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Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Review – Rally Forth

Platform(s): PC (version reviewed), Xbox Series, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Genre: 90s Role-Playing Game Capsule Experience

As a guy who loves his Japanese role-playing games from the Final Fantasy series to lesser-known ones like the Shadow Heart/Koudelka entries, I am ashamed to admit that I’ve never delved really deep into Konami’s Suikoden series. Short of longplays available for viewing on YouTube, I’ve never finished any of the games at all.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about parts 1 and 2: epic tales of destiny-defying youths thrust into a world war, recruiting heroes and warriors fated to unite against a global threat that’s usually an imperial monarchy hell-bent on global domination, albeit with many twists and turns. Basically, the kind of game that is amiss these days. Even with JRPGs like Chained Echo and Sea of Stars doing the throwback, it isn’t the same without most of the original devs from the 90s behind them.

Fast forward to 2024, and we now have a title that really is the 90s JRPG experience in a proverbial capsule. This one’s courtesy of a team made up of ex-Suikoden staff members: Rabbit & Bear Studio. And you have to hand it to them: when they set their sights on recreating the experience for this gaming generation, they went all out.

No muss, no fuss, no compromise: the developer’s sole game Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is packed with heart and care. But does that equate to great gameplay that is still relevant in an attention-deficit generation of gaming? Let’s find out!

An Eye(yuden) For Talent

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is focused on three heroes whose fates intertwine: Nowa the greenhorn guild warrior, Seign the up-and-comer Imperial army lieutenant, and Marisa the forest guardian. Their paths cross as the nation they’re in, Allraan, is being embroiled in war orchestrated by Seign’s higher-ups: the Galdean Empire. They, alongside their respective party and allies, form a resistance to deal with the looming threat, allying with others in hopes of staving off the big bads. Also, magic, ancient runes, golems, tree people, dragons, zombies, beastfolk, and cow people with huge assets enter the fray somehow while still making sense and logic within the realm’s space.

Without going into detail for fear of spoilers, the 50+ hour campaign is filled with a lot of twists and turns that entertain and make you invested; to see how a motley crew of upstarts form the biggest continent-sized resistance group ever made. While most of the story beats seem familiar (especially if you have played a Suikoden title) it is filled with a charming cast that’s fully voiced (both in English and Japanese VOs), and sidequests aplenty.

See, you need to control Nowa as he hustles to find different allies to aid his resistance’s cause. From generals who can train up his army to even card-flopping gamers who can boost morale with minigames, the game’s titular hundred heroes (and more) are a colourful bunch, each with their own design, own perks, and mannerisms.

You’ll also need to recruit party members for the many battles you’ll be in. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes uses turn-based combat to resolve conflict using your party of six characters – whoever you want to use is up to you. Barring main story scenarios where certain characters are locked, you are free to mix and match a party of six (and one support for much-needed buffs & one-off abilities). And even with that restriction, you can place plot-locked characters in any of the three “attendant” slots so you can put better characters from your roster instead.

There were instances where I just relegated all plot characters to the attendant slot so I could make my life easier using my then-uber hard-hitting party featuring a shark, a trio of Eastern bandits who synergize well, a magical girl who looks like a Sailor Moon draft concept, and main man Nowa. That’s flexibility for you; you’re not forced to use someone underleveled or you don’t like in combat who happens to be essential to the story quest.

As you level up your eclectic band of heroes & misfits, you can allocate runes to their unlocked rune slots to give them new abilities: spellcasting, buffs, passives, and special attacks. It’s up to you how you want to create your power army, and the devs let you tinker around with all the time in the world. Speaking of power up, if one of your party members is at a lower level than the highest-level person, the game’s catch-up experience points system will dish out loads of it to that person. That’s also a lovely bonus especially if you haven’t found a hero who can help circumvent this.

And you’ll need to, because a good number of major encounters in Eiyuden can be challenging. You need to mix and match the right party, figure out who to put in the front and back row; heck, even backtrack a tad bit in the early parts to switch party members and restock to stand a chance. Some boss battles have their own gimmicks called, well, Gimmicks. In some instances, you’re given interactable objects and triggers in the environment to use against the boss, be it cover to avoid a hard-hitting attack, or even a contraption you need to smash to depower the boss. These add strategies you need to use in fights, making them exciting and fun if lengthy at times.

These fun bosses are mostly tucked in dungeons and mazes, each with their own puzzles and environmental obstacles to sort out. You have rotating rooms, push-block puzzles, and a ton more I can’t spoil. They add tons of variety, and their encounter rate isn’t so insanely packed that you’ll get waylaid and lose your train of thought midway.

