Game Review: Eiyuden Chronicle: The Hundred Heroes (Nintendo Switch)

Platform: Nintendo Switch

This game was billed as an homage to old-school JRPGs throughout its development and to a degree it lives up to that hype. But its that “to a degree” that leaves me conflicted after having finished the game in less than 6 days since its release on Tuesday, April, 23, 2024 at 10 AM CST.

I had been keeping an eye on this game for a while. There was some an online crowd funding campaign when the game was first announced that caught my attention. The premise sounded good, an old-school JRPG on modern consoles as a spiritual successor to Suikoden. But source funding video games is a riskier endeavor than most other products in my experience so I opted not to put in on the campaign but was pleased to see it go the distance.

As the game neared release, I watched some gameplay videos and read reviews from those who got to play early. The reviews were largely positive but noted a variety of issues. The issues were things like slow load times, game crashes, game freeze ups, and some occasional animation latency but they praised the depth of the game and the old-school feel. I chalked the issues up to possible pre-release coding; the code not being fully optimized for release.

My son and I both were eager to play after watching the video and patiently waited for the game’s release. We knew it would be available on other platforms but this just felt like a Switch game for us. We both have PS5s and computers that we could have gotten the game on but something about playing it on the Switch felt more natural. Unfortunately, you could not pre-purchase the game in the Switch Store. I had to wait until the game was released before I could purchase it and start the download. Luckily, the 28 GB download size only took about 2 hours on my connection so I started the game while I enjoyed my lunch.

It wasn’t long after that beginning that my love/hate relationship with this game started.

The first few bits of the game were slow. A lot of story. A lot of little introduction segments for characters. Several small tutorials for the various game mechanics included in the game’s design. It felt like it took me 3-4 hours to slog my way through that before I was given any sense of free rein to control my characters how I wanted and explore the world a bit. Slow pace aside, the story was captivating, and that’s saying something coming from me because I usually skip story sequences in favor of just getting to the action. The design of the world, the characters, the combat animations, and all of the other visual components were wonderfully modern while being gloriously classic at the same time.

And then it happened.

As I was transitioning from one area to the next, the game froze up on the loading screen. I left it there on the screen for a couple of minutes in case it was just a performance issue since I had read from others who had commented on the game’s slowness but it was to no avail. I was forced to close the game, load my most recent save (which was not as recent as I would have liked), and replay all of the content that I had lost on the restart.

What followed was a frustrating routine. Roughly every 2 to 2.5 hours of playing the game would freeze up during a random loading screen. Sometimes it might be when I am loading into a city, or entering a store screen, or building a new building in my HQ. I could pretty much set a timer on my phone for 2 hours and know that after it beeped that a freeze was imminent. It was annoying for sure, but since it seemed consistent at the roughly 2 hour mark I just had to be diligent about saving frequently to offset the game’s internal issues.

With that sorted, all seemed to be going well. I was playing the game and enjoying it. I was recruiting characters, doing cooking challenges, grinding out levels, and just having a good time. I was looking forward to the fishing, the card game, and the top mini-game (that my son and I just referred to as Beyblade). It took me a while to find where to start each but my son found it much sooner and mocked me accordingly.

And then on Thursday, I noticed a patch for my game. I’m used to Day 1 patches with modern games and consoles (which I think tends to breed laziness and complacency in the dev cycle but I digress). I had hoped that the patch fixed the freezing issue and excitedly installed the patch. Frustratingly, the patch did not resolve my freezing issue. I continued to see game lock-ups in the same 2 to 2.5 hours gaps. But what was worse is after installing the patch I also started experiencing random game crashes. Sometimes it would crash in a dialogue sequence, transitioning from world to combat, and even while managing equipment. And the crashes were far more random than the freezes. There was no warning, no pattern, nothing. At one point I had the game crash three times in the same place before I could get past that point. 

