Eiyuu*Senki is a turn based strategic role playing game visual novel about conquering a world where female versions of heroes from various civilizations across various time periods exist concurrently leading their respective nations. The game was originally released in 2012 on PC with a PS3 version following a year after. The PS3 version was then localized into English in 2015 on PS3 with a PC release following in 2017. Another game in the series, Eiyuu*Senki GOLD was released in Japan in 2014, but was only localized last year. I’ve been getting mixed answers about how GOLD relates to the original, but as far as I can tell it’s not just an enhanced version of the original, but essentially the game redone with a new story, though one that still uses the same assets and general systems. As such, I was somewhat conflicted about whether I should play the original or just play GOLD, but in the end I decided to play the original first.
Looking at the map, the game may seem kind of like a grand strategy game, but it’s really not at all. The goal is to conquer the world, but how that proceeds is incredibly linear and simplistic. The player can declare war on a nation and then begin conquering it. There’s some choice provided on which of multiple to conquer first at times, but the story goes to same place eventually regardless. Conquering involves going from city to city with combat occurring at each one. There may be different paths to get to the capital of the enemy nation, but it doesn’t really make much of a difference what route is taken most of the time outside of there sometimes being side story events or bonus items along certain routes. Each conquered city provides money at the beginning of each turn, but that’s the extent to the strategic significance of the cities as well. Thus, the world map is basically just a UI to prepare for and to initiate combat as well as to initiate main and side events which are what actually make up the majority of the game.
The combat involves controlling units on your half of a 3×6 grid. As one would expect, different units have different stats and abilities, and thus the player needs to manage those in order to defeat the enemy in the most optimum manner. It’s pretty standard for the most part, with there being different classes with different strengths and weaknesses against other classes and a gauge known as the brave gauge that charges up over time that allows the usage of special abilities. And it’s a solid enough implementation in terms of balance and polish though not particularly exceptional.
What I think makes the game interesting though is how things are balanced such that the meta to the combat changes completely over the course of the game. Class matchups results in double damage, and thus as a result the player will want to focus on choosing classes that will allow them to deal double damage while avoiding double damage from their opponent, or at least they will at first. The unique trick to this game, is that while normal attacks result in charging the brave gauge of the player that attacked, match ups that deal double damage result in charging the brave gauge of the opponent. At first, this isn’t a major issue, as units generally don’t have powerful abilities and the brave gauge charges pretty slow regardless, so the player will want to focus on positive match ups. However, as the game progresses and more powerful abilities are gained, positive match ups become far riskier, with it essentially becoming a balancing act on when and where to focus on positive match ups and when to focus on abilities. By end game this balance becomes heavily in favor of focusing on growing your own brave gauge in order to use abilities while trying to slow the opponents growth of their brave gauge so that they can’t use any abilities, which is pretty much the opposite of how the game started.
In addition to that, there’s also one other major change towards the later half of the game, which is the addition of ancient hero units. As is often the case for games where units that are composed of armies and not just single units, for most units in this game a decrease in the units health, which is referred to as troops, also results in a decrease in damage. The exception to that are ancient heroes, who don’t lead armies but are incredibly powerful just on their own, and thus don’t have a troops count, but rather an HP count which doesn’t affect their damage at all. This results in them having utility that is very different from other units and most of them just being pretty much straight up overpowered to a degree. There are enemies that also have HP, and while they are somewhat present during earlier portions of the game, they have a much stronger presence towards the latter portions after the player has obtained ancient heroes. These changes result in the game balance overall shifting a good amount. And these changes combined with the shift in focus from positive match ups to abilities results in the game overall feeling like it evolves tremendously over the course of the game, resulting in the combat remaining interesting and fresh throughout the game despite the base seemingly not changing much at all.
The biggest problem with combat though is unit growth. As is evident from looking at the world map, this game has turns, wherein a certain number of actions can be taken per turn, with that number growing over the course of the game. The biggest problem with the game is that these turns are completely useless and completely throw off game balance. There’s essentially no penalty to just running up the turn count other than that it feels like a waste of time but doing so provides tremendous benefits. Damage to units persists past the end of combat, and is healed a certain amount each turn or can otherwise be healed instantly through spending money. Money can also be used to grow the overall troop count of units. Money is gained each turn based on the cities controlled. It should be clear based on these statements, that the optimum way to play would be to never use money to actually heal units, but instead simply run up the turn count to have them heal naturally, while also gaining a bunch of money to use to grow the max troop count. Ancient heroes can’t be healed through money and don’t have a troop count that can be grown, which I suppose is to help diminish them being overpowered, but you can just run up the turn count to heal them so it’s also not much of a detriment. This ended up making the game incredibly easy to the point that I started doing things in as few turns as possible because there was no reason not to and taking a lot of turns takes up a lot of time. Sure, I could just not do that, but with strategy games the point is to play in the most optimum way possible, and it isn’t really clear what would be considered cheesing or just playing optimum in this case, so it just doesn’t feel well designed.
Furthermore, that units have to be used and manually grown by spending money results in there being a heavy emphasis on preferring only a small set of units. Sure, you can only use units once per turn, but turns don’t really matter anyway. The maximum number of units you can have on the field in combat is 6. The enemy can also counter attack in between turns, and later in the game sometimes they attack twice. Thus, you’ll probably want to focus entirely on 18 good units and ignore the rest. There are two issues with that. The first is that there are a tremendous number of units, and where those units will grow to in terms of abilities and such isn’t immediately obvious when you get them. Thus, having to pick which units to focus on can be pretty overwhelming, and with the way the UI is set up it feels even more daunting.
