I think I want to try a different kind of review. I want to review how progressive a particular game is, and that alone. I could do a full review, but there are plenty of other places where you can read about the story, the music, the graphics, the gameplay, etc. The Border House is about inclusiveness and progressiveness, so that’s what I’m going to judge. First up on the list? Radiant Historia, which is fresh enough in my mind that I can accurately talk about it, and also gives me some talking points. Some spoilers, but I’ll be as vague as I possibly can be when discussing them.
- While a woman does die in the very beginning of the game, a man dies in the same incident alongside her. Stocke, the main character, would have also died were it not for plot happening. There are a couple of good character deaths later on, but they happen to men.
- Raynie, the first woman in your party, starts off as a more fighter based character and wields a spear, the same weapon type that the strongest physical character in the game uses. She also gets to use the same heavy armor that the protagonist and the strongest physical attacker use. In contrast, the first man in your party who isn’t the protagonist, Marco, starts off as your healer.
- While Stocke does try to discourage some of the women in the game from accompanying him on his quest, it’s never about their gender. In these instances, it is about either the political importance of the character or the character’s age. Additionally, every time it comes up he concedes and allows them to come with. His reasoning for not wanting people with him is also established early on. In fact, I can’t recall any lines that equated fighting ability to a particular gender, though it’s possible a few slipped by me.
- Every woman in your party isn’t a potential love interest. This is kind of an obvious thing, but far too often jRPGs have every woman fighting over the main character, while wRPGs let male characters romance every woman. Having women who have romances with other characters, or reasons for not romancing the main character, is nice.
- The most useful party member in the entire game is the little girl, easily doing double the damage or more than any of the other party members, regardless of the gender of those characters.
- One of the women in the game, Field Marshal Viola, is described as being one of the toughest people in the military, as well as being very charismatic and skilled at battlefield tactics. From what I recall, she’s also not primarily a caster, instead wielding a sword, however she’s never in your party so I honestly can’t say one way or the other for sure.
- The armor type for the princess is a dress based on the in-game text, and an ornately armored blouse based on the character art. The former is bad because this character is involved in combat, she can buy some pants or something more suited to fighting. The latter would be pretty cool, but is instead just awful because her legs aren’t remotely protected. I can’t even tell if she’s wearing leggings or not, though I assume she is. Raynie’s outfit is a bit revealing as well, but not quite that bad. Granted, in both examples you can’t really see it in the in-game character portraits, but it’s still ridiculous.
- The women who aren’t Raynie are the primary damage dealing casters of the game, and one of them is also the best healer in the game. Raynie eventually becomes more of a caster, but isn’t as good at it as the more feminine women in your party. At the same time, her physical abilities aren’t as good as two of the masculine men in your party. She falls into a kinda-sorta-useful middle ground. To be fair, Marco eventually becomes a similar character, as he gets a couple physical abilities, but that hardly excuses it.
- Most all of the antagonists are men, and the woman antagonist is never fought directly. You defeat her by defeating her (male) soldiers.
- Every character that is not the King of Cygnus is white. This could be explained on the basis that the country you start in is Europe based, while Cygnus is supposed to be a desert country, but since the king is the only one with a character portrait I can’t really judge whether that’s the case or not. If I can’t tell, I’m not going to try to excuse it.
- Unsurprisingly, there are no bi, gay, or transgender characters.
- The epilogue has one woman waiting for the man she loves to return home safe and sound. It’s the sort of cliché “I’ll wait as long as it takes,” nonsense you’d expect of such a plot element.
- The closest thing to a non-dominant race of people is, as usual, anthropomorphic and laden with the standard “tribal” themes, like some members of the race being shamans and all the villages being in forests or jungles. (Other example to prove my point: Warcraft)
There’s some good and some bad about Radiant Historia. Judging its progressiveness/inclusiveness it wouldn’t be hard to name games that do better, but at the same time it’s even easier to name games that do worse, especially within that particular genre. It’s a mixed bag, but for the genre I’d say it does more right than I expected. I came away from the experience more or less happy with this aspect of the game, though the more critical will (rightfully) find much at fault with the problems I listed.