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Thread: Why you should play Suikoden (A sort of retrospective)

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Question Why you should play Suikoden (A sort of retrospective)

    I've been replaying this series a lot and just kind of want to talk about it with someone. The Discord is a wall of noise that consumes any voice that isn't the topic of the moment, so I figure I could get all my thoughts out here in a thread instead.

    So as the title says, this is going to be just one long thread of me trying to convince someone here to pick up and check out the series. I'll likely be highlighting each game, give an overview, chat about my feelings and spill some tips for newcomers. This will be an ongoing series as I don't quite have the time anymore devoted to this long write-ups like I used to. I will only be covering the mainline series (Suikoden 1-5, Tactics, and Suikogaiden 1 and 2) so I won't be touching on the reboots or the Card Game entry because I have neither played them and two of them were Japanese exclusives of which only one of them got a fairly recent English translation.

    Feel free to chat and leave your own comments. I'll start with some talking about the first entry into the series next time.

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    GOBBLEDEPISSBOY
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    I played the start of Suikoden 2 but never got into it. It was really cool, though; it was just time that prevented play! Maybe I should have a looksie....

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    The local tattoo parlor my sister works at refused to put a Black Sword Rune on my left hand because they weren't "experienced enough".

    Play Suikoden II, my man! it has (in my opinion) the best jRPG boss fight EVER.

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Alright, I know I said I was going to start with an overview of the first game, but instead I'm going to start with an overview of the setting and terms you'll need to know in order to follow along.

    In the beginning, there was "darkness."
    Then, the "darkness" shed a "tear."
    From that "tear," the brothers Sword and Shield were born.
    Shield claimed it could defend against any attack.
    Sword claimed it could slice through anything.
    The brothers began a legendary battle.
    At the end, both Sword and Shield shattered.
    Sword became the sky, Shield became the earth, and the sparks from the battle became the stars.
    As for the jewels, they fell to the ground and became the True Runes--The runes that all other runes were born from

    At the heart of Suikoden's setting lies the 27 True Runes. While it is unknown if the story of sword and shield is true, the true runes are very real in the world of Suikoden. These runes each govern some aspect of the world. The Soul Eater governs Life and Death, the Gate Rune allows traversal between different worlds. The five elemental runes allow the existence of fire, water, earth, wind, and lightning. The Dragon Rune allows for dragons to exist within the world. You get the point. These 27 Runes are the closest things to gods within the setting, as it becomes abundantly clear the runes each possess a will of their own and a terrible destiny for their bearer. In some ways, it's almost safe to say the runes are cursed, but people still seek the runes out. In addition to access to their powers the runes also grant immortality and agelessness. The only rule of the True Runes is one rune for one bearer. If you gain a true rune you cannot carry another, though it has also shown that if you are one who is chosen by a true rune, then the other true runes will accept you as well. The runes can be transferred to other people and objects by either the bearer's will or from the use of Sindar techniques, but the rune will always respond to the call of it's living chosen master.


    In the course of the series, players have encountered or were told of 18 of the 27 True Runes names. They are:


