Spiritual successors have been quite popular during the last several years. Bloodstained launched as a spiritual successor to Castlevania, Yooka-Laylee tried to be the same for Banjo Kazooie, and Mighty Number 9 tried to capture the spirit of classic Mega Man games with mixed results. Not all of them have been successful, but nostalgic players still look for those types of games to recreate the magical experiences they had as kids.
In 2020, Yoshitaka Murayama of Rabbit & Bear Studios announced a Kickstarter for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, a spiritual successor to the Suikoden franchise. It went on to be the most funded video game campaign that year. Since then, the studio also released a prequel side game, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. It’s clear that fans are truly hungry for the project, which could make it one of the most successful projects of its kind … so long as the final product is good.
I recently spent one hour with Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes to get a sense of whether or not it’s on pace to match the hype. It’s still a little rough around the edges in terms of presentation, but its turn-based battle system holds a lot of potential, and the blend of 2D sprites and 3D environments is gorgeous.
The most striking part of Hundred Heroes is its art style. It’s going to inevitably draw comparisons to Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler and its HD-2D graphics, but Hundred Heroes takes it a step further. It’s much more accurate to compare it to Square Enix’s Star Ocean: The Second Story R remake that was released earlier last month.
The characters have more detail to them than your typical 2D sprites, making them feel more akin to polygonal models from the original PlayStation days. They’re more realistically proportioned and their facial expressions look more lively. During battle, characters have their backs turned to you, which makes their sprites look more multidimensional compared to ones in other RPGs likethis game. The inclusion of 3D environments impresses too, both in and out of battle. Some characters will even stand on cliffs or large tree stumps in the middle of the battlefield, which adds extra immersion.
Little visual details go a long way toward making the art style pop. The 2D character portraits displayed during conversations look slick, and the way the official art is painted and colored reminds me of Ken Sugimori’s iconic Pokémon Gold and Silver art. There are a ton of playable characters, similar to Suikoden, but they all look visually distinct with a variety of hairstyles and faces. This allowed me to briefly connect with them more during my short time with the demo. It’s not just retro art for retro art’s sake, and that makes Hundred Heroes feel special.
For its combat, Hundred Heroes takes a lot of notes from Suikoden. Players can have a party of six characters on the field at one time fighting against one or several enemies. It’s a turn-based battle system where players must select a move for all characters and then confirm those moves. The battle system doesn’t entirely shine in basic battles, as just regular attacks will get the job done. Having to manually pick all six moves can be cumbersome, but thankfully, there’s an autobattle option that allows players to skip that process.
Boss battles take much more thought and careful maneuvering to win. It’s not just that they deal more damage; players need to do some careful party positioning to take them down. At the end of my demo, I faced off against a giant robot boss whose ultimate attack was a giant laser that obliterated the battlefield. My characters on the left and right side of the front and back rows were able to hide behind debris to avoid the attack, but my two characters in the middle were unable to do so. As a result, I had to command them to guard against the incoming laser.
There’s some surprisingly cinematic moments in Hundred Heroes, right down to special move animations. Seign’s Sword Rain sees the hero jumping in the air and raining blades of energy down at enemies. The camera also zooms in upon impact, which makes the special attacks look and feel much more striking.
Easily my favorite feature of the battle system so far is the Hero Combo aspect. Here, characters who have developed a strong friendship with each other can team up together to pull off flashy tag-team attacks. As long as each character has the required amount of SP to activate a Hero Combo, players can seemingly fire them off as often as they want.
My only worry with Hero Combos is that they might get old fast. Only one was available during my demo, meaning I had to watch the same Seign and Nowa sequence multiple times. After you’ve seen the attack once, you’ve seen it 100 times. There’s no option to skip attack animations currently, so I found myself opting not to do it after a while even though I had the SP to burn. It especially drags out boss fights and makes them feel longer than they need to be. It’s a small issue, but one of the areas where Hundred Heroes could use a bit of tuning up before its release.
Even with some quality of life issues, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is promising so far. The art style really makes the RPG pop and the battle system is flashy and exciting, even if it’s a little slow at present. If you’ve found yourself waiting for the upcoming Suikoden I & II HD remasters from Konami, Hundred Heroes should help ease your impatience when it finally launches next year.
- Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is adding a very mechanical DLC hero
- Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles shows promise, but feels incomplete