Eiyuden Chronicle, a Love Letter to JRPG’s, Finds a Publisher
On February 12, 2021, publisher 505 Games revealed its partnership with Rabbit & Bear studios. Yoshitaka Murayama said that “With this partnership, I believe that we can deliver Eiyuden Chronicle to our fans, following the original concept with even higher quality standards.” And that Eiyuden Chronicle is the “first of hopefully many games” the team wants to create.
There is nothing I like more in the video game community than when developers of classic games can create something new. It’s even better when the new project is a spiritual successor to the games they’ve made that players hold in the highest regard. Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes in one such game.
Eiyuden is a brand-new Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) created by Yoshitaka Murayama (Suikoden 1 and 2) and Junko Kawano (Suikoden 1 and 4) and their company Rabbit & Bear Studios. In their first collaboration in 25 years, they are creating a game that utilizes modern gaming technology to power an old school experience. The team put the project on Kickstarter, and backers helped them blow through their stretch goals. It is the 6th most funded video game on Kickstarter. 46,307 backers pledged ¥481,621,841. That’s 4,584,037.19 US dollars. You bet I pledged.
A summary of the Suikoden Series
Let’s talk about the original game series the team worked on.
Suikoden is a rare JRPG that began in December 1995 and is rife with politics, corruption, and revolution. The defining feature, for me, is the 108 Stars of Destiny – the name for the 108 possible protagonists that players can recruit for battle. In its turn-based system, we control six party members – I was used to the typical three. There’s also the legend of the true runes, the backbone of the Suikoden universe’s existence. Lesser runes hold magical abilities the Stars of Destiny can utilize.
The series did not stick to the typical sequel roadmap. Rather than each game being direct sequels that follow the same characters, each game takes place within the same world, with continuing and overlapping histories. Also, to my surprise, the game series is loosely based on a Chinese novel called Water Margin.
Unfortunately, Suikoden’s development ended after 2012. 4gamers.net spoke to Konami developers about the matter. They said the Suikoden team had been disbanded and scattered throughout the teams within Konami and elsewhere. Luckily, in 2020, a crew member from Suikoden’s development team left and created a new studio called Rabbit & Bear. Essential creative minds behind popular PlayStation-era RPGs joined the team.
So, what is Eiyuden Chronicle about?
I’ll start with the description from the Rabbit & Bear website:
“Our story begins in one corner of Allraan, a tapestry of nations with diverse cultures and values. By dint of sword, and by way of magical objects known as “rune-lenses,” the land’s history has been shaped by the alliances and aggressions of the humans, beastmen, elves, and desert people who live there.
The Galdean Empire has edged out other nations and discovered a technology that amplifies the rune-lenses’ magic. Now, the Empire is scouring the continent for an artifact that will expand their power even further. It is on one such expedition that Seign Kesling, a young and gifted imperial officer, and Nowa, a boy from a remote village, meet each other and become friends.
However, a twist of fate will soon drag them into the fires of war, and force them both to reexamine everything they believe to be right and true.”
Eiyuden is a true JRPG
Upon browsing the cast list, it’s easy to tell the Rabbit & Bear team is sticking to the basics. The main cast of Suikoden games is often young, 16-18, with plenty of support from a more mature band of allies. Eiyuden’s two leading stars are Nowa and Seign, ages 16 and 18. I’m already predicting they will be at odds with one another. The drama between ‘best friends’ is a classic trope, especially in the Suikoden series. Neither will be ‘bad’ but will have separate points of view.
There will be a vast world to explore, but is that really news? Townsfolk ready to speak about the region’s history or grant quests will populate massive towns and villages. Players will be able to scour remote lands in search of treasure and secret bosses. The team puts this game together with a blend of 3D environments and 2D Sprites. That’s right! The group decided to use sprites instead of 3D models for their characters, giving it an old-school natural flare. Not to worry – the sprites are gorgeous.
Eiyuden would not be an RPG without the classic turn-based RPG system. Players will command six individuals, choose commands for each character, and then watch them carry out the orders in full motion combat. I always picture the simple attack animations from games like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, or Final Fantasy. Eiyuden is cranking up the action with 2D cinematic style attacks. Also, the heroes will learn special AI abilities they can perform independently; Some will link their commands with the other characters.
What I’m most excited about
There will be a ‘Hero Mode,’ a randomized dungeon where party composition matters because certain members are stronger against certain foes. Each member of our party will also get tired as they progress through Hero Mode, making each subsequent fight more complicated than the next. It becomes crucial to swap out members.
I am most excited about the Fortress Town, our home and military base in Allraan. When we first acquire it, it will be small, but we can expand it by recruiting characters and putting them to work. We won’t focus only on recruiting warriors for our army; Characters from all walks of life will join us, such as fishermen, bakers, and shop owners. We will also build castle walls, develop weapons, cultivate fields for farming, and create/develop businesses like blacksmiths and restaurants. Rabbit & Bear adds that we can turn our restaurants into chains that will appear in other cities.
The Fortress Town provides more for the game. One of the stretch goals is called “Asynchronous Mode.” Thanks to this mode, players will share their party and fortress town as AI-controlled data with other players. That means others will be able to battle our army without being online. There’s a battle defense mode that will see invaders attacking your Fortress Town as the story progresses. We will also be able to use a set of visual assets to customize our fortress.
Eiyuden will have DLC
We live in the era of DLC, and there will be DLC packs for Eiyuden. They will provide the content to backers for free and before anyone else. Rabbit & Bear Studios doesn’t want anyone to feel excluded, so they are considering offering them as paid DLC to non-backers. The unique DLC is listed below:
– Unique backer buildings
– Another Story: Marisa (A 5-10 hour side-story about Marisa)
– Back Story Novel
– Fortress Town Visual Assets (Chinese/Japanese)
– Another Story: Seign (A side-story about Seign and the Empire’s point of view)
The backer content sounds impressive, and I don’t see the team keeping all of it backer-exclusive. I suspect that non-backers won’t receive the ‘unique backer buildings’ and maybe the rare golden cat.
My final take
Suikoden is a beloved series, and Eiyuden appears to elevate everything that made the series great. Rabbit & Bear studios are giving me what I have craved for a long time! The art direction, which looks hand-drawn, is incredible. Attack animations are amazing and remind me of the chaos in the Disgaea series. According to the team, there will be 110 recruitable characters. I’m assuming some party members will be missable, as the 108 Stars of Destiny were never required to complete the Suikoden series.
There’s one last thing I’d like to display some hype for, and that’s the story. Different ideologies will separate two best friends during the war. Suikoden usually had the most complex of stories when it came to JRPG’s. I’m looking forward to how in-depth Euyiden dives into its themes. The characters of Allraan will have their backstories to explore, so it will be easy to find favorites. We will vastly differ because of the number of characters. I can’t wait for Eiyuden to take all of my time.
Rabbit & Bear originally designed the game for PC. Backers helped crush their stretch goals, so Rabbit & Bear releases on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and the Nintendo Switch with an estimated delivery date of October 2022.
Would you still like to back the project? Rabbit & Bear Studios is creating a post-campaign backer shop. Prices for new backers are roughly 15-25% higher than those for legacy backers. I will update this article with a link to the shop once the crew officially opens it.