Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is not the big Suikoden successor you’ve been waiting for – that comes next year. It’s good to get that out of the way first, because if you are one of the dozen people begging for the return of Suikoden, this will ultimately disappoint. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising might be tangentially related to a classic series, but it deserves to be judged exclusively on its own merit.
What we have here is a 2D side-scrolling JRPG that starts off simple, and doesn’t actually change too much over the course of the game. You play as CJ, the heroine of the story. CJ is an adventurer that has come to town in order to find work and delve into the local mine to find treasures, only to find that obtaining a license to do so is expensive – as are the taxes attached to selling treasures. The system is rigged, as proven by a stamp card you’re given to track all of the side quests you undertake. Essentially adventurers work in town for credit in order to prove they’re worthy to stick around and go into the mine.
You’re introduced to the gameplay by undertaking a series of side quests, and it starts as it intends to proceed. You will talk to villagers, run into some kind of dungeon, collect some items, and return. Luckily you will unlock signposts throughout dungeons which act as both save points and fast travel points, and that really is lucky, because even if dungeons aren’t long, you’ll find yourself doing a fair amount of backtracking.
When you finish a dungeon, or get the items you require, you will need to find a signpost – if possible – to fast travel to the entrance of the dungeon. You will still need to walk from the dungeon back into town and return to any NPCs you’ve been working for individually. The game world is 2D, simple, and hard to get lost in, but this running back and forth becomes tiring within the first hour of the game. You really should be able to fast-travel straight back to the center of town and quickly hand in your quests, but it’s never that simple.
It doesn’t help that the screen always fades to black before a conversation, and at the end of the conversation, and then you’ll need to look at the quest completion screen for a few seconds before you’re allowed to start moving again. These are all minor time wasters, but once you’re a dozen quests down you’ll be sick of seeing these. While I’m having a moan: I had to turn the sound effects way down because the high-pitched chime that played when flicking through text boxes was genuinely hurting my ears.
The combat is better than the quest system, at least. Things still play out on the 2D plane, but it’s all real-time action combat. You’ll be swinging your weapon, dodging through attacks, and jumping to hit those aerial enemies. If the combat didn’t evolve it’d end up being as tedious as the quest system, but luckily things expand once you have multiple character members that you can swap between mid-combat, giving you access to flashy multi-hit combos as you swap through your party. This is where the game starts showing its true potential, as Isha and Garoo – a kangaroo man – join your crew.
Too often it feels as if you’re working inside of restrictions. The number of quests you can access and dungeons you can visit feels limited – this isn’t like other RPGs where you can go off the beaten path for hours on end. You’ll always be plugging away at either the main quest or one of the dozens of similar side quests, and it quickly becomes a checklist. A side quest isn’t something you undertake for experience or items, it’s to add another stamp to that card from earlier. The main quest gets done because there’s not much else to do. When so many RPGs offer so much freedom, Eiyuden Chronicle manages to feel as limiting as the 2D plane you’re stuck on.
The world looks wonderful, though. Caves look alive, CJ’s reflection is cast in bodies of water in the foreground, and the distant forests and mountains look like a world you want to explore much more than the path you’re actually stuck to. There will often be clear paths leading to new areas, but until you’ve been told that you can go there at some point over the main quest, you won’t be able to. It’s as interactive as entering a door in Super Mario World, but what you find on the other side is always more predictable.
Still, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is far better than a 2D JRPG like Super Neptunia RPG, for example. The environments really do look great, and the checklist quest formula can be satisfying in its own way, once you find your flow – before you get sucked out of it again by the screen fading to black multiple times, of course.
Rising is a prequel to next year’s Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, and it fills that role perfectly. If you just want a teaser for the bigger, better adventure on the horizon, one which hopefully fulfills the dreams fans have had for two decades – but Rising is not that. Instead, it’s a decent adventure, but not life-changing in any way. We can still have hope that Hundred Heroes is the revelatory JRPG experience we’ve been waiting for.
Written by Dave Aubrey on behalf of GLHF.