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Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes

Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes

Written by Ross Locksley on 01 Jun 2024

Distributor 505 Games • Price £39.95

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is the final work of recently passed SRPG master Yoshitaka Murayama. As the man behind the beloved Suikoden series, this makes my experience with the game somewhat bittersweet; what was a return to a beloved genre is now a memorial to a man many had great respect for. Critiquing it seems almost disrespectful, but critique we must as while Eiyuden Chronicles is a gem, it's not flawless.

Opening with the line "With our appreciation to all JRPG fans" it's clear that Rabbit & Bear Studio understands its audience. The game wastes no time in building the world you now find yourself in, beginning with a montage of in-game scenes and character artwork, its a simple but effective introduction to the JRPG landscape, from perspective to pixelised heroes, this certainly looks like a game cut from classic cloth. 

Asked to team up with The Empire to find something called a Primal Lens, you play a rookie Watch member of the League named Nowa and are tasked with teaming up with the Empire to find something called a Primal lens. Your initial unit comprises  of Garr, an experienced soldier, rookie Lian and serious swordswoman Mio. The Empire sends Hilde and Seign, wonderfully British sounding characters that instantly makes them sound sinister (thank you Hollywood for that bias!) You'll soon learn who the real enemy is and why you're really looking for this Primal Lens thingy, suffice to say it's all about lust for power and conquest, which you'll put an end to.

The combined skills of this initial crew give you a good introduction to the combat, which is a turn-based affair that allows you to program your team if you want to let the AI deal with weaker enemies, saving your brain for the tougher battles which soon follow. Each battle follows familiar JRPG beats, allowing you to defend or attack your choice of enemies within reach, your next attack automatically switching to a new enemy should the one they were due to attack be felled by a fellow warrior. You can perform "hero combos" for added damage, which look lovely but are basically specials that you can use once you acquire enough points to do so. Items, potions and runes can all be used to manage and enhance your abilities in battle and veterans should find this easy to pick up and play. The auto function does make things a tad over-simplified, but I can appreciate its use for players who want to focus on the story. 

Boss fights contain "gimmicks" to snap you out of your auto-battle mentality, requiring far more strategy, be it attacking in order to reveal a weak spot, fighting over a lever that controls which of you will take damage and so forth. This at least breaks the potential monotony and makes for memorable and enjoyable fights over just spamming the baddies with attacks until one of you falls over.

Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes
Presentation is excellent, with smooth and colourful visuals channeling a retro energy and style

The game's big draw, of allowing the player to recruit from a pool of over 100 heroes, gets you used to the idea of party members moving on pretty quickly. Mio is the first to leave, prompting Garr to make you captain, and through the rest of the game you'll be able to add new members to your team, harnessing their unique abilities and creating new and more interesting combos when you chain attacks together. Finding these heroes can be a case of running into people who will join automatically, but as you might expect the better members come with strings attached, requiring you to complete side quests or just defeat them in battle before they'll agree to join your roster. Everyone is well animated and fully voiced, so matter your choices, every member feels rounded and thought out. It's a lovely touch that adds an element of quality and polish to a game that could have been satisfied with text on the screen. When you do add a new hero, the game will lavish them with experience points in order to get them levelled up to match the rest of your party, so there's no need to doggedly stick to whoever you found first out of fear of making your party too weak. 

In terms of the dialogue, it's hit and miss. The voice acting is uniformly excellent, each character sounding distinct and emotive, but the script is, at times, childish and irritating. "Rub-a-dub-dub don't be a flub" is just one of the early lines that made me cringe, the idea that even a young adult would talk like a Cbeebies presenter just took me right out of the game. Thankfully the storyline is intriguing and compelling enough that such immature lines can be overlooked to an extent. The game really deserved a better translation though, the mature themes and ideas (not to mention the players) are worthy of more respect.

Graphically, the game is full of charm. The SD characters that move around the screen are lovely throwbacks to the games I'd lose myself in for hours nearly 30 years ago, with beautifully rendered backgrounds that add an element of realism, the two seamlessly integrating. The perspective blur (with the backgrounds in the distance covered by a clumsy blur filter) was initially off-putting, especially when it's used in interior environments where it absolutely isn't necessary, but I got used to it and it was barely noticeable after an hour or so. 

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes
Environments and character models are varied and a joy to discover. The blur filter takes some getting used to...

The pace of the game can be a bit slow, with the world map seeming a little emptier than I'd expect, the grind of battles being perhaps more faithful to older games than I might have actually liked, but the storyline keeps you moving forward and bridges the more flaccid parts of the game so that you don't mind the old tropes rearing their head - it's always worth it to get to the next development.

Developing on the Suikiden legacy, Eiyuden has a base-management feature that incorporates groups and guilds for characters to join, creating a society of unallied characters that nevertheless work together to form something greater than the individuals themselves. It's the sort of micro-management that keeps nerds like me happy, so I'm all for it. I loved seeing characters I'd swept up on my travels just hanging about and waiting for me to task them with new battles.

Here again Eiyuden surprises with grander battles, where you'll lead battalions on a grid system, placing your commanders in the best spots to lead the squads into battle. Honestly I didn't feel this was quite as well realised as standard combat as it just seemed to manage itself for the most part, my influence being pretty negligeable, or so it seemed.

By the end, Eiyuden Chronicles achieves its aim - to bring back a form of SRPG that players have long enjoyed, polishing the presentation and storyline while also importing some of the flaws of the genre without doing much to fix them. It's almost too strict in its adherence to the form, where more risks might have revealed more rewards. Older players will be more forgiving of the slower moments and more tedious parts of the game because we were there the first time around, but younger players may be more impatient.

It's a series I'd have liked to have seen Yoshitaka Murayama develop further, but alas that task now falls to those he left behind. I hope his legacy lights the way to more entries by Rabbit & Bear, it's the sort of game that could run for several iterations should the studio be up for it - judging by the huge success of the Kickstarter campaign and the general good vibes the game has enjoyed since release, it would appear the audience is certainly here for it.

Review code was provided by 505 Games

A love letter to an old form that perhaps doesn't stray quite enough to be a true revelation, but the story, graphics and gameplay are nectar to fans of the JRPG style.

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time. You can read his more personal articles on UKA's sister site, The Anime Independent.


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