Eiyuden Chronicle Is A Rough But Beautiful Love Letter To Suikoden

Eiyuden Chronicle Is A Rough But Beautiful Love Letter To Suikoden

The late Suikoden creator Yoshitaka Murayama got the crew back together for one last job in 2020: a crowdfunding campaign for a spiritual successor to the beloved Japanese RPG series raised $US4.5 million, the third most of any gaming Kickstarter ever. Four years later, the team at Rabbit and Bear Studios has delivered Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, a neat-looking, somewhat flawed attempt to recapture the magic of sitting entranced in front of a ‘90s CRT while toiling through turn-based battles, serpentine dungeons, and familiar fantasy arcs.

I’ve put around 7 hours into Eiyuden Chronicle on PlayStation 5, where, despite its absolute slog of an opening, the vibrant retro graphics and comforting rhythms of PS1-era RPGs are beginning to win me over. You play as Nowa, a young mercenary from a rural farming village whose penchant for doing the right thing eventually ensnares him in a geopolitical conflict with an evil empire. He bears an unmissable resemblance to Tir McDohl from Suikoden 1 and 2, as does much of the rest of the world-building.

I haven’t played enough to say definitively whether Eiyuden Chronicle feels like a worthy successor to those classics, or a hollow facsimile born of an incomplete reunion tour fighting to turn back time. What I can say is that it nails the basics and charm in ways so many other contemporary copycat attempts can’t. Combat is straightforward but crisp, the environments are bright and colorful, and the pixel art cuts a bold contrast with the 3D backgrounds. Outside of objective markers and auto-saves, it’s incredibly old-school, both in form and content.

The good, the boring, the busted

Like the Suikoden games, exploring towns and chatting with random NPCs to recruit dozens of characters to fight alongside you in turn-based battles. Fighter stats and abilities are augmented with equipment and runes, but battles mostly revolve around managing damage output, healing, and deciding when to deploy special abilities and joint attacks. Even when grinding through standard random encounters, it’s still incredibly satisfying to watch each of the six warriors you selected brawl their way through mob after mob, their experience point meters filling up a little more after each victory.

Gif: Rabbit & Bear Studios / Kotaku

And though the story is a well-worn parade of clichés so far, some of the writing and character performances are surprisingly expressive. Nobody talks too much, and when they do it’s rarely belabored or over-explained, even if what’s being said sounds silly, sometimes intentionally so. It’s just enough of an inkling of personality to help me develop an attachment to my burgeoning roster of medieval nerds, goofballs, and ruffians.

My moment-to-moment experience has been pretty good on PS5. I haven’t encountered any major bugs or performance hiccups outside of some occasionally sticky controls, though it’s still a pain that there are loading screens at all. These appear to be especially bad on the Switch version of Eiyuden Chronicle. While I haven’t tried it there, early reviews point toward lots of framerate drops (the game only targets 30fps to begin with), laggy menus, and extra long loading screens.

Some players have encountered excruciating bugs, like former Kotaku editor Jason Schreier. A broken cooking mini-game, messed up random encounter rate, and unrecruitable character were just some of the issues he ran into on PC. A rep for the game told me some of this will be addressed in a day-one patch, including the character recruitment issue which blocks players from obtaining the true ending. There doesn’t appear to be a full roadmap for upcoming fixes yet, though.

I’m looking forward to making my way deeper into Eiyuden Chronicle, collecting more characters, and seeing if there are any tricks up its sleeve that help bring it out of the shadows of the creative team’s original RPG masterpieces. For now it’s been great comfort food, like playing a lost PS1 classic that just got a fan translation for the first time. And for a life-long fan of those gems, that’s enough.

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