Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is out day and date on Xbox Game Pass. It’s an odd one, as it is the action RPG spin-off prequel to a game that is coming out in a year! You’ll (eventually) take three characters from quite different backgrounds and hack & slash your way through the same environments over, and over, and over again. At only $14.99 I was shocked at just how incredibly long this game is, especially considering its stunning lack of variation in both the gameplay and locations. Yet I somehow grew to rather enjoy my time with it. It’s damned pretty, the writing is great at times, and there is heart here. Is it enough to make this one worth your time? Well, let’s find out.
Like Butter Over Too Much Bread
Eiyuden Chronicle had a successful Kickstarter campaign which led to two games. Hundred Heroes is the main title and hits next year. As stated previously this is Rising which sets up multiple companion characters you’ll meet in the full RPG. It’s a side-scrolling action-adventure on a budget. The first thing you’ll notice is damn, is it pretty. A pixel aesthetic is used on the character and enemy models, but most of the game is fully rendered which allows for the lighting system to tie it all together. It’s not 2.5D so much, as in you never shift perspective but the developers smarty use multiple levels in the fore and background to give things a good feeling of depth.
You are CJ, a 16-year-old rugged adventurer looking to complete her village’s right of passage. To do this she visits a town that’s recently discovered, after a massive earthquake, that there is a treasure-filled set of barrows beneath it. The scope of things is smaller than the average story and I appreciated it, though it did mean the location variety ended up being surprisingly small for a game purported to be 25 hours long. Early on the focus is on appeasing the city’s mayor so that your would-be adventurer can head down looking to find a treasure worthy enough for her rite. This leads to one of the game’s main mechanics, the stamp card.
I can’t sugar coat it, these stamps it tracks are almost all boring fetch quests that send you back and forth through the game’s few areas dozens of times and there are…. 160 in total. These quests aren’t optional either, as they often tie directly into building the town back up which in turn unlocks every single upgrade path in the game. Thankfully the story itself is well written, occasionally funny, and kept me interested throughout my time playing. It feels like a setup for the next game, which is to be expected, but the translated text is of a high quality, and I grew to like all of the main characters over time. Another area that took far too long to get interesting and then overstayed its welcome though was the combat.
One Button to Rule Them All
For the first few hours of EC: Rising you’ll attack by pressing x twice, waiting for the internal cooldown to finish, then press x two more times again. For the next 4 or 5 hours, you’ll then get to mix in the y button as your 2nd party member finally becomes available. A few hours after that you finally gain access to the b button and things really… become almost mediocre. Combat in the game takes far too long to get to what I would expect as a standard system and is just another case of this small budget title pushing itself too far. Having a basic combo of two swings for that long felt terrible and had me contemplating not doing the review. Once CJ was joined by Garoo the 2nd party member being able to mix in another button (attacks change you to that character as they swing as well) added a bit of spice and unlocked the only interesting part of the game’s combat. Finally when the third character joined the system became somewhat decent but it took an incredibly long amount of time to get there.
The interesting part of the combat is a slowdown tag-in system that operates on a short cooldown. Starting up a combo with one character and then switching to another one allows you to chain attacks together in both a cool-looking and quite powerful way. All of those shops you help open in town sell you upgrades for your weapons and armor which can add in things like a double jump for CJ, a power jump for Garoo, and a float ability for Isha. Near the end of my time with the game, I finally felt like I had enough abilities to deal with the game’s enemies in an almost satisfying manner, but it never felt good. Everything is a bit too deliberate, movement is always stilted feeling, and you can be locked into a corner far too easily by certain enemies. I didn’t hate the game’s combat and traversal, but it’s definitely not in the upper echelon of the genre.
On offer are a normal mode (which is what I’ve been describing) and a basic mode that turns things into Baland Wonderworld. One button is all you need and the game does the rest for you. It would be good for kids I guess but with how unbelievably slow the dialogue is, and how repetitive the quests are I can’t imagine most kids sticking with this no matter how pretty it is.
