Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising PC Review
I am a huge fan of the Suikoden games, especially Suikoden II; the title that made me fall in love with the series. I find it to be one of the best world-building Japanese RPGs out there. The series goes to lengths to create such a fascinating world set over many years, as each new entry is set in the same world, but at a different period in time, building upon its history and its huge character list, as each entry adds pieces to solving a puzzle and making a cohesive story of its world-changing events. The creator of Suikoden, Yoshitaka Murayama, left after creating Suikoden III on the PlayStation 2. The following sequels, Suikoden IV and Suikoden V, had a new producer/director take over the reins. Murayama went on a bit of a break from producing, writing and directing RPGs, but after creating some smaller titles, he is back with the genre he is known for.
What does this have to do with Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising? Well back in 2020, Murayama returned with a teaser for a new game in development at a new studio, Rabbit & Bear Studios, where he had teamed up with some ex-Suikoden team members and began working on a spiritual successor to Suikoden called Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. A Kickstarter campaign was initiated, and the thirst was real for a Suikoden successor, as it passed its goal within three hours. There was so much investment from fans that a bonus game was thrown in as a thank you for the massive support. That bonus game is Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, a prologue title that introduces a portion of the characters featured in the main game, which arrives next year.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is not an RPG, so do not expect this game to be of the same quality as the main game coming next year. Instead, this is sort of a side-scrolling action game with some RPG elements thrown in for stat progression. Story-wise, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising introduces our scavenger protagonist, CJ, arriving at New Neveah, which is currently going under a transformation after being damaged by a huge earthquake. CJ is in the middle of her rite of passage, a task that has her looking for a treasure that has to be bigger than what her father found back when he was doing the same rite. To do this, CJ needs to go down into the town’s quarry but to do that she must acquire an adventure licence from the acting Mayor, which requires doing jobs for the local townsfolk in exchange for stamps, building up a stamp collection that will allow her to continue her treasure hunt.
During the adventure, CJ meets plenty of new characters, with a couple of them, Garoo, a lone renegade Kangaroo with a missing eye and a giant Sword, and Isha, the daughter of the Mayor who has the power of magic, join CJ to form a team. In terms of the grand scope and how this game sets up for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, well, it is more in terms of character introductions, and even then, it is only a small amount, since next year’s game will have one hundred heroes. This is also the same for the plot, as apart from the beginning and a few small bits in-between, then the big reveal at the end, the rest of the story is very low key and all about the village that CJ has arrived in, so do not expect Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising to give you much story, as most of it is mundane. There are some decent character interactions, which I can only assume will be part of the main squad next year, as characters that are important have portraits to symbolise this, but again, this is only in small amounts, a handful in the rest of the plot that happens over the course of 10 hours.
The issue with how the story works is with the main objective given with the stamp collection, as this is a way to gate off progression. Certain elements need to be hit before the next story opens up. What seems like an interesting way to do side quests and promote the town-building, since helping the folks of New Neveah means more shops, more variety of products in stock and better quality stocks, the problem is that this turns into a monotonous grind, a list of chores to accomplish that require returning to the few locations. There is a forest, a mining quarry, underground tomes, snow peaks and then a lava pit, just to get some items or kill some enemies then return back to base. It becomes the lower tier of side quests, which we all know as fetch quests, those generic tasks to pad out content, except this adds to additional features in the game. Problem is that it feels like the player is always visiting the same areas and doing the same things; fast travel, perform said stamp request and then fast travel back to the town to get the reward. It is not that exciting. I grew bored of them, which is a shame because when the game is pushing the story and the player is exploring new environments or expanding the locations of existing ones, thanks to new abilities unlocked, a sort of Metroidvania element that the game has, then Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is good fun.
Combat is an area that starts off simple but gets interesting later on, maybe a bit too late in regards to how much time has passed before players have their team of three and some decent moves. This is because additional move sets are added through collecting stamps or upgrading weapons and armour. Each of the three characters has their own dedicated button, giving them simple combo strings at the touch of one button. Unlockable moves can bring in more that will use directions and presses to activate. The switching of characters is a cool feature, as it allows for special combo attacks, called links, which enable high damage. CJ is fast with double pick axes, Garoo is the heavy hitter of the group, with a giant sword for midrange damage and can parry moves, while Isha is the mage, shooting out balls of electric or shards of ice, depending on what rune-lens is equipped to her. All characters can use rune-lens, which add elemental damage to their attacks. It is just a shame that the combat takes too long to get good, as when everything is unlocked, the combo system gets the player engaged.
One area in which the game does not falter is its visuals. The backgrounds are beautiful, rendered with a mix of 2D and 3D, while the character sprites, which are done in a lower resolution than the rest of the assets, shine with personality, thanks to the artist’s ability to bring the character out with their portraits and character sprite work. The presentation totally reminds me of Suikoden. This is what I would imagine a new Suikoden game would be if it returns from its 3D routes of the PlayStation 2 games and back to 2D. This seems to be the style used for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, which gets me excited to see more of that game’s characters and the world in this visual style. The music is decent enough during the play, but nothing stayed memorable that I wanted to listen to it after I finished the game.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a strange one. The game never existed initially until the Kickstarter for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes was so successful that they wanted to do something more for all the people supporting the development of that game. This is how Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising was birthed and it kind of shows within this end product. This is given to the fans as a companion piece, a cheap way to look into the world that Yoshitaka Murayama is creating.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising demonstrates how beautiful Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes will be and it gives us a small insight into that game’s characters and the world, but it is done in a game that feels padded out to extend what would otherwise be a short adventure. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is packed with a lot of generic fetch quests, and since some of these are required to progress the game’s story, it makes the journey become a chore. The combat takes a while to get going to the point where the early game feels easy and simplistic. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a fair stab at bringing something for the fans, a game that did not have enough time to be fleshed out, so had to bulk the journey out with its stamp collection, but overall, it’s a fair game, nothing too good or bad, just a game that I did enjoy for the most part, but tries to hinder that enjoyment with some questionable and generic quest padding.