Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Down The Memory Lane: Suikoden I

Assalamualaikum / Peace be Upon You

This time, I'm going to tell you about the game series that changed my life (seriously, I'm not kidding). The series is called Gensō Suikoden or better known as simply Suikoden.  It  is a role-playing video game series originally created by Yoshitaka Murayama. The game series is loosely based on the classical Chinese novel, Shui Hu Zhuan by Shi Naian and Luo Guanzhong. Each individual game in the series center around relative themes of politics, corruption, revolution, mystical crystals known as True Runes and the "108 Stars of Destiny"- the 108 protagonists (Yes.. You read it right, 108 characters, bitches!) who are loosely interpreted from the source material. Though the Suikoden games follow an irregular chronological sequence of events, the entire series, well... Except for Tierkreis and Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki of course which takes place within the same world among continuing and overlapping histories. In some cases, several characters appear in multiple installations such as Viki (every 5 games), Jeane (same with Viki), Viktor & Flik (sadly only two games).

But today, I'm not gonna talk about the other installations. I'm going to talk about the first two games that changed my opinions on J-RPG. First, I'm going to talk about Suikoden I. But seriously... My first Suikoden games was Suikoden II because I couldn't find the first installation at any store until one of my friends gave it to me and I quickly stopped playing Suikoden II and play the first one instead for the data memory transfer option for the second game.

Suikoden I sets in a country called the Scarlet Moon Empire. The plot of the game starts of with a young silent protagonist (Well... This is a J-RPG, what do you expect. They have a thing with mute heroes), which you can named him to your bidding (his default name is Tir). The hero is the son of the Great General of the Scarlet Moon Empire, Teo McDohl (which means his full name would be Tir McDohl). He have 3 servants; Gremio (who seems like a big brother to him), Cleo and Pahn. He also have a best friend named Ted. The hero soon comes to realise through his missions and association with his leaders that the corruption within the Empire's top tier has led to a country whose populace is enslaved and unhappy.  Through his friend Ted, he comes into possession of the Rune of Life and Death which also known by other people as the Soul Eater, one of 27 True Runes that govern various aspects of the world. The Rune, ruthlessly hunted for by corrupt officials within the Empire and their manipulators, force the hero and his companions to flee the capital city of Gregminster. He soon come realization that his destiny as the bearer of the Tenkai Star (Chief Star of Heaven), to stop this madness by creating an army to oppose the Empire.

What I like about this game is not because of the graphic (I mean seriously, it was produced in 1995, what would you expect?) but the storyline. Sure this is your typical RPG game whereby the hero goes on a quest to save the world/country but what make it interesting is that you will have your own castle as the story progress (Yeah, you heard me right. A castle. A big, rocky castle!). What make it different than Final Fantasy series or any other RPG series is the 108 characters that either you want or not to recruit (If you don't recruit them all, you won't get the true ending). It's like playing Pokemon where you gotta catch 'em all, where in this case, you gotta recruit 'em all. Each every characters have their own story to tell but only a few was told in this game, others were told in the next games while others simply left hanging which really pisses me off. Next why I like this game, is the main hero. Unlike the other typical RPG series, he doesn't use swords or anything related to swords. He just used a staff... That's right that long wooden phallic looking weapon to attack his enemies.

Tir McDohl: The Bearer of the Soul Eater Rune
Toran Castle: Located at Toran Lake, the base of the Liberation Army

The game plays like a traditional Console RPG, where the player moving characters across a three-dimensional landscape with two-dimensional character sprites, meeting new people and engaging in battles along the way. Combat is turn-based, giving the player the opportunity to select their actions at their own pace. You can use and choose 6 members max in your party for battle, well... 5 members to be exact since you can't remove the main hero (duh!). You can use attacks, spells (which in this case, Runes) and items during the battle, like any other RPG series. At certain points in the game storyline, you will have to fight duels and army battles. 

The Battle scene where you can control 6 chosen members of the 108 Stars of Destiny
This is how the army battle looks like
Army battles are operated on a Rock/Scissors/Paper style where you choose an attack, Charge, Bow, or Magic, and your enemy chooses an attack. Whoever has the stronger attack does more damage to the enemy. 
  1. Charge beats bow, resulting in casualties on both sides, but a higher casualty rate on the bow side.
  2. Bow beats Magic, resulting in casualties on the side of the Magic users only.
  3. Magic beats Charge, resulting in casualties on the side of the Charge user only.
  4. Special abilities can be used between rounds, and feature character groups with certain skills.
  5. Ninjas can find out the enemy's plan that round.
  6. Thieves have a chance of finding out the enemy's plan, stealing 2000 potch, or failing altogether.
  7. Merchants have a chance of causing the enemy to turn traitor to refill your ranks slightly.
  8. Dragon Knights are like a powered up magic attack, weak vs bow and strong vs charge. 
As far what I could remember, there is not much of anything you can do for the army battles because they are scripted but you have full control of the duels.
The duel of father and son
One on one duels feature a character, usually Tir, going head to head against an enemy character alone. This is another Rock/Scissors/Paper style combat, but this time, you only have 3 options, Special Attack, Attack, and Defend. Your opponent will say or yell a phrase before the round, and you have to guess what their action is going to be based on the phrase.
  1. Special attack beats Attack.
  2. Attack beats Defend.
  3. Defend beats Special attack.
  4. Ties in attack or special attack result in damage to both combatants, ties in defend result in a round with no actions. 
The outcome of the duels do affect the storyline such as if you let Pahn loses to Teo, you will lose him for good.And of course, if the hero loses the duel, its game over.

Despite these thing I said about the game being one of the kind by having around 108 characters, it do became the game weak points. Too many characters meaning too little time on paying an attention towards them which in this game case, leveling them up. The other thing is, one would assume it’s easy to lose track of them all. Even I couldn't remember most of my friends' names and even phone numbers.

The thing about collecting these characters are that some of them belongs together. So for example, some characters have relationships and ties with each others. There are lovers, friends and families. You act out those relationships in the story. Some characters only join you if you bring another character they know with you. In combat, these related characters can perform Unite Attack which usually more powerful and had effect than normal attacks. And sometimes, they can be useful in Army Battles whereby if they were put together in the same order, they would increase their attack, defense and other stuffs.

This is what happens when you bundle 3 elves in one group
Personally, Suikoden is a great game. Decent enough at that time. Even the graphic isn't that great, it still excels in other points. I totally recommend this game to those RPG lovers out there. I'm currently looking for a PlayStation console in order to play back this game. Even though it is still vague in my mind, I do remember the storyline.

If people asked which characters I like to use in this game, it would be:

Flik: Known as The Blue Lightning. Odessa's Lover. Hails from Warrior Village. A well balanced character which can use swords as well as magic.
Viktor: One badass character. He is strong. His attack is so damn powerful. Magic? Who needs magic?
Pesmerga: The Black Knight that vows to hunt Yuber down. His defense and HP are damn high
Clive: A gunman (that's right, he uses a gun) who is hunting down his lover Elza for her betrayal. He is too damn fast that he can move two times per turn.
Kasumi: A female ninja from Rokkaku Hamlet that fell in love with Tir McDohl. She is fast but not as fast as Clive in battle.

Well, I guess that is all. Most probably I will do a long review about the next installation of this series which is Suikoden II, my favorite installation.


P.S.: I would like to state that I took some of the information and pictures from Suiko Source, Suikoden Wikia, Wikipedia, and Game Design Reviews

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