Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising Review
If you are a fan of the Suikoden series, you probably have your eye on Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. Although it is only an appetizer to next year's main course — the Kickstarted Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes — Rising promises an introduction to a world that hopefully captivates us as much as its predecessor. While Hundred Heroes will be a traditionally-styled RPG more reminiscent of what one would expect from a Suikoden spiritual successor, Rising is sidescroller RPG companion game instead.
That leaves Rising in a somewhat strange spot, as it'll presumably play very differently from the game it is meant to foretell. Still, this is our introduction to the world of Eiyuden Chronicle, and, optimistically, many stories to come.
The lead character here is CJ, a Scavenger who arrives at the dilapidated town of New Neveah as part of her family's right of passage. With nothing besides the clothes on her back and a pair of climbing axes, she seeks out the largest treasure she can find. CJ is soon joined by Garoo, a mercenary kangaroo wielding a broadsword, as well as the azure-haired Isha, who can surprisingly wield magic.
New Neveah is a city desperately in need of some renovations. The town was largely abandoned many years ago, but the discovery of nearby ancient ruins has settlers and explorers from all over coming in the search of wealth or lost history. However, in order to get a license to explore the so-called Runebarrows, CJ finds herself helping out the townspeople, performing various requests as a sort of errand girl. As the town looks to build itself up from its broken-down state, many prospective residents, shopowners, innkeepers, and more will ask CJ for a variety of favors to help build the town or solve personal problems.
This naturally leads to what you'll be doing most frequently throughout your 15-20 hour runtime in Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising - completing quests for the townsfolk in order to build up the city. Of course, there is a main storyline alongside carrying out these quests too, but even then the player is often expected to progress by completing various requests, so these sorts of tasks firmly set themselves as the primary focus of the game.
There are a *lot* of quests, more than 100 in fact. You'll be stumbling over new requests and tasks all the time as you play, and most of these quest objectives are extremely straightforward. More often than not, you'll usually have to collect certain items that you can find from enemies or collection spots in dungeons. Sometimes you'll simply need to talk to another NPC or two in town, instead.
As part of fulfilling the many, many requests thrust upon you, you'll be sent out to the game's dungeons and run into various battles with your trio of heroes.
Combat is a relatively simple affair, with only some slight wrinkles in its design. As CJ, you can jump, swing your weapon, perform a quick dash, and that's about it. However, once Garoo and Isha join her on the adventure, they can swap in for CJ at any time with their own attacks.
While only one character can be on the screen at any time, each of the three is assigned to a certain face button on the controller. By pressing a certain character's attack button, Garoo or Isha will immediately swap in. By timing your attacks and character swaps, you can perform combat links, which is the primary mechanic in the game. CJ has the fastest attacks, Garoo the slowest but heaviest hitting, and Isha the ranged magic.
However, the combat itself might be the least interesting component of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, as a whole. It's not outright broken or necessarily poorly designed; it's just a bit too simple to ever really become truly engaging, and character movement isn't quite as fluid as I hoped it would be. The game is also on the easy side, so you never have to be too careful about how you approach exploration and combat because most enemies will fall without much effort.
Combat can easily feel a bit dull due to its simplicity and relative lack of challenge. It's not as fun or as flashy as some other recent sidescroller RPGs, like Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. For better or worse, it's merely serviceable at best, and it's certainly not the selling point for Rising.
As you progress through the game by fulfilling quests, the capabilities available in New Neveah will gradually expand. You'll be able to upgrade your weapon and armor, which can evolve your combat and traversal capabilities out on the field, at least to a small extent. You'll be able to get better stat buffs and food buffs and the Inn and Tavern. There are even other facilities that offer item trading or ingredient farming, which can help with completing some later quest objectives.
And that's essentially what Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising has to offer on a gameplay front. Accept various tasks from townspeople, explore a limited handful of sidescroller dungeons to gather items with serviceable combat, return and repeat. When it comes down to it, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising's biggest weakness is that it is simply a very straightforward game overstuffed with quests.
