Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising
The Prequel 'Rises' To The Top
One look at my rating for Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is all that is needed to be said about a game that has been considered the "appetizer" to the main dish. Before we begin, I'd like to give a huge thanks to the staff at 505 Games for allowing us an early copy to review. There have been some QoL changes from the time I've played to the actual release, but there was nothing that hindered my enjoyment.
I was very fond of Eiyuden Chronicle Rising from the very beginning when I played it at the 505 Games booth at PAX East. Its blend of a side-scrolling beat 'em up with a town-building action RPG element was what reeled me in. What made me stay was everything else about the game including its premise
Due to the nature of a fleshed-out review such as this, there are light spoilers ahead and heavy spoilers will have their own section!
From Humble Beginnings To A Franchise That Birthed A Legay
The series, Eiyuden Chronicle itself, was made a reality by Rabbit & Bear Studios, consisting of several key staff members who worked on the Suikoden series. The creator of the first two titles, Yoshitaka Murayama, alongside designer Junko Kawano and programmer Osamu Komuta had reunited to create Rabbit & Bear Studios. To round out the team, Junichi Murakami who directed the iconic Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow would join as a producer and art director.
Originally brought up as a companion title for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, Rising came to form as a prequel title. Characters from the upcoming Hundred Heroes make their appearance in Rising as a part of their origin story. It also helps set the world of Hundred Heroes by building a world around its characters and the plot outside the scope of a small town.
Every Story Has Its Beginning And So Does Eiyuden Chronicle
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising begins with a young treasure hunter named CJ who finds herself in the modest town of New Neveah. Hearing about the legends of a relic known as the "humongous lens," she ventures to the mining town in hopes of claiming it for her family. Despite the name, the town has seen better days, far from it being "New." Houses are ransacked, buildings are destroyed, and simple amenities like lodging are unavailable.
It is here that the game's distinct art style shows itself, offering fantastic 3D background scenery and hand-drawn sprites similar to Triangle Strategy in the mid-ground. I say "mid-ground" because of the impressive graphic effects used to show objects in the foreground. Trailblazing through forests, players will occasionally run past a tree or a rock in the foreground to commit themselves to a sense of depth.
The acting mayor in town, Isha, wishes to restore the town to its former glory, so she relies on adventurers like CJ to help. This is done by enticing her with a stamp card, as the more stamps an adventurer receives, the more they are able to explore the outskirts of town. This includes the mines that CJ desperately needs to explore.
New Neveah's Fate Depends On One Adventurer's Involvement
This is where the game shines the most, as the player is not only responsible for CJ and her party's growth, but also for New Neveah's. As CJ completes more missions and helps the residents, the town will slowly bring itself to life. Important facilities such as a place for CJ to rest after a long day's work are the only ones accessible.
Before long, shops such as an armorer, a blacksmith, an accessory shops, and an apothecary will open. Facilities like the tavern will restore the party's health and the inn will give the party a buff that will last until the end of the day. The armorer and the smithy will not only allow the player to upgrade their armor and weapons but craft new ones that grant them new abilities.
Usually, in Action RPGs, the player will enter a new town that will allow them to access better equipment. In Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, better equipment will depend on how much the player helps a resident. Helping the Smithy with a request will offer the shop upgrades to better equip the party, for example. Upgrading equipment and obtaining items are entirely dependent on the loot the player picks up from defeating enemies and gathering from the environment. While money is important in Rising, without materials you can't expect to grow stronger.
As The Player Helps Its Neighbors, They Help The Party In Turn
In Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, it's not so much how strong the player is but how good their equipment is. Again, the only way to ensure the player is up to date with equipment is to do quests from facilities that will upgrade their gear. The concept of leveling a town as well as the player was last briefly touched upon in Pokemon Legends: Arceus. There were instances where completing side quests will enable Jubilife City to grow as a town and upgrade its wares. There's a similar concept here and it's best for the player to check the bulletin board each and every time they make any progress with the story.
Here lies the "heart and soul" of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, the economic system. As CJ completes more requests for the residents of New Neveah, the facilities improve and more facilities open up. These requests are the heart and soul of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising and it's split into two categories: Shop Requests and Residential Requests.
Residential requests are simple, identified by a face emoji in the quests menu. Both categories will ask CJ to do various things such as gather materials from the environment and monster drops. Others require her to go to a specific location on the map and find an object, usually guarded by stronger foes. Lastly, some are as simple as going to someone else in town and going back to the original quest giver.
Every Weapon And Armor, Including Upgrades, In Rising Is Crafted. Not Bought.
