Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Final Preview

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes has generated significant interest for several compelling reasons. Chief among them is the fact that the game shattered Kickstarter records, largely due to its billing as the spiritual successor to the beloved Suikoden series, with the series creators at the helm of it all. The journey leading up to its release has felt almost surreal, spanning nearly four years since its initial announcement, and now we are finally a month away.

I’ve been playing the game on the Steam Deck for the better half of the past week. With my playtime tallying well over 6 hours up until a certain point in the story that we’re allowed to talk about, it’s easy to see where the game takes inspiration from, as it proudly wears it on its sleeve.

Based solely on this limited gameplay experience, Rabbit & Bear Studios may have achieved the remarkable feat of breathing new life into the Suikoden series by giving it a new form in Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. In an era where such endeavors are rare, this accomplishment feels like a minor miracle.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes’ tale unfolds as warring parties clash over the mystical influence of “rune-lenses”—arcane artifacts that hold immense power. At the center of it all, the Galdean Empire stands dominant, having harnessed a technology that amplifies the magic within rune-lenses.

The Empire now embarks on a continent-spanning quest for an elusive artifact that promises to continue its reign. It is during one such perilous expedition that Seign Kesling, a gifted imperial officer, crosses paths with Nowa, a boy from a distant village. This encounter sparks an unlikely friendship and a tale they won’t soon forget.

Right from the start, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes feels like a good blend of old-school mechanics and modern sensibilities. You have turn-based 6-member party battles, random encounters, weapon and armor shops that sell incrementally improving equipment, and much more. It does feel like the JRPGs from the PS1 era that we’ve come to love, and it’s refreshing to play something like this in a sea of action-focused or roguelike titles that have dominated the scene.

Just like in Suikoden, there’s extra focus on the individuality of the characters, all of whom feel very distinct and different from each other. Lian is the energetic and quirky rookie in their mercenary group, Garr is steadfast and brave, and Nowa is adventurous and capable. Teaming up with Seign’s imperial group, who are interesting characters in their own right, the game does well enough to give players personalities they can relate to and care for even in the early hours.

The English voice acting is more competent than I would have expected, and players who usually default to the Japanese dub won’t feel cheated should they choose to try out the English voiceovers. Moreover, the soundtrack is just lovely, as we would expect from Motoi Sakuraba himself. Paired with the pixel art characters, the wonderfully sketched character profile images, and the colorful 3D backgrounds, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is an audiovisual treat.

Combat in Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is familiar but also has some interesting wrinkles. It’s the typical turn-based affair that we know of but adds the element of SP on top of the usual HP and MP gauges. Characters gain SP by attacking during battles, and some skills, located under the “Rune-Lens” menu, will use up SP or MP, depending on what you choose.

As you can imagine, this will lead to some resource management shenanigans, where a balance of offensive and defensive tactics will be needed to gain the upper hand in battle. There’s an auto-battle feature should you feel that battles are getting tedious after all of the menu choices, so that’s a great addition.

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The 6-member party will be positioned with 3 members in the front row and 3 in the back, so character placement is another aspect of the game that players will have to contend with. With the limited number of characters available during this build, it’s still hard to conclude how this will all turn out, especially when more characters with ranged abilities come into play, but Suikoden’s combat intricacies immediately come to mind.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes introduces Hero Combos, akin to the Unite attacks from the Suikoden titles of old. In the game, the first one you’ll unlock is Nowa and Seign’s hero combo called “Friendship Attack,” which is a highly damaging AOE attack that can prove useful against boss battles. Of course, throughout the game, you’ll be recruiting over 100 characters to aid you in your quest, so it’ll be interesting to see how this dynamic works not just in battle but in the story aspect as well.

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One last combat addition is what’s called “gimmicks,” where some battles will add another point of action that players can utilize to turn the tide of battle. In one boss battle against a Rune Golem, rocks litter the battlefield, which players can spend a turn to hide behind, nullifying a damaging laser attack. It’ll be interesting to see how much more of these gimmicks will be useful or how many of them will turn out to be just that: gimmicks.

In my time with Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, I did notice one thing that dampened my experience to a certain degree. I’m not sure if it was simply because I was using a Steam Deck, but there was a significant delay between pressing the menu button and the menus actually opening. While this sounds like a nitpick in the grand scheme of things, it’s unusual to see such a hiccup, something I wish gets fixed in the weeks leading up to its launch.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes mostly hits 60 FPS on the Steam Deck at 1080p (in-game resolution setting), with the TDP set to at least 7 or 8, so the game isn’t as taxing despite its flashy visual effects during combat. It’ll be interesting to see how it performs on the Switch, but PS and Xbox players can probably relax.

Overall, if this preview build is any indication of how Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes will play out, then I’m quite optimistic that we’ll be in for a treat. There’s enough to love even in the early hours of the game, but as with all things, we exercise caution, especially considering how the story plays out and how well the characters are developed throughout the game.

It’s a tragedy that Yoshitaka Murayama, who recently passed away at the young age of 55, will never get to see the fruits of his (and his team’s) labor because Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is looking very much like the Suikoden game we’ve always wanted for the longest time.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes launches on April 23, 2024, for the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

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