Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a “companion game” to the core game Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, which is still in development. Hundred Heroes is a Kickstarter headlined by Yoshitaka Murayama (story) and Junko Kawano (art), veterans of the original Suikoden. The Kickstarter is clearly designed to invoke the feel of the Suikoden series. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising serves as a kind of teaser for the game world as well as a standalone, relatively casual, action RPG. As a teaser for a future game, it works reasonably well. Isolated from that context, I’m not sure it’s a great action RPG, although I did enjoy it.
As Jay observed in a comment on a prior post, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is similar to Ys III (not just because many of the environments line up – that’s just a happy coincidence). It’s a simple action RPG focused around exploration and resource collection. Although you get a few extra character mechanics over time, and you unlock additional party members, the pace and structure of the game incentivize you to play as main character CJ much of the time. While the other characters are useful for specific encounters, CJ has good flexibility and moves the fastest.
One reason moving quickly is appealing is that Rising is fairly slow-paced. Although there is fast travel between town areas and dungeon save points, you traverse the same areas several times, especially when you’re working on one of Rising’s dozens of quests. The slow movement is particularly evident while walking through the town, where you can’t use CJ’s dash techniques to move quickly.
While many will find Rising’s quests to be tedious – some are particularly baffling, such as “talk to this person next door” – I found them by and large to be somehow comforting. CJ is obsessed with collecting stamps, and is willing to do just about anything to get more – and when you’re in town, your stamp count is front and center, and it’s hard not to feel the same. Seeing them gradually increase as you take care of the townspeople’s laundry is satisfying. Sometimes the quests require a foray into a dungeon, but you can complete many as soon as you get them simply by having the materials requested already on hand.
The cast stands out in Rising – between all the various character introductions and the ways they interact with each other, it feels like one of Suikoden 3’s chapters reimagined as an action RPG. The main characters are the only ones that receive much development. As I got further and further in Rising it felt like they bonded with each other and I bonded with them. The minor cast members add some flavor and make the town feel more alive; as things develop, you see them more often. One thing I miss in Rising that I like about most RPGs, though, is that even though you see these minor characters and townspeople frequently, you cannot interact with them unless they are part of a quest. One of the joys in each Suikoden – particularly the first time playing – is talking to the people in your castle (even in the one where that castle is a boat). It seems like a major oversight, even in a companion game, not to have that feature.
I have been playing and enjoying the Suikoden series for a long time, and when I had the time to play more RPGs, I tried to play through the series yearly. Rising inspires some confidence that Eiyuden Chronicle could be similar to the Suikoden series. At the same time, I’ve been burned by Kickstarters before. I’m going to do my best to remain cautiously optimistic, and in the meantime I’m satisfied to have experienced Rising itself.