The Action RPG Spinoff gives us a taste of what we can expect with the Hundred Heroes, but can Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising itself provides a full game experience?
Side-scrolling Action-RPGs have that certain appeal to people like me, it has that feel of simplicity that still works well even applying different gameplay styles, we have gotten used to side-scrollers with platformers, shooters and brawlers, then other games like Metroid and Castlevania introduced new layers to the experience that opened the doors to a whole new experience, hence inventing the Metroidvania subgenre. My taste for side-scrollers has evolved through the years, and as I played Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, it managed to give me that itch, but did it manage to satisfy my taste for good side-scrollers? We’ll soon find out.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is an Action RPG that acts as a supplemental game for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes which is slated to release next year. The games were developed by Rabbit & Bear Studios, a Tokyo-based studio formed by key members of the Suikoden series, and Eiyuden Chronicle is somewhat a spiritual successor to the famous franchise. Rising takes place in the continent of Allraan in a mining town New Nevaeh, where a massive earthquake has opened up ancient ruins buried underground and now became a hub for adventurers eager to dig up lenses that are worth fortunes. The story starts with a young treasure hunter named CJ who is aiming to find the largest lens to prove her worth as a bonafide treasure hunter, as she enters New Nevaeh in hopes of scavenging lens in the Barrows, more plots were unfolded.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising follows the classic 2D and 3D combo for its visual presentation, creating 2D sprites that can interact in a 3D environment. You usually see these in older generations such as the PSOne era and how Rising focused on that aesthetics gives that nostalgic feeling yet still showcased an updated look that we quite see in some 2DHD games like Octopath Traveler. 2D sprite characters are fluid in their animation, which is almost like what we see in Live2D visuals, but it seems that the number of animations for gestures were limited, there are cutscenes where it repeats the same gesture as it looks like there were only 2 or 3 fixed gestures created to enact emotions, though it doesn’t cheapen the presentation of the cutscenes. The story plot is more of your standard anime adventure with the main character starting off with her journey to nab the biggest lens treasure and getting to meet other colorful characters to join the grand adventure. Characters still provide the unique personalities that make them fun to watch on their banters during cutscenes, from Garoo as your regular grumpy hunter to CJ being carefree and Isha just being rapacious on taxing anyone.
The music scores offer a familiar tune in fantasy JRPGs that any fans will be accustomed to, town themes offering that happy vibe of tune that reflects on the condition of the villagers, dungeon themes giving an eerie tune of mystery and danger that adds tension to what to expect from the unknown and battle themes and amplify the intensity of encountering bosses and ambushes. The tunes weren’t enough to make them memorable, it did a fine job of adding depth to your dungeon crawling adventure that wouldn’t irritate you to mute the music. The game lacks any voiceovers that could have helped add more impact to cutscenes and battles, but I can understand their decision to not include any voiceovers just to maintain that familiar vibe of classic PSOne RPGs.
The game interface is clean and provides enough necessary information with the exception of when you are in town. The stamp tally display is placed on the upper middle of the screen which can be distracting, I hope they can add a function to toggle the display of the stamp tally sheet in a post-launch update, it’s not that of a deal breaker but can be annoying as it can eat up some space on your screen.
Action RPGs tend to have a combat system that is easy to understand but still fun to play and Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising managed to offer that certain balance. Each attack button corresponds to a character, think Trine meets Valkyrie Profile where each attack from a character has its own unique combo sets, CJ is more on fast-hitting critical attacks while Garoo is a slow hitter but can pack a punch to multiple enemies and Isha fires at a farther range that can penetrate through magic barriers. Planning on which character to use per enemy gives a layer of strategy that makes your venture into the dungeons a breeze. It also features a special team combo synergy called Link Attack that slows downtime and lets you hit your enemies with a different character, dealing massive damage and it has a nice touch whenever you see one of your party members tagging in and out in mid-combo to dish out more damage. The concept of switching characters on the fly feels good in your initial run, but when you venture further into the game, you will eventually be sticking to just one character to grind faster around dungeons, and CJ has all the capabilities you’ll need throughout your progress since she has a dash ability that lets you move faster (and not to mention has the fastest movement speed from the party) and can deal massive damage thanks to her high critical rate.
Adding depth to combat is the use of rune lens that bestows elemental affinities, there are four elemental types that you can equip to your weapon or armor that can deal elemental damage or resistance and can be effective to certain enemies. Changing to a different elemental rune can change the type of magic attack Isha would use that can be handy in certain situations, you can also use them to unlock areas that are blocked with an elemental boulder. Level bosses are just a handful and can be tough if you are unprepared, sadly the boss designs aren’t that memorable. Certain attacks are telegraphed that cues you to avoid or block them and they can be taken down by learning their patterns.