The shop requests, when complete, will build new facilities and improve them up to a certain level. This level cap is determined by how far the player is in the main story. While the Smithy, as mentioned, increases the levels of everyone's gears and weapons up to 30, the weapon and armor shops increase the abilities of each party member.
This means that backtracking is always going to be a requirement if you wish to collect those stamps! There are several tiers of the explorer's card. The player starts at bronze, making their way to silver, gold, platinum, and black card ranks. As the player increases their explorer rank, the town's music changes as well as its appearance. This also means CJ will be trusted to take on tougher challenges for better gear.
After spending hours building the town of New Neveah well beyond its potential, it felt satisfying having the best gear, level 5 accessories, and level 3 runes. Since everything in this game is either found or crafted, it gave me a sense of personal gratification. I turned this simple town into a living breathing tourist attraction, but, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Eiyuden Chronicle Rising's Gameplay Is Simple Yet Highly Addicting
Combat in Rising is on a 2D battlefield, with a style similar to Dragon's Crown and other platformers. Initially, CJ is alone, using her agility to dash, dodge, and attack in a flurry with her axes. Rising also takes cues from "Metroidvania" titles where there are many barricades that require someone to break them. Early on there's a giant boulder that CJ cannot break through, which requires someone with a far greater sword. Garoo is the second character introduced, a grizzled Kangaroo who towers over CJ and wears a binding over his eye. He also carries a large sword in his fanny pack, which he explains is a part of a "Subspace." Okay, Ramona Flowers.
Garoo's fighting style differs from CJ in almost every single way, moving far slower than his spunky partner, yet dealing tons of damage and covering a wide range with one swipe. While he cannot dash like CJ, he can parry attacks, with a generous timing window. He can also swat enemy projectiles back towards the hapless saps and destroy shields.
The Combos In This Game Reach Ultimate Capcom Status
When the player unlocks Garoo, they also unlock the ability to Link Attack. On Normal difficulty, the player controls each member of the party at any given time. CJ is controlled with the X/Square button and Garoo is controlled with the Y/Triangle button. In any other game similar to this, it's best to recognize the button scheme as "Light Attack" being CJ and "Heavy Attack" being Garoo. Thinking about it this way, it's easier to grasp the combo system. As the player gets used to controlling two characters at once, it becomes second nature and you can pull some interesting combos.
For example, you can charge Garoo's attack and as he unleashes his beam from his sword, CJ can tag in and use her barrage of axes to shred. Timing your attacks while alternating them enables "Link Combos," dealing heavy damage to an opponent. This can only be done off cooldown, identified by a glint emitting from one of the characters. While the enemies don't scale with the player, the field bosses will always be close to the same level as the player. The field bosses, along with other enemies, will respawn upon leaving the dungeon. This means that it's possible to farm a spot consistently for materials and exp if you desire.
At max level, earlier mentioned abilities like CJ's double jump, Garoo's "super armor," and Isha's charged spells are unlocked. As most shops reach their maximum level, their effects on beneficial items and equipment also increase. Rising does a good job with pacing as the materials needed to complete the quests correlate with the most recent monster area the player unlocks.
Thwarted By A Rather Rapacious Ruler
Eventually, the duo requires the aid of Isha to take care of a barricade that bars their path. Reaching the Snowpeak Mountains, they are blocked by a giant magic boulder that not even Garoo's greatsword can cut through. After finding out that Isha is actually a talented mage, she agrees to help the party on one condition. She only decides to help the party once their personal tax rate increases to 60%.
Aside from finding coins in breakable vases and as a quest reward, the only way to make money in Rising is to sell materials. The player can sell anything they wish, from crafting materials to valuables at a pawnshop yet there is a 30% tax for all sales. Thanks to CJ's "bargaining skills," Isha agrees to a 60% tax in exchange for her joining the party, meaning players will only make a 40% profit.
Fortunately, Isha will eventually drop the tax down to 30%. She also "sweetens the pot" by making every sale come to about a "third" of her share, as "30% + 30% cancels the other out" in her words. While the math doesn't exactly math, to save the player a headache, items can be sold without worrying about taxation.
Hoarders Will Feel Right At Home Here, Except It's A Valid Strategy
This also helps the player understand that there are times to sell valuables and there are times to focus on the story. While I've spent most of my time attending to the various requests the townspeople gave to me, I can imagine there'd be those who would sell their resources to make money. After all, the higher level your equipment the more you're expected to shell out. This was the game's way of telling the player "Focus on the story, you can sell your items afterward!"
