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This Week in Games
Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Preview

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

Welcome back, folks! Another April Fool's Day has come and gone, another chance for unfunny people at gaming studios to make another "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we made a dating sim for our game!?" gag for the pile of joke-visual novels we've seen over the years. As an aside, while I haven't had time to get too deep into Xenoblade Chronicles 3 lately, I've been playing F-Zero 99 in my spare time. It's a lot of fun! It's a shame so many folks are turned away from its battle royale nature, especially since the game doesn't even have a battle pass that I'm aware of. It's just a fun F-Zero racing game, and the recent update that adds a ton of mirror tracks (with unique obstacles) is a ton of fun. It's worth a look if you're on the fence.

This is...

Art by Catfish

Gotta Go Fast... to IHOP

So, as I mentioned last week, I went to the Sonic Symphony! It was a ton of fun; seeing so many Sonic the Hedgehog fans brought together by our love of Sonic was amazing. There was an Amy Rose cosplayer in the row in front of me with her mother cheering her blessed heart out; what an experience. I cheered myself hoarse once they played Live & Learn. There's been a lot of ink spilled over the years about how Sonic has "fallen from grace," but considering how much pure love the franchise gets, I think there are a lot of franchises that are jealous of how "badly" Sonic the Hedgehog is doing.

Speaking of Sonic the Hedgehog! IHOP is currently hosting a Sonic the Hedgehog-themed menu. Yes, seriously—it wasn't an April Fool's gag. It's pretty basic: Dr. Eggman's eggs benedict, Shadow the Hedgehog's chocolate "chaos" pancakes (because they're dark, see?), Tails gets a plate of two pancakes, two eggs, and two slices of bacon (because two tails), Sonic gets some blueberry pancakes and Knuckles... gets a chicken sandwich? Eh, they can't all be winners, I guess. It seems random for a Sonic promotion at IHOP, especially since we're a few months out from Sonic Superstars and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 won't be for another couple of months.

There's also a new DLC for Sonic Superstars, and uh... it's an IHOP-branded maid outfit for Amy Rose. It's similar to those cute Lawson promos a ton of anime gets in Japan, only it's IHOP. To get it, you need to buy it off of IHOP's rewards store, the Stack Market (snrk) for five Pan Coins (pfft). This means you need to buy $25 of food at IHOP to afford a limited-time-only fast-food-themed outfit for Sonic Superstars. This is knowledge in my brain now. Someday a few years from now I'll be on my couch with my partner, remembering this and sharing the knowledge with them and we'll sit in silence, bearing the weight of this information. Sadly for international Sonic fans, the deal is only valid in the US—hopefully, your pancake-loving American friends can spot you a code.

Final Fantasy VI Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

We're seeing a lot of anniversaries for big games and characters in the gaming industry. This week saw another momentous one: Final Fantasy VI hit the big 3-0 after its original release on the Super Famicom on April 2 of 1994 (its American release was in October of the same year). It's hard not to give the RPG its props. It was the end of an era while serving as the beginning of a new one for many others.

The SNES-era Final Fantasy games were something else. Final Fantasy IV wowed fans with its gripping, emotional story of Cecil's redemption and his love triangle with Rosa and Kain. Final Fantasy V gave us some of the most fun and engaging job mechanics in the entire series (which itself is the source of the beloved Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta charity. Final Fantasy VI was something of a marriage of both. From the moment you boot up the game, you know you'll be enjoying a dramatic story. Few intros are as gripping as Final Fantasy VI's, starting with those foreboding organs segueing the dramatic march through the snowstorm set to Terra's theme. This is a different story entirely: Square Enix promises a darker tale than we're used to, and boy does FF6 deliver.

This is Square Enix firing on all cylinders: Nobuo Uematsu's music, wringing every last drop of power out of the SNES's iconic orchestral soundboard. Yoshitaka Amano's beloved character designs. Even now, watching Final Fantasy VI's intro feels like something special, momentous. I'm getting ahead of myself, but this is one time where I will insist that the GameBoy Advance port is lesser purely on the merit that the GBA's sound system can't deliver on the full weight of FF6's music. The grasp of this scene alone is something we wouldn't see matched until... Final Fantasy VII's beloved intro on the PlayStation three years later. Typically, Amano's "logo" for a Final Fantasy consists of something central to the game, like Meteor for Final Fantasy VII or Yuna performing a Sending for Final Fantasy X. VI's logo is Terra riding the Magitek armor—one of the first things you see in the game. And yet... what else could you use for the logo? So much of the game's tone and story comes back to that lonely slip of a girl trudging through a blizzard in that mechanical hulk...


