Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a precursor before the main game, Hundred Heroes, which should be out in 2023. It is a side scrolling action RPG made by Natsume Atari, with help from Rabbit & Bear for 505 Games.
There are high expectations with this one due to the developers ties to the much-loved Suikoden series. Expectations should be tempered however, as while there is much love and effort poured into this title, Rising cannot be recommended. It is pleasing to the eyes and ears but there is far too much repetition and filler to say people will have a great time with this one.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is available to buy on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and Steam.
For those interested, Matthew Bowen talks about the upcoming sequel Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.
Story – Spread Too Thin
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising begins with spunky teenager CJ, a self-proclaimed “treasure hunter” hoping to score the biggest haul ever and usurp her father’s status as the legendary treasure hunter. She has heard of the “Humungous Lens” and has arrived at her latest town, New Nevaeh. The town is in ruins from a natural disaster. Wanting to pass on, she meets the town’s mayor who forces her to stay – if she wishes to leave, she needs an “Explorer’s Licence”. To get one, she will have to help out the town residents to collect the stamps necessary. This means asking them what they need to rebuild the town; prepare for plenty of side quests where residents ask you to find them items in surrounding areas …… or to another citizen along the same screen. How rude of them not to talk to each other in person!
This destroys the games pacing, as there is a solid adventure underneath. You explore the neighbouring areas for story missions and character development(and town requests). Cut scenes, while not voiced, are well written, displaying emotional depth and the personalities of each character. However, the town/world building is more interesting than the tale told here; in regards to the games story, it feels disproportionate to it’s actual length. Some quests were dragged out, others were over in a flash. Granted, your enjoyment is going to differ on how you choose to play.
Simple Journey About Self Discovery
During the story CJ explores the world with two acquaintances – Garoo who is a “tough” mercenary and the town mayor, Isha. The game has beautiful locations to explore; from lush forests, a dusty quarry to snow covered mountain peaks. There is also decent interaction between the main cast and the townsfolk, which was welcome. However, the main story is stretched out and relies on the characters rather than the politics of the world at large; before the end characters turn up that have been barely mentioned, plot points are rushed through and the game also mentions characters yet to be seen.
It does have a few interesting twists for a self-contained adventure but the game is also trying to set the scene for Hundred Heroes; within the game Rising however, they are inconsequential, which was a baffling design choice. In terms of the characters involved here, CJ goes from driven to compassionate, while the others go through similar changes. The story is sloppy but does get its message across that life is about self-discovery about who you want to be.
Gameplay – Fun But Very Repetitive
While the game is fun to play, due to it’s structure you will be seeing the same areas repeatedly throughout your adventure. Combat thankfully keeps things breezy & exploration isn’t taxing. The boss fights are a highlight but don’t help break up the repetitious nature of this adventure. Prepare to do the same things over & over, boss fights included.
Dungeon Design – Metroid-Lite
When you’re not admiring the graphics and animations, you’re exploring and you’re in combat. The surrounding areas – the Great Forest, The Quarry, The Runebarrows, The Snowpeaks, are essentially dungeons. The main menu will show your progress with a diagram and percentage bar. There is plenty to do besides defeating enemies. Lots of debris to smash, ground to dig up, chests to open. Paths are blocked by gates which have puzzles to solve. You can play the incredibly simple fishing mini game. Other areas are closed off; elemental pillars block your progress until you are ready with the right equipment. You could use traps to collect animal skins for crafting. The camera was decent, sticking close to the action but allowed you to look around with the right stick if needed. The dungeon designs were fine to play through, nothing about the structure was very challenging.
Combat – Simple, Effective, Stale?
Exploring the areas during the main story culminated in fighting a boss. Combat is real time and a simple affair. This is a strength and weakness. Fighting usually wasn’t stressful – the main highlights were kill boxes within the dungeons and taking on the bosses. Like a natural RPG, you receive EXP from defeating enemies and completing main story and side quests. This eventually made combat a breeze to get through until later in the story where the games difficulty lay more within dealing with the environmental hazards or enemy elemental damage that were introduced. Enemy AI was limited, usually telegraphing attacks. They weren’t stupid but were prone to getting stuck on certain ledges.
Combat does improve as you help out the town, by allowing you access to Link Attacks. This was very satisfying. You have a party of three: CJ, Garro and Isha. All three correspond to one of the face buttons, and when pressing each separately at the right time, allowed you to chain your attacks to deal more damage. Mastering this system when dealing with kill boxes or bosses was extremely gratifying.
To enhance yourself, you have a stowpack, which holds your healing and buffing items. You have a resource bag to collect items for crafting & upgrading weapons, armour, accessories etc back in New Nevaeh. The dungeons are thankfully easy to get around since certain placeholders exist as fast travel & save points. This allowed dungeons to have a certain structure which was comforting but ultimately became dull over time. They were excellent for getting around quickly, a relief when dealing with side quests.
Game Structure – Side Quest Hell
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising’s main problem: Side Quests……..
As mentioned, you’ve arrived at New Nevaeh, the local town where you uncover the story. When you arrive, the town is on it’s knees. By helping the residents, you revamp the town’s shops and upgrade the levels of equipment available for you to purchase. To help out, you need to do certain tasks for the villagers. This ranges from taking out certain enemies, to collecting certain materials, to talking to certain characters – some which may be on the same screen as you.
While improving the town, and by extension yourself, there is a certain pleasure to be had. Collecting enough materials and money allows you to upgrade your gear and buy accessories. The biggest advantage was using the Spa, granting you specific character buffs such as extra EXP in battle. Completing the objectives grant you a stamp for your “Explorers Licence” and sometimes money.
However, in trying to continue the story, a lot of these side quests appear and there is simply too much busywork to justify their existence. The town itself is lifeless, albeit it looks very pretty. Rabbit & Bear did put the effort in for the NPCs when dishing out the side quests or actual story segments, but essentially it’s just window dressing. When your games story forgets the reason for the “Explorers Licence”, why include it at all?
Graphics – Beautiful To Look At
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a looker for sure. Character models are gorgeous. Each character has a simple but detailed design; you can notice CJ’s axe handles having rope tied around the top to hold the metal in place. This amount of detail is also apparent in all the areas you explore. The town has stone paths which are at times wet or sandy. The buildings are made of individual stones, the clock tower is in ruins. Dungeon design is very good, where the backgrounds will show off running rivers and waterfalls, or flowing lava.
Which bring us to the excellent animations. Watching how each character moved differently was interesting, as they moved in relation to their personalities. CJ is a go-getter and runs full pelt, legs and arms like pistons, axes in hands ready to fight. The characters have a restlessness about them when standing still. Garoo is tall, more of a lumbering beast as he gallops, while Isha, as the town mayor, is more reserved, measured. Character and enemy animations were also very detailed when registering attacks.
Music – Beautiful To Listen To
Again to Rabbit & Bear’s credit, they certainly went out of their way when it comes to the soundtrack, which along with the graphics, is its best feature. Hiroyuki Iwatsuki has created a musical score that is really good. All the tunes here are earworms, usually uplifting and pleasant to listen to on your journey, having a pulsing beat to them. While exploring, the music brightened up the experience and each dungeon has an excellent theme to go with it. Bosses themes were presented as energetic challenges, while the main story had more sombre, serious music to go with the themes of its’ story and challenges that the group face. It was very enjoyable.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising was reviewed on PS4.