The beloved Suikoden series was ahead of its time. First launched on the PSOne in Japan in 1996 (the following year in the US, and the year after that in Europe), the sprawling JRPG told a turbulent tale of political unrest, socio-economic turmoil, love, loss, and good versus evil. As a plucky underdog-turned-leader of a rebellion army, you faced off against an oppressive medieval state, and grew your following across an entire empire with 108 recruitable and playable characters. Its sequel, Suikoden 2 (released in 1998 in Japan, ’99 in the US, and 2000 in Europe), is considered by many to be one of the best JRPGs of all time.
We haven’t had a mainline Suikoden game from Konami since 2006’s Suikoden 5 – a fact that prompted a team of ex-Suikoden veterans to launch Rabbit and Bear Studios in 2020, and thereafter successfully Kickstart a spiritual successor to the tune of $4.5 million. With the same Pokemon-meets-Game of Thrones DNA underpinning the project, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes promises to delight Suikoden fans far and wide, and while the latest delay news is definitely disappointing, I reckon it’ll be more than worth the wait.
100+ playable characters?!
For one, Suikoden’s creator Yoshitaka Murayama is leading the charge at Rabbit and Bear, alongside longstanding series designer Junko Kawano. The game itself boasts epic battles, deadly duals, devastating rune magic, strategic turn-based combat, a multi-thread narrative, umpteem moral quandaries, and gorgeous 2.5 landscapes that mark a modern spin on the classic 32-bit era JRPG signature style.
The premise and core themes of Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes sound very Suikoden-like too, as per this Steam page description: “Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes is designed to bring players a modern take on a classic JRPG experience. Get ready to lead 100+ playable characters through a war-torn world only you can save.”
“Our story begins in one corner of Allraan, a tapestry of nations with diverse cultures and values. By dint of sword, and by way of magical objects known as “rune-lenses,” the land’s history has been shaped by the alliances and aggressions of the humans, beastmen, elves, and desert people who live there. The Galdean Empire has edged out other nations and discovered a technology that amplifies the rune-lenses’ magic. Now, the Empire is scouring the continent for an artifact that will expand their power even further.”
“It is on one such expedition that Seign Kesling, a young and gifted imperial officer, and Nowa, a boy from a remote village, meet each other and become friends.”
Moreover, 45,000 backers helped make Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes the #1 funded Kickstarter video game of 2020, meaning it’s a safe bet that Rabbit and Bear (and publisher 505 Games) are focused on getting things right for its clearly devout and dedicated fanbase.
In broader terms, if ever proof was needed to confirm the enduring popularity of Suikoden, the Suikoden Revival Movement is it. This passionate fan group has spent the last decade campaigning Konami to revive the long-forgotten series, orchestrating several mass-mailing initiatives, where fans have sent physical letters, pictures and other testimonials to Konami’s headquarters en masse along the way. At the Tokyo Game Show 2022, Konami revealed it’s remastering both Suikoden and Suikoden 2 on a global basis for the first time (the games were remastered for the PSP in Japan only in 2006), and while it’s hard to say how much sway the SRM had in the process, the announcement was considered a huge win all the same.
For me, a more likely reason behind Konami’s decision to sort-of revive Suikoden in 2023 is, quite simply, the existence of Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes. With no discernable milestones lining up with the move, it’d seem the developer is keen to keep the source material as part of the conversation. For Suikoden fans, myself included, we get the best of both worlds in this most-welcomed win-win situation. With its magic and dragons and epic war-waging, the parallels between Suikoden (and what Eiyuden Chronicles promises) and Game of Thrones are pretty, erm, stark – and the obsessive exploring and intrepid discovery its 100+ character recruitment system evokes is like something pulled straight from Pokemon. And it’s through all of this that I can’t wait for both remastered Suikoden and the new slant Eiyuden aims to serve us.
All of which leads us full circle. From building 100+ character-strong armies in-game, to waiting for news from Konami or for progress reports from Rabbit and Bear, patience has become an integral part of Suikoden fandom over time. We’re used to playing the waiting game by now, and so with so much to look forward to – Eiyuden Chronicles: Hundred Heroes is now officially due at some point in “Calendar Year Q2 of 2024” – what’s another few months?
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