The writing in the game is really good, but the pace at which it is delivered is terrible. At first, I didn’t mind having to press A to make dialogue progress, but after my 15th 5-minute long conversation (of which I ended up having far more) I was ready to start holding the menu button and skipping things. The main issue with that though is the quest log does a terrible job of explaining where to go for objectives at times so I did not want to risk it. This game mostly takes place around one town and you will run back and forth talking to its inhabitants hundreds of times throughout your playthrough. Eventually, my brain would turn off and I would barely register what anyone was saying because I knew what the end would be. “CJ please go here, find this, and bring it back to me”.
At the start you have a small number of stamps to fill out on your card, after I filled it I thought “I must be getting close to the end!” then I saw the full list, it wasn’t the 20 or so I had done, no no no it was ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY of these fetch quests overall. There are legitimately fun things to do in this game but my god, why did they have to make you repeat the same things so many times? I must have been through the great forest area for 50 different quests now, and they’re all unlocked in a set path so it’s not like I can find items in there before the quest exists every time.
The main reason for this is your limited “resource pack” which can initially hold 50 items per dungeon run. All missions/combat take place in dungeons with a similar setup. They have signposts at which you can save and if you die 20 minutes into a run and haven’t found a signpost you lose all progress and have to reload from your last save. The game does have auto-saves but they seem to mostly kick in for story-related events. The game isn’t too difficult but the few times I did die 15 or 35 minutes into a run and saw I had no auto-saves available were extremely painful. If you complete/leave a dungeon everything you picked up will go to your infinitely large main inventory. One of the biggest issues with the game is the picking up of items. They included a cute animation for these little glowing balls of light to jump up from defeated foes or broken objects which do a beautiful arc and then land on the ground. It takes a second or two and if you don’t stand around and wait for the animation to finish you will not get the item. It is infuriating as you are on fetch quest number 85 and have to stop or run back to get “icy batwing” or “copper ore” numbers 20 into your pouch.
The RPG Part of an Action-RPG
CJ, Garoo, and Isha all have an upgradable weapon, set of armor, and two ring slots. Eventually, each will have a few more slots that let you set elemental attunements for your damage dealt and damage received. It’s a fun system that works well and was, alongside the writing, a highlight for me. To gain this gear there are tons of items in the world to collect and you’ll be forced to upgrade multiple shops through truly boring side quests. Every good part of this game kept me going, but it was a struggle. There is no leveling tree, but you do have a character level that goes up through a standard experience system. Money is called baqua and is mainly found through quest rewards.
There were no dialogue choices that I saw, and in fact, the only real choice I made was naming each of my character’s weapons through a fun pre-set naming system. You are along for the ride, storywise, and have no real control over how anything goes. This being a prequel it always feels like it has a distinct story to tell and I was fine with it. The story is pretty darned good, and occasionally worth the awkward never-ending fades to black whenever a dialogue section ends. That is then followed up by a “quest complete” screen which has you press A to get through any awards and my god it can take like 30 seconds or more to finally be able to move again whenever someone is done talking!
The music was well done and I never found it annoying despite hearing it for many hours. Sound effects are what one would expect and there was no voice acting to be heard. Bug-wise I had a maddening issue where the game would constantly tell me it couldn’t sync my save to the cloud, pretended it worked with quick resume when it didn’t even work in suspend mode and was in a weird limbo state Xbox Club-wise where it would show me as playing but achievements and stats were hidden. In short, it’s been a bit of a mess in small ways pre-launch and I’m hoping they iron them out by the time the game goes public.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a really good 6 hour game stretched to be nearly three times as long. If you find yourself loving it early-on then it might just hold up for you. Sadly I was done by then and had to force myself to go any further despite loving the story, writing, and characters. The gameplay eventually becomes something close to good, and it’s really damned pretty. For either $14.99 or a download on Xbox Game Pass it’s not the worst way to spend your time and money, but I can’t help but feel like the developers and Rabbit & Bear Studios bit off a little more than this game could chew.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4&5, Windows PC, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||May 10th, 2022|
|Developed by||Natsume Atari, Rabbit & Bear Studios|
|Published by||505 Games|
|Rated||E for Everyone|