    • Circle Rune - Rune governing order and stagnation. It is currently in possession of the ruler of Harmonia.
    • Gate Rune - Governs portals to other worlds. The rune was split in two centuries before the story began and the Front Gate Rune is currently lost.
    • Dragon Rune - Allows Dragons to exist within the setting outside of their actual World of Scales, as well as the power to control them. It is protected by the Dragon Knights of Toran and is passed down through the leaders of the order.
    • Rune of Change - It's powers are unknown, but it's likely responsible for the erratic history of the Sindar civilization. We only know that the leader of the civilization possesses it.
    • Eightfold Rune - It's powers are also unknown but is owned by the mysterious Yuber whose origins are still a mystery within the series.
    • Moon Rune - The rune of compassion and destruction, allows the existence of vampires in the world. This rune will actually take over the users mind until they learn to overcome it. In addition, a vampire in possession of the rune will be immune to weapons and spells that normally destroy their kind.
    • Sun Rune - Rune of prosperity and also destruction, this rune grants the owner the powers of the sun, but tends to corrupt the users mind into a god complex leading to the use of its more destructive properties. This meglomania is often cited as the source of the Ancient Armes Kingdom's destruction. The Rune birthed two special runes, the Dawn and Twilight Runes which are required to keep the rune in balance. The Rune if the royal treasure of the Queendom of Falena.
    • Night Rune - Allows for the existence of creatures of the nights like werewolves, zombies, and other creatures associated with it. The rune also has the power to destroy these creatures. This rune transformed itself into a blade called the Zodiac Sword to cut itself away from the Sun run of which they were originally joined together. Unlike the other True runes which often never directly communicate with its owner, this rune actually talks and has the personality of an incredibly short tempered and arrogant old man. So yes, it's a talking sword. It also has a habit of getting ''lost'' a lot when the current owner gets too sick of him.
    • True Earth Rune - Controls the very earth around them. This rune is in possession of a Bishop within Harmonia
    • True Wind Rune - Controls wind and air. This rune is currently lost.
    • True Lightning Rune - Controls lightning. Last seen in the Grasslands
    • True Water Rune - controls water and ice. Last seen in the Grasslands, it was partially sealed away in a Sindar temple using an imperfect technique.
    • True Fire Rune - controls fire. Stolen from Harmonia and used by a brigand who led the Fire Bringers. The rune vanished somewhere in the Grasslands.
    • Rune of Punishment - This rune governs punishment and forgiveness. Considered to be the most cursed rune. This rune powers itself with the life force of the user, slowly killing them so it can consume them. It will even warp fate around its user to force them into situations that will make them use it. Most wearers never get to experience the immortality part of the True Runes because of it. Once its user dies, it will jump to the closest living person it comes into contact with. The former owners souls are also trapped within the rune until a current user releases them. The rune is strongly associated with the region of the Island Nations.
    • Sovereign Rune - This rune gives the bearer authority and immunity to all lesser runes. It was stolen from Harmonia and became the royal family treasure of the Rugnar family line. The rune was embedded in an ancestral sword. It is currently missing.
    • Beast Rune - Rune representing animalistic rage and passion. It's abilities are not clearly explained but it's derivative runes curse the user with lycanthropy. This rune is considered to be uncontrollable and needs to be satiated with blood sacrifices. The rune was ''gifted'' to the Highland Kingdom by Harmonia but in truth it left Harmonia of its own will and settled there instead. Its whereabouts are currently unknown, but it may have possibly been reclaimed by Harmonia.
    • Rune of Life and Death - More commonly known as the Soul Eater, this rune will feed off the souls of the owners closest loved ones in order to grow more powerful. Forcing them into a life of isolation. It is the other rune often claimed to be the most cursed. The rune will even warp the fates of those around the owner so that they will die tragically near them. It is considered to be one of the most powerful of the true runes. The current whereabouts of the rune are unknown.
    • Rune of Beginnings - The rune of ''initial chaos of birth'' or creation and the power to judge war. This rune represents the very legend of the origin of the True Runes as the rune often splits itself into the Bright Shield and Black Sword Runes. It will usually seek out two people of close relationship and then force them to re-enact the conflict of the two brothers of sword and shield. If the conflict between the two is resolved, the rune will merge back together into it's true form for the victor. It's current whereabouts are unknown.


    As one can tell from their descriptions, these runes have enough oomph that their appearance in a region is enough to cause a war over it, when the rune itself doesn't purposely cause the war to happen. The last nine true runes are unknown but since all most runes in the series are derivatives of one of the true runes, there are a few runes we've still haven't seen their parent rune from.


    Likewise, in addition to true runes and their magic derivatives their are also technique runes, which allow the user to use special moves. The most famous is the Falcon Rune, which is a fencing technique created by the famous Roundier Haia of Kanakan who has famous fencing schools. Special martial arts techniques and weapon techs are also part of this sub-division but only a few of them have a history behind them.

    The Setting
    The Suikoden series takes place in a fantasy world that mixes Romance of the Three Kingdoms era China with western fantasy and other real world elements ranging from Egyptian, Native American, various European cultures, and Japanese elements. Most of the games take place on one main continent, of which players have yet to fully see.

    The Holy Kingdom of Harmonia
    The main continent is dominated by the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia. It is the oldest nation within the world and takes inspiration from Rome, the Byzantine Empire, the United States, ancient China, and Russia. It is a theocracy that was formed two years before the current series calendar of which Harmonia popularized. The leader of the nation is High Priest Hikusaak, a man who obtained the Circle Rune and conquered the lost Kingdom of Aronia who was likely the greatest power of it's time frame. The country has a strict hierarchy and caste system with native citizens being the First Class Citizens who are often the aristocracy of the country, Second Class Citizens are people born from conquered territories that have been naturalized into Harmonian culture. They are restricted from the aristocracy but have their own political faction as the People's party. Third Class Citizens are people from recently conquered territories and are often treated like serfs or slaves. Their children will often be taken at a young age to live in the capital of the empire as servants of first class citizens so they can be indoctrinated into the culture. Once a conquered territory proves their loyalty and adoption of Harmonian culture, they can apply for Second Class Citizenship. The final class are the sub0human class and these are for the various non-human races who find themselves within the empire. They are often treated poorly and serve as slaves for the human citizens. Their best reprieve is to either leave Harmonia or serve as mercenaries in their frontier military forces that border neighboring kingdoms.

