Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a few things at once. It’s an attractive action platformer game, with a cool 2.5D aesthetic and peppy, upbeat sense of character. It’s got enjoyable, if fairly simple, combat that pairs well with the character-swapping mechanics and an almost Metroidvania-esque mode of exploration. It’s also filled to the brim with backtracking and blatant padding (which is impressive, considering it only took about 15 hours to complete the story), and a player’s appreciation of the game will be totally contingent on how well they can tolerate those parts. As a bit of a side-note and/or disclaimer, I haven’t played the Suikoden games, to which the Eiyuden games intend to serve as a spiritual successor. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a sort of prequel or taster for bigger-brother game Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, which was Kickstarted in 2020. While not Bargain Bits territory, Rising isn’t an expensive game, costing just £12.99, and it’s on Game Pass (which is where I played it).
While Suikoden and presumably Hundred Heroes are turn-based JRPGs, as mentioned, Rising is basically an RPG-infused action platformer with light Metroidvania-type elements, where you unlock new paths and movement abilities as you progress. Our protagonist is CJ; a young and proud scavenger, she’s been dispatched on a ritual coming-of-age quest to find the biggest piece of treasure she can. This brings her to the prospecting town of New Nevaeh, home to the Runebarrows – a network of ancient tunnels filled with monsters and loot – which has attracted adventurers from all around.
You meet colourful characters (including the other playable ones, Garoo and Isha), chat to the residents, help them upgrade the adventurers’ district, and explore the local dungeons, unravelling the history of the town in the process. You progress through the game’s locales bashing monsters, collecting loot and battling bosses. Gathering by whacking stuff as you go integrates into the rest of the exploration neatly, in contrast to the quite useless fishing minigame, which I only ever did during specific quests – this is saying something, as I’m on record as a fishing enjoyer.
The plot’s nothing too dramatic, but it works well enough and I like most of the characters, even if they’re occasionally a bit one-note. Though intended as a warm-up for Hundred Heroes, it doesn’t lay the world-building exposition on too thick. The highlight has to be Garoo, mostly because he’s a large kangaroo man, but also because he’s quite well-written, with some intrigue behind his personality and behaviours. The story takes you through a small variety of themed environments, the whole game presented in an attractive 2.5D art style, most reminiscent of Octopath Traveler, alongside some nice artwork of the game’s important characters. It’s just as well it looks nice enough, as you’ll be seeing a lot of it – the repetition in the game means the environments do rather slide past the eyes after the third, fourth, or tenth time through an area.
Moment-to-moment action-platformer combat and exploration are solid. There’s a variety of enemies to battle against and the game’s pretty good at varying their elevations and requiring you to use different strategies, including swapping characters. The three heroes you pilot have differing skillsets, and when you swap between them your movement and defensive skill varies. Garoo sort of feels outclassed by CJ and Isha, which is a shame, mostly because he’s so much slower and lacks a dodge. Platforming was fine, never really feeling frustrating, with a few bits requiring me to chain together character-swapping movement skills in a way that felt satisfyingly thought-out. The RPG mechanics are fairly cursory damage, health and critical chance increases, though you can also use a variety of accessories, potions, and facilities in town that can increase stats in both exploration and combat. I didn’t feel the need to min-max much; Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising was easy enough.
Aside from the main story quests, you’ll spend a lot of time doing side-quests, enabled in part by the game’s auxiliary stamp system. Initially introduced as a plot contrivance, CJ has a compulsion to fill out town-issued stamp cards, with stamps awarded for completing odd jobs. It’s a comic aside on the obsessive completion of busywork by RPG players, but also a diegetic explanation for Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising’s mountain of menial fetch quests. Exit the Great Forest after a story quest, and then immediately unlock 5 more side-quests which direct you back there to collect whatever gubbins the questgiver desires. Every 10 stamps you get a reward from one of the vendors; depending on your brain chemistry this task-ticking might hit the spot.
I don’t think that ‘fetch quest’ is necessarily a dirty phrase, but the experience of Rising really is tarnished by a chronic over-reliance on them as a quest construction, especially in conjunction with backtracking. There’s just a critical lack of ways to interact with the world and its (fun) characters that don’t involve backtracking through a dungeon you’ve already seen to pick stuff up. Even the main plot isn’t free of this – on several occasions you’ll be in the middle of following an important-sounding thread, only to be diverted onto a semi-irrelevant secondary objective by incidental dialogue from one of the cast. It’s disappointing, as even the MMO genre has a bit more variety than this nowadays. However, I could cope with it, at least over the game’s 15-hour runtime.
As CJ progresses, the main story and sidequests construct new buildings and upgrade existing ones. This ties into the backtracking a bit, as these sidequests will frequently involve going to fetch additional materials or a quest item from areas you’ve already visited (occasionally a bit of a grind, depending on your luck and accessories). The concept of a home base that you upgrade isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s satisfying here. The town’s overall level increases as it becomes busier and the buildings improve from their initially-derelict state. Even the game’s dungeons become more populated with adventurers – a nice touch that supports the adventure-based economics of New Nevaeh. On a gameplay level, the upgrades give you access to new shop stock, which allows you to buy better weapons and gathering equipment, or even movement upgrades.
There’s a lot of charm and a good deal of heart in Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. If you’re looking forward to Hundred Heroes it’s sort of a no-brainer, but if you’re not it might be worth checking out if you like the look of the visuals. It’s a decent game to unwind with after a day’s work; ticking off the quests and getting stamps has a satisfying quality (though it does sound a bit like work when I put it that way…). It’s fairly compact, the graphical style is still attractive even if it’s not as fresh as it was a few years ago, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome – though it gets close. Give it a shot if you like the sound of it.
I recently wrote up my impressions of a load of games from Steam’s Next Fest, way back in June. If that link tickled your fancy, you should check out the other one, where I did much the same thing. Since this post vaguely mentioned Metroidvanias once, why don’t you also check out Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth?