Summed up, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a simple and straightforward action/RPG. It’s easy to get lost in its tranquil cycle of collecting stamps via fetch quests and combat. However, Rising doesn’t have much substance. The whole experience is bland and commits various RPG transgressions, which is disappointing. Especially as it’s a prequel introducing the Eiyuden world ahead of Eiyuden Chronicle: A Hundred Heroes – a spiritual successor to the Suikoden series. If this is a sign of what’s to come, I’m concerned.
Rising’s protagonist, CJ, is a young adventurer who wants to make a name for herself as a treasure hunter. She sets up in a town that attracts adventurers far and wide for its valuable nearby resources; think of the Gold Rush. During her trek, she teams up with a grumpy and feisty kangaroo appropriately named Garoo and a sharp and elegant magic user named Isha. The main story primarily serves to get you moving to your next destination, serving up a few revelations about why mysterious, dangerous threats have appeared. Overall, the narrative is very predictable and generic.
With a dry story, the lack of bonding moments between the characters disappointed me. A few charming interactions play out in CJ and Garoo’s banter, and I took great delight in the appearance of a magical girl named Mallore, which is a clear homage to Sailor Moon. Still, there’s not much depth to these personalities, and they feel more like character outlines than fully developed individuals. Sadly, this makes it hard to feel any connection to them.
A huge aspect of Rising is its town-building feature, which lets you help various villagers set up their shops to attract people to the settlement, making it more prosperous. You’re constantly leveling up various stores, such as a tavern, inn, apothecary, weapons shop, and more. At first glance, the town-building seems like a fun additional wrinkle, but its tedious fetch quests make it one of the game’s biggest letdowns. You trek to the same areas and then back again to the quest giver, who usually asks you to obtain a certain amount of a resource or locate a person for them.
The town-building quickly turns into a long list of chores. On the one hand, they aren’t all that difficult to complete. On the other hand, they’re mindless and don’t offer much satisfaction for the effort. The shops get some new stock, and the town gets a little more crowded, but it’s such a hollow sense of progression. Every effort earns you stamps, which showcase your town completion level. After doing a chunk of these, I lost interest in prioritizing the side content, but then realized I was under-leveled if I didn’t engage with it since the quests offer a great deal of experience. This is frustrating, as you’re forced into boring pursuits with no substance and very little in the way of storytelling. A side quest should feel optional, not required.
Dungeons are broken up into short romps, which I liked because they didn’t feel bloated and lent themselves well to short play sessions. That was until I had to keep backtracking to the same dungeons, fighting the same minibosses repeatedly. The game is linear overall, which isn’t an issue if the exploration is interesting. That’s not really the case here; dungeons have very minimal hidden paths, and their main appeal is picking up rare items that you can use in crafting, equipment upgrades, and cooking. Their overall design is also very basic, tied to different elements (e.g., ice, earth, fire). At the very least, the final bosses of each dungeon are visually appealing and provide a decent challenge. One of my favorites was the furry ice twins, who could turn the floor to pure ice, forcing you to stay in the air with double jumps and combos until it lifted.
The action combat is another area of the game that is just adequate. Your party members and their attacks are tied to different face buttons on the controller, and if you swap to another character at just the right time in the middle of an attack, you can chain powerful combos. As you level up, you unlock newer abilities, such as different jumping attacks like air and quick steps, alongside upward and downward attacks. Unfortunately, I never felt a growing sense of power or satisfaction from these; the link combos were more fulfilling and deadly. Still, everything controlled well, and I didn’t run into any glitches or serious technical issues during my time with the game on Switch.
The 2.5D art style deserves its own praise. Rising is a vibrant and inviting adventure, with beautiful hand-drawn visuals that add a nice personal touch. The graphics have this retro vibe reminiscent of Suikoden, while still modernizing just enough to feel like an exciting visual upgrade. The character portraits are detailed and alluring, and the little details in the landscapes pop, such as grass swaying in the wind or blistering snow falling.
Rising was created to reward fans for reaching a Kickstarter stretch goal, but it’s not just an add-on, it is a complete game, running around 20 hours. Natsume Atari took point as developer, with input from Rabbit & Bear Studios, the masterminds behind Hundred Heroes. Unfortunately, the experience falls short as every element of it is just passable or run-of-the-mill. However, its art style is a bright spot, making me hopeful for the main game that is still to come.
Pretty visuals can only get you far, however, and Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising doesn’t offer enough entertaining or unique content to keep it from being anything more than a passable RPG. At the very least, it introduces the Eiyuden world and some characters involved in Hundred Heroes, but that’s very little incentive for putting up with tedious gameplay and boilerplate characters.