Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising Preview

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is in something of a weird spot. The Suikoden series is a beloved classic RPG franchise, although now dormant for more than a decade, fans have been starved to see more from the series for quite a while now. So when original creator Yoshitaka Murayama ran a Kickstarter campaign for a spiritual successor in 2020 - titled Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes - it quickly became one of the most-funded video game crowdfunding campaigns ever, surpassing ¥480,000,000 (roughly $4.5 million at the time.) 

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is not that crowdfunded game. Instead, it is a 'companion title', a side-story entry that acts as an introduction to the Eiyuden Chronicle world. Instead of taking the mantle of a classic turn-based RPG, Rising is a side-scroller action-based RPG with some light town-building elements.

I had a chance to play an early preview of the title before it releases later this year.

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Eiyuden Chronicle's lead character is CJ, a Scavenger who comes to the town of New Neveah as part of her family's right of passage. The game features two other playable characters as well: the young mage Isha as well as Garoo, who is a kangaroo with a greatsword. You essentially play as all three characters simultaneously, swapping between each constantly between attacks and movements. However, for preview purposes, I only had access to CJ and Garoo.

Upon starting up, my first impression of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is that it looks pretty nice for the type of game that it is, especially the surrounding environments. It looks better in motion than what stillshots can show, but the lighting and shadows are more sophisticated than I expected, and the game has a wonderful sense of color. Many parts of the environment are animated too, with bushes, grass, and flags swaying in the wind, allowing places to genuinely feel alive. There's also a good sense of depth to each location, with plenty of background and foreground objects to make each place feel more than just a single left-right pathway. Character models are sprite-based, and they work within the 3D environments better than I expected they would.

My only gripe in terms of the game's presentation is that sprite animations are just a bit too 'marionette' for my liking. You know what I mean, I hope. Rather than drawing individual sprite frames for different character positions, instead, things like arms, legs, tails, and clothes are rotated or stretched in order to 'animate' motion. It's a technique seen in several games of this style, especially mobile games. It's not at all a dealbreaker and an understandable style to use, this is just more of a nitpick on my part.

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Additionally, on my big PC monitor, the text and UI is readable enough, but I wonder if it might be too small or narrow if you play on a Switch system or on a distant TV.

The part of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising that disappointed me most, at least early on, is the combat gameplay. Now, this partially has to do with the fact the preview portion includes only the very beginning parts of the game, when you haven't unlocked any additional moves and have otherwise barely progressed through any combat upgrades. Rising seems like the type of game where your combat capabilities may change greatly from beginning to end, but for now, I can only judge on the opening hours.

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Starting off, CJ is given a single attack, a jump, and a quick dash. That's it. Progressing through the game's first dungeon, combat felt rigid, simple, and easy. It was certainly not the best first impression. 

Soon enough though, you are given simple tasks to fetch some items to fix the town's blacksmith, inn, and other facilities. Although this sort of fetch quest design was also very straightforward (and something I also hope gets a bit more involved later on), these new facilities allow you to upgrade gear, skills, and some other components. One of CJ's first new abilities is a double jump, as well as the ability to attack a few times in a row. It's not too much better than her initial moveset, but it's a start, and something I hope continues to expand as the game progresses.

Roughly an hour into the game, Garoo joins your party, which then allows the player to swap between Garoo and CJ at essentially any time. Garoo has stronger, slower attacks than CJ, and if you swap characters with good timing in the midst of combat, you can perform Link Combos between the two.

There is some promise here, certainly, although I imagine you can pull off much cooler things once Isha joins and you can toggle between all three characters. For the moment, it's hard to get a read on how well combat will shake out in the end.

I am a backer of Eiyuden Chronicle, but I have to admit I haven't been paying full attention to all the backer updates detailing all the lore and whatnot surrounding the Eiuyden world. I'm the type of person who would rather experience those things as they are introduced in the game itself, rather than on some Kickstarter update post.

That said, even in my short time with Rising, I've already encountered some dialogue hinting at bigger events and entities happening backstage; places and empires I have to imagine that, if they don't directly influence Rising's plotline, will probably be important to keep in mind once Hundred Heroes launches. I'm sure Rising won't be required to understand Hundred Heroes, but this sort of flavor text is exactly the sort of introduction, lore-wise, I expected for this entry. 

My first impression of the English localization is a good one, too. While there is no voice acting in Rising, the colorful dialogue and different ways certain characters spoke shone through the written text, giving each character a unique 'voice' in my head.

There were a few other minor QoL gripes I had during my short time with the game, but I hope those can be quickly polished up around the game's full launch.

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I am eager to see more of Eiyuyden Chronicle. As a Suikoden veteran, I am definitely extremely curious about how Hundred Heroes shapes up. Opening up a new IP with a companion game is an interesting approach, but I'm here for the ride at least.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is set to release 'soon' for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is set to release in 2023.

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