Basically, late in the game there comes a siege event. After you complete the siege, you form a team and run across a field to a mini-boss fight. My game crashed 3 times immediately after forming my team after winning the siege. There was a character standing nearby that I could use to save my game but the game would crash after my toon took just a few steps. I can’t tell you how much time I spent replaying that siege event before I could save my progress and move past that point.

And this is the part that really pissed me off. The game has an auto save feature but the developers chose to only initiate that feature in rare and select moments from what I could tell. The auto save did not initialize during fast travel. The auto save did not initialize after key story cut scenes. The auto save did not initialize after major or key combat sequences. The auto save just seemed to have a mind of its own and same whenever it felt like it. And there were several times where there was lengthy story bits, multiple fights without a save point, and more story, only to have the game crash or freeze with no auto save data to help mitigate the frustrations. I mean, I could forgive the crashes if it didn’t cause me to lose hours of gameplay over the course of my time with the game. 

When I finished the game, I had clocked roughly 82 hours of play time on my save data. With dozens of crashes and freezes along the way, the true number of hours spent with the game far exceeds 82 hours.

And despite the name “The Hundred Heroes”, there are a total of 120 characters that can be recruited to your cause. Some are guaranteed recruits via the story. Many are optional recruits that you can get pretty much whenever. But there are a few that are key recruits that you have to have to 100% the game. In fact, the 120th recruit requires that you have all of the other recruits on your team before a specific point in the story. If you get to recruit that character you get 1 ending but otherwise you get what’s considered the “bad” ending. I ended up with all 119 recruits but not until after I had passed that point in the story apparently because I got what everyone called the “bad” ending.

I had a lot of fun playing the game. How else would explain clocking 82 hours of saved play time in less than 6 days? I mean, I was clocking 16-18 hours of game time every day since getting it installed (of course the first day was less since the game didn’t release until 10 AM). If the game was bad then I wouldn’t devote so much time to it. That should say something bout the appeal of the game, when it works…

Now that I’ve beaten the game, my son asked if I was going to play through again to get that 1 missing recruit. I won’t lie, it’s tempting but I can’t put myself through the frustration of the constant freezes and crashes again. I lost probably 4 hours of time over the course of the last day from them and at one point had considered not finishing the game because I was so frustrated with what I can only assume is the the game’s poor development, code control, and quality control.

I logged a formal bug report regarding my freezes through the developer’s website and commented on their Facebook page about the frustrations this was causing. I’m still finding new reports of similar issues from others on every console. I thought for a while that maybe this was just a Switch issue but I’ve seen PS5 reports and PC reports also complaining about the game freezing up and/or crashing.

As it stands today, I would NOT recommend this game to casual players or just someone who thinks it looks neat. Only hardcore old-school JRPG fans might tolerate the game’s issues well enough to see it through. If the developers can fix the code and patch it to be more stable then I would shout about this game gladly from the rooftops for all to hear. 

Bottom line: My old-school JRPGs didn’t suffer from the constant lock-ups and crashes. From that regard, Eiyuden Chronicles is far from the love letter to classic JRPGs the developers intended. Instead, this feels like a flashback to the Sega Dreamcast launch of 1999 where 9 of the 14 launch titles suffered catastrophic failures that led to a lot of people seeking refunds from the consoles and games that ultimately led to Sega’s demise. True old-school JRPGs went through extensive quality control checks before going to release because you couldn’t download and patch games back then like you can today. It had to be right before it left the factory whereas today there’s more of the “meh, we’ll fix it later in a patch” attitude. That type of development and release trend seems its more about cashing in off the gamers and maybe eventually giving them the game they paid to play.

Eiyuden Chronicles: The Hundred Heroes IS a fun game with a ton of things to do. It’s held back by its own development shortcomings though. Until those are resolved the game is only mid-tier. I should not have had 36+ game restarts because it froze up or crashed on me. That does not spell quality to me, yet. I think the game can get there if the developers have the money and desire to see it through.

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