As you boot up Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes for the first time, it briefly displays a simple message of appreciation "to all JRPG fans". It's nothing out of the ordinary, just a nice touch, indicative of the warm and welcoming RPG adventure you're about to embark on, but it's also got us reflecting on the life and work of Yoshitaka Murayama, the game's director and creator of the legendary Suikoden series, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

Returning to his way of seeing and doing things in this spiritual successor, and with the world in the incredibly sorry state it is right now, the anti-war themes here, the humanity, hope and belief that we can see past manufactured differences, that we can stand against the lies and manipulation of those in power, are more pertinent now than ever. It's emotional and beautiful really, to see that this creative genius held on to his beliefs and his hope, and in the end his personal vision/belief of a better world remained intact. Not an easy feat given everything.

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And aren't we lucky that it did, as what we've got here is a game that's 100% guaranteed to delight the old Suikoden faithful, at the same time that it dazzles newcomers looking for fresh new escapades of the RPG variety. Usually when we retread old ground in this manner, and especially when Kickstarter is involved, there's a tendency to get rather safe tributes of sorts to the glory days, like a final lap of honor for a creator that everybody remains respectful about. Thankfully, this time around we don't have to try in any way to remain respectful, as Murayama-san has bowed out on top form.

We were a little concerned early doors, we admit it, as this is an adventure that starts slow and simple with some fairly bog-standard dungeon types (we are so done with mines right now), and we really didn't enjoy the prequel, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. However, give the game time to introduce you to its battles - solo, party and large scale war variants all return - let the enjoyable story settle into its rhythm, and you'll find an RPG that constantly changes things up, mixes dungeon-crawling, battling and puzzles in satisfying ways and constantly builds momentum and emotion through a grand cast of collectible hero pals.

It really is a spiritual successor in every sense then, fans will feel right at home, and the overall vibe we're left with is of a return to Suikoden that irons out the wrinkles, rejuvenates, modernises, adds more variety to dungeons and comes off as an incredibly slick, assured and polished package - apart from a few slight technical issues that we'll get to down the line. If there was any worry or doubt that Rabbit & Bear Studios wasn't up to the task, those doubts can now be buried six feet under the ground, is what we're trying to say.

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And so to the narrative itself, and Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes sets you off on a path to high adventure in Allraan. This is a tale of two very different men, Nowa and Seign, one an elite soldier, the other a poor villager, who meet by chance, become friends and end up on opposing sides of a war that lays bare the corruption and manipulation of the ruling classes. OK that sounds quite heavy doesn't it, so there's also cool special moves like giant fists that can punch your enemies into space. Does that sound better? OK then.

As all-out war consumes the land, it's up to you, and a party of very cool pals that you'll gather from every corner of Allraan, to put a stop to the madness of an evil empire that's on the hunt for a powerful relic. There's a lot going on here, with some 100 hero buddies to meet and rotate through your six-man party (three front, three rear) and most every NPC you meet has a surprising amount to say to you as a result. The more friends you make, the wackier the whole thing becomes, and it's this juxtaposition between the seriousness of the subject matter and the absolute silliness of some of the characters that's always makes Murayama's games feel so unique, warm and human. There are friends to make here, good times to be had.

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Battles take the form of regular random map encounters for much of the time, and it's worth pointing out now that if random battles on overworld maps bother you, if you hate being constantly interrupted by enemies, this game probably isn't for you. The random battles are pretty much constant (later you can skip them by letting weak enemies escape as you grow in strength) and as long as you're down for that, as long as you're aware of the old-school nature of much of what goes on, you'll have a very good time indeed, because the battling is mostly excellent.

Whilst there are definitely times when you'll grow tired of seeing the same foes, we found that the core flow of fights - choosing each your of warrior's moves in advance before pressing continue and letting it all play out - becomes increasingly addicting and involving as the narrative ante is upped, more enemies are thrown your way, and relations with your favourite team members develop. There are also infiltration and sneaking missions, solo antics and some other surprises thrown into the mix, as well as large scale battles that give you a top down view and charge you with containing enemy armies by shifting groups of fighters around on a grid before the camera swoops down into the action.

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Oh, and speaking of swooping cameras, there's loads of fancy visual stuff going on from the get-go, with slick perspective shifts reframing battles and dungeon-crawling sections into something much more dynamic and involving. Stuff like the viewpoint dropping behind a shoulder as a warrior readies an arrow, or the shift that occurs as you manipulate an environmental object as part of a puzzle. It really does make for more exciting confrontations and exploration. There's also some lovely depth of field effects going on, and alongside the stylistic choice to mix retro character models with modern graphical techniques, backgrounds, lighting, etc, it makes for a very good-looking adventure indeed, and one that also respects your time, coming in at around 40 hours if you skip the dawdling, this is a very manageable and satisfying thing.

On a more negative note, we did mention a few performance issues earlier, and these come in the form of a sound issue that seems to mute the game entirely if you use Quick Resume (something that's only resolved by a restart in our experience), and some very mild stuttering on rare occasions. Nothing major, then, but that sound problem especially is worth pointing out as it can become frustrating.

We could go on and on about Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes. There are so many fun characters to talk about, so many cool special moves to unlock and pull off as you level up. There's lots of reason to explore and mix up tactics, switch out party members and so on, and the ease with which you can jump between auto-battling (which is also fully customisable) and full control is commendable. As is the flexibility you're given in rewinding back through any moves or decisions you've made up to the point of confirming your next assault.

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There's no doubt some will balk at the constant random encounters and the old-school, slow-moving nature and pace of it all - it's been a very wise choice to have this one on Game Pass - but overall this is a highly successful melding of old and new, a fine modernisation that keeps enough of the retro stuff while enhancing, streamlining and embellishing at every turn. We're so glad it's worked out this way, and it's been an honour to play through this one and discover that some people's hope for the future can never be tainted. Thanks for the memories, Murayama-san.


Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is a slick and satisfying spiritual successor that gives Suikoden fans a great big dreamy treat whilst updating, modernising and streamlining its most retro aspects into a brand-new and exciting adventure for newcomers. With a timely tale to tell, excellent battle systems, an amazing cast of characters and plenty of experimentation and puzzling in its dungeons, this is a big win for Game Pass, and a fine farewell for one of the industry's true greats. Now, isn't that a lovely thing.