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Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes makes me appreciate Sea of Stars even more

Sea of Stars main cast
Sabotage Studio

Plenty of modern games have tried to recapture the nostalgic retro vibes of early 1990s RPGs. And some are more successful than others.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, out now, is a spiritual successor to the popular Suikoden series. After all, the game was developed by Rabbit & Bear, a studio composed of previous Konami employees who worked on the Suikoden games. With the series having been dormant without any new entries since 2012, it was Hundred Heroes’ time to shine. It sports an excellent story and fantastic worldbuilding, along with a pixel art direction that invokes those feelings of nostalgia.

But with those strengths come some ’90s baggage. Its quality of life is lacking, with aggravating resource management, stingy healing options, and a glut of tired random encounters. Those issues hurt my playthrough, which I said was faithful to a fault in my review earlier this week. Hundred Heroes had the perfect opportunity to bring the spirit of Suikoden to the modern age, but it instead shows the pitfalls of sticking too close to old game design. The best retro revivals capture nostalgia while still pushing game design forward. And there’s no better counterpoint to Hundred Heroes than last year’s triumphant Sea of Stars.

Moving retro forward

At a glance, Sea of Stars looks like it was pulled directly from the SNES era. It’s painted in faithful pixel art that doesn’t look that far off from Chrono Trigger. The more you dig into its gameplay, though, the more it differs from that game. It doesn’t have random enemy encounters; foes wander the screen and rush at players to initiate battles. While enemies are quite fast and will quickly chase you down if they spot you, at least I know when to anticipate a battle. In Hundred Heroes, I was praying that I wouldn’t trigger a battle when I was backtracking to an inn to restore my party’s health. It’s the kind of old-school design philosophy that video games have grown past for the better.

Sea of Stars does share some old design quirks with Hundred Heroes. Save points don’t restore HP and MP in the former, just the same as the latter. The big difference in Sea of Stars is that there’s usually a campsite within close proximity that can be used to restore stats. In Hundred Heroes, you’re often thrown into consecutive battles of up to four with no opportunities to heal in between. Some Sea of Stars bosses will actually fully heal your party up before you fight them. I wish the bosses in Hundred Heroes were that nice to me.

Sea of Stars battle system in play.
Sabotage Studios

Little details like that, or the lack of them, add up. MP restoration is rare in Hundred Heroes, so I always feel discouraged from using any of my magical characters. There was no point in casting powerful spells when my warriors could inflict more damage than my mages. While I was able to buy plenty of healing potions from shops in preparation for long dungeons and big battles, I wasn’t able to find MP-restoring ones in any stores. I only obtained a few of them as item drops from winning battles.

It’s a design decision that might have been common in ’90s RPGs, but Sea of Stars’ more creative approach shows the subtle power of innovation. In that game, MP can be regained from attacking enemies with physical strikes. It almost feels like an idea born more out of Doom (2016), where players can only heal by going on the offensive. This system adds a layer of strategy to turn-based battles, where I’d frequently switch between normal and MP-consuming attacks in order to hit proper enemy weaknesses.

Accessibility demands changes

It’s not just that these ideas make Sea of Stars feel smoother to play without sacrificing its retro vibe. Their biggest boon is the accessibility and approachability they bring to a genre that lacked those features in the 1990s. Relics, which can be found throughout the game, act as equipable accessibility options that let players tailor the gameplay to their needs. They can be toggled on and off at any time. For example, the Amulet of Storytelling provides 100% auto heal after combat, and the Guardian Aura reduces all incoming damage by 30%.

Some relics even make the game harder. The Dubious Dare increases damage taken by 40%. These kinds of options weren’t present in older RPGs, but their inclusion in Sea of Stars helps it reach out to bigger audiences. Hundred Heroes has some modifiers of its own, but they all exist only to make the game more challenging, like not allowing healing items to be consumed during battle. Now that I’m older with adult responsibilities, convenience is a much bigger factor than when I was younger.

Sea of Stars exploration and map.
Sabotage Studios

Players who grew up with these games in the ’90s may be looking for these nostalgic experiences, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be modernized. In an interview with NPR, creative director Thierry Boulanger said that he didn’t want to replicate what made some retro games frustrating.

“If the audience were to go back and actually replay those games, they might think less fondly of them,” Boulanger explained. “The idea for Sea of Stars was to remove that tedium and get players to feel like they’re moving forward, all the time.”

With Konami planning to release remasters of the first two Suikoden games in a single package soon, the studio revealed that it’ll come with new quality of life features, including the ability to fast-forward battles. Ironically, Hundred Heroes doesn’t even have that feature, which is a shame. Perhaps Rabbit & Bear could update Hundred Heroes through patches and include some more quality of life features, but those might be more likely for a sequel (the studio has confirmed that it’s aiming to release a follow-up). If you can’t wait that long, Sea of Stars will give you that nostalgic retro fix without the frustration.

Sea of Stars and Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes are available on PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. They’re also available on Xbox Game Pass.

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George Yang
George Yang is a freelance games writer for Digital Trends. He has written for places such as IGN, GameSpot, The Washington…
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