Suikoden - Reader Retroview  

by Lucky Melchior

15 - 25 Hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

    In 1996 Konami released the first installment of it's epic RPG series, Suikoden. The game is very unique in that there are up to 108 recruitable characters. This concept comes from, and hence the game is loosely based upon, the famous Chinese novel Shui Hu Zhuan, commonly translated as The Water Margin.

    You play as the son of Teo McDohl, one of the Generals of the Scarlet Moon Empire. The game opens up with your father and you waiting for an audience with the Emperor. The Emperor sends your father on an important mission to the North and you are finally assigned to work for the Empire. While working for the empire you witness how corrupt it has become. A few things happen and you become branded as a traitor and wind up joining the Liberation Army. At first blush it seems like a stereotypical rebels versus the big evil empire type of story. However, there are plenty of twists and turns in the story. Moreover, despite having such a large cast of characters, there is still a core dozen or so of characters who get developed very deeply and there are many interesting characters. There is an emotional attachment to the characters and you can feel what they feel during tragic events. Overall, Suikoden has an excellent story.

Audience With The Emperor Audience With The Emperor

    Suikoden's score is one of it's stronger points. The opening theme is an excellent song. Also The Theme of Sadness in particular is quite moving. The rest of the score is also well done. The music always adequately portrays the emotion of any particular moment in the story. Conversely, the graphics are very unassuming. The over world map looks like a hand drawn painting. The in battle graphics are a little better with decent sprites and excellent camera angles. However, there are many enemies whose sprites are recolors of previous enemies. Finally, there is little to no FMV or cut scenes. The quaint graphics however, do not detract from the overall experience of the game.

    Suikoden introduces the unique concept of three types of battle systems. There are turn-based party battles, one on one duels and large scale warfare between armies. The turn-based party battles are of standard RPG fare. Your party consists of up to six members, which is reasonable considering you can recruit up to 108 characters, and you have the choice of attacking, using runes, items or some characters can use combo unite attacks. There is also an auto-battle option. Runes can be equipped on a characters right hand. Most runes give the wearer the ability to use magic. For example the fire rune allowing access to fire spells, water to water spells, etc. However, there are some runes which can either grant special status effects or allow use of a special physical technique. One on one duels pit a character against a single enemy. You have a choice of normal attack, defend or desperate attack. You can usually guess your opponents next move based on what they say. These duels are dramatic and fun, however, there are only a few duels throughout the game. Finally, there is large scale warfare. Unfortunately, these battles lack any significant use of strategy. You can basically use either infantry, archers or magic. With magic strong against infantry, archers strong against magic and infantry against archers. There are a few miscellaneous options such as using thieves and ninjas to try and learn the enemy's next attack or strategists to boast your infantry's attack power.

Rare Cut Scene Rare Cut Scene

    The interface and localization are two, more modest, aspects of the game. There are glaring translation mistakes peppered throughout the game. Moreover, navigating through the menus can be laborious at times, especially considering the vast amount of characters whose equipment and items you must manage. As for completion time, Suikoden is a fairly short game. A veteran RPGamer can expect to breeze through the game in about a dozen hours if they are not concerned with completing every side quest and collecting all of the characters. On the other hand it might take a novice upwards of 25 hours if they try and collect all 108 Stars of Destiny. You may wind up playing many more hours than the initial play through because the game has tremendous replay value. Obviously you may not recruit all 108 Stars your first time through and you may wish to replay to try and collect them all. There are also many small side quests that may unlock a secret item or reveal a small piece of information regarding a particular character. Moreover, you can transfer your save data from this game to Suikoden II, and may wish to replay to transfer over stronger stats.

    Suikoden is a great game with an epic storyline. If it were not for the sloppy interaction and unassuming graphics this could have been an outstanding game. If you like classic RPGs or war strategy games, I highly recommend picking this title up if you have a Playstation or Playstation 2.

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