    Harmonia serves as a sort of boogie man within the series and is surprisingly the least explored setting despite its reputation. Hikusaak has made it a goal of the empire to collect all of the true runes and it's kind of staggering how many they have managed to acquire over time only to lose them. The vast majority of info on the place comes from the Suikogaiden games, Suikoden III, and supplement material within the series. When they do show up in the story though, things usually go bad for the opposing side. A testament of their strength is their general overwhelming strength in the series war battles and how they are often dealt with more often in story means then fair combat. Despite the fearsome reputation of their military might, the empire is also well known for it's great library and schools. Most of the prominent strategist and thinkers within the series have studies in the capital city of Crystal Valley.

    Likewise, Harmonia usually doesn't get anything significant done because of political situation within. There is a five way, possibly six way conflict going on within the empire. It started when Hikusaak sort of vanished from public life within the empire about two hundred years into his reign. This fueled speculation that he may have been assassinated and now the two main political forces, the Temple Faction backed by the aristocracy and the People's Faction backed by the second and third class Citizens are fighting over control and direction of the country. The priests of the temples play both sides against each other and all three of them use the Howling Voice guild, a secretive assassination guild within Harmonia that knows the secret to gunpowder, to kill off political rivals. But even the Howling Voice Guild has gotten into the act and are manipulating things to get a greater foothold in the power vacuum. Meanwhile the military stays out of the conflict and seems to be still trying to fulfill Hikusaak's goal of acquiring all the True Runes, and there is strong evidence from Suikoden III that Hikusaak is actually alive and simply experimenting with a way to acquire all 27 True Runes for himself. Sadly, we'll probably never see how this plot thread ends.

    Anyway, Hikusaak's absence did cause several rebellions and civil wars erupting within the empire and places like the Scarlet Moon Empire and the Highland Kingdom are former territories that became independent of Harmonia. Likewise, Harmonia still actively invades territories to go after true runes or simply to acquire more land as they did make a push into the Grasslands and managed to conquer some major territory from the Six Clans that rule that region, even managing to conquer one of the clans. So yeah, Harmonia is a place that has its fingers in the background of a lot of places and events within the series and for the first three games and the two gaiden titles, was being built up as the series big bad before the main creator left.
    The only other nation/race that has vastly influenced the setting as much as Harmonia is the mysterious Sindar civilization. This group of people are one of the biggest mysteries of the series as they were/are and ancient civilization that had vast knowledge of runes, including the True Runes and how to seal them. Very little is known about them accept that they are a nomadic civilization that built ruins all over the Suikoden world. The reason for their nomadic tendencies is due to the leader of the group having the Rune of Change, which caused the civilization to wander the globe until they found the ''eternal city''. It is speculated by some fans that the Blinking Rune (teleportation magic) is a derivative of Rune of Change and that the people were being massed teleported across space and time. While the largest amount of ruins they left behind are found in Falena, ruins have been found in Dunan and the Grasslands as well. These ruins usually serve as plot points when dealing with the True Runes.

    The Scarlet Moon Empire/ Toran Republic
    One of the other more prolific nations within the setting. The Scarlet Moon Empire has quite a reputation and thumb print on the history of the world. Originally a part of Harmonia located to the south of it. Kranach Rugner, the Knight of the Scarlet Moon, stole the Sovereign Rune his family guarded and proclaimed independence from Harmonia with the help of Julian Silverberg. They conducted a bloodless secession from Harmonia which established the Rugnar royal line and made the Silverberg family one of the most famous strategist families in the world.

    Despite the origin of the nation the Scarlet Moon Empire seemed to have no real conflict with Harmonia after the secession. Instead the empire dealt with conflicts with both the Jowston Alliance to the west and the Kooluk Empire to the south. The Kooluk Empire eventually collapsed due to a civil war and was implied to be absorbed into the Scarlet Moon Empire. The Jowston Alliance on the other hand proved to be a bigger thorn in the countries side as the JA tried to expand it's territory into the Empire. The empire is well known for the Six Great Generals who proved invaluable in the Succession War, the Gate Rune War, and the Dunan Unification War.

