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Wandering is as exciting as the battles

"Radiata Stories" is a game I thoroughly enjoyed, probably by accident.

It's built out of the same, almost by now default, elements that make up most console role-playing games (a pseudo-medieval setting, an unlikely teenage hero, an epic struggle of some sort, pop-up battles, swords, experience points, monsters, etc.). And after so many variations of the exact same formula, it's kind of hard to drum up any enthusiasm for this kind of thing unless there's something about it that makes it stand out from the countless other games just like it.

"Radiata Stories" does have a few distinguishing qualities, but what's strange is that the game's priorities seem almost inverted. The main plot-based objective somehow feels like an afterthought compared to the more well-crafted details surrounding it -- details that a lot of games wouldn't have even bothered including at all.

For the most part, "Radiata Stories" knows it's treading a familiar path as far as the plot goes, so it never really takes itself too seriously. This was definitely the right way to tackle the material, but I think to fully compensate for what was lacking in the story, the humor needed to be a lot sharper than it actually was.

Another not-quite-successful attempt at towing the game out of the muck of cliche comes in the way of the combat system. While it is nice enough to actually be able to see the monsters as they roam the land and to actually control the hero during fights for a change (two things that are pretty uncommon in this genre), it only makes slogging through all the battles slightly less tedious than it'd be otherwise. An enemy approaches me and attacks; I step aside and attack him instead. Except for a couple evasive maneuvers and some group commands to use on your computer-controlled teammates, that's pretty much all there is to the fighting system.

So, then, maybe it's because so much of the game is unremarkable that some of the peripheral details -- which, again, are incredible -- came as such a shock to me. By the time I was around six or seven hours into it, it was hard to tell whether or not I was even playing the same game anymore.

What happens is you find yourself in this massive town with pretty much nothing to do. Since many of the game's events are triggered by the in-game clock, you can always just skip ahead by repeatedly sleeping until the next major plot point rolls around.

I just wish the game would've stopped nagging me about its plot and let me enjoy it more.

e-mail: mgovenettio@hotmail.com

Game: Radiata Stories
Score: * * * (out of four)
Rated: T (for Teen)
System: PlayStation 2
Developer: Tri-Ace
Publisher: Square-Enix

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