I have a good feeling about Hundred Heroes now
Sometimes when games hit Kickstarter, I completely tune them out. I mean a few of them don’t even see a hint of progress for years, but Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes (read: the “main” game due in 2023) seems to be in good shape if the Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising prologue is anything to go by.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a great little taste of what we’ll likely be able to expect from the world as a whole. Silly, fun writing that isn’t afraid to let loose every so often and forge cute bonds between characters. A beautiful aesthetic that hearkens back to old-school SNES and PS1 sensibilities. As a full-on action-RPG prologue, it also has a distinct vibe to differentiate itself from what we’ve seen of Hundred Heroes so far.
Rising‘s biggest strength is small-scale character-based moments. Sure, there’s a greater “save the world” plot afoot, but much of the narrative deals with small-time activities like brokering a deal between a farm and an inn for egg production. It’s a cleaner, more personal feel that elevates Rising above a lot of other similar games — though it’s not going to be for everyone.
You start the game off as CJ, a treasure-hunter that gets embroiled in a town’s day-to-day life after meeting the acting mayor and dealing with a recent earthquake that rocked the town. There are a lot of fun character interactions, and the writing allows for cheeky callbacks, amid a colorful cast that’s fun to discover. There’s a kangaroo adventurer with a magical pouch that can store a Berserk buster sword. There’s a literal anime magical girl a la Sailor Moon. The team clearly had fun creating some of the personalities here that will inevitably show up in the 2023-bound main project.
What I really like about the dialogue is that characters will often drop little “emoji” bubbles above their heads to convey how they’re feeling. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is very text-heavy, but these moments help break up even more exposition and give us the general vibe of the cast, while adding character. The fantastic score on top of all of my praise for the visual style only further sucked me into the world.
In a sense, most of the action is done by walking around an interconnected hub, which involves several dungeons and a giant town interspersed with streets. You can technically manually traverse the entire map, or use a fast-travel menu to warp around at will (but in dungeons, you’ll need to use Metroidvania-esque “teleport” signposts, then go back to the entrance to use world fast travel). It’s a simple foundational angle, and the action portion of the game makes things even more straightforward.
The pacing is going to be slow for some people. Rising‘s tutorials have you entering a linear dungeon (the first one) several times, going back to fix parts of the town, then tasking you to dive back into said dungeon. Over time you’ll meet more and more townsfolk, crazier NPCs like bird people or lizard merchants, and get acclimated to the general vibe of Eiyuden Chronicle.
It can be best summed up as “chill.” You’re meant to go about town and pick up the seemingly endless amounts of sidequests, hear the townsfolk’s plights, and complete their quests while doing main story stuff. Eventually, you unlock the ability to gather more types of crafts (with upgraded tools like better pickaxes), which in turn can be used on upgrades or items. Over time, you’ll also unlock fishing and the trap-setting mechanic: more chances for more reagents for more upgrades. There are even a few Pipe Mania puzzles.
Given the general ease of combat and the AI, you don’t really need a whole lot of upgrades per se, but it’s fun to unlock them and just live in the world nonetheless. Eventually, the action portion gets going as you pick up party members Garoo and Isha, who wield a big sword and ranged magic, respectively. With more party members comes more banter, and more character interactions on top of all of the mechanical benefits of controlling three people at once.
CJ’s gimmick is that she has a versatile level of movement, and can eventually double jump and air-dash. Garoo blocks attacks with his sword and has wide strikes. Isha’s ranged setup is self-explanatory — she can also use a light teleport and float like Princess Peach from Mario 2. Interestingly, all three characters are smushed into one player character. So if you press square (default on PS4/PS5) you’ll queue up attacks from CJ; triangle is tied to Garoo, with circle for Isha.
Pressing a different button right as an attack connects will queue up a chain combo, which incentivizes using three characters instead of relying on just one. All three have different health bars too, and using a health potion conveniently replenishes all of them at once. Even in terms of its skill ceiling, it’s still on the lighter fare side of action, but as you acquire more abilities through upgrades and gear (including elemental equipment that can alter how your attacks flow), it does add more variety in how you approach enemies and bosses.
Most of the action is in dungeons, with some outshining others. The early dungeon (the woods in the above image) is very much a basic teaching tool, but you’ll need to go back to it often to satisfy a main story quest or swaths of sidequests. This whole system is a bit give-and-take. There are no randomized dungeons, which is fine as not every game needs them. But the flip side is that in the early layouts, everything is samey, and the enemies don’t rise to the occasion after you level up.
It can feel rote, but thankfully if you’re fast and make use of the locomotion skills your party has on-hand (as well as the teleportation signs), these portions can be pretty quick. My number-one quality-of-life ask? A better, more detailed map and fast-travel screen. Once you memorize where everything is it’s not so bad, but until that point, choosing where to go can be a pain.
It took me around 10 hours to finish the main story in Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, achieving half of the “platinum” status stamp card unlocks for sidequests. You could squeeze more out of it, and after you conclude the final battle, the game will create a “right before the end” save and reboot. It’ll also unlock a hard mode option via a menu toggle.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a game that will definitely grow on certain people. At first, I was underwhelmed by its basic combat and linear structure. But the cast and the visuals worked as a calming salve as I delved further in and started to unlock those aforementioned mechanics. Combat does get more interesting, and exploration, while limited to a handful of dungeons, becomes more open-ended than the initial setup. You might need a little fortitude to get past that point, but the juice is worth the squeeze — and at $15, it’s not a big gamble.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]