When I was a kid, my Belfast-born grandfather and I used to break out a routine when we got together. He'd say something to which I'd reply "Boo," and then add another line to which I'd respond "Yay!" It usually went something like, "We're building a house!" ("Boo!") "A public house!" ("Yay!") "It's only ten feet wide." ("Boo!") "It's over a mile long!" ("Yay!") And so on until the exchange finally concludes with, "We're not selling drink." ("Boo!") "We're giving it away!" ("Yay!")
Those alternating "Boos" and "Yays" surge up from my memories whenever a developer I respect announces they're resurrecting a beloved franchise with a "spiritual successor." It's like, "That series you love is sorta coming back!" ("Yay!") "If we manage to get our Kickstarter funded." ("Boo.") "It has a cool-looking main character!" ("Yay!") "But our game's graphics kind of have a budget Flash-game look." ("Boo.")
When news came in about Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes—while Kat and I were recording the latest episode of Axe of the Blood God, appropriately—my initial reaction was "What? Holy moly!" followed by a screeching mental halt when I heard "Kickstarter." The idea of "Suikoden successor on a Kickstarter budget" initially didn't sit with me. Let's be honest when we hear "Suikoden," we immediately think of grand political stories, deep characters, beautiful sprite artwork, and a brisk battle system that leads us through some incredibly tense fights. We think of the best RPGs of all time, at least as far as Suikoden and Suikoden 2 are concerned. Can a follow-up act truly be Kickstarted?
Then I got a good look at what's cooking thanks to Gematsu's in-depth write-up of the project, and I am happy to say I am more than a little cautiously optimistic. When I look at the preview materials put together by the new Rabbit and Bear Studios, a workshop founded by the original creators of Suikoden, I see a game that really gets why Suikoden was special in its heyday.
Eiyuden Chronicle is headed by Yoshitaka Murayama, the original creator of Suikoden, Yoshitaka Murayama. Muryama has a rare talent for bringing out the best of a story through video games, even though it's a very tricky medium for storytelling. He's a master at storyboarding, hence why the battle with Lucca Blight in Suikoden 2 is still chilling. He already has a clear handle on how he intends to handle Eiyuden Chronicle's narrative, which is reassuring.
"Eiyuden Chronicle is about war, or more importantly, the intention and feelings of the 100 heroes who fight that war from a variety of perspectives and for a variety of different reasons," Murayama explains in his interview with Gematsu. "And of course, the drama that can only occur when a group of different people from different walks of life come together and must wage a war of life and death."
I think the brief snippet of footage from IGN Japan is what convinced me "Okay, this might be great." The graphics are lovely—no pixel-based sprite art, but you can't have it all—and the characters already look awesome thanks to veteran Suikoden character designer Junko Kawano. The battlefield's camera zooms in and out as the heroes fight a giant squid monster. Every movement in the brief ten-second scene cries "This is Suikoden, dudes!" Eiyuden Chronicle is clearly as faithful to the spirit of Suikoden as Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is faithful to the spirit of Castlevania.
Maybe it’s not fair of me to be instantly cautious and skeptical of Kickstarter-funded projects. Undertale, an RPG that made a tremendous impact on the genre, was born of Kickstarter. So was the remarkable Divinity: Original Sin, another entrant on our list of the Top 25 RPGs of All Time. The aforementioned Ritual of the Night is just one more success story. That was a little more touch-and-go, but it turned out well in the end.
I suppose there's an instinct that makes my hair automatically stand on end when I hear the words "legendary developer" and "Kickstarter" paired together. It might be a lingering drop of the enormous dose of disappointment Mighty No. 9 delivered unto me in 2016. No matter how many times veteran developers hit Kickstarter to fund their dream projects, something in me will always cry, "Oh God, please don't let this be another Mighty No. 9."
Nevertheless, I think I have good reason to be hopeful about Eiyuden Chronicle. We don't even have a full trailer yet (it's coming when the Kickstarter campaign launches on July 27), but I feel confident about it. By contrast, something about Mighty No. 9 never seized me in a way that said, "Here's Mega Man. Honest." Maybe it's because Beck looks like the kind of ripoff Michelin Man mascot you see on independent contractors's trucks.
I digress. Eiyuden Chronicle isn't Suikoden, but as long as Suikoden's colorful visuals, rich soundtrack, and deep narrative are present in Eiyuden Chronicle, I'll gladly stop pining for the past. Justify my hope, Rabbit and Bear Studio.