Rising has some inspirations from Metroidvania games as each of the dungeons has its own map layouts that you can explore and showcases different themes. Some areas are closed off and you may need to progress further in the story or unlock new skills that hide rare items that you can use to upgrade your gear. You will be making return trips to certain dungeons to complete sidequests which I’ll discuss more later. You fight off different monsters in each dungeon, but the variety of monsters available were very few as each dungeon only features almost the same monster variant as the rest that had little or no unique characteristics to pose a challenge in your venture. Each dungeon has specific waypoints that can be used to move to specific areas of the dungeon quickly, as that is the only way you warp back to the main entrance. Loot that you acquire from your venture will be stashed in your resource bag and you can only carry for a certain amount until you exit the dungeon, you also have your Stowpack that stores your consumables such as health potions and buff items, it has very limited slots so it’s best to save your potions for the tougher battles. Good thing you can actually upgrade your bags to increase their storage space.
Story progression in Rising is separated into chapters, and each of them can last from a couple of minutes to more than an hour; you can finish the main story in just 8 hours or less, and around 12 hours if you include sidequests. Speaking of sidequests, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising offers a ton of them that you can unlock more each time you clear out a story chapter. Tasks include fetching an item deep within the dungeon, killing a certain number of monsters, collecting materials either by harvesting or monster drops, or in some cases, passing messages to other NPCs. The sheer amount of sidequests that you can finish can be staggering as there is no proper pacing when they are unlocked, if you managed to finish a dozen of them, after moving to the next story chapter, you’ll be greeted to a new dozen of them. They are optional but some of the rewards can help improve your gear and unlock new items to purchase in town. The bountiful amount of sidequests may differ to certain tastes as some may feel it’s a lot tedious as some quests are more repetitive with frequent visits to the same dungeon while some may welcome it for providing more content and other ways to level up your party fast. Navigating through the list of quests can be a chore as you can only highlight one sidequest at a time, would have been nice if they allow at least up to three sidequests that you can display on screen for better tracking.
You will be able to earn stamps from the villagers in exchange for helping them, either from every sidequest you take or progressing through the main story, completing the set of stamps will promote your stamp rank and unlocks another combo slot to your Link Attack. Completing quests and eliminating monsters provides exp points to level up, the game does not have any deep character customization and relies on the upgrades that you provide. Upgrading weapons can increase your hit combo, add stagger effects and new move lists or upgrade armor to unlock double jump, longer hovering time, higher jumps and more. You can earn a permanent stat boost at the tavern by consuming meals, you need to unlock them by having the required ingredients, and even temporary enhancements like increased attack or exp boost at the inn, it’s odd to see that you can still keep the enhancements for the entirety of the game by not resting at your room and just use the tavern to heal your team.
You will be able to upgrade the town of New Nevaeh early in the game, the setup is very simplified where you just unlock more shops that allow you to purchase upgrades, consumables and more. You can upgrade shops to get add more varieties by completing their sidequests. The town building aspect was a nice addition to the game but it feels that they could have done more to it, like an actual town management feature where you can attract more adventurers and receive tax payments from them that can be used to upgrade the appearance of the town. Moving around New Nevaeh is a breeze thanks to the fast travel function, it makes sidequests much easier to finish with just a few button presses and no need to run to different sectors just to reach the destination.
Upgrading your gear will require some materials and you can find them around dungeons either by hunting monsters or harvesting from ore deposits, trees, fishing ponds and more. It was a bit disappointing to see the fishing minigame does not provide any kind of fish varieties and can only acquire generic named fish, would have been a nice addition to let you gather different fish and seafood that you can use for crafting food and potions.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a solid Action RPG that offers a fun combat system, impressive visuals and a variety of content to complete. Though it has some shortcomings such as features the simplistic town-building function and fewer areas to explore that were promising at first but fell short. The overall game length feels a bit short and could have added more content to extend it.
It managed to provide some great moments with the main characters in their interactions though it still can’t provide a compelling narrative due to its generic story plot. Its conclusion was a bit underwhelming as does not have that much impact for you to be invested for its main course, but it’s very likely that we will be seeing some of the characters in Hundred Heroes and hopefully be involved in a bigger plot.
But regardless of its shortcomings, Rising is a good introduction to the Eiyuden Chronicle series as we wait for the launch of the main game in 2023.
We give Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising a score of 3.5 out of 5. It was reviewed from the Steam version and it is also available for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S