Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising serves as a prequel to the upcoming game, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. Though it’s billed as a prequel, it tells its own self-contained story that sets up what’s to come. That narrative is punctuated by an addictive gameplay loop and a trio of heroes who hold their own. If Rising is an indicator of what’s on the horizon, there is a lot to be excited about even though the game does stumble in a couple of areas.
Eiyuden Chronicle comes from the minds of several JRPG giants who worked on the Suikoden series. There’s a lot of influence from their past projects in Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. From its characters to the game’s charming art style, Suikoden’s influence is there. Rising, however, still feels uniquely original.
It also boasts a huge accomplishment in being fully funded on Kickstarter. With an original goal of half a million dollars, it ended up raising $4.6 million. This makes it the third-most successful video game on Kickstarter – behind Bloodstained: Ritual of Night and Shenmue 3.
Much of the game’s originality comes to play with the game’s 2.5D world. While other games like Octopath Traveler and Triangle Strategy have similar vibes, Rising still feels like a breath of fresh air. All the game’s characters are 2D, but much of the world is 3D.
As you move through the side-scrolling landscapes, it’s easy to get lost looking past your character to see what surprises await in the background. Whether you’re on the top of a snow-capped mountain battling a giant, two-headed beast or in the fiery depths of the Runebarrows, there are plenty of gorgeous vistas to explore.
The Trio’s Tale
The game puts you in the shoes of CJ, a teenager who’s left home to search for treasure. CJ is rambunctious, passionate, and eagerly wants to help all the people she meets in the town of New Nevaeh. And there are a lot of people to help.
Over the course of her adventure, you’ll be in charge of filling out your stamp book. This, in turn, spreads the word about the town. New Nevaeh has recently become a hub for adventurers and merchants after an earthquake unearthed the treasure-filled Runebarrows below.
On your journey, you’ll add two more people to your team. You’ll add Garoo, a kangaroo mercenary, and Isha, the rapacious, magic-wielding young mayor with blue hair. The game starts you out with CJ and her initially limited kit.
In the beginning hour or two of the game, CJ feels very limited, but it’s not long before the game’s loop starts to take shape. Before you know it, things open up as you expand your repertoire and the town’s establishments. It’s up to you to convince people to start worthwhile businesses in town.
The narrative isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it’s engaging enough. There is a general mystery to solve with a few touching moments. It does, however, feel very much like a setup for the next game. And honestly, I was okay with that. I didn’t go in expecting narrative moments to rival some of those found in the Suikoden games – I think we will see that in Hundred Heroes.
Unfortunately, that does come with a caveat. The stakes only seem high for one of the main heroes and I never got very invested in their journeys. But, another, very late-game narrative moment points to a second of the three having more going on than previously told. Without getting into spoilers, I wish I’d known about this person’s plight earlier as it helped me connect with them more.
Side Quest After Side Quest
At any given point, you have your main objective plus a number of sidequests to complete. By helping the townspeople, you build your relationship and the town grows. You help set up a Smithy, Weapon Shop, Tavern, and Inn to name a few of the businesses that open. Each helps build you up either by offering permanent enhancements to weapons or armor or temporary buffs.
I found myself utilizing some more than others. Upgrading my weapons and armor felt impactful while eating food at the tavern to heal and get a very minor buff did not.
While I enjoyed my time with CJ and friends, the game’s main gameplay loop sometimes gets a little tiresome. The game is very side-quest heavy. Unfortunately, few of them propel the narrative forward or offer interesting characters. Despite that, I had trouble removing myself from the loop.
While the main mechanics of it aren’t incredibly deep, there’s something addicting about going out to farm for one more quest or go find that Foxman’s missing kid. Most quests give you a stamp as thanks and it’s very addicting seeing your stamp book, always situated at the top of the screen, fill up. I eventually started skipping through the side quest dialogue. So many of them offer similar stories, and it speeds up the process.
Many of the side quests fall into one of these: go find this item lost in this specific location, go locate this person the quest giver can’t find, or go find X amount of these items. Some of these quests upgrade the town’s facilities, allowing you to grow stronger through upgrades. Some just offer you experience and money.
The quests are most frustrating when all you do is walk one screen over to go tell someone a friend is looking for them. Then, you turn around and go back to the quest giver to tell them you found their friend. I often found myself wishing for deeper interactions between characters or more variety of quests, but they do lend themselves nicely to the addictive gameplay loop.
The Trio Travelin’ Through
Luckily, the game uses a nice quick travel system that mostly makes getting to and from people easier. I did take issue with the game’s map and some of the UI, though. There’s the fast travel screen which features the names of all the locations you can teleport to.
Then, on the game’s main menu is another map that is laid out in rectangles and lines showing you the different paths and where they lead. This map is helpful when determining if you’re close to a quest objective. It will show you if it’s one screen over, for example. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t list names on this map for the areas. I wish the two maps were situated on one screen.
There is also fast travel between the game’s save points in dungeons. This helps with exploration, though you can’t teleport out of the dungeon. As you get deeper into the Runebarrows, there can be a lot of backtracking to reach the device you unlock that actually gets you back to town. The review guide that was sent does say the game version that goes live at release will have an “adjusted fast travel function” so I hope that helps alleviate some of that backtracking.
A Link Between Characters
Once you have all three characters and you’re really delving deep into the game’s dungeons, the real fun begins. While Hundred Heroes is going to be turn-based, Rising is fully an action RPG. The press of a specific button allows you to swap to the character you prefer. They each come with specific gameplay styles and movement abilities and their own lists of pros and cons.
CJ is speedy and powerful. She can unlock a double jump and flash through the air to dodge. Garoo uses a giant sword to deal big damage and can block attacks. Isha is the mage of the trio whose attacks depend on what elemental rune is equipped. I almost exclusively used CJ due to her speed and jumping abilities. Garoo is slower and hampered by a poor jump and Isha’s levitation and teleport aren’t as reliable as CJ’s movement abilities.
They both do come in handy against enemies, though. Battles are quick, fast, and flashy thanks to the game’s Link Attack system. In battle, you’re able to chain together attacks by swapping to another character after hitting an enemy. These can build up some truly flashy and exciting combos. Boss battles are especially fun to try and test out different combos and just watch their HP melt away as you chain together attacks.
Most enemies are fairly easy to fight against with predictable attack patterns. Bosses, while they also tend to follow an attack pattern, are all epic-scale battles. They will test your ability to dodge, link together attacks, and maneuver around obstacles flying at you. It can be frantic, but fun. Overall, though, the game is not difficult. I never died in my 13 or so hours of playthrough.
As I reached the end of my playtime with Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, I found myself quite excited for the future. While the two games will end up being different with some of their core mechanics, there’s a lot of promise in the prequel.
Even though its side quests and story aren’t super memorable, there is something incredibly addicting about its gameplay. Its loop of completing quests, filling your stamp book, upgrading the town and your gear, and unlocking the next area sinks its teeth into you.
I expect Hundred Heroes will be much larger and fleshed out when it releases in 2023, but in the meantime, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising offers up an addictive, charming, and beautiful taste of what’s to come.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is avaliable now on Xbox and PC Game Pass as well as PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam, Epic and GOG.
I used the PS5 version of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising for the purposes of this review.