Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising review (PS5)

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, from developers Natsume Atari and Rabbit & Bear Studios, acts as a sort of prelude to Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. Is it an essential opening act? We played the 505 Games-published PlayStation 5 version to find out.

A quick recap for those not familiar with Eiyuden Chronicle. Hundred Heroes was originally launched through Kickstarter as a spiritual successor to the Suikoden games that were so beloved on the original PlayStation and PS2. Then, when the game was funded, plans were announced to develop an action RPG prequel that was to launch while we wait for the 2023 release of Hundred Heroes. That game is Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising – something to introduce us to a new gameplay universe without following the gameplay beats of what’s to come.

At the start of the game, we’re introduced to young treasure hunter CJ, who will be our main protagonist and only hero during the first few hours of the game. He’s been sent away on a quest to find treasure in order to prove his worth and travels to New Neveah in search of riches. The town isn’t doing so well, so before CJ is allowed to search for treasure he’ll have to have the local populace rebuild their town – picking up random little jobs and quests as you go.

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Very often, these are simple fetch quests, and you’ll regularly have to venture outside of town where you’ll run into enemies. Combat gradually branches out, but at first it’s a simple case of dashing and spamming the attack button – though the controls are nice and responsive. This remains true when layers get added to the combat and you add two allies to your party – a kangaroo named Garoo and Isha, the mayor of New Neveah who also possesses the power of magic.

You can switch between these characters, each of which has their own unique fighting style. Isha prefers long range magic spells, while Garoo is strong and CJ relies on his agility. The most interesting and satisfying dynamics come from switching/tagging mid-battle though, which allows for some cool combo attacks when you switch right after delivering a hit. Your options in combat gradually expand and fighting becomes more and more fun as you progress, though things are definitely off to a slow and repetitive start when it’s just CJ and a limited moveset.

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You’ll run into similar pacing issues elsewhere, as many of the game’s quests and objectives require a lot of traveling back and forth, which becomes repetitive even when using the fast travel options. The rewards are worthwhile because you’ll receive new items and character upgrades by completing quests and reopening buildings and stores, but progress is a bit too slow for an action RPG. In a way, many of these elements feel like they would be right at home in a lengthy JRPG (you can even equip magical runes), while slowing down the action too much in a game like this.

Eiyuden Chronicles: Rising probably runs almost twice as long as it should (clocking in at over 25 hours for us), but look past the padding and there’s plenty to enjoy as well. Once fully unlocked, the combat is a joy to play, and the game’s visual style is absolutely lovely, with gorgeous 2D art and beautiful backdrops with a ton of visual depth to create the feeling of a magical storybook that’s come to life.

It suffers from serious pacing issues, but many of the gameplay elements that make up Eiyuden Chronicles: Rising will feel right at home in a game like Hundred Heroes. This may be a flawed action RPG, but one that shows great promise for what’s to come.

Score: 6.7/10

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