“Suikoden” is one of those cult Japanese role-playing game franchises that has a rabid fanbase, though it never reached the popularity of a “Final Fantasy” or “Dragon Quest.” The first three games with creator Yoshitaka Murayama at the helm were notable because of their deep world-building and a feature that lets players transfer data across games.
Although it wasn’t an industry first, it was still mind-blowing at the time. Relationships that players built in the first game carried over to “Suikoden II” as returning characters were more powerful with data from the previous game. If fans started the sequel from scratch, those same heroes would be weaker. That feature built a more concrete connection across games, and that perfectly complemented the franchise’s interwoven histories across generations.
For years, “Suikoden” fans have been clamoring Murayama to make another project along those lines, and they’re finally getting it with the “Eiyuden Chronicle” franchise. The first game out of the gate is “Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising,” which is essentially an appetizer to the main game “Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.”
The Mission: Rebuild New Nevaeh
“Rising” is an action RPG that follows the exploits of CJ, a descendant of a treasure hunter clan. She arrives in the town of New Nevaeh with dreams of grabbing a Rune-lens that’s larger than the one her father found. That’s the driving force of the adventure as she reaches the small village, which is in shambles after a devastating earthquake.
The temblor ruined the town, but it also revealed the Runebarrows, an ancient ruin filled with treasure. That has attracted adventurers to the area, and over the course of the 15-plus hour campaign, CJ and her party of Garoo, a gruff kangaroo, and Isha, a powerful spellcaster, will rebuild New Nevaeh. In the process, they’ll also reveal its secrets and history.
That’s a fairly ho-hum story for a game that won’t wow players with its visuals. “Rising’s” beautiful backgrounds in this side-scrolling adventure are more impressive than how the team at Rabbit & Bear Studios animated the pixelated characters.
GREAT GAMEPLAY AND STRUCTURE
On the other hand, the actual gameplay and structure are more intriguing. The three heroes each have their own unique traversal and attack patterns. CJ is the most nimble and has a double jump. Garoo specializes in brute-force attacks; he moves slower but can leap higher (he’s a kangaroo after all.) though it takes time to power up his jump. Isha is the weakest of the bunch but her magic offers a ranged attack and she can float for a while and teleport short distances.
Each of these characters is tied to a face button so players can quickly switch among them. If they time their presses just right in a combo, they can activate a link attack that brings in a teammate for a powerful strike. It’s the key to breezing through some of the harder confrontations in the “Rising.”
These powers are great but they aren’t unlocked in the beginning. Players will have to help rebuild New Nevaeh by helping its denizens both old and new. CJ is the driving force behind the effort as Isha, the temporary mayor, creates a stamp system that the protagonist takes a liking to. If players finish the side quests, which are mostly fetch tasks, they get a stamp and that will eventually upgrade the town’s infrastructure.
Players can perform link attacks, which is a perfectly time attack that switches one hero out for another and produces a powerful strike in “Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising.” (505 Games)A SATISFYING GAMEPLAY LOOP
Merchants will set up shops. Doing more missions for them will expand their wares. Those items and gear will make CJ, Garoo and Isha more powerful so that they can survive the Runebarrow’s depths. It creates a satisfying gameplay loop as players see their impact on the town and the progression of their characters.
The campaign itself isn’t that difficult, but it becomes more of a grind as players complete side quests and level up the trio as they amass experience points that upgrade their base stats. The difficulty becomes more apparent in the latter third of “Rising” as they encounter stronger enemies, and they’ll need to use potions and strategically augment their offense and defense with runes to progress the tougher parts.
Runes bestow element attacks to characters and boost their defense against enemies’ blows. For example, equipping earth runes on defense will protect against lightning attacks while fire attacks melt ice enemies and also has the potential to cause lingering burn damage. Elemental runes are also used to gate parts of the world.
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On the gear end, accessories boost certain aspects of the character making it easier to gather rare resources or boost critical attacks. The system is intriguing enough that players can dabble in it, but it’s also not overly complex as to intimidate them.
Those are the best parts of “Rising” as the mission design is lacking. Again, it’s just a series of fetch quests that quickly becomes monotonous no matter how the developers dress up the tasks.
Ultimately, this prequel is a building block for “Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes,” and like “Suikoden,” players should expect a benefit for playing through this journey. For fans already set on playing the upcoming JRPG, “Rising” is a must-own that will provide a brief but impactful taste of what’s to come.
‘Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising’
2½ stars out of 4
Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC
Rating: Everyone 10 and up