Japanese role-playing game fans are buzzing today thanks to the announcement of Eiyuden Chronicle, a spiritual successor to Konami’s Suikoden series that involves many of the key people responsible for that celebrated franchise.
You can learn more about Eiyuden Chronicle from The Verge. A Kickstarter campaign will seek crowdfunding for the project starting on July 27.
But I want to tell you why the prospect of a new Suikoden-style game is so exciting, especially if you’re someone who has heard people praising Suikoden II for years but never tried the franchise for itself.
A star of destiny
Suikoden has five main installments, but just about every fan will tell you that the second one is the best. Suikoden II debuted in 1998 for the original PlayStation. By then, its pixel-based graphics may have seemed quaint in a post-Final Fantasy VII world.
But those that did play Suikoden II found one of the most fun and interesting JRPGs of all time. Suikoden II stands out with a strong narrative that starts small, focusing on the relationship between a few childhood friends, and grows into something more ambitious. Suikoden II excels at evolving its characters, putting them into uncomfortable and tragic situations.
And that powerful narrative is wrapped around strong mechanics. And these form the backbone of what makes a Suikoden game feel like a Suikoden game. You have six people in your party, which is more than the usual three or four most JRPGs feature. Characters can team up to deliverer special attacks, similar to in games like Chrono Trigger. Characters learn magic from runes, and each rune gives you access to certain spells.
Battles are traditional turn-based affairs, but the large party size makes them fun. And you have a lot of potential party members to choose from. In each Suikoden game, you’re tasked with recruiting the 108 stars of destiny. These are people that you can bring into your castle. Many of them can become party members. Some will start shops in your fortress. Others will offer special perks like teleportation. A big part of the fun of Suikoden games is hunting for these stars of destiny, developing your base, and experimenting with different party member combinations.
Bring it back
Together, along with some other fun features and quirks like occasional turn-based battles, these mechanics make Suikoden feel special. That’s why JRPG fans miss the franchise. Konami started scaling back game production five years ago. But Suikoden has been dormant long before that. Suikoden V came out for the PlayStation 2 back in 2006. Outside of the main series, the last one was a PSP spinoff that released in 2012 and never left Japan.
Suikoden fans are starved. That’s why they’re salivating over Eiyuden Chronicle. I hope it’ll be the successor we all want. Sometimes, crowdfunding can help revive dead franchises with spiritual sequels, like what Bloodstained has done for Castlevania (another Konami IP). But sometimes you’ll get a Mighty No. 9.
Let’s hope that, if crowdfunded, Eiyuden Chronicle can live up to all this early hype.
The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.