Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Review – The J in JRPG Stands for Jaw-Dropping

I’ve had a complicated relationship with turn-based JRPGs over the years. Pokemon was essentially the only RPG I played as a child, and once I started getting into gaming as an adult I slowly started making my way through the enormous back catalog of Japanese role-playing games dating back all the way to the early 90s, trying to dip my toes into every series I could. Some, like Dragon Quest, or Octopath Traveler, or the older Final Fantasy titles never quite hit right with me. Others, like Chrono Trigger, or Persona, or the newer Like a Dragon titles felt just right. RPGs in general however, are my favorite genre. I preface this only to accentuate my statement that Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is one of my favorite RPGs ever, turn-based or not. 

This standalone second entry in the Eiyuden Chronicle series is the result of a Kickstarter effort by Suikoden creator Yoshitaka Murayama, which raised a whopping $4.5m during its campaign out of the $500,000 needed. Through this campaign, which is the third largest in video game fundraisers ever, the people declared they were ready for more! After a few years of delays due to COVID, I am pleased to announce Hundred Heroes is likely going to exceed every backer’s already sky-high expectations.

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Your castle ruins will quickly become a palace through a combination of elbow grease and gathering more allies.

Hundred Heroes sets us in the strange land of Galdea, where science fiction meets fantasy in a way that I’ve only seen Final Fantasy pull off in the past. This world is immediately reminiscent of Game of Thrones; not just because of the medieval fantasy setting, but because the player is introduced to many Dukes, Lords, Great Houses, Bannermen, and allegiances that are going to be very important later. Lots of betrayal, tested alliances, and old friendships will come to the forefront – and perhaps a love story between our hero and the princess?

One thing Hundred Heroes does marvelously is drip-feeding world building and lore only as the player needs it; for instance, someone might offhandedly mention the young King Euma in the city of Hishahn, seat of the Euchrissean Empire, but you don’t need to know what any of that is until the game just sits down and tells you. It is also entirely voice acted in both Japanese and English, which is highly unusual for games such as this, so it keeps your attention through some of these stellar performances regardless. Hundred Heroes is blessedly free of the exposition dumps that have plagued RPGs for decades, and is paced exactly right so that you never feel like you don’t know what’s going on.

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These are some of the most interesting and beautiful cities I’ve seen in a game.

The soon-to-be leader of our hundred-hero alliance is Nowa, a young man from a small village (obviously) who has left his home to prove his worth as part of the Watch. In the fair Kingdom of Grum, where we lay our scene, the Watch serve as the peacekeepers of the land. I really enjoy that Nowa is not naive when he begins, nor does he wake up in a small town where his childhood best friend wants to get him to the festival on time. You know, the usual JRPG stuff. He’s a reluctant hero at times later one, but largely he sets out on this quest because he seeks glory.

Nowa makes friends with a small band of Watchmen that cover a wide berth of personalities: Lian, the spunky fighter who has a great brother-sister dynamic with Nowa; Garr, the tanky wolfman who’s a grizzled old veteran; and Mio, a mild-tempered intellectual sorceress. I’ll stop there – if I were to name all the richly developed characters we meet along this 40 hour adventure, we’d be here all day. There are indeed one hundred of them.

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One day I’ll write dialogue this good.

The story begins when a power-hungry Duke named Dux Aldric of Galdea begins making movies to frame the Grum Watch for border skirmishes that he plants. He then invades, and the group along with the charismatic and cunning Princess Perrielle are forced to flee to a ruined castle and begin building a resistance, gathering allies in neighboring kingdoms to retake their home. The ruined castle, which I named Munchausenville, becomes the base upon which your rebellion will be built.

The general structure of the game is to travel to a new location guided by the linear story, defeat dungeons and bosses, gain new heroes for your team, gain materials by adventuring, and return to base to build up your new town. The gameplay loop is smooth, streamlined, but also engaging – you never feel like you’re doing something repetitive, and Hundred Heroes keeps the story moving at a fairly good speed the whole way through, albeit with some broken pacing. However, I’ll say up front that as much as I love how vast and layered this game is, I can’t help but feel it outstays its welcome a bit.

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This guy’s name is just Murdersoul. A little on the nose, you might think, but it fits the tone of the game perfectly.