'And we're just talking about the intro. The rest of the game just... doesn't let up. Even though Terra Branford is the first character we see in the game, Final Fantasy VI isn't specifically her story. For much of the intro, Terra has no agency: she's under the thrall of a Slave Crown. The thief-cum-treasure-hunter Locke steps in to play hero and rescue her from the Empire's grasp... but this isn't specifically his story either.

There are the twin princes, Edgar and Sabin—you'd think their royal standing would make them the stars of the fight against the Empire, but they're not a central focus either. Is it Cyan, the world-weary samurai who sees his entire castle drop dead after the monstrous Kefka poisons its water supply? Well, no, but he helps. And it's not the wild child Gau or the comical Mog. Celes, a living magical weapon, guides us through the beginning of the story's second half, but it's still not her story specifically. Setzer the Gambler comes along for the ride. Umaro and Gogo's involvement is complicated. Shadow the ninja, we'll get to him. Relm the pictomancer (whose class is inspiring a new job in Final Fantasy XIV and her grandfather Strago, uh, they join pretty late.

The complicated answer is that none of them are the main characters in Final Fantasy VI. In a weirdly Dragon Quest-esque take, most of the heroes in FF6 are vignettes of the world they live in. Their involvement may be more or less involved with the conflict at hand, but everyone has a minor stake. Part of this is by design: while FF6's story is the battle of the rebellious Returners and their battle against the magic-obsessed Empire, halfway through... the Returners fail. The mad Kefka Palazzo kills the emperor, seizes control of all magic in the world, and destroys the planet. The disaster scatters the party, leaving Celes to wander the World of Ruin and gather the heroes together again before they strike Kefka at his blasphemous tower. Or not—the latter half of FF6 is very open-ended, and it's possible not to regain any of the characters if you choose.


There is an embarrassment of riches to be found in Final Fantasy VI in the form of its many secrets, from hidden weapons to the hidden Desperation moves (many of which serve as inspiration to attacks in recent games like Final Fantasy XIV) to the all-powerful Magicite—the crystalized remains of murdered Espers. Nothing is more iconic of FF6's secrets than the backstory of the enigmatic Shadow, which you'll only find told in mysterious snippets unlocked sometimes when you go to sleep at an inn with Shadow in your party. And, of course, one scene even requires he be dead for his connection with a certain other party member to be established.

That's before you consider the wealth of mechanics behind each character, from Sabin's fighting game-inspired commands for his martial arts moves (inspiring FF8's Zell Dincht years early) to Gau's esoteric means of learning skills from monsters at the Veldt. And, of course, there's the aforementioned Magicite and the wisdom it bestows upon your party members, letting them all learn their spells. In a lot of ways, Magicite was the precursor to the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII and the Guardian Force/Junction system of Final Fantasy VIII, letting you customize your character as you see fit.


This is also ironic, as Final Fantasy VI would be the last mainline Final Fantasy to debut on a Nintendo console. For lots of reasons, Square broke it off with Nintendo and shacked up with Sony for the subsequent Final Fantasy titles, starting with the watershed Final Fantasy VII. It's tough to blame them. Final Fantasy VI was later ported to the PlayStation with unique CG cutscenes... but the cutscenes feel extraneous. No, FFVI is a SNES game through and through. And while FFVII and FFVIII are rightfully applauded for their tone and stories, much of that originated with FFVI.

If you haven't played Final Fantasy VI, please do so—it's never too late. It's not hard to track down these days, courtesy of the Pixel Remasters. There isn't much like it, and there's so much amazing stuff in that game that is sure to stick with you, from the music to the characters to iconic moments like Celes' iconic opera performance (which was hysterically parodied by Metaton in Undertale. It's a 30-year-old game now, but as we all know, the age of 30 is in demand.

