You can have up to four characters in battle at a time, but all the characters other than Jack are artificial intelligence-controlled. You can't even equip weapons or spells to these characters; that's all handled automatically. What you can do is issue commands on the fly by hitting the L1 button, which brings up a minimenu. Here, you can order characters individually or as a party to do things like defend, attack, recover, or provide support. You can also assign "links" to each direction on the D pad. These links are basically formations that make your characters act as a unit, thus increasing your effectiveness in battle. These links are extremely helpful when launching an attack on an enemy, but you can't use items while linked, so you have to break out of the link to heal your characters. To link up, you need to have at least 10 points on your volty gauge. Each time someone in the link gets hit by an enemy, you'll lose volty points. If the points hit zero, or if someone gets a status effect, the link will break. There are dozens of different link patterns in the game, and while linked you can also learn skills from the people you're linked with. These skills have passive effects, like preventing poison or boosting luck.
The environments and creatures in Radiata Stories are nicely detailed.
The battle system borrows heavily from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, so if you like that kind of fighting, you'll enjoy Radiata Stories. The button-mashing does get a bit repetitive though, and the targeting system doesn't always work to your benefit. The auto-targeting jumps around from enemy to enemy with no sense of logic to it, so you'll want to use the target lock as often as possible. The battles are also a bit easy at times. Most enemies have long, drawn-out attacks that are easy to spot. You can simply bait an enemy until they attack, then run around the side and beat the crap out of the enemy while they continue attacking. Later on, enemies get quicker and this is harder to do, but you can still find a way to exploit the enemy AI in just about every battle. Some of the boss battles can get pretty difficult, if only because the bosses tend to have several times the number of hit points of any other creatures in the game. As long as you have plenty of healing items and some strong characters in your party, you can just sit back and heal your allies while they do all the dirty work.
The battle fields are pretty flat and plain, but the world beyond the battles is detailed and colorful. Each region of the world has a unique look and feel, and the game is brimming with little touches that really give the game a nice look. From the long shadows cast by the setting sun in the desert to the dead leaves that are kicked up when you run through a shadowy forest, the game looks great. As you travel the countryside, you'll see animals grazing or sleeping in the foreground and background, and you'll see vistas that seem to stretch on forever. The level of detail really makes this game great to look at, from the bizarre creatures to the exaggerated facial animations on the characters. Unfortunately, there are some spots in the game that look flat and washed out, particularly some of the interiors and exteriors of the buildings in the game. These aren't especially ugly, but they do stick out because the rest of the game looks nice and detailed. There's also a day-and-night cycle in the game, but for the most part it's just an effect--it doesn't really bear on the gameplay. Some people won't come out at night and stores will often close, but other than that, the passage of time is simply there to trigger story events. As a result, when you don't know what to do next, you can often just sleep a few times to burn some hours off the clock, and the story will automatically progress. Other than that, there's not much reason to pay attention to what time it is in the game; but the cycle does make the world seem a little more alive than it otherwise might.
The characters and dialogue are always silly, which makes you actually want to watch the cutscenes.
The sound contributes a lot to the charm of Radiata Stories. The soundtrack has plenty of upbeat, jazzy tunes to keep you moving along, but there are also plenty of slower, more dramatic tracks, like those found in any other role-playing game. None of the music will get stuck in your head, but you won't want to mute it either. The voice acting is cheesy and over the top, but it fits perfectly with the characters here. There's a lot of spoken dialogue, and although some of the characters sound better than others, there aren't any particularly annoying or offensive voices in the game. The annoying part comes when you get into battle and you hear your characters shout the same battle cry every time they attack, as if you needed to hear "alright!" a hundred times every battle to keep your spirits up.
You can beat the game in about 20 hours, but then you can go back and try the alternate storyline for another six to 10 hours of gameplay. Although Radiata Stories doesn't really bring anything new to the genre, it's still an enjoyable game simply because it delivers the humor that role-playing games so often lack. Whereas your Final Fantasies and Star Oceans play out like an episode of Days of Our Lives, Radiata Stories feels more like an early episode of Saved by the Bell, which is a good thing.