At a glance, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising looks to be another grand JRPG adventure set in a perilous world and undertaken by a band of unlikely heroes. On starting the game I expected to be faced with convoluted exposition and grandiose lore. But, in actuality, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is more humble than that.
The game is a prequel to Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, set to release in 2023, and focuses on just a few of the characters that will have an impact in the main game.
Wasting no time, we meet CJ, our plucky main protagonist. She’s a treasure hunter by trade — or a scavenger as she prefers to be called — making her way to New Nevaeh in search of a giant Rune Lens. As far as protagonists go, CJ isn’t breaking any ground in the JRPG genre. She’s foolhardy, confident, helpful, and a little half-witted at times. Nothing new, outside of being more up-beat. Despite bordering on generic, she’s impossible to hate. Her dialogue feels natural and her purpose feels sincere. At 15, kids in her tribe are sent out into the world in search of a treasure that puts their ancestors to shame. In CJ’s case, she’s after a Rune Lens bigger than the one her father found.
This goal leads her to the outskirts of New Nevaeh, where the game begins. An earthquake has recently has revealed dungeon-like Runebarrows beneath the town, resulting in treasure hunters flocking to the town in search of riches. But with buildings lying in ruins and an ever-growing population of adventurers and Outlanders, the town is under a lot of strain. Through tasks and resource gathering, CJ slowly helps the villagers rebuild. As a result, more merchants set up shop, offering CJ and her party the means to level up their equipment.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising takes a while to get going. The initial fetch quests become tedious rather quickly — the game’s beginnings are limited to just a few areas to run backwards and forwards through. But persevere and things start to feel slightly more rewarding. Areas soon begin to open up and new enemies start to appear. The new stores provide the means to modify your combat abilities (slightly) through weapon and armor upgrades, buffs, and eventually elemental perks. As you help rebuild, you begin to learn more about the town and its inhabitants.
And that’s really where the game shines the brightest. The characters you meet, be they protagonists or NPCs, are undeniably charming. Everyone has their quirks and their own story, and it feels like you’ve entered a lived-in town. The main party has enjoyable chemistry, too. It consists of three characters in total: Garoo, a kangaroo mercenary; Isha, the town’s 16-year old acting-mayor; and CJ. At first it seems ridiculous — two teenagers running around fighting monsters with a giant kangaroo wielding a Buster sword. But you quickly realize they fit together perfectly.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sold on Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising at first. I was put off by its side-scrolling nature, its combat style, and the worry that I’d be dedicating hours to a JRPG story I’d seen plenty of times already. But it surprised me. Though it took some time, I found myself dedicated to fulfilling its many little side quests and upgrading the town.
The combat, which I initially wished was turn-based, actually worked much better once all party members were in play. Each of the three characters is switched by, and attacks with, a single dedicated button. CJ slashes with her axes, Garoo has his bulky sword, and Isha flings spells. Switching between the three with the correct timing unleashes powerful and satisfying Link Attacks, making quick work of even the biggest enemies. There’s no complicated system to learn — just swift and fluid combat.
It was when I realized that the game felt like a homage to PS1-era RPGs that I really started to gel with it. The 2.5D visuals look enchanting in a nostalgic sort of way, and the gameplay isn’t bloated with mechanics. It’s quaint. If I had Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising around the time I was playing Tomba! or Final Fantasy IX back in the day, I would have been obsessed with it. I’m older now, and JRPGs have since changed drastically, but it was nice to revisit that retro style of game.
But because I was viewing the game through this lens perhaps I’ve been more forgiving. While Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is simple and pleasant, it’s bogged down by its repetitive side quests and easy enemies. It feels like you’re running backwards and forwards between point A and point B, and spending a lot of time doing so. Sadly, RPG fanatics won’t find much of a challenge here. If you’re curious to see how Rising leads into Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes then the story is certainly worth your time, but the monotonous gameplay will prove more of a hurdle for most.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam, Epic and GOG. It is also available via Xbox and PC Game Pass.
DBLTAP was provided with a copy of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising for review by its publisher, 505 Games.