As an avid JRPG fan, you can imagine that I was quite excited when a kickstarter for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes was announced. Being led by Yoshitaka Murayama, the creator of the Suikoden games, Hundred Heroes intends to be a JRPG epic with turn-based combat and I, even though I've yet to play a Suikoden game, decided that I wanted to back the project. The campaign proved to be very successful. raising ¥481,621,841 across 46,307 backers and achieving numerous stretch goals. One of these stretch goals, unlocked once they raised $4.5 million, was to develop a companion game that would be released before the main game. While Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes has yet to be released, it's intended to come out next year, the companion game, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, has finally been released.
The story opens up with a character called CJ, a teenage girl who is seeking treasure in order to fulfill her family tradition, arriving at the town of New Neveah. New Neveah is a relatively underdeveloped town and the town's acting mayor, a teenage girl called Isha, is hoping to use the newly opened Runebarrows, a network of underground ruins, to fund the town by taxing the adventurers who explore the ruins and gather treasure. Of course, as you might expect, a mystery begins to develop as the ruins are explored that may end up causing more harm than good to the town.
The story itself is charming even if the pacing is a little slower than I would care for. The main characters as well as several of the townspeople are given plenty of time to develop over the course of the game and it has certainly made me more curious to see how their story arcs develop in the main game. Speaking of that though, this is very much a companion game for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes through and through since several of these arcs are left as cliffhangers during the conclusion. While I would have liked to see the story run at a brisker pace while simultaneously developing the mystery better, I still enjoyed the characters and setting and it served its purpose as an appetiser for the main game quite well.
While Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is going to have a turn-based combat system, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising makes the interesting decision to have real-time action combat. The combat system, just like the story itself, takes a bit too long to develop with combat in the early game feeling a little awkward and clumsy. Basically, CJ attacks using the left face button and, initially, can only do a combo of two attacks before she has to pause. She also has a dash that can be used to navigate the environment and avoid enemy attacks but the combat system overall doesn't make a very good early impression. However, this combat system does develop into something quite satisfying as the game continues. As a couple of other characters join CJ on her journey, they attack using the top and right face buttons, allowing you to switch to them mid-combat. By attacking with another character right after an attack, you can trigger link attacks which slow down time and teleports your character directly near the enemy. By chaining these together, you can deal a very large amount of damage in a relatively short amount of time and this can feel quite satisfying to pull off.
As an RPG, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising makes some interesting decisions. Just like most RPGs, your characters gain levels by earning experience through combat and quests and can find or buy equipment like accessories in order to gain buffs. However, the way you gain additional moves is not by leveling but by upgrading your equipment. By going to the weapon and armour shop, you can upgrade each character's weapon and armour which does things like increase the number of combos the character can do or give them a double jump. This is a little odd compared to some other games but it does end up working in the end.
Speaking of shops, they serve as a very important mechanic in Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. Basically, a core gameplay element is that you are working to develop this impoverished town into prosperity and this is achieved by performing quests for the local shopkeepers. They will give you a task and, once you've completed this task, they will upgrade their store in order to offer new goods and services. This does create a decent gameplay loop as you gather resources in the dungeons and return to town to see what you can craft to improve your characters.
However, the quality of these quests are another thing. There are a lot of quests packed into this game and they range from satisfying to outright dull. In addition to the shopkeepers, various townspeople will also give you tasks to fulfill for the promise of reward. In general, quests can be summarised as gathering a certain number of materials, gathering a unique material that only spawns once you start the quest or going to talk to an NPC and then returning to the quest giver. While the first two types of quests can be quite fun to complete, running around to talk to an NPC only to return to the quest giver is not particularly fun and feels like a simplistic way to try to extend the playtime. This really stood out to me in one particular instance where the blacksmith asked me to go talk to the owner of the weapon shop. All this took was a quick walk up the street where, once you talk to the weapon shop owner, you are sent back to complete the quest. This felt like a quest that had been slapped together with little care or attention (it even reminds me of those tasks you give young children that you call "quests" to get them excited to do them) and the game could've tried to improve the quest system by cutting the number of quests in half but working to develop each one more intricately.
The last two things that I want to bring particular attention to when it comes to gameplay is the playtime and difficulty. I managed to earn all of the achievements in the game, which involved doing every quest, refighting bosses on a different difficulty and exploring every area to completion, within a mere 17 hours. I will admit that I did look up the location to one or two quests but, even if that had added an hour or two, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is quite a short JRPG. With regards to difficulty, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is very easy with many of the monsters going down very quickly as long as you develop your characters' equipment. I even found that I only needed to use a potion to heal about three times throughout the main story. Once you've done this, you unlock a new hard difficulty which raises the levels of all monsters and bosses by quite a bit. This difficulty added quite a bit of the challenge that I was looking for and I wish that Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising made hard mode available from the very beginning.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising uses a 2.5D art style which has 2D characters travelling a 3D environment in a 2D fashion. The characters themselves are very pleasantly designed but I do admit that it seems quite odd to me that they are only slightly pixelated. The 3D environments themselves are also quite nice with detailed textures, blurring and use of colours. The animation is also generally good with some excellently animated combat attacks from both enemies and party members. However, a couple of the non-human characters do move a tad awkwardly in cutscenes where I'm reminded that their legs and arms are being animated separately to their body.
The music of the game is quite enjoyable with some nice ranges from jaunty town music to mysterious music of the Runebarrows as well as the action music of the boss battles. While I wouldn't say that the soundtrack is particularly memorable, I do feel that it adds quite well to the atmosphere of the game.
I did enjoy my time overall with Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising and it certainly has me curious about the storyline of the upcoming game. However, it is very much a case that Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a flawed game that takes too long for both its combat system and plot to get going as well as overly repetitive quests. Nonetheless, the process of developing New Neveah as well as exploring the dungeons and gathering resources is quite satisfying and the characters drew me in enough that I'm eager to see how they develop in Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.