After reaching the post-game content, I realized I was wrong in "selling all of my items." Some of the materials I thought I didn't need, I wound up having to go back to areas I thought I was finished with just to retrieve them again. Fortunately, to expedite the process, there's a Trading Post run by Hogan in which you can trade your lesser junk for high-quality materials.
For a price, of course. If that all fails, then it's back to the good old grind. Fortunately, grinding isn't difficult as enemy drop rates remain consistent. As long as the player takes advantage of the town buffs, such as increasing their luck, and wearing accessories that increase drop rate, finding items should be a breeze.
Quick tip: Anything that says "Ancient" as a prefix is safe to sell. Everything else, keep them!
Another mechanic that gets added to the game is the concept of rune lenses. These artifacts allow whoever has them equipped to become imbued with the element assigned. For example, in the beginning, only the earth rune is accessible to players and CJ has access to the rune lens. As the player progresses in the main story, much like the upgradable facilities, other party members will unlock the ability to use runes. Powering up the runes requires, you guessed it, upgrading facilities and having the materials and money to craft them. This all goes back to doing those side quests. The more side quests completed, the more powerful runes you can equip.
Once equipped, CJ's attacks now have the Earth element assigned to her blades. Boulders that were once impassable with an Earth element can now be destroyed. Ice and water types take more damage with the Earth rune equipped, which helps with the next open area. Other elements including ice, electricity, fire, and wind are eventually made available as the plot demands it. Previous locations that were once impassable can now be explored. This is also important for reaching 100% completion across the maps as well as obtaining rare materials guarded by strong foes. The enemies are stronger and are up to par with the ones the player has been fighting, but the rewards are lucrative.
The Speedster, The Brawler, And The Literal Nuclear Caster
Isha's appearance rounds out the trio of adventurers, each with their unique archetype. CJ is the speedster who has multiple jumps and air dashes to travel great distances. Garoo is the stalwart bruiser that can take a hit, swat a projectile back at an enemy, and cover great leaps in a single bound.
Isha is the party's ranged caster who isn't as durable as Garoo or CJ but has the highest magic defense of the three. She also has different elements to her magic attack depending on the rune she has equipped. By default, Isha throws magic spheres at enemies, but with an Earth rune equipped she hurls boulders at an arc. With the ice rune, she throws icicles that cover a great distance.
She can also teleport and hover over gaps, making her a very capable fighter in her own right. Like the other members of the party, at maximum potential, Isha is a literal nuke. No matter which rune you equip, her power reaches extraordinary heights. This is limited by the number of spells she can cast, starting with three. At max potential, she can cast five powerful spells at once.
I realized I spent quite a while talking about the trio of characters that make up the party in Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. I've also discussed the gameplay while in the monster areas and the sim-like mechanics in New Neveah. While I won't share every detail about the story for Rising, most of it will be speculation and my thoughts on the "story thus far."
That Said, Heavy Story Spoilers Ahead
When Isha joins the party, a number of things about the history of New Neveah and the role that Isha plays are revealed. Being the last of a race of spellcasters who can weave magic without a lense, Isha discovers her father is alive. After years of believing he was dead, Isha joins CJ and Garoo to look for answers as the trio sees him in the Runebarrows.
It's eventually revealed that a sorcerer had killed Isha's father, who deliberately went in exchange for Isha's safety. The man that Isha thought was her father was actually a guise the sorcerer used to remain undetected. At this point, the story goes into "I want to harness the power of evil to rule the world" territory. The pacing for the final arc of the game ramps up, but I was willing to excuse it as Rising's purpose is to sow the seeds for Hundred Heroes.
It's also revealed that Isha is on "borrowed time" as the lens is buried inside her, meaning that it'll eventually tear her apart from the inside. The trio is now determined to find a way to save her fate, as breaking the giant lens is the key to stopping others like Isha from suffering the same fate.
The hidden motives of Garoo also come up as a member of the Empire shows up, demanding Garoo to "kill the adventurers." As it turns out, Garoo was hired as a mercenary to retrieve the powerful Rune Lens in exchange for his daughter, Allaby's, life. Having already lost his wife, he's at a crossroads until he uses his better judgment to turn on the Empire. A fight ensues between the trio and the Empire until the enemy retreats.
After all, I'm certain the Empire and the assassin will play a far greater role in Hundred Heroes. It's all about the trio and saving Isha! Even if it means fighting her "father" and destroying the sorcerer-turned-eldritch-abomination for good. I didn't mention it before, but most of the boss fights in Rising are fairly simple. There are attacks that are highlighted by a red outline, making it easy to avoid its attacks.