    Also of interest is that Toran is one of only two nations (the other being Falena) that actually has a Dwarf community. The nation also has an elven society and a kobold group as well. The two most famous groups from Toran is the Dragon Knights, an order of knights who control dragons and protect the borders of the nation from foreign invasion. They also have the famous Warrior's Village which creates some of the strongest fighters within the nation and hold a tradition of naming their chosen weapons after the person they love. Another famous group from this region is the Maximillian Knights, an order of knights that travel across the land to smite evil itself in whatever form they find. The group has technically been disbanded, but has a tendency to either reform during major wars or simply has enough splinter factions from the original group that gets around. Funny enough, Maximillain is loosely based on Don Quixote

    It is the setting for the first game and becomes the Toran Republic afterwards.

    City-States of Jowston
    Located in the region of Dunan, the city states are a left over alliance of republic city-states that are in a formal alliance to protect each other from the threats of Highland Kingdom, the Scarlet Moon Empire/Toran Republic, Grasslands, Hamronia, and honestly each other. Despite the alliance the City-States are fairly dysfunctional as an alliance with too many of the regions caring more about their own self-interests. The City States include:


    • Muse, the largest city of the alliance and the main buffer and antagonist with the Highland Kingdom in the past. Muse serves as the closest thing to a de-facto leader among the alliance. It is a wealthy place due to all the trade it gets and how large it's territory is. The mayor's of Muse have had a long feud with Highland Kingdom and the Blight family leading to the frequent wars between the two.
    • Greenhill was once a part of Muse but split off 100 years ago due to cries of separation of politics and education. This is because Greenhill is where the Greenhill Academy is located which is a major education spot for wealthy and influential people within Jowston. Despite this higher cause of education, Greenhill has a nasty history of conflict with the Karaya Clan of the Grasslands who border their territory. The former mayor invited the Chief of the Karaya to attend a peace conference between them and the Matilda Knights, but was instead poisoned by the two leaders only adding to the bad blood between the groups.
    • South Window is the oldest political power of the region being the former seat of the Dunan Monarchy that predated the Jowston Alliance. South Window is largely the perpetrator of the conflicts with the Scarlet Moon Empire and Toran Republic as the two factions are bordering on each other with only the Badland desert serving as a natural barrier between them. When you hear about the Jowston Alliance invasions in Suikoden 1, they're mostly just talking about South Window. They are also associated with the ghost town of North Window which was destroyed by the vampire Neclord.
    • Two River Principality is a city state that is actually a combination of three different communities that are separated by the two rivers that flow through the large city. It dates back to the Dunan Monarchy when it was a Kobold and Human community. In recent times, a third community of Wingers have settled into the dilapidated parts of the city thanks to the hero Genkaku but the other two groups look at them with suspicion. The city-state if rife with racism and political in-fighting.
    • Matilda Knightdom was once an order of knights created to help the Jowston Alliance fight off Highland and the Grassland tribes but gained enough political power to eventually be counted as its own nation. They are three separate groups within the order with their own leaders but the White Order is generally considered the de-facto leader of the Knightdom. Despite being an order for defense, they are also bad about petty assassinations and playing the City-States against each other for more power.
    • Tinto, just smurf Tinto. A mining centric city state that forced the Wingers from their native lands. They scheme with all the other factions to engage in reckless wars with the Grasslands and the Toran region for land grabs, and honestly don't even seem to want to be part of the Jowston Alliance unless it serves their self interest. They manage to somehow be the most unlikable faction of the City-States despite the fact the Matilda Knights have Gerudo. Suikoden III tries to soften their image a bit, but reading between the lines shows they're still a nation of greedy opportunistic assholes.

    The Grasslands
    Not necessarily a nation and more a region with a collection of factions. They are collectively just referred to as the Grasslands by the more ''sophisticated nations''. The Grasslands compose of the Six Clans and the Zexen Federation. The feel of the region is fairly reminiscent of the early colonial era of the North Americas but the Grassland tribes take their cultural cues from various tribal cultures around the world.