As advertised, there are indeed one hundred heroes scattered around the world that can be convinced to join The Alliance. Some of them will come to you by way of another story intersecting with Nowa’s, such as the parties led by the brave young Imperial Captain Seign or the tribal mystic Marisa. Most of them will become available by Nowa performing a small quest for them to prove he means business. Sometimes it’s as small as collecting a few pieces of lumber to convince the lumberjack in the mountains to come build houses for The Alliance; other times you’ll need to hunt down an obscure recipe to convince a chef to build a restaurant there.

Base building in an RPG is nothing new, but Hundred Heroes does it much better than games with a similar format, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. All building is a simple one click in a menu, and in order to build a specific addition you’ll need to find the correct hero for the job as well as the right materials to get started, which you’ll get just by playing the game. As enormous as Hundred Heroes is, it’s extremely linear, and that’s very much to its benefit. My biggest issue is that it suffers from severe pacing issues in the middle by jumping around stories, and there’s just weird miniature pacing all throughout. Hundred Heroes just loves stopping you for a cutscene, freeing you to walk three more steps, and then playing another cutscene. It does this literally hundreds of times, and it really, to borrow a phrase from my friend Peter Griffin, grinds my gears.

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Sand sharks? In MY sand ship? It’s more likely than you’d think.

You may be thinking now, “One hundred heroes! Good heavens, that’s far too many. Surely they are only there to stand around the base to make it feel populated.” If so, you are dead wrong. Every one of these hundred heroes is not only equipped with unique abilities, stats, dialogue, and full voice acting – they are all playable. Any one of them can be swapped into and out of your current party between missions, including the old lady that bakes the bread or the 12-year-old girl that collects berries. Each of these characters has unique interactions with the others too, again all voice acted, which makes me dizzy thinking about the scope of this project. One thing I love about this game is how unabashedly it prizes that it is a video game – it is funny and stupid a lot of the time, and the tone always lies somewhere between goofy and directed.

Sure, there are similar characters among these hundred. There’s no getting around that. For instance, it makes little sense to have Garoo, the Australian kangaroo-man I have fallen desperately in love with, in the party at the same time as Garr. They are both large tanks with a ton of HP and physical defense, both have armor, and both deal melee damage. However, the unique abilities come into play with Hero Combos. Specific groupings of characters that have personal relationships, either before the story begins or that develop during it, will be able to execute super attacks by combining their turns. If I have Nowa leading my party, I should probably bring his good friend Garr since they are stronger together. If I take Marisa, I should bring along Garoo instead since they go way back.

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Yes, that enemy on the right is an upright bear with a rabbit riding on his shoulders. Why? We are never told.

When forming your party, you’re allowed three frontline slots, three backline slots, a support slot, and three attendee slots for a maximum of 10 heroes on the road together at once. Only the frontline and backline heroes fight directly – the support character provides a passive buff to everyone, and the attendee slots are for you to carry around the heroes that are crucial to the story should you not want them to actually fight. The attendee slots are a work of genius, because otherwise you’d lose up to three party slots at any time with heroes you don’t want to use just because they are needed for the story. For instance Princess Perri needs to travel with the party for much of the story, but she is near useless as a fighter. Throw her in the attendee spot! I won’t tell if you don’t.

During combat, you’ll choose an action for each of your six fighter characters individually and then watch the entire turn play out at once. I don’t know why, but this system has immediately caught my attention more than other games like it. I love watching the action all happen at once; it’s a very smart way to get the adrenaline rush of live combat with the strategic challenge of turn-based. You can also turn on Auto fight, which is self-explanatory, but even that has a lot of options in the menu you can tweak about how you want each character to behave during auto battles. These are very useful for going back through lower level areas.

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Early on, you’ll only have one or two rune slots on each hero. Just wait! They’re gonna get real buff real soon.

By using your default attack, you gain SP, which can be used to harness the power of your Rune-Lenses. Rune-Lenses play a huge part in the story, and each character is equipped with these magical items that grant anything from elemental spell-casting to heightened speed to immunity to certain damage types. It’s very easy to swap them between characters, and as you play you’ll naturally find the right ones to pair with your fighting style. I think at some point you will also settle in to finding your “permanent” party. It’s not truly permanent, but there are a few heroes I end up going back to for every mission.