Each boss has a "unique" mechanic but it involves holding out until its weak spot is revealed. The final boss is no different, the only difference is that it summons monsters. Fight the monsters, stand on a platform, wait for the weak spot to show, and go to town. Rinse and repeat until the boss is dead.
The ending to Rising shows that after some months have passed, the destruction of the giant rune had done nothing to help Isha's situation. The lens is fused with her insides that it's "impossible" to remove it without killing her outright. CJ, as she has been the whole game, is determined to find a cure that doesn't involve killing Isha and the two embark on an adventure. Garoo is missing from the ending as he had already embarked on his own personal journey to save his daughter, no doubt encouraged by the adventurers he befriended.
Heavy Story Spoilers End Here!
Upon beating the game, the player unlocks a new difficulty and new side quests and is rewarded an item. The item, Impossible Luck, increases the drop rate by 100%, yet at this point in the game, it's debatable how useful it is. There are better accessories to wear in the post-game and one of them makes every attack a critical hit. This is where Isha becomes an absolute powerhouse as she has the lowest innate critical hit chance for a reason. Having all of her powerful spells do guarantee bonus damage is insane. Combine this with the Level 5 power ring and the level 5 power potion, things start to get out of hand.
Post Game Content Adds An Hour Of Gameplay, Which Is Appreciated
This is where the new difficulty option comes in, as beating the game once unlocks Hard Difficulty. The enemies are scaled to a far higher level than normal. Enemies that were once "Level 2" in the beginning map are now "Level 30" on average. The later maps, such as the Volcano and the Deep Runebarrows, are also adjusted accordingly. The bosses also see an increase in power with newer mechanics. One boss may have more enemies to fight, other bosses will not get staggered as normal.
The problem with this mode is that, as I mentioned above, it loses its difficulty if the player is already armed to the teeth. If the player completes every side quest, they unlock a key item that grants them unlimited Link Attacks. This absolutely trivializes the game as the player can stay in this state forever so long as the player keeps up with the timing.
The main incentive for playing on Hard difficulty is the EXP increase players receive by fighting these stronger enemies. The exp cap a player can receive on a kill is 9999 EXP, which means reaching the max level cap of 50 is as easy as defeating any enemy or boss that gives you that much EXP, exiting the map, re-enter, and doing it again. This leads to my final part of the review, being a "completionist."
I Had The Pleasure Of Earning Every Achievement In The Game During My Playthrough And I Enjoyed It.
For a bit of background, I played Eiyuden Chronicle Rising on Steam thanks to the friends at 505 Games for giving me the opportunity to begin with. There's an in-game achievement tracker that lists all 50 achievements as they are unlocked. Without knowing what exactly I had to do to unlock every achievement, I went at it blind, of course. Every achievement is what one playing the game would expect to earn.
By the time I was finished with Rising, I had a full roster all decked out in the best weapons and armor at max level of course. All three party members reached the level cap of 50, I've done every resident request that would net me a stamp, and I've filled out my stamp card completely to its highest level.
I've beaten all the bosses, fully explored all five locations, beaten the game, beaten all the bosses on hard difficulty, and beaten the game on hard difficulty. I've crafted one of each maximum level item from each facility and used each facility in New Neveah. Getting all the achievements took around 15 hours, which would have been faster had I not sold the necessary materials I needed to grind back.
It was fun figuring out the requirements needed to do everything the game had to offer and being rewarded accordingly. It never felt like a drag, rather it was loads of fun. This is the selling point of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. It's a fun title that anyone can get involved, pick up, and play with.
EC: Rising Brings The Fun Back In Video Games Thanks To The Lovable World It Builds
The controls are simplistic with the right amount of depth to them and loading between each map takes seconds. I never felt like I had to wait for anything and everything I did was instant. Soon I was zooming through menus with ease and played on auto-pilot. There were times when I had to focus when fighting the tougher enemies, which added adrenaline to the gameplay.
Overall, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a very impressive first step in the Eiyuden Chronicle series. What was meant to be a "prequel" to the grand premiere of Hundred Heroes wound up with me being attached to the world. New Neveah is but a small blip in the large map I'm expecting to explore, but each individual stuck to me. The protagonists, CJ, Garoo, and Isha grew on me and the sense of progression made in Rising will transfer over to Hundred Heroes. There are items that players will earn depending on decisions made in Rising as well as beating the game, so to see my input in the future is something I can't wait to see.
For the generous price of $15, its expansive release across multiple platforms, and its Day 1 Game Pass release, everyone should try this wonderful game. It far exceeded my expectations and I cannot wait to see familiar and new characters in Eiyuden Chronicles; Hundred Heroes in 2023.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch. It is also available on Game Pass.