s essentially the same question that comes into play with euthanasia for pets or medically assisted suicide.  If the suffering is so great, maybe it’s better to end it rather than to try and fight for a future where it may not be any better.  It’s an interesting question and one that I don’t think I’ve seen addressed in video games very often.

The last thing about the story is another thing that doesn’t come up in games very often, religion, and more specifically the abuse of the power that religion can have.  One of the central figures in the story is the Prophet Noah, the man who basically founded the country of Alistel where your character is from.  It’s interesting that he is set up as the deity for a religion rather than simply as a king.  But what’s even more interesting is how the game shows the abuse of religious power.  Noah is never seen in the game, but instead speaks through General Hugo, or so we’re told.  Towards the end of the story they show that Hugo was using Noah’s name to promote his own agenda, while keeping the real Noah hidden.  The game doesn’t say exactly when, but the odds are that Noah probably died several years before the start of the game.

Religious zealotry and the abuse of religious power is a fairly common thing both in the real world as well as in fiction, but here is where I think this game does an excellent job of twisting the same old story on it’s head.  Very simply, the central religious figure is still alive, or so the characters think early on.  The central religious character is not a god or any other type of deity, just a simple man.  Think of the power that religions have in this world.  Now imagine if the person central to the religion was still alive.  Even if the person has died, if there were people still alive who had met the religious figure, talked to him, and known him as a friend.  The authority that that religion could have would probably dwarf all of the religious impact that we see in our world today.

So there are my thoughts on the storytelling of the game, now that I’m done playing it, I can start digging through my stack of books a little faster.