“Suikoden” is one of those cult Japanese role-playing game franchises that has a rabid fanbase, though it never reached the popularity of a “Final Fantasy” or “Dragon Quest.” The first three games with creator Yoshitaka Murayama at the helm were notable because of their deep world-building and a feature that lets players transfer data across games.
Although it wasn’t an industry first, it was still mind-blowing at the time. Relationships that players built in the first game carried over to “Suikoden II” as returning characters were more powerful with data from the previous game. If fans started the sequel from scratch, those same heroes would be weaker. That feature built a more concrete connection across games, and that perfectly complemented the franchise’s interwoven histories across generations.
For years, “Suikoden” fans have been clamoring Murayama to make another project along those lines, and they’re finally getting it with the “Eiyuden Chronicle” franchise. The first game out of the gate is “Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising,” which is essentially an appetizer to the main game “Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.”
“Rising” is an action RPG that follows the exploits of CJ, a descendant of a treasure hunter clan. She arrives in the town of New Nevaeh with dreams of grabbing a Rune-lens that’s larger than the one her father found. That’s the driving force of the adventure as she reaches the small village, which is in shambles after a devastating earthquake.
The temblor ruined the town, but it also revealed the Runebarrows, an ancient ruin filled with treasure. That has attracted adventurers to the area, and over the course of the 15-plus hour campaign, CJ and her party of Garoo, a gruff kangaroo, and Isha, a powerful spellcaster, will rebuild New Nevaeh. In the process, they’ll also reveal its secrets and history.
That’s a fairly ho-hum story for a game that won’t wow players with its visuals. “Rising’s” beautiful backgrounds in this side-scrolling adventure are more impressive than how the team at Rabbit & Bear Studios animated the pixelated characters.
On the other hand, the actual gameplay and structure are more intriguing. The three heroes each have their own unique traversal and attack patterns. CJ is the most nimble and has a double jump. Garoo specializes in brute-force attacks; he moves slower but can leap higher (he’s a kangaroo after all.) though it takes time to power up his jump. Isha is the weakest of the bunch but her magic offers a ranged attack and she can float for a while and teleport short distances.
Each of these characters is tied to a face button so players can quickly switch among them. If they time their presses just right in a combo, they can activate a link attack that brings in a teammate for a powerful strike. It’s the key to breezing through some of the harder confrontations in the “Rising.”
These powers are great but they aren’t unlocked in the beginning. Players will have to help rebuild New Nevaeh by helping its denizens both old and new. CJ is the driving force behind the effort as Isha, the temporary mayor, creates a stamp system that the protagonist takes a liking to. If players finish the side quests, which are mostly fetch tasks, they get a stamp and that will eventually upgrade the town’s infrastructure.
Players can perform link attacks, which is a perfectly time attack that switches one hero out for another and produces a powerful strike in “Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising.” (505 Games)