Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a 2.5D sidescrolling action RPG from Rabbit & Bear Studios and Natsume Atari. It acts as a prelude to Rabbit & Bear’s upcoming Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, a spiritual successor to Suikoden.
The plot follows a young scavenger named CJ who happens upon the struggling town of New Nevaeh, which has lured adventurers to its borders with the promise of generous compensation. Upon meeting Isha, the town’s teenage acting mayor and Garoo, a rough-around-the-edges man beast, CJ’s goal to find a giant treasure becomes tied to the wellbeing of the town and its citizens.
CJ is a likable albeit familiar protagonist, bursting with energy, optimism, and a strong moral code. Isha and Garoo are more pragmatic and cynical respectively, leading to humorous bickering within the group. The dialog between the main characters is genuinely entertaining, and an intriguing mystery starts to unfold as they’re forced to deal with an ancient ruin underneath the town. But the bulk of your time will be spent running errands for countless townspeople in order to support your quest.
The development of New Nevaeh ties into story progression and actually makes a lot of sense. Several citizens will ask for help gathering materials that can only be found in dangerous areas teeming with monsters. As you push further into those dungeons, the party will hit roadblocks like impassable gaps or elemental crystals, which will require items from shops back in town to get past. So the more shops you help to open and upgrade, the more skills and equipment you can use to progress in the field.
The downside is these quests are quite repetitive, tasking you with collecting a specific number of items from a specific location you’ve cleared before. Eventually, difficulty spikes in newer areas demand you spend even more time backtracking and grinding in older areas in order to upgrade your weapons and equipment. Luckily, there is a generous fast travel system for the main areas as well as inside the dungeons, but you’ll still be running all over the place for hours.
Combat and platforming don’t do enough to offset the frustrating mission design and can be frustrating themselves. CJ, Garoo, and Isha feel uneven to play as. CJ is by far the fastest character and after upgrades gets a four-hit combo, double jump, and dash. In contrast, Garoo can charge a super jump, and Isha can teleport a short distance; both skills feel useless compared to what CJ has.
Each character’s attacks have a corresponding button, so combos will have the party jumping in and out of the fray like a tag battle. With the correct timing, you can get much more powerful link attacks, which are ideal for dealing with tougher enemies. However, these attacks have a short cooldown, and in the off-moments when you’re stuck doing basic single-button combos, the action loses its intensity, especially with the cheap-looking combat animations.
The art direction of Eiyuden Chronicle is a highlight. Its bright 3D-rendered environments occupied by high-quality 2D sprites is lovely, but it seems apparent Rising took some shortcuts to get a playable action game done, such as with its color-swapped enemies that mostly attack in awkward lunges. Boss battles at least employ some phased mechanics and benefit visually from being mostly immobile screen-filling threats, but nothing will pose any real challenge as long as you take the time to level appropriately.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising very much feels like an opening course to something else and as a result does not itself seem fully realized, at least as far as its gameplay. The straightforward quest progression can be entertaining, especially if players just want a light fantasy experience, clocking in at about 20 hours or so but monotonous fetch quests and underwhelming combat may not be the best way to promote the pending follow-up. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is out now for $14.99 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, and included with Xbox Game Pass.
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