Adventure games come in all shapes and sizes. Some are mighty behemoths, with sprawling landscapes and many hidden dungeons. Others are much more confined, intense, and highly rewarding. But many offer a unique dynamic or two to make them stand out above the crowd. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a brand new JRPG that is also a setup for the upcoming game Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, which saw a successful Kickstarter campaign (and one of the most successful campaigns) in 2020. Can 505 epic side-scrolling 2.5D adventure set the stage for next year's release of Hundred Heroes, or should you wait for the main event to occur? What is Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising?
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a prequel to the upcoming Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, which focuses on a young adventure’s journey to obtaining the respect from her home village and completing an age-old rite of passage. Taking on the role of adventurer CJ, players will embark on a quest to find a grand treasure, which CJ can take back home and show her worth in a village full of adventurers, and most importantly, prove her worth to her father. There is a big prize CJ knows of, located underneath the town of New Nevaeh, where there are great rewards and mighty great risks too.
However, upon arriving at the town, CJ discovers everything is not all that well, with the town suffering from a lack of resources, a recessive decline, and a fear of bandits and monsters being higher than ever. This is mostly due to a deverstating earthquake, which has also revealed a new location, The Quarry, which has plenty of treasures awaiting to be found. The acting town major has decided to allow adventures into the Quaary, providing they help the townspeople and ensure the restoration of New Nevaeh.
CJ, being a kind-hearted young woman, decides to help out the town in the hope of bringing it back to its former glory, but also as a means of strengthening her chances of finding a mighty rare “Lens” that will prove her worth to her family and village.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising has everything you would expect from an epic adventure, with plenty of side quests, treasure hunting, monsters to defeat, and meeting loveable rogues who soon become your friends. A mighty fine tale of adventure
One of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising’s strongest points within its story. While it’s not a wholly original or massive innovated plot, there is a genuine sweetness to it, and overall flow well enough to keep you invested. The story of finding the most magnificent treasure to prove CJ’s worth to her village is a good motivator but helping out a local town not only for her own benefit but to be a decent human being is a great goal to work towards.
CJ is very likable, and really the entire cast is too. CJ’s good manner and enthusiasm to venture forth and help others (be it partly for stamps – I’ll get to that) keeps her an enjoyable character to play. The local townspeople are varied, with many interesting dilemmas, backstories, and useful traits that benefit the player greatly in the adventure. One of the key elements in the story is CJ having to collect stamps from the townspeople who she helps. The stamp book is set up to obtain an Adventurer’s Pass, allowing her to explore the mines and ruins under the town. But soon enough, she proves herself to the town’s major that she is given one without completing the book. Yet she’s driven to fill up the book with stamps from those she helps, and often will help those in need, even if it means pausing her main goal.
To balance out all the niceness (CJ does have her moments of sass and wit too, thankfully), there is a line-up of companions who share similar and different ideologies. Including Groo, a grumpy, brutish, yet honourable Kangaroo who wields a massive sword like he’s from Final Fantasy, who often objects to CJ’s Samaritan ventures, yet sticks with her and supports her wishes in a fed-up manner.
There are other characters, who of whom have interesting dynamics with one another and especially with CJ. They’re likable, funny, and enjoyable overall to engage with. Even if they spout more dialogue than a Hideo Kojima game!
The plot itself is nothing special, featuring a rare treasure, a goal of CJ herself back home, and a sinister conspiracy involving bandits and evil sorcerers. But the heart of the story is CJ’s efforts to help restore the town of New Nevaeh is both thematically compelling and rewarding for gameplay/character progression. It’s just like one of my Japanese Role-Playing Games!
I had some doubts about how well this game would turn out aesthetically, and having played this on an Xbox Series S and One, it’s a really pretty game overall. The ultimate version would be on next-gen consoles of course, as it’s without a doubt incredibly good-looking landscapes, detailed foregrounds, and easy listening melodies really present a picturesque world that’s lovely to explore. The world indeed does look gorgeous, it is quite noticeable that the characters don’t match the feel of the world they’re in. Characters, NPCs, and enemies are all given a hand-drawn look, but almost as though they’re 2D puppets on a stage that’s made from a completely different material. They do look nice, but I found it personally a little odd why there were two different styles, one for an almost organic, yet stylised looking world, and characters/NPCs who represent the Kamishibai art style.
Nonetheless, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a nice-looking game.
For those who’ve played other JRPGs, then you’ll feel right a home with the general structure, core gameplay, and pacing of Rising, as it incorporates many of the classic simple, yet entraining elements of other games such as the Tales series.
Players will control CJ as she helps the town and ventures to local areas such as the Great Forest and underground mines and ancient ruins. The main questline will see CJ help rebuild the town to its former glory, by helping clear out troublesome bandits, gathering vital resources such as food and even saving a cat to earn a place to stay. As the story progresses, these missions become more complex and more difficult, requiring multiple runs back and forth, collecting rarer items, and defeating the odd boss before moving forward.
And there is an abundance of side quests too, which have an impact on the town itself. And to be fair, helping the town, outside the story feels like the main quest in itself. Closely resembles the side quest in Assassin’s Creed 2, where Ezio would help the small town, his uncle lives. These side quests will reward players will new shops to buy goods from, such as weapons, resources, and upgrade, along with money and rare exclusive items which can be extremely helpful in the late game. But along the way, CJ will meet others looking for fame, fortune, or forgiveness and these become part of your battle party.
