Review – Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising
A few years back, players were met with a Kickstarter campaign for a JRPG under the name of Eiyuden Chronicle. It was met with resounding success, thanks in part to the pedigree of the development team behind it. As it reached the funding goal, many stretch goals were outlined, and among them was a spin-off. See, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising wasn’t in the original plans, and if it weren’t for us throwing money at it, it might have not even existed. The initial reveal was years ago, and as time swam on, I had forgotten entirely about both games.
Then, one day, an announcement trailer for Rising dropped and I was floored. The visuals were stunning, taking inspiration from Octopath Traveler and utilizing the technique now known as 2D-HD, only with lovely hand-drawn sprites clashing with polygonal landscapes. As the release date drew close, negative whispers entered my ear. I paid attention but kept a positive mind. Today, I see if those comments hold water.
I approached Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising with a low bar of standards. Since it’s only a spin-off, I wasn’t expecting anything substantial. For all I knew, it was merely a taste of things to come. It turns out I’m wrong, and what I ended up getting left me pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t because of the premise of the core plot, as that’s quite generic, having been seen countless times. You play as CJ, treasure hunter extraordinaire – a girl with an unhealthy obsession with valuables. It’s a textbook set-up thus far, but then it slowly introduces NPCs, and CJ’s snark also begins showing itself. The silliness starts to seep in, and with it, my enjoyment skyrockets. The sense of humour harkens back to the early PS1 era. It’s both lighthearted and expressive, and while there isn’t outright hilarity, the interactions left me smiling like a dork.
Your first companion is an anthropomorphic kangaroo named Garoo. Upon first meeting, he has a rough exterior and is displeased at the idea of accompanying CJ. Despite his protests, though, he reluctantly agrees but doesn’t hide that his patience is teetering on edge. The banter that follows is superbly endearing. Characters have a consistent bout of annoyance with one another, resembling a sibling rivalry. Keep in mind that the insults they spew do border on being juvenile. For instance, Garoo questions if she’s toilet trained, to which she lashes back before crediting her grandma for teaching her. The main selling point, however, is how things are worded and the structure of sentences. It allows the dialogue to exude a silent charm, and, believe it or not, the lack of voice-acting helped a lot.
Another thing about the literary persuasion that had my heart doused in glowing warmth continues with Garoo. I love the duality of his bickering with CJ and how he’d be peeved by her antics. Yet, in that same breath, he shows a soft side to her, especially when traversing through the wilderness. He not only takes on the most dangerous tasks for his compatriots, but helps CJ reach higher platforms. I know it’s a clichéd analogy by this point, but he’s legitimately an onion with various layers. The way he carries himself and interacts infuses such a personable flair to him. His sudden knowledge on topics like magical girls is a tidbit that blindsided me, but also manages to drum up a quiet chuckle. There’s something to be said about him and how well his tough guy facade was nailed. Like, I’m gushing.
Due to the hand-drawn characters being small, a consequence of that is facial expressions are difficult to see. If CJ is happy, there won’t be a visible smile showing up on her face. Well, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising adopts an old-school ideology to solve this problem. In a handful of JRPGs from the yesteryear era, they’d routinely harness thought bubbles with the desired emotion inside. In other words, if, say, she feels anger, the classic anime mark of a circular shape with four lines bending inwards appears. I’m a massive fan of this, not only because it’s nostalgic but also because it helps communicate the intended tone. Suddenly, it’s evident that CJ’s feeling furious, and I can adjust my voice accordingly. Something that also lends a hand is her body language, and thankfully, sprite animation is impeccable. I was never struggling to figure out the mood of a given scene.
Oh, and uh, there’s some minor naughtiness hidden amongst the conversations. Moreover, it touches on creepy behaviour and given that our titular treasure hunter is just 16, it may disinterest a person or two. Before that occurs, though, note that it isn’t overly common, and when it does happen, it’s pretty subtle. You see, double-entendres are utilized to mask any raunchiness. Much like showing emotions through speech bubbles, including sexuality is a callback to the olden days. It’s CJ herself that makes the smutty comment, too. In that sense, it shines a spotlight on her being an adolescent – a girl made to grow up due to family traditions. She didn’t have any other choice but to quickly mature, though she maintains teenage tendencies. Yeah, she’s easily the best character, and watching her cause a grown man to be flustered was humorous.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is steeped in allure and undeniable charisma. The townsfolk all have personalities that, while stereotypical, help flesh out the village, be it the rambunctious boy that lacks manners or the woman hopelessly infatuated with a celebrity chef. There’s enough variety to distinguish everyone as their own individual. Of course, it’s not going to all be lollipops and rainbows because, while I was immersed, my investment was partial. Sure, I can sense the vitality of the settlement and wanted so badly to assist in the betterment of the lives of every citizen. I also, however, felt minimal connection towards one character. While I fell in love with CJ and Garoo, the other fails to entice themselves. That’s not to say they’re miswritten. It’s that they weren’t as robust, making it hard to commit fully.