Nearly every one of the game's many quests is of the 'fetch' variety, and the game itself even tells you exactly where you need to go to complete it. So in practice, you mostly just progress through these by heading to where the map tells you to go, grabbing what you need, and heading back to the quest giver. And since these quests are ingrained into the overall game design, in terms of how you improve your town and battle capabilities, you can't just decide to ignore quests altogether.
Rising's environments look nice with a surprisingly good sense of lighting. I think the sprite style and rendered environments actually work pretty well together. I just wish the character animations themselves were a bit more fluid, as they exhibit a 'marionette' style of motion, which takes some getting used to.
Considering Eiyuden is a $15 companion game to begin with, I don't want to criticize it too harshly for its intentionally subdued scope. There's still a sort of checklist-filling satisfaction from seeing the town grow over time, thanks to your efforts, but I can't help but wish there was just a little bit more to it than the tedious quest design that's in place.
Where I think Eiyuden succeeds most strongly is in its characters, tone, and writing. The beat-for-beat plot itself is pretty conventional, but Eiyuden does a great job endearing me to its characters and its larger world. CJ is the upbeat, optimistic type always daring to take the next step forward, no matter how dangerous. Garoo is amusingly obstinate, but he manages to lend a hand even if he's often teasing CJ for her naiveté. Isha is a more straight-laced and thoughtful type, but she is able to connect with the other two regardless of her sometimes standoffish nature.
Some of the other non-playable characters met throughout the game are also similarly endearing, despite their brief interactions, with several primed to make reappearances Hundred Heroes. These include the surprisingly well-mannered gator-trader Hogan, the wannabe magical girl Mellore, and the energetic armorsmith Frieda. I'm happy to know Rising won't be the last that I see of these characters.
For the most part, Eiyuden's narrative is pretty lighthearted and admittedly takes a while to get going, but things do take a more serious turn as you near the end of the game. As any good appetizer should, Rising left me itching for more by the time I hit the credits. While the most immediate conflict that arises in Rising is eventually resolved, other personal struggles and more ominous happenings are revealed, presumably setting the stage for Hundred Heroes. You even get a small taste of the larger politics at work, which will also undoubtedly play a key role in the next Eiyuden game.
While Eiuyden Chronicle: Rising is not voice-acted, I felt the English localization was fairly well done, despite some typos, giving each character a unique 'voice' that shines through their written text. CJ speaks very casually and somewhat unsophisticatedly, though not unintelligently, as you may expect from a 'bumpkin' raised away from civilization. Garoo, the merc, is brash & terse with a sarcastic side, though it's fun to see his stoic nature chipped away from the young women he keeps company with. Isha speaks very properly and tactfully, as she spent most of her childhood in her room, learning from reading books.
The dialogue is not too gimmicky or reliant on catchphrases, and I felt worked very well in allowing me to 'hear' the character in my head. I can only hope the eventual English localization for Hundred Heroes is at least on par. CJ, Garoo, and Isha's stories do leave some lingering questions behind even after the credits, so I hope I get to chance to see these characters again next year.
I played the PC version of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, and the PC configuration options are better than I expected. With options for anti-aliasing, shadows, textures, ambient occlusion, and reflections, the environments for Rising look quite nice on a high-end system considering its limited budget otherwise. The game supports framerates above 60fps, also, so it should run well for those with beefy builds. Even so, the game will run on lower-spec systems too, at long as you dial down the resolution and visual options accordingly.
If Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising had to stand on its own, it would probably only be a forgettable, average RPG at best. Fortunately it doesn't have to, nor was it designed to, as it explicitly places itself as merely an introduction to a hopefully more fully-fledged adventure - one that a certain group of RPG fans has been waiting for for a long time. Considering Rising's more glaring flaws are with its gameplay and not with its characters or writing, I find it still ultimately works well enough as a respectable introduction it set itself to be. Hundred Heroes can't get here soon enough.