Helping the town and seeing it grow does give an amazing sense of accomplishment. I loved taking on odd jobs, building a good report with everyone, and having your efforts give back something meaningful such as new shops and services. It was a nice feeling doing so and really felt like a complete contrast to just slaying the numerous monsters outside the town. However, the main crux of helping the town is the repetitive nature that soon rears its ugly head after a few hours of playing.
Players will be dashing back and forth endlessly, visiting the same areas again and again, finding the odd item that spawns in, and taking it back to the NPC of interest. Many of the missions become “Go here and collect 10 of these items” without much urgency or even dynamic twists to keep things engaging. The amount of backtracking and repeated visits to places like the Great Forest (which aren’t very big) does become tedious. While new areas and paths do open eventually, the world of Rising is not a very big one, nor does it have remarkably compelling environments which are fun to go back and forth to.
If some quests had a little more depth, neat dynamics/mechanics, or even just had an unexpected twist to liven things up, I would say Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising would have kept my genuine interest until the very end. But as it stands, I felt a little drained by the 8-hour mark and resented partaking in yet another fetch quest. Big swords, Anime Powers, and Angry Kangaroos
Now it wouldn’t be a JRPG without some epic fighting and a lot of colourful monsters to fight now, would it?
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is not turn-based and plays out with a party system that allows you to switch back and forth between CJ and her following party. This is a neat concept and gives plenty of variety to combat encounters when your party is maxed out.
For example, CJ is quick and more like a vicious scout with her pickaxes, Groo is a brutal heavy with his giant that can deflect larger projectiles, and Isha is a sorceress who’s able to conjure magical attacks, great for crowd control. But switching between each of these characters and chaining their attacks together does lead to some spectacular moments of massive damage on enemies or bosses. While having this mechanic in the combat can make it somewhat easy to beat larger enemies and even bosses, it is the main highlight, considering much of the combat’s substance is way quite simple.
Everything from every other JRPG and RPG is here, from gear that increases stats, item crafting, and upgrading weapons and armour. The main highlights would be the decent (if not limited) roaster of enemies, implementing multiple tactical advantages whether their airborne, heavy or attack quickly. And there is plenty of gear for increasing stats, allowing you to choose whether you want to hit harder have more health or have more impact when chaining attacks.
Where Rising lacks substance in its combat is with the lack of different weapons, the few boss battles in its 15-hour lifespan, and dynamic elements for combat such as multiple special attacks. The lack of new weapons is disappointing but something I grew to accept. I could see why the weapon count was limited as all enemies feel the same when attacking. You hit, maybe break their shield/defence, and do a backstab to more damage. I guess there is no need for elemental effects on weapons, weaknesses, or complicated enemy stances. But it’s a shame there is nothing here to make use of the character switching or having special enemies to make some areas feel a little tougher.
But there needed to be more bosses (especially since the ones in the game are cool), or at least include different variants of enemies when you repeatedly backtrack back and forth on the side quests. As it stands, combat is fine, and fun at times, but the backtracking, lack of bosses, and lack of interesting tactics/weapons make it feel safe and unoriginal. Playing it safe
Now I understand this is not a game with a massive budget and is meant to act as an introduction/prologue to an upcoming game that was Kickstarted. So I give a lot of respect to the developers who might be working with certain limitations. But the general feel is that Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising wants to play it safe, and it doesn’t have to. There are multiple ways to include new dynamics and features which would make it stand high on the shoulders of the greats. The core mechanic of helping the town is incredible and really does offer a satisfying sense of reward and accomplishment. But the tedious nature of the side quests, lack of interesting dynamics, and a fun, fair yet simple combat system really do hold back on this great core mechanic of rebuilding the town.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising does allow players to do other things too, like fishing and odd other activities. But these are again, very simple and the engagement wears off after a short period of time. Fishing, for example, requires you to hit a sequence of buttons within a short timeframe. It’s not too hard, and the fishing spot is limited. Having different bait for different fishes, the rarity of fishes, and maybe even having an economy based on your fishing/captures could be implemented easily. But as it stands, fishing is just a short, sweet yet sadly forgettable mini-game that could have meant more. But represents Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising’s nature overall. Overall?
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a nice game. I would say, it’s an inoffensive game that anyone can get into, play, and enjoy. But that enjoyment will depend on your level of patience in the areas which have issues. The backtracking and tedium for side quests really can suck out the fun of helping the town, not to mention the simplicity of the world design makes it a little bland on repeated ventures. And the lacking dynamics to side activities make them forgettable and ultimately a little pointless. These are annoying problems, that do hold back Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising in some ways. But the concept of helping the town is incredibly wholesome and so rewarding for your character progression. The combat is simple, yet quite enjoyable, especially with the party dynamic, and the presentation is lovely, with a beautiful looking world and nice sound design. Lastly, I really felt the story and characters had a lot to offer. There are some neat thematic elements, and the general message is one about helping others, making a difference, and learning that treasure is not just material goods, but the good you can do.
While Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising might not be 100% ideal for hardcore JRPG fans, I would say this is a perfect game for younger gamers or those looking to venture into JRPGs. What works here is very solid, and the wholesomeness of rebuilding the town really does earn a recommendation from me, despite some problems.
++ Good story, and aesthetically pleasing
+ Wholesome and rewarding town rebuilding elements
+ Combat is simple yet fun
-- Backtracking and side quests become very tedious
- World needed more depth and enemy variants
- Side activities are forgettable
An Xbox review code for Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.