Eiyuden Chronicles review

Let me start with the conclusion: Eiyuden Chronicles is a game you can tell had a lot of heart put into it. You can tell the creators had passion and had a vision. That alone however can’t overshadow its numerous faults, and sadly at the end of the day, it fails to live up to its potential promise. While not a totally irredeemable game, it’s very hard to recommend to anyone but maybe the people desperate for the tiniest glimpse of a new Suikoden game (although even that is stretching things)

I first played Suikoden II back in 9th grade. An online friend that I felt close to at the time said Suikoden was her favorite RPG series, and I was eager for things I could talk to her about. I got Suikoden II because it was the rarest and most expensive of the two (even back then) Though I should mention that in those days “expensive” was a used copy going for close to 70 bucks (now you’d be lucky to find a good complete condition for less than 200)

I ended up enjoying the game so much that I immediately played it back to back for a total of three times. Then I wound up getting the first Suikoden and after playing through that, played through II for a 4th time. Pretty crazy to think about these days, but I was also a kid with a lot of free time and no real life friends at that time.

From there on, I followed the Suikoden series religiously from 3 all the way to it’s final entry 5. Though I didn’t end up finishing 4 (due to how poorly done it was) until this past year, it’s still remained my favorite JRPG series to this date. My ranking goes something like 2=5 > 1 > 3 >>> 4.

I’ve always hoped Konami would bring back Suikoden. I remember buying the shitty DS game, despite it not being related, hoping that it would somehow convince them there was still a market for the series. However, Konami, as most know, went through a period where they essentially said “Fuck videogames, we’re focusing on pachinko now” Thus as the years went by, that hope grew more and more distant.

Then one day I see the original creator of Suikoden has formed his own studio, Rabbit and Bear, and was looking to make a new game. One that looked an awful lot like Suikoden in concept. This news came by way of a Kickstarter for this game which was called Eiyuden Chronicles.

I know of many Suikoden fans who jumped on funding the campaign. Unfortunately for me, as excited as I was, I was also wary. My experiences with Kickstarters then was not great due to several games that had turned out not so great and a few visual novels that had not even delivered (funnily enough they still haven’t delivered) I struggled between supporting it and not, but at the point when the higher tiers had all been bought up, I decided I would just pay for the game when it came out (it had no problem smashing it’s stretch goals without me after all)

Close to release, I heard plenty of people who had gotten their hands on the demo singing praises about it being the true successor to Suikoden. I was excited, but at the same time still fairly skeptical. It didn’t help that I had recently been disappointed by another Kickstarter game, Sea of Stars, or that I felt disillusioned by hype Twitter which had burned me over several games since (Final Fantasy XVI comes to mind) Still I pre-purchased it on Steam (as I was going to play it despite what anyone said) and waited for it to come out.

Before I get into what really let me down about the game, let me talk a bit about some of the positives.

A lot of the design is good. Music is good. If there’s anything that promotes the image of a new Suikoden game, they definitely nailed it with those. I also really appreciated the Japanese voice acting (this is not a budget cast by any means) Like I said at the start with my conclusion, you can tell the developers had their hearts in this

Now about where things go downhill.

The protagonist is often the most important character. In Suikoden, despite being silent (aside from choices you can make), they have strong connections with others. Despite being reluctant, the events they experience builds conviction in them. They all want to bring things back to the way they were, or at least to a point where people aren’t suffering.

Eiyuden’s protagonist Nowa isn’t silent, and while I wouldn’t count that as a bad thing on it’s own, it does come with it’s own downsides. Namely that a lot of your impressions of him come down to what he says rather than his actions or how other characters play off him. This makes his writing way more important than anyone else.

I, however, didn’t get a very strong impression of him until probably close to the end of the game. Even then it wasn’t as strong as I’d like. More of a “Okay I guess this is just how he is”

A big part of that is probably due to the game’s events. I don’t want to spoil anything specific, but if you’ll allow me a somewhat general spoiler, nothing in this game is quite on the level of the shit that happens in a typical Suikoden game. Because Nowa never really goes through shit, it’s hard to really understand his motivations for being how he is

There is one scene that comes towards the end of the game that tries to shed some light on it, but it’s a classic example of “too little too late” If it had happened earlier, maybe I could see them spinning something from that. However, the way they pulled it off felt more like putting a band-aid on a huge scar.

