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Game Review

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Review

PC - Steam

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Review
A conflict is brewing in the land. Dux Aldric of the Galdean Empire moves against the League of Nations, seeking dominion over not only the land but the ancient treasures hidden within the Runebarrows. Nowa, a youth who enlists with the Watch in Grum, finds himself propelled into leadership in the war against Galdea. His long journey of bravery, mysticism, and romance will take him to far-off lands and introduce him to many heroes.

There's a point that Lady Perielle returns to often when people ask her why Nowa, a young warrior from a small village, is the leader of the resistance front against the Empire and not her. Lady Perielle's answer is simple: it's a good narrative. Not in the meta sense, Perielle isn't quite self-aware enough for that; Perielle's interest is in selling a decent narrative to the houses of the other nations within the League. In a war against a bloodthirsty Empire, a young man of humble origin, thrust into leadership after his home is ravaged in war is far likelier to encourage sympathy—and thus, cooperation—from other nations. This is also the same Lady who asks that her butler remind the kitchen staff to kick up the spice in her dinner a little.


A lot is going on in Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. The best way to summarize it is as a modern-day take on a PlayStation 1 RPG. It's not even because Eiyuden Chronicle was created by one of the writers for the original SuikodenEiyuden Chronicle is packed to the gills with experimental decisions joined with writing and expertise that only comes with years and years of effort. Eiyuden Chronicle itself has a narrative behind its creation: the spiritual successor of a beloved series of games left to rot by an uncaring developer that has fallen from grace, a successful crowdfunding campaign, a creator who sadly passed away just before the game could see release. But just like with Nowa, Eiyuden Chronicle has heart. It's not just the poster child of some movement.

The game opens with a dedication to all JRPG fans, and Eiyuden Chronicle lives up to that promise in every way it can. Its battles with its six-player characters require a lot of foresight and strategy. I found myself walking away from even regular random encounters with a bit of concern about how much damage I was taking—which I'll pin to sloppy playing on my behalf. Magic is expensive, your Rune Points and their associated Rune Abilities all require you to pay attention to the flow and rhythm in battle, and even your party composition requires you to think about who goes where given everyone's attack ranges. Then there are the Runes themselves: artifacts that grant characters either generic abilities or unique abilities. Certain characters have combo attacks or abilities that work best when used in certain ways--everyone and everything has to be reconsidered should you be in a battle with a Gimmick (a situational ability for an individual battle). This can be as simple as looting a chest on the battlefield to playing tug-of-war with a crane to ensure you don't get a payload of boulders dropped on you. You also have a Support character in your party who can grant bonuses like increasing the money you earn from battles or letting you swap party members at save points. And in case you don't want to mess up your party to accommodate a mandatory character, you can keep the must-have as an Attendant.


And that's just the regular battles. You've also got the large-scale sieges to manage and defend, wherein you control a small platoon of units in a rudimentary strategy game. These sections can be fairly slow and clunky, and feel more like interactive cutscenes than anything else. Yet they sell the narrative: this is a war. Your characters are enlisted to help an Alliance. Battles wage on as a scrolling list on the side of the screen shows all of the casualties. Enemy forces retreat or invade as the story needs. And sometimes, things get personal: your hero might duel an enemy one-on-one. No items, no special moves, just two opposing characters venting their all at each other—attacking with their ideals as much as with their weapons.

Nowa isn't the leader of a resistance front for nothing: you have a whole fort to oversee, with facilities to maintain and upgrade. Each of the heroes you recruit aren't just party members, they're also potential managers for your banks, accessory shops, item shops, or even resource generators for your town. There's a great deal of involvement in just recruiting them; some folks just need a quick conversation, others require you to be at a certain level of strength or renown, and others might even need a specific hero to be in tow before they will join you. And that's on top of the resources needed to build things—objects like lumber or pelts that you find in dungeons. It's an addicting feeling, recruiting new characters and seeing how they can help at the base. You always find an upgrade when you feel like you need it—and the associated character is guaranteed to be fun. Do you want an Amazonian lumberjack woman? We have an Amazonian lumberjack woman. Woodwork isn't your speed? What about a creature that lives in a knapsack that can help you expand your inventory? (Don't ask how they move around, they just do.) Eiyuden Chronicle gives you no end of freaks, geeks, bros, and bombshells to play around with. No design is too wild, no personality too extreme to present to the player, and the sharp writing guarantees that at least three of these scrimblos will be your absolute favorite that you cannot live without.


But of course, it's the story that brings them all together. Eiyuden Chronicle is the story of a war—and its war is multifaceted. There are heroes and scoundrels on every side. Wise and patient heroes can nevertheless have a superficial streak. Bitter enemies nevertheless reveal their humanity. Some fight for glory, others fight in the name of something greater than themselves. Some find themselves forced to turn their back on everything they know to do what their heart insists is right. Wars are not one-sided affairs; indeed, you can even play parts of the campaign on an entirely different front, at your leisure. The titular Hundred Heroes are not just your allies, your shopkeepers, your party members. They're also people living in the middle of this war. They have just as much a stake in the matter as Nowa does.


Eiyuden Chronicle also stuns with its visuals, seemingly coming from an era where PS1-styled sprites were allowed to continue to grow and evolve as an art form. The result isn't quite the HD-2D art style of modern pixel-based games like the Live-A-Live remake, but it is stunning nonetheless. Sprites are big, expressive, and characterful, with each featuring seemingly endless unique animations. The world around them is shown in 3D, and it's beautiful: ancient forests, cavernous ruins, and a wide sweeping world that they all inhabit. The in-game camera always knows where it has to be to give you the best view of the world and it's stunning.


Are there flaws? Of course. Eiyuden Chronicles has all of the ambition of an experimental PS1 RPG. This comes with all of the rough parts of that experimental nature. There is a lot of grind needed to get all of those resources for upgrades. You have 100 heroes, and early on you don't have as many means of ensuring their levels are up to snuff. Some objectives and puzzles can be unclear, the wide-scale military battles are a bit slow, and you might find yourself with some mini-games or mechanics that you'd rather not have to deal with but will have to if you want all of those hundred heroes. You will wish this game came packed in with a guide.

But at the end of the day, the narrative wins out. The plucky underdog made it. Many people will likely think of Eiyuden Chronicle as a big passion project/spiritual successor to a beloved franchise, worked on by a talented creator until he died. They'll think of it as a celebration of the energy and experimentation of RPGs past, a tribute to a time when archetypes and genre conventions hadn't yet calcified and anything was fair game. And for once, they'd be right. It's a good story to be a part of.

Overall : A
Graphics : A
Sound/Music : A
Gameplay : B
Presentation : A

+ Great narrative; fun characters; a wealth of variety in mechanics and strategies
Can be a little beleaguered; some parts can be a bit slow or meandering; takes a bit to get into its groove.

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