Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: "Suikoden"

Suikoden is a successful classic RPG series on the PS1 created by Konami, which span off around 7 games (to date). Here I will be reviewing the very first Suikoden game which started it all.

What makes Suikoden great was not only the story, but the characters you meet. Combat is rather fast for a JRPG of its time due to the "Auto" function and if separate characters hit separate enemies, they will do it simultaneously.

Suikoden is also one of the earlier RPGs (or the earliest? I'm not sure) to give the player a 'fortress', a home where your NPCs will dwell, setup shops, play mini-games, display accomplishments, and many more. Building it up not only gives the players not only a sense of completion and accomplishment, but makes the players feel more 'homey'.

I know your fort looks...bad, but it's in the middle of the sea! And don't judge a book by its cover.

The story is pretty cliche actually: You are Tir McDohl, son of the famous General Teo. Somehow you were bestowed upon a power cursed Rune that mustn't fall into the hands an evil person, and somehow, you became a traitor to your country and end up joining a rebel force. From there, you gather the (potentially) 108 Stars of Destiny (aka recruit-able NPCs), find a castle to house everyone, and fight back against the people who outcasted you.

What's good about the story is actually the build up. The game has quite a few sad moments, to show that being a leader of an army isn't that easy, and the responsibilities and backlashes of being the bearer of a powerful cursed Rune.

As far as character-level customization goes, this game can be rather lacking. Every character is restricted to their own weapon and the most you can do to it is to 'sharpen' them (increase its damage). As for armor, you can pretty much ignore it until mid-late game when the enemies start to almost kill you in one hit.

Although there are 108 NPCs you can recruit, not all of them can fight, and for those who can fight, some are distinctly more powerful than others. This means that there will be characters that you will probably never want to use in a fight. Generally, any character that has very good physical attacks and/or magical attacks are accepted into a party. Those with stats spread out everywhere are usually never touched, unless you really really like that character for whatever reasons.


One thing I'd like to point out is that Suikoden games, including this one, is quite notorious for preventing any newbies from getting the 108 NPCs. It's best you get a walkthrough to keep track of who you can recruit and when. Not only that, you must search walkthroughs to find out if anyone is going to be missable. As gamers, we would like to have a perfect ending in RPGs, don't we? ;)

So for this Suikoden, the missable character is Pahn. When you get him back (I'm trying to do this with as little spoilers), make sure you level him up and sharpen his weapon. If you don't, he will be lost forever and you will not be able to get all 108 characters (I made the mistake and overwrote my file on my first playthrough. I almost decided to quit playing it because of that).

There are two other combat 'mini-games' that can take place in the story. The first is the war fight, two armies fighting each other. This is basically a simple rock, paper, scissors game, although you can 'peek' at what the opponent is going to do for a couple to times...with its information possibly fake. Because it can be based on luck, save before every big battle (actually, just save before you talk to your strategist in your castle everytime before you reply to his "Are you ready?" question).

1v1 fight

The second is the 1v1 fight. It's also a rock, paper, scissors game, which you can guess what the opponent is thinking by what he says before he attacks. For example, sentences alike to "I'll show you my strength!" implies that he is probably going to make a "Desperate Attack" next turn, thus its a good time to "Defend" as it completely dodges "Wild Attack" and ripostes in return.

These fights may sound shallow and gimmicky but I felt that it is necessary to the game. It adds on to the feel of the game. The war game tries to make you feel that you are really a leader of your army. The 1v1 fights are usually important and/or emotional fights for your character, so it actually emphasizes on that detail, thus creating some kind of depth to the story at the same time.

Overall, Suikoden 1 is actually a pretty good game for a starting franchise. Although it is not perfect, and although some parts of the game may be redundant, it still is worth a play. It's great to see this franchise grow and move on to new ideas and concepts over the years.

Here's the intro video:

- Good Story
- Good attempts to immerse players into the game
- Lots of memorable (108) characters
- Combat is simple and quick

- Some parts of the game may seem clunky at times
- Might cause grief to perfectionists who doesn't skim the walkthrough before playing
- Nothing especially innovative or unique to the game other than allowing you to recruit 108 characters
- Weak villain character development.

NeetGeek gives "Suikoden": 7/10!

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