    • The Karayan Clan is the most well known Grasslanders. A tribe of warriors who lie off the land, they take inspiration from mid-western Native American tribes with some elements of Africa mixed in as well. They are the most war like tribe and clash with the City-States and the Zexen Federation. Their fighting ability is good enough that they are often hired as mercenaries for foreign wars like in the Dunan Unification War. Interestingly, they have no gender role distinction within their clan. The current head of the clan is a woman and all the woman are expected to be powerful warriors just like the men.
    • The Lizard Clan is you guess it, a clan composed of lizard people. They take their cues from Meso-American groups like the Aztecs and Mayans. The other hardcore warrior race among the Six Clans. They can be very hospitable and nice when you approach them with respect but they have also the quickest tempers and hold the longest grudges. They get along the best with the Karayans and clash with the Zexen Federation a lot.
    • The Duck Clan, but not necessarily that one, is a clan of Duck people who are also surprisingly a warrior clan though generally more laid back than the Karayan and Lizard Clans. They are surprisingly the best war units of the Six Clans as well since they don't overspecialize. They are both the most ridiculous and best part of Suikoden III. Their clan is the most mercantile of the Grasslanders.
    • Alma Kinan is an all female clan that take elements of some ancient Japanese clans that predate the Yamato imperial era. They are a deeply spiritual clan that lives in harmony with the woods they live in and they are powerful archers and rune casters. They have a strong connection with the True Water Rune and are the most spiritually inclined of the Clans.
    • Chisha Clan is a pacifistic clan with strong ties to the Flame Champion and Fire Bringers surprisingly enough. They are more agricultural than the other tribes and they take inspiration from what I'm guessing is Eastern European, likely Hungarian or one of the Baltic states.
    • The Safir Clan is never seen as they were wiped out by Harmonia but are still referenced. My head canon is that the original Flame Champion was from this clan.
    • The Carna Clan was taken over by Harmonia in the first Fire Bringer War and are a third class ethnic group within the empire. There claim to fame is their close to relationship to a species of insects called Mantors that are basically massive beetles the clan have learned to tame and ride.

    The Zexen Federation is a small nation to the far west of the Six Clans territory and borders the sea. They are a relatively new nation in Suikoden by the time of their introduction but they are a mercantile nation ruled by a council controlled by the merchant guilds that founded the nation. To protect themselves from the barbarian tribes to the east, they created an order of knights to serve and protect the territory. The Federation is constantly creeping into Clan territory and this has caused years of bad blood between the groups, specifically the Karayan and Lizard clans that border the Zexen territory. While Zexen feels distinctively Western European (mostly War of the Roses era France) it's relationship with the Six Clans takes most of its inspiration from Colonial North America.

    ps2_suikoden_iv_impex1.jpg

    The Island Nations
    A fierce federation of seafarers located south of the Scarlet Moon Empire and bordering the north of the Queendom of Falena, in the past they were a loose alliance of different island nations that would occasionally unify when their former neighbor the Kooluk Empire tried to invade. They have a tentative relationship with their northern neighbor or Toran and a fairly warm one with Falena. To the west is the Gaian Dukedom which expanded it's territoried within the Island Nation territory through the cities of Razril and Middlport but the Island Liberation War saw these territories abandoned by the main land and absorbed into the Island Nations proper.

    Like Toran and Harmonia, the Island Nations are known for producing serious badasses (though you wouldn't know it from the game focused on it) and the nation tends to be more nonchalant and less formal than other nations. What is interesting is how their influence changed between games and lost of the main creator. The first person you meet from the Island Nations is Amada from Suikoden II who has a very distinct Japanese fisherman flavor to his design. But in the actual game its set in, the new team decided to change the culture to reflect the Caribbean era of piracy as its inspiration. With that said, Obel seems to take some cues from Hawaii and other Polynesian cultures in their formal clothing wear.

    Oddly enough we've never actually seen this region but it gets named dropped quite a bit throughout the series. Fans will know it as the small nation that houses the school of fencing by Roundier Haia and they're infamous Falcon Rune technique, but in-game world, it's actually best known for the wine that is made there. Suikoden has a lot of alcoholics and heavy drinkers in it. While we've never seen anything about it, I always like to think it would have a Spanish/Mediterranean vibe to it.


    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    So that's all for the important places and runes you need to remember. I wanted to do something about recurring characters but I may leave that for the end.

    Next Time: "...I believe your name was Schtolteheim Reinbach III
    Last edited by Wolf Kanno; 02-01-2022 at 11:13 PM. Reason: fixed spelling errors

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    I tried multiple times to get into Suikoden 1 but never managed (and by extension never played 2) and Suikoden 4 had its..issues, but I loved 3 and 5.

    That reminds me of the time we had to write a screenplay for an English assignment in college and I wrote an adaptation of Suikoden 3 (which was allowed, didn't have to be an original story), I put so much effort into it the teacher blindly accused me of plagiarism as my classmates who saw me typing that thing up for hours stood up for me. I took it as a compliment

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Now to begin talking about the first game in the classic franchise. I will warn you now, I am not going to be quite as vague as I was in my other threads and blogs, so expect spoilers and way more info dumps. You have been warned.

    So let's start this from the beginning. In the mid-90s, Konami got the terrible idea of trying to get into the console market. They wanted to take a stab of the new CD-Rom format and started development which required a few games to be made for the secret project. It was here that Yoshitaka Murayama and Junko Kawano worked together for the first time on a game for the new hardware. When Konami discovered Sony was going to throw it's towel into console