Developer: Natsume Atari
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch, PC
Release Date: 10 May 2022
Price: $14.99 USD / $22.99 AUD – Available Here
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is the byproduct of the Kickstarter dream project Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, a spiritual successor of the beloved Suikoden series. Different from its RPG counterpart, Eiyuden Rising is an action-adventure/RPG hybrid like what can be seen in some metroidvanias, and it is also the prequel for Eiyuden Hundred Heroes.
Many beloved series from the past are now trapped in copyright hell or were simply shelved because men in suits think that these games can’t turn up a profit anymore. So the next best thing would be assembling the original creators and developers of a given game and reviving it as a new IP. That’s exactly the case with Eiyuden as it was with other old series that arose from their graves – give me back Altered Beast, Sega – through crowd-funding such as Shenmue and Castlevania’s successor Bloodstained.
The story follows CJ, a tomboyish treasure hunter or scavenger as she calls herself. At the age of 15, people from her village must leave and not come back until they find a treasure that’s even more valuable than what their parents were able to bring back. During her travels, CJ learns of a village in which adventurers are gathering by the promise of untold riches that may be found in the recently discovered “Runebarrows.” With that, CJ sets out to bring back a treasure even more formidable than what her father found before her.
Along her journey, CJ will meet a variety of interesting characters which she will help or partner with. The story is the old JRPG trope about some teenager that’s too awesome for their own good, except in this case it isn’t a boy or a mute. The Runebarrows hide much more than just treasure, and evil types intend to use its secrets for world domination because of course.
Much like how it was in Suikoden, it’s the characters that run the show. There are a lot of dialogues between them and they play their roles well enough for their exchanges to be a somewhat fun read. It’s a light-hearted tale with some twists and funny moments that I think will please most JRPG fans.
At its core, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising plays like your typical 2D metroidvania. CJ’s move repertoire is initially very limited with only a two-hit combo on the ground and a single attack while jumping. As you help villagers set up shop in the devastated New Nevaeh, you gain the option to improve your weapon and armor, raising their base stats, and even unlocking new defensive and offensive techniques. The other two characters that you unlock through the story can also upgrade their equipment in the same way, as they’re as important as CJ for the gameplay and story.
When exploring dungeons, you can swap between any of the three characters at any given time – even while jumping – with the press of a button. You can, for example, initiate a jumping attack with CJ and after that, call in Garoo or Isha to continue a combo or perform a link attack; these are special combos that deal a lot of damage, and can hit multiple enemies if you time it right. There’s just a brief cooldown between link attacks so you can abuse it as you see fit. In short, you have a lot of neat options to defeat enemies and even create huge combos if that’s your thing. The problem with this notion is that the game is ridiculously easy, only spiking up a bit in difficulty towards the end, so if you want to get creative with combos you’ll have to simply keep juggling dead enemies.
There’s a hard setting that’s only selectable after you’ve finished the game which is a huge oversight from the developers. After a while, fighting enemies becomes just another way to gather resources for side quests and developing the town. Fortunately, the game controls well and its action part is fast paced even when just collecting loot for a given quest. The character swapping mechanic is seamless and cool. There really is no downtime while you’re exploring and fighting. The metroidvania aspect is just like you’d expect, with places that can only be reached with the use of an item or a new ability. All this combined with the light-hearted nature of the game makes Eiyuden Rising a perfect game to unwind and relax.
There’s also a town building feature in Eiyuden Rising. At the start of the game, New Nevaeh is in shambles due to frequent earthquakes among other threats. So it falls to CJ and her companions to help rebuild the town. This is crucial to unlock new shops which will sell various important items and also upgrade your equipment, which then unlocks combos and new maneuvers.
The player has no agency on how the town is built besides choosing what is going to be built or improved first. Town building in itself is more important for the story, and also a way to flood the player with side quests; most of these are annoying fetch quests that are mostly there to pad the game’s length, but some of them will provide more insight on the story and characters. Other quests have an interesting premise, but when you think something interesting is going to happen, the quest ends just there, like the developers wanted to pull a bad joke on the player.
After you complete a certain number of quests, the town will develop even further although there will be only minor changes to the town, such as more NPCs wandering the streets. As much as I hate this lazy trend of stuffing a game with inane content, it’s not that aggravating in Eiyuden Rising because many of these quests will resolve themselves if you like the exploration; by the time you find them you’ll already have the resources needed to complete them. Fast travel is unlocked from the start, and it is another feature that will alleviate the game’s padding issue.
Visually, Eiyuden Rising combines characters made using sprite work – although their somewhat stiff animations sometimes remind me of something from a low-budget 3D game – and 3D backgrounds. The character design and illustrations are done by Junko Kawano who worked on many Suikoden titles; the sprite work and illustrations are beautiful and make Eiyuden Rising really feel like a new entry in the Suikoden series. The backgrounds are very colorful and lively and with nice textures and effects. Although the graphics are simple overall, the use of a 2.5D perspective allows for beautiful screens with some impressive effects.
If you’ve played some JRPGs, you already know what to expect from the soundtrack in Eiyuden Rising: Each area has a distinct motif such as the soothing but adventurous theme in the forest, or the slow and melancholic snow peak theme. Some themes work better than others but this is up for debate. I personally enjoyed the soundtrack overall. There’s no voice acting in the game.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a game done by the numbers to a fault and with a lot of meaningless and boring side activities. If you’re a patient person, or someone who love JRPGs, Eiyuden Rising can certainly be an engaging and fun game. It lays the foundation for Eiyuden Hundred Heroes nicely with a fun cast of characters and a good enough story.
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