Battles are more complex than the menu would suggest, incorporating elemental advantages, resistances, and immunities as well as three types of armor to break and the big star, turn order. The turn order is tentatively set at the beginning of the turn at the top of the screen, showing exactly how many actions each hero and enemy has and when. As you select actions for each hero, their position on the turn order will shift depending on what it is. Item use and shielding usually brings you forward, while big attacks usually push you back. Most of the time this can be ignored, but in boss battles it absolutely is crucial to plan out your turns perfectly. Hundred Heroes is fair during encounters, but the boss battles do not hold back.

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Some monsters are 2D pixel art like the characters, but the bosses are rendered in full 3D. Yikes! Too many dimensions.

One fixture of boss battles I love is that each one comes with a gimmick that you can exploit for your action. And it’s nice because it just says the word “Gimmick” in the action menu. Maybe you’re fighting a giant lobster standing on two smaller lobsters and can push one around to knock it off balance, or you have a lever that changes where boulders are going to fall. You’ll need to strategize when to best utilize the gimmick so that the boss is open for attack by your powerful Rune-Lense abilities and set the turn order to maximize opportunity.

Importantly, I think every players is going to find a few characters they completely fall in love with. In addition to Garoo, my favorite hero is Carrie, a teleporting chaos gremlin of a teenage girl. She is so stupidly assured in her own magical abilities, even after failing numerous times, that I kept feeling envious of her self-confidence. She also permanently grants the party the power of fast travel, which is necessary on a map so enormous. I love when fast travel in a game has a lore explanation, and Carrie showing up to announce proudly she is going to teleport us to the other side of the kingdom never fails to make me smile.

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So true, bestie.

The dungeons in Hundred Heroes are not quite like anything I’ve seen before. First of all, there are a lot of them – dozens. However, each one is usually less than half an hour to traverse, including the boss. I actually love this, because it means that each dungeon is kind of based around one huge puzzle with 3-4 encounters followed by a hard-as-nails boss fight. It also allows each one to be totally different, from the forest treetops to snowy valleys to a sunken city to underground ruins. The dungeons remind me a lot of miniature versions of the old 3D Zelda games like Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, featuring 3D puzzles and lots of weird regional enemies. I would love more RPGs to try this design philosophy out.

Hundred Heroes is also home of some of my favorite art design in recently memory. While the characters and basic enemies are 2D classic pixel art with HD character portraits, the entire world is rendered in 3D alongside bosses. This isn’t like Octopath Traveler; it’s something I’ve never seen before, having a fully 3D world so easily explorable by 2D sprites that change as they rotate. It looks so good in motion, and it truly feels like a modern take on the classic 2D pixel JRPGs of yore. The music is also some of the best I’ve heard this year, helmed by industry veterans Motoi Sakuraba, Michiko Naruke, and Akira Yamaoka. The main battle music is my favorite! It’s so invigorating, but also evokes the feeling of adventuring perfectly.

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Every so often you’ll go to war, and play with a simple set of mechanics to route the enemy!

I played Hundred Heroes on my PC in 1440p 60 FPS with an RTX 4070 and an i9-12900K CPU on high settings. It ran perfectly, and I did not experience a single bug, frame drop, or glitch during my playthrough. The worst thing I can say about the PC version is that it does not feature a “Quit to Desktop” option, much to my chagrin. The colors are gorgeous, and I think even on lower end PCs it’s going to look amazing. You shouldn’t go in expecting the 3D world to have the detail of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, but for what it is, it’s quite impressive nonetheless.

Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes has made me feel like I am playing Xenoblade Chronicles, Chrono Trigger, and Fire Emblem all at the same time – and it works. The gameplay loop is so directed and streamlined, and the quality of life features are so plentiful I don’t even know where to begin listing them. There are plenty of pacing issues afoot, and I think I speak for all of us when I beg developers to just do all the cutscenes at once instead of making us walk a few steps in between a series of 10 of them in a row. While you are certainly not going to love all one hundred heroes, or even most of them, there will absolutely be a few you’ll become ride-or-die for. Right now, you can become the 101st hero by heading to your PC or console and purchasing one of the best RPGs ever made.

Nirav played Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes on PC with a review copy.


Editor’s Note: After the publication of this review, it was revealed that a major bug in the PC version was drastically reducing the number of encounters both in dungeons and the overworld. The game as it is made has encounters appear every 20-30 seconds; as I was playing through the game, I found encounters only every 4-5 minutes, which I listed as a major positive as it helped the pacing a lot. A patch is incoming that will adjust the encounter rate back to what was intended. While I still recommend playing Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, my experience with the game as described in this review will not be reflective of your experience with the game.

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