Xbox Users Deal With Scunthorpe Problem in Final Fantasy XIV

It's been somewhat turbulent times for the Xbox port of Final Fantasy XIV. Like with any MMORPG, FF14 requires people to communicate. MMO parlance can already be pretty hard to pick up on, but it can be a lot worse if random segments of your words are bleeped out! It's called the Scunthorpe problem: some games understandably have sensitive content filters because some edge lords will do anything to sneak in cusswords or slurs into their dialogue. The problem is when the offending segments are part of otherwise inoffensive words, so the British town of Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire becomes "S****horpe." And this is what new Final Fantasy XIV players have had to deal with! For whatever reason, Microsoft's word filters are pretty strict in the MMO.

So, random segments of words are being bleeped out. This includes utterly innocuous segments of different words. Hence, "harvest dance" becomes "harve** *ance" (the embedded tweet has a few more examples in the thread). Worse yet, Final Fantasy XIV's own nomenclature can trip moderation; there has been at least one instance of players getting banned for use of the term "free company," which is what Final Fantasy XIV calls guilds. Apparently, Microsoft's services seem to consider it "solicitation."

Final Fantasy XIV is still only in Open Beta on Xbox's platforms, so hopefully, these issues will get ironed out... hopefully. It's bad enough that the Xbox ports of FF14 force players to pay an extra charge for Xbox Live to play online on top of FF14's monthly fee.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Preview


I want to preface this with a little story: my experience with Suikoden is that I've never played any of the Suikoden games. Way back in the '00s, a local Gamestop had someone dump a bunch of their old PS1 games—and in doing so, they traded in some serious treasures, including an old PS1 copy of Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. I, of course, picked those up because they were both $20 a pop (Rhapsody easily goes for ten times that amount these days). But there was also a copy of the original Suikoden along with those two games, and I passed on it. I had heard amazing things about Suikoden, but the American box art left me unsure. It's alright box art, what with the Drew Struzan-esque art, but it didn't sell the game's vibes or tone. Knowing I'd regret the decision for years after, I left Suikoden on the shelf. Hey, two out of three ain't bad.

All this to say, I've never played Suikoden—I mostly know of it; its sweeping scope, its massive cast of 108 heroes apiece, its complicated political storytelling, and its wealth of strategic gameplay. I knew it was based on the Chinese epic Water Margin (also known as Outlaws of the Marsh and All Men Are Brothers). And I knew you could transfer your save from the first game to the second. I also know that the series mostly dropped off after the third entry, with fans and critics alike showing more and more cynicism towards the series with its subsequent games and spin-offs. After Suikoden Tierkreis on the Nintendo DS in 2009, Konami didn't do much of anything with the Suikoden series. A collection of the first two games on PSP was released exclusively in Japan. And that was that.

So, as was the style back in 2020, it was decided to crowdfund a spiritual successor. Yoshitaka Murayama, co-creator of Suikoden, created a new game studio named Rabbit & Bear Studios and crowdfunded the creation of Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. Eiyuden Chronicle is scheduled for release later this April, but I was lucky enough to sit down with a preview copy of the game. Sadly, Yoshitaka Murayama died this past February; he unfairly won't be around to finally see us play the game he worked so hard on. But—man, has it been worth the wait.


With all that said, Eiyuden Chronicle is Suikoden. I wouldn't say I like phrasing it like that because it feels dismissive of the effort put into Eiyuden Chronicle. The successful spiritual successors we've seen manage to deliver on a simple thing: give us more of the series we haven't seen in ages. And in a way, that's all they need to do. People miss those high beats, they miss the times "when the series was good". Heck, they might miss the series, period. And yet—that's not to say that this series has rested on its laurels. There's more to Eiyuden Chronicle than reputation and nostalgia. This isn't just a game with the Suikoden coat of paint tossed over it; this is the Suikoden experience you've been missing for so long.


Eiyuden Chronicle tells the story of Nowa, a young man who joins his country's Watch. The Watch is just a group of jack-of-all-trades doing whatever the local populace needs of them. Nowa joins at an awkward time, however: the Watch is commissioned to join the neighboring Empire's soldiers in investigating a nearby ruin. The location of a Primal Rune, an ancient artifact harboring untold power, engenders unity and cooperation between the League overseeing the Watch and the neighboring Empire. Still, it quickly becomes clear that the Empire is keen on taking advantage of the occasion to encroach on the League's boundaries. Where Nowa joined the Watch to use his skills to help his fellow man, he now finds himself on the cusp of fighting a war.


