Last summer’s Xbox showcase is mostly memorable for debuting Starfield, Bethesda’s next galaxy-sized RPG, but at the time I only had eyes for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, a comparatively tiny, low key JRPG. Eiyuden Chronicle does have a pedigree: it’s the spiritual successor to beloved PlayStation series Suikoden, and the first game from its creator in years. Eiyuden’s trailer broke the news that it wouldn’t arrive until 2023, but publisher 505 Games also had an unexpected surprise: a new spin-off that launches this spring, called Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, which I’ve now gotten a chance to play.
I’d be lying if I called town building my usual jam, but goddamn this left me wanting more.
Rising is both a companion game and prologue to Hundred Heroes. It swaps turn-based battles for a 2D action-RPG, where we’re rebuilding a ruined mining town called New Neveah following a devastating earthquake. It’s not a city building sim like Cities: Skylines, but there’s a similar satisfaction in seeing a virtual place come to life as I check off quests and collect the resources needed to expand the town.
As for the crossover, seven Rising characters will appear in Hundred Heroes, and it sets up the state of the world as we’ll encounter it in the JRPG proper. This game kicks off the fall of the Galdean Empire (there’s always an empire, and it’s always got to fall at some point, right?), and playing Rising will also unlock four special items in Hundred Heroes. Crucially, though, this game feels worth playing on its own merits, backed up by a vibrant visual presentation with clear attention to detail.
You’ll soon learn property damage isn’t New Neveah’s only problem. That earthquake unearthed hidden ruins, filled with treasure that attracted all manner of chancers. You play as “honourable scavenger” CJ and two other party members, including a young mayor and a kangaroo mercenary—in other words, your average JRPG party.
Across the few hours of my preview I was hooked on the Metroidvania-style progression. Treasure hunting required upgrading my character’s abilities and expanding the party to access new areas. Some of the humor really didn’t land for me—I didn’t need to hear Garoo shouting that CJ’s been toilet trained since she was 18 months old—and there’s a “magical girl” who (right now) feels misplaced in this world, which says a lot when there’s anthropomorphic animals running about. But neither felt like a major deterrent. CJ showed promising character development and I found myself drawn into the world Rising is setting up.
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Quests never felt dull, even though they revolved around fetching specific resources from either The Great Forest or The Quarry, Rising’s two preview levels. I used those resources to revitalise a town full of classic fantasy buildings like a smithy, armory, inn, and local tavern. Smaller shops like the apothecary are relegated to side missions, and at least this early in the game were quick and easy to complete, keeping the pace breezy.
I enjoyed helping the town grow even though I couldn’t get far with just two levels available. I got a sense of pride from rebuilding New Neveah, which was reflected in CJ becoming more invested in the community. Seeing my efforts immediately bear fruit was deeply rewarding: I’d check off a quest and then buildings would spring to life moments later, giving the town a stronger personality. It’s a pleasant something-always-happening feeling, and I quickly fell into the old “just one more quest” mentality. Half the fun comes from a lively cast of townsfolk with fun designs like Frida, New Neveah’s high-spirited armorer, and Hogan, a lizardman running the trading post.
There are no turn-based battles, but there are still monsters to kill during exploration. You can jump, attack, or use a unique skill against an enemy, like Garoo’s parry. CJ hits quickly with her two pickaxes, while Garoo is your slow and heavy type with the comically oversized sword. Each character has their own attack button, and you can swap between them in the middle of the action to perform a Link Attack, almost like tagging in in a fighting game.
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But I wouldn’t call combat a highlight for Rising during this preview: Link Attacks were the only accessible combos, and everything else was limited to single button inputs. Calling it bad feels harsh, but it’s certainly basic, at least this early. As I didn’t have a full party, it’s possible there’s more to combat than I’ve seen, but right now it feels like an empty snack between meals. Rising’s real meat lies in the town building.
I’ve been looking forward to Hundred Heroes since the Kickstarter campaign, and I came away pleasantly surprised by this fast-tracked spin-off. Releasing a spin-off before the main game is a peculiar decision, but in Eiyuden Chronicle’s case, I believe it’s going to pay off. I can’t judge how deep the connection between the two will end up being, but Rising seems like an accessible entry point that can actually stand by itself. Town building in JRPGs is so often a side dish overshadowed by the story or the battle system, but Rising is blowing it up into a proper first course.