One fight that stuck in my mind involved a kraken and a lever that controls the floodgate that stops water from flooding the place. The kraken needs water to make its attacks more effective, so my team had to shut the gate down, and also use the harpoon gun for massive damage that’s only available if it isn’t submerged. Fail to use the lever, and you’ll eventually have to bunch close together in one row due to the rising water, thus letting the kraken possibly one-shotting you with a big attack that hits all targets in a row.

Search Party

Finding heroes is also part of the job in Eiyuden. Some will join you automatically while others require money, some macguffin object, and even fight you in battles of wits and strength for further convincing. While some of these conditions make sense, the ones that require specific items can take a while. Yes, you will need a guide to help you out in getting some of these heroes unless you get a diviner, and even that process is a little oblique unless you spend time exploring.

Fortunately, the default ones you get in the story will give you enough of a boost to find the other hard-to-find half. Besides, the characters all on offer here are charming and interesting in their own right. Standouts include the Eiyuden Chornicle Rising trio -Isha, CJ, Garoo- , the spunky Lian, Shi’Arc general Yuferius VII, chillax guardian Wayve, aloof Imperial guy Valentine, and cute magician-with-secrets Momo.

On top of all that, you also have turn-based army warfare minigames, a card battle minigame, an egg-creature racing game, and an Iron Chef-style cooking minigame where you need to choose the right food for the judges. The first one’s mandatory, given the subject matter, and it does add variety to move the plot forward. You ARE after all a resistance group with a growing army. While they’re not as fun as the turn-based stuff, they’re still noteworthy, don’t happen too frequently, and aren’t too tough as long as you play defensive.

Having said all that, there are some chinks in this JRPG armour. Or rather, bugs that can ruin your playthrough. So far, I’ve come across one that skips a major cutscene when you re-enter the guesthouse you came out from, and one that defaults to the game’s original kingdom state during a crucial scene, potentially softlocking me out of completing the game. I had multiple saves backed up so I only lost 10 minutes of progress, thankfully, but this sort of problem can be dire, especially for those who invested many hours into the game.

United Front

There’s just a lot to love about the effort and work done in Rabbit & Bear Studios’ sole gaming work that it’s hard not to be enamoured. Fortunately, this passion project has a ton of teeth and grit, with loads to do and a good amount of turn-based combat & dungeon-trekking to experience, so it’s all not unnecessary padding. I’d say the game’s only major flaw (apart from the bugs) is just its genre’s shortcoming: it does take a while to get its gears in motion. About 5 to 10 hours worth before it really gets going.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes perfectly captures the zeitgeist period of Japanese role-playing games of the late 90s, faults and all. Though to be fair, Rabbit & Bear did a bang-up job in minimizing a lot of the genre’s issues.

While I do wish some quality-of-life features were made available before hitting the 10th-hour mark of the game, the rest of this purposefully-tailored nostalgia ride-made-anew is a perfect tribute to fill in that void left by Suikoden-owners Konami. And this is coming from a guy who hasn’t played those games in-depth, so I jumped right in and eventually fell in love with the world and its characters. So those who want a successor to Suikoden and have played those games? They’ll love it more; I’m sure of it.

You just have to be patient before you can start fast-travelling all around the world and gathering your army. Also, some of the glitches and bugs can take you out of the experience, though I haven’t come across anything game-breaking. Your mileage may vary.

Players who yearn for the days of an epic fantasy story with solid turn-based combat & dungeon puzzle shenanigans most immersive will find a lot to love in this heartfelt tribute from the late Yoshitaka Murayama and his team Rabbit & Bear. Just make sure you follow the golden rule of 90s JRPGing: save often, and on multiple slots.

 

Pros

  • Lovely 2D-3D aesthetics mish-mash and soundtrack.
  • Challenging fights & tricky dungeon levels.
  • Loads of customization with the Rune system.
  • Colourful cast of characters worth spending time to recruit.
  • A variety of fun activities and sidequests to get into.

 

Cons

  • Some bugs and autosave issues.
  • Takes 5 hours+ or more to really get going.

Final Score: 90/100

Review copy provided by publisher. 

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Comment(3)

  1. Avoid This Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Character If You Don’t Want To Get Locked Out Of A Perfect Game | Kakuchopurei

    April 22, 2024 at 2:31 pm

    […] this week’s big JRPG epic Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes (out on 23 April for PCs and consoles), you can collect over 100 heroes to your cause against the empire, each with their own skillsets and […]

  2. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes’ Recruitment Bug Is Fixed | Kakuchopurei

    April 25, 2024 at 11:08 pm

    […] Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is out now for PC and consoles. For more on the game, check out our guides and review. […]

  3. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes – Hero Recruitment Guide | Kakuchopurei

    April 30, 2024 at 11:42 am

    […] to its namesake (kinda), new JRPG title Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, has 100 heroes. And possibly […]

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