The second issue is more of a minor one, in that this mentality needs to be completely changed for the post game dungeon. This involves having to go through a sequence of multiple battles without any breaks in between, and thus involves using a lot more heroes. The majority of these involve 5 battles in a row, which requires 30 heroes which isn’t too unreasonable and I didn’t have too much of a problem with and found the high difficulty level pretty enjoyable as the rest of the game had long stopped having any challenge at that point. However, the last few involve 10 battles in a row, which would require 60 heroes, which is ridiculous. I could grind enough units to reach that point, and it wouldn’t even be all that hard as all it requires is just going through a bunch of turns, but it felt like it would take so much time and there isn’t any story at all to the post game dungeon so I just decided not to bother. But I think this does further highlight the issue that having so many units with different stats/abilities while needing to manually manage what items they’re equipped with and manually controlling their growth is a system that’s just kind of crazy and way too much of an ask considering how easy the game is.
In terms of plot it starts off with the protagonist literally falling from the sky into Zipang, which is essentially Japan, where a a hero named Himiko essentially tells him that a mysterious great danger is approaching the world and the only way to prevent it is by uniting the world to oppose the danger together. And from there the story is primarily centered around the protagonist conquering the world while also searching for information about the great danger. What would be considered the overarching story is centered around stopping the great danger, and ultimately that’s what the conclusion is centered around. To that end, it’s decent though it’s pretty typical JRPG type story. This is very strongly end loaded though, wherein while there are hints and such regarding this narrative throughout the game, it’s still almost entirely relegated to the final stretch.
The focus instead for the majority of the game is character stories. When the player is conquering an enemy nation, there usually isn’t anything overtly complicated like politics and such in play. Rather, it’s actually a really light hearted that does it’s best to showcase the personalities of the enemy heroes and the bonds the various enemy heroes have with each other, as after each war the enemy heroes ends up joining the player’s faction. There’s very little depth to things, but I still found the stories of conquering each individual nation pretty enjoyable because the cast of characters in general have very strong personalities with a lot being pretty likable. It’s a bit strange at times when one thinks about the connections to the historical figures and stories they’re based on, but I love this sort of bizarreness so my only real complaint on that front is the lack of certain heroes.
In addition to the main story, there are also a lot of side events, character events that generally unlock new abilities for characters, and other miscellaneous events that provide either cash or an item. There are sometimes battles as a part of these, but most are just story. In terms of writing, the miscellaneous events are usually centered around virtual tourism, where they generally focus on a set of the characters doing something that represents that location, such as eating a famous food or going to see a landmark. These are generally pretty short and humorous enough, so I thought they were decently solid, though they’re very superficial in general.
The side character events are what I more so have a problem with. Each character has at least one event, with most having many with some level of a continuous story told across them. The level of quality to these stories is pretty high overall considering just how many characters and thus just how many stories were being told. However, in the end every single character’s story felt like that of a side character. The characters have a variety of strong personalities that are leveraged well for some quick romance with the protagonist as well as some good comedy across the board, but in the end every single character was flat with very little fleshing out and essentially no development. This is perfectly fine for side characters, especially when there are as many side characters as this game has, and as side characters there were a lot I found likable and with the variety there is it’s very likely most will have at least a few them like. But the issue is that in this game every character feels like a side character and a story composed of only side characters just feels kind of lacking. The game really needed something like main heroines to stand above the rest of have full properly fleshed out backgrounds and character arcs. It felt like Himiko and Arthur would end up being that towards the beginning, but in the end I don’t think they really delivered on that.
Also, while the cast is good as side characters, the way they were portrayed also had some issues, mainly in that it largely felt like there was too much content with a lot of it being repetitive. With so many characters and character events, I think a larger emphasis should have been placed on denseness and briefness. As there are often periods where you’ll probably end up spending hours just doing character events, which can make how long winded some of them are kind of annoying and I think things would have benefited tremendously from faster tighter pacing. The biggest issue I think is the introduction to these events, which is a short scene that plays whenever a character event becomes available. It’s essentially just the protagonist noticing something and deciding to check up on it later. The issue is that the vast majority of the time it really isn’t necessary and conveys very little and furthermore there are often so many events unlocked that it takes time to get to the events introduced, and thus I think it would have been far better to just have the scene unlock in the world map and just roll the limited information from the introduction into the beginning of the scene itself. I would also like to note that while there is a pretty solid epilogue that shows what various heroes are doing after the end of the game, it only really shows a fraction of the overall cast. I think a larger focus on featuring every character in the epilogue would have been a better use of resources than having that many events for each character.
In terms of production values, it’s decent enough. It’s a pretty low budget game with only 2-D art work. This 2-D art work is pretty solid for the most part with the art style and character designs overall being really great, unique, and very varied. In terms of the sprites, both the larger character sprites and the combat sprites look good and the combat sprites had pretty great animation. The CG too were mostly good, but there were a few where it just straight up felt like they ran out of time/money and just threw something low quality in, as well as a couple that while of a decent quality overall felt kind of off. The OP is decently solid with solid enough animation for a project of this size. In terms of the soundtrack there were definitely some solid tracks and while there was some variety, I expected more considering it does seem to take cultural cues from all over the world. In terms of UI, it was solid enough, wherein there were some issues such as it being hard to manage just how many heroes and items there were, it did seem to try to implement as many QoL upgrades it could and they were very much appreciated.
A pretty solid character focused SRPG VN that has gameplay that evolves very well over the course of the game and has a very large and interesting cast, though no character really manages to stand out as particularly great.