If that wasn’t bad enough, technically the game was sold as a game of three protagonists. Nowa, Seign, and Marisa. The problem is the other two get even less development than Nowa. While they do try to incorporate them into the story, the player never controls them for very significant portions and their development is similarly small (Marisa is the worst in that they barely give her anything)

This is a symptom of something that will come up again and again in this review: being too ambitious. Whether that was due to being a Kickstarter title or trying to to live up to being a new Suikoden, I can’t say for sure. What I will say is that maybe if they had another year to flesh out the story or had not tried to mimic Suikoden, that this might have been a much stronger game.

While the protagonists were lackluster, I actually don’t have many complaints about the rest of the supporting cast. I definitely would have liked to see them play more of a role, but none of them would feel out of place in Suikoden, and many were pretty entertaining.

I will say the villains were very underwhelming. It might have something to do with there not being anything on the scale of the things in Suikoden’s universe, or it might also have something to do with them not explaining their goals very well. Probably both, it all just feels lacking. I’m used to there being some intrigue with what’s going on with the antagonists, but in this game I felt like so little was offered that I stopped caring.

Characters aside, the plot is.. Not that interesting. You can tell a lot of it is trying to build up a new world to replace the one of Suikoden and it has a lot of the pieces, but rather than having them put together, they all kind of feel like they’re left on the table. Plenty gets teased, but nothing gets explored and it all just falls flat.

I remember reading somewhere that the first Suikoden game was made to give a setting and some background for the second one. I’m not sure how much that was really needed in retrospect, though if that’s true, I think it did help. Hearing now that this game apparently had plans for a sequel, I somewhat wonder if a lot of this stuff was planned for that.

I feel like if they had another year to develop it, they could have worked at strengthening the plot itself and fleshing out the world. If it turns out they made this to set up interest for a later game, then I would say they did a poor job. Not that I wouldn’t give a sequel another shot, but as a result of their efforts I have almost no interest in the world. Something they should have put a bit more effort into

While all that might sound pretty bad, I still think even with all that it’s an okay game. It’s the gameplay stuff, which I’ll go over now, that I think ultimately brings it down to being kind of a meh.

Full disclosure, I can’t comment much about how well they did with combat in terms of balancing. Apart from saying that the first couple of bosses and areas weren’t very enjoyable. Too many random encounters and difficulty felt skewed to where they took too long (Random battles should be snappy)

That alone is pretty bad, but when you add onto it the battles being really sluggish (They should have took a bit more inspiration from how Suikoden speeds up a lot of the battles) I couldn’t take it. I had to cheat to be able to push myself through most of this game.

I know some people don’t look positively at cheating, even in a single player game, and I will acknowledge it does make my criticisms on gameplay potentially hold less water. Though I’m going to try and mostly address issues that should be irrelevant to whether someone cheats.

Apart from the normal party battles, the game also tries to do army battles and duels like Suikoden. Unlike Suikoden though, they either don’t control as well (in the case of army battles) or are as satisfying (for duels) as Suikoden. They’re nicer looking (the duels especially have some flair) but neither offer the break in the normal random battles that the ones in Suikoden did.

I think it’s also because they went too ambitious with it. Like I said, they’re nicer looking, and it feels like they wanted to make them more complex than they were in Suikoden. However neither operates quite as satisfying as the older games.

Outside of combat, we come to the other main mechanic of Suikoden, recruitment and HQ building.

In Suikoden, your HQ develops as you recruit characters. Eiyuden seemed to want to evolve this by changing it so that in addition to requisite characters you would also need to collect materials. An idea probably inspired by other resource management games.

In theory, it’s not a bad idea. In practice, it’s not really implemented very well. For most of the materials in the beginning you’ll be visiting one of two little dungeon areas near your castle to gather them. If that doesn’t sound very interesting, it’s because it’s not. Eventually you do unlock a way to send spare hero’s to collect them, but then you have to also contend with set space for resources.

Again, it’s another area where there was probably too much ambition. Though at least it’s not too annoying as other areas..

A real problem, however, is one that comes with the recruitment of certain characters.

In Suikoden, there can be some characters that are a little unfair. In Suikoden II, for example, if you spend too much time lollygagging you can miss one of the characters. In Suikoden IV there’s a mini-game that requires you learn a simplified version of Mahjong. However, these pale in comparison to a couple of characters in Eiyuden

The first character that gave me trouble was the one who you put in charge of fisheries (and is also responsible for upgrading your fishing ability) Arguably one of those essential characters that you’d think be pretty easy to get for the basic functions. Yet his recruitment requires you catch a certain fish that can only be caught at two spots.