Right away, Murayama's writing shines. While my time in Eiyuden Chronicle didn't let me meet anywhere near the hundred heroes promised by the title, the few we met shine with Murayama's writing. Each character has a unique voice. Even if they're just goofy bit-players, they feel rich and multifaceted. Nothing is simple in war. Even though we've likely seen these archetypes in a Suikoden game, they feel welcome. I want to believe in these characters. I want to know more about the goofy trio of bandits. I want to know more about the surly desk jockey overseeing the Watch. I want to see the insidious armored Dux descent into total Luca Blight-style depravity. It's what I'm here for. And Eiyuden Chronicle knows that. There's no wink-wink-nudge-nudge about the goofy magical girl character. There's no eye-rolling at Nowa's idealism. You came here for an RPG—you're getting an RPG.

So, how are the systems for this RPG? As far as we were allowed with Eiyuden Chronicle, they were satisfying. Battles require a bit of strategy and forethought: a bar at the top of the screen shows the order of actions for every active participant, be they your party members or the enemy. You control up to six heroes at a time and must use their abilities to defeat enemy monsters or soldiers. You have a wide range of heroes with whom to strategize—and strategize you must because you can't just slap folks into a party willy-nilly. Some characters have range limitations with their attacks, while others have funky abilities requiring some thought. One of my favorite characters to use was a delinquent whose guard also functioned as a charge ability to boost the power of his base attacks. But this guy's kick was a close-range attack—he was utterly worthless in a certain boss fight because I foolishly kept him in the back row, and he couldn't reach a thing. This can be devastating if a fight has a certain Gimmick, too; some fights will have interactive elements forcing you to choose between attacking or engaging with a Gimmick. One fight against a giant golem requires you to watch for when the golem fires a beam of magic, forcing your party to take cover behind rubble in the area to avoid damage. Another fight against a giant magical mole requires a bit of guesswork on your behalf as you use one of two giant magic tomes to summon giant hammers to strike the right hole, hopefully stunning the mole. Gimmicks are a great wrinkle in many fights, and I have always looked forward to them.


Then there are the runes themselves. Each character unlocks slots for new runes at certain experience thresholds. While their new Rune slots can only accommodate runes of a given tier, each Rune can modify a character's stats or even grant them wholly new abilities. These rune skills can also be combined in battle if a given pair of characters have attained a degree of understanding with each other, giving more incentive to experiment with party layouts.


Finally, there are the visuals to Eiyuden Chronicle—and they're a feast for the eyes. Character sprites are large and expressive. Maps are sumptuous in their details; while the world is sometimes portrayed from a fixed camera perspective, the game will automatically adjust the camera as you move to give you an ideal look at the world around Nowa while ensuring you know where you're going. Maps are also very clear; they have markings indicating where you're supposed to go, making sure you can't get lost in the labyrinthine mazes. Certain enemies in battle are full-on 3D models instead of sprites, and they're all the more impressive for it, although even the weakest enemies impress with their vivid animations.


To bring it back around, this is the Suikoden game fans have been waiting for. It might have a new title, but the heart is there. More importantly, the love and passion are there; the game boots up with a dedication to RPG fans everywhere, and truly Eiyuden Chronicle looks to deliver on that. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes launches this April 25 on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Steam—and I'm excited to play more once it lands.

Let's wrap up with some quick tidbits

  • If you need another expansive RPG with tons of player friction, look no further than SaGa: Emerald Beyond! In anticipation of its April 25th release, there's now a playable demo available on Steam and Nintendo eShop.

  • With Stellar Blade coming out this April 26, developer Shift Up is already hiring for their next game. So far, their new project is a cross-platform "AAA urban science-fiction action RPG"...

  • It's been a bit since Class of Heroes was ported to a modern console, so let's fix that, I guess? Class of Heroes 1&2 will be released worldwide this April 26th on Steam, Nintendo eShop and PS5. Look no further if you're jonesing for a good replacement to Etrian Odyssey!
  • That'll do it for this week, I think. The slew of RPGs doesn't stop for 2024, and spring is kicking up. Hopefully, the allergies will stay manageable for everyone at home. Be good to each other; I'll see you in seven!

    This Week In Games! is written from idyllic Portland by Jean-Karlo Lemus. When not collaborating with Anime News Network, Jean-Karlo can be found playing JRPGs, eating popcorn, watching v-tubers, and tokusatsu. You can keep up with him at @mouse_inhouse or @ventcard.bsky.social.

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