The premise of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising isn’t complicated – CJ wants an explorer’s licence. After learning the price of a singular one is 100,000 bucks, she immediately attempts to negotiate another means of getting it. Enter sidequests. There’s a wide variety available, ranging from fetching items to collecting fur from monster carcasses. Each time you finish one, not only do you obtain a generous reward, but also a stamp. She becomes addicted to collecting these and filling that card. Upon doing so, she acquires what she’s after, but it isn’t easy. There’s a healthy amount available, but any presumed tedium never sets in. A nifty fast travel system helps mitigate that potential time sink. It allows you to hop between areas in milliseconds. When coupled with being able to tackle numerous side-quests at once, monotony is never an issue.
Now, throughout her adventure, CJ helps the people of New Nevaeh slowly rebuild. Side note; due to the village’s name, expect puns – yeah, I Nevaeh would have seen that coming, either. The reconstruction of it is a reasonably significant focal point, opening the door to foraging – mining ore, chopping down trees, etc. Unlike in farm simulators, though, gathering ingredients happens rapidly, gelling effortlessly with the general gameplay. Materials are usually found alongside whichever environment you’re exploring. Locating anything that expels rock, lumber, and such is painfully blatant, too, since they have a sheen to separate them from the background. Rarer variations of those same materials can then be found in the same source – the distribution of which is well-balanced, sometimes even overly generous. Then, by upgrading your tools, it boosts the quality of what’s found.
If I were to describe Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, I reckon it’s a mishmash of a JRPG and a metroidvania, emphasizing the latter. The number of dungeons is limited because this is a smaller project. As such, most locations have a path blocked off by elemental rocks. To demolish these requires the usage of the element that corresponds to the colour – blue means ice, and red means fire. By imbuing your weapon with either, you can enter the newly accessible route. This inherently means there’s backtracking. Regardless, it’s still an intelligent approach to hiding the fact that there was a budget that needed to be followed. The in-game world couldn’t be sheer grandiose. As a nice bonus, there’s lore to help cement the existence of the stones. All in all, nothing felt thrown together for the sole purpose of padding game length.
With JRPGs, most are worried about grinding because a few are egregiously disrespectful of your time. The repetition of combat doesn’t help alleviate that. Well, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising may have its fair share, but thanks to responsive controls, it’s also painless. I’d be so bold as to say that it’s a bloody fun romp. The ease of running and slashing with intuitive buttons is such a damn treat. Power leveling won’t be the only thing on the menu, though. In a rather ingenious inclusion, items such as potions must be first crafted before being available to buy. Never fret, as during your slaughter runs, expect an exorbitant number of materials to drop. Say that funds become drastically low or scarce, and you’re in a bind. In that case, produce what’s needed. Money isn’t the only way to fill your inventory, thus creating a beautiful feature ecosystem.
Strike movements are feathery. Slashing enemies happens in a snap with no signs of stutters. Running through mines, ruins, and forests maintains a sturdy 60 frames, contributing to a peanut butter smooth display. When packaged up, this all lends itself to a sensational session of bliss. The technical side had to be top-notch because any stutters could devalue the experience, making it insufferable. Gotta go fast are words to live by, which happens to be the motto Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising strives to emulate. One such mechanic is Link Attacks. They allow you to transition fluently between characters, each one unleashing an attack of their own. It’s utter destruction for any poor sap caught in the crossfire. I’ve played games that have me avoiding techniques because they’re a slog to execute. The ease of use here is a Godsend, encouraging me to experiment.
When it comes to soundtracks, there’s only a handful of JRPGs that can boast using a xylophone in a song or two. Even fewer can then proclaim they proceeded to kill it. Well, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising joins that illustrious group with comfort because The Quarry’s background music is infectiously catchy. Most of the score is phenomenal, with my favourite being that of Snowpeak. It’s so peaceful and serene, with soft docile piano strings murmuring in the night, but that causes an issue to pop up.
There are areas where the music doesn’t seem to match the action on-screen. As I’m murdering, I want to feel the adrenaline rush through my veins. To instead have my ears washed in ecstasy as I’m locked in the thralls of combat creates this odd dissonance. It’s a stupid thing to criticize because the overall quality is friggin superb. My problem is purely semantics.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a fantastic hybrid that does both genres justice. The tribute to the old school days of JRPGs is so delightful to see infused into a modern-day example. More importantly, if this is what this team can do with a spin-off, I’m beyond excited for the granddaddy JRPG. The art style’s depth adds dimension to the town and fields, making each feel fuller. The sprites are wonderfully articulate in the emotions they convey with their body movements. The orchestrated score and usage of unconventional instruments are to be applauded. I’m struggling to pinpoint a flaw not soaked in subjectivity. Bluntly said, I had lots of fun, specifically when CJ would shout “Yus,” forcing me to utter it with gusto – Queen slay!
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising takes full advantage of the power the PS5 gives developers. It was amazing to be traversing locations and watching as streams flowed in the back.
The speed to which strikes can be done made battling feel good to utilize. The brisk speed to which I was able to stab a bandit in cold blood was fulfilling.
I have to dock a point for the disconnect with song and on-screen action. It’s a minor thing in the grand scheme of things but it’s something I bring up a lot and for consistency sake, I’m doing it here.
I loved my time with this game. It’s my firm belief that what saves the quest system from being a slog is the fast travel system and being able to do more than one at a time.
Final Verdict: 9.5
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is available now on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4|5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5.
A copy of Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising was provided by the publisher.