The problem with that lies in Eiyuden’s fishing mechanics. You can only fish at a spot a limited number of times before it’s fished out. You’re then required to wait an amount of time for the fish to “respawn” This takes somewhere around 15 minutes if you’re not using a cheat or save scumming(which also takes time), and you can fish out a spot multiple times before you finally catch one.

It took me around 40 minutes to get one while keeping the fish respawn time low with cheats. While there’s been some that have been lucky to get it on the first cast, I’ve seen some posts about people spending several hours before they got the fish.

That’s unreasonable. I could maybe let it slide (somewhat) if this was for some broken character late in the game, but for someone that’s essential for your development of one of your castle’s basic facilities? Way too much.

The other thing that’s way too much is there are two characters locked behind late minigame progression. Previously there had been Suikoden games that have required beating a character in a minigame (the worse being the mahjong one from 4 that I mentioned) but most of them were a matter of saving right before and were accomplishable in a short period of time.

The two locked behind minigame progression require you to not only play the minigame once, but play them multiple times. The first being a “beyblade” style game where you have to go around challenging people and working your way past the “elite 4” The other being a cooking minigame that you need to complete like 10+ matches before you’re able to battle the character you recruit.

I cheated for these two. For the top one I just gave my top infinite health, and for the cooking one I set it so cooking battles could be done instantly and I would always win. I have no idea how difficult they would be without the cheats, but given that I was still forced to go through the motions, I can tell they most likely take a fair bit of time and energy. Way more than 99% of the characters in the game and way more than Suikoden ever required

Collecting characters is optional, technically, but like Suikoden Eiyuden requires you to collect all of them to get the “best” version of the story. Thus for people looking for the optimal story don’t really have an option to skip them

Another, somewhat dirty, thing the game does, in regards to character recruitment, is for the final 2 characters you have a VERY small window in which to recruit them. There’s literally a scene, and then if you don’t choose that moment you can control to teleport to where they are (and instead go outside), you will get another scene and hit the point of no return.

I can’t remember if Suikoden was ever that bad, but it feels like while there were missable characters, the window to get them was never as small as the 10 seconds of control you get between scenes.

The final thing I have to say about Eiyuden is its localization is not that great.

I’m not one of those “chuds” who can’t stomach some things being localized. I understand changes are sometimes necessary. However, there are things that still end up bothering me when it comes to the practices some localizers use.

Number one is when localizers change names for no reason. This is one of my major complaints with Xenoblade 2. While this doesn’t happen a lot in Eiyuden, it does happen a couple times (Like changing the last name of “Perry” from Grim to Grum”)

Number two is when they change something and it no longer fits the tone the creator was probably going for. For Eiyuden, this happens quite a bit with the language taking on a pretty “childish” tone. The worst offender being when one of the adult characters calls this other guy a “farthead”

Number three is when they change something and it’s inconsistent. There’s a scene where one of the characters says “She’s like a sister to me” in English when in Japanese the character says “she’s my cute little sister” Later the MC asks the girl “Is he really your brother?” in English which given what was said before in English doesn’t make sense for them to be asking.

Like I said, I’m not someone who can’t stomach changes. Nor am I someone who thinks the localization is a disaster that ruined an otherwise great game (honestly the other things I mentioned bring it down more) However, I can’t pretend that it didn’t bother me or that it couldn’t be better.

I’ve already offered my conclusion at the start. Rather than restating that, I’d like to just say what I think might have made the game better. IN MY OPINION.

Firstly, I think trying to make a new Suikoden game/series was a bit too ambitious. Especially when you have to create a whole new universe for it. I think this game focused too much on putting everything Suikoden had and trying to one up it (ie: too much ambition) rather than starting with something much more modest but refined.

Suikoden didn’t have multiple protagonists until the third game. By then the world had been sufficiently built up from previous games. You also constantly switched off between them as they were all dealing with their own stuff. I’d say if you have to have three protagonists, you should give them more, and if you can’t you should probably stick to focusing on one until you’ve built up a more established series.

Combat should be fast if you’re going to maintain the 6 character party system. It’s not really a hard problem to overcome. Just make it so multiple characters can act at the same time and that will save a lot of the time on its own. Also adjust the random encounters to happen less frequently

Screw resource management and limited inventories. Resource management can be fun, but there needs to be more structure put in place for it. Limited inventories weren’t ever a great mechanic and no one really finds them fun.

Those are just the main things off the top of my head. I did have more, but I’ve been writing this for several hours at this point. I’m starting to feel tired talking about it for one day. Maybe in the future if someone asks, I can try to go more in-depth on what specifically I’d change. For now though, I think this is good