With Konami seemingly uninterested in carrying on the Suikoden series, we were over the moon when Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes was announced.
Currently in development by Rabbit & Bear Studios, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is set to be the spiritual sequel to Suikoden that fans have been waiting for. Its story and dialogue is helmed by Yoshitaka Murayama, who wrote the scripts for both the original Suikoden and its sequel. Junko Kawano is involved, too, who worked on Suikoden and Suikoden IV. Needless to say, we have high hopes for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. But before then we have Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising to play; an action RPG that introduces us to the world we’ll be spending more time in when Hundred Heroes launches.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising wastes no time in putting players in control of spunky young protagonist CJ, heading into the town of New Nevaeh to build a name for herself. She’s a treasure hunter, you see, and she’s heard that the town of New Nevaeh is where it’s at for those in her trade. It’s perhaps because of her nature to help others in need, however, that she ends up drawn into events that have repercussions for the entire region. But fortunately she doesn’t have to face such hardships alone; shortly after arriving at New Nevaeh, she’ll find some friends that she can rely on.
In a move that’ll be unsurprising to Suikoden fans, the town of New Nevaeh essentially becomes your base of operations. And while you’re not the person in charge, getting it back on its feet and improving it rests on your shoulders. First you’ll get the local tavern and inn back up and running. Then you’ll help the start up of further establishments such as a smithy and apothecary. You’ll continue to add to the town over time, as well as further enhancing the facilities you’ve already built.
It’s not all about town building though. There’s also the matter of pushing the story forward. Both are generally achieved by visiting a variety of locations outside the town, where monsters lurk but there are rewards to be found. If you need lumber to build a structure, for example, then chances are you’ll be heading to the Great Forest where it’s in abundance. And all the while you’ll be pushing on through each environment to see what lies deeper.
The gameplay is kept on the 2D plane, making your exploits outside of town almost platformer-like. But there’s plenty of combat to get engaged in, too. Initially, when you just have control of CJ, it seems woefully basic, especially with her paltry 2-hit combo. As you upgrade her weapons and armour, however, you expand her combat abilities and gain new manoeuvres. Things are further improved when you gain your travelling companions, who each have their own attacks and unique tricks up their sleeves. You can even perform extended combos, instantly switching from one character to another.
Much like developing the town, developing your characters also requires materials. Needless to say, there’s a lot of farming to be done in Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising; lots of revisiting areas to gather resources. It never feels like a chore, though that’s partly because the way you upgrade your character means there’s often somewhere new to explore. Gaining the ability to double-jump might allow you to reach a platform that you couldn’t before, for example, or equipping a character with an elemental rune might allow you to break an otherwise impenetrable barrier.
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There’s much busywork in Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, but it’s engaging and rewarding busywork. A lot of quests might just involve you running you running around town, but a fast travel system makes it painless. And you have a vested interest in building new facilities and enabling them to grow as they provide you with upgrades and other features that are hugely beneficial. Overall, there’s a good mix of running errands, upgrading your gear, following story threads and exploring dungeons while pounding enemies that get in your way.
It helps that Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising looks so wonderful, too. 3D environments have been combined with detailed 2D sprites to create something that looks modern yet also nostalgic, very much like what Square Enix has achieved with its HD-2D. It may not be a Suikoden game, but you can imagine each of the primary characters you meet here being in one of them. They’re distinctive and larger than life, standing out from the NPCs that surround them. They’re endearing, making you want to know their stories.
With its to-ing and fro-ing and overly basic combat for its first hour or two, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Those that stick with it though, will find a game that develops into something very enjoyable indeed. This is a charming adventure, with combat and platforming that grows ever richer with each new upgrade and ability you obtain. But it’s the world that’s the real star here. The story of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising might not be all that grand, but it’s full of characters that we’ve already grown to love. And so, as a taster for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, it does its job admirably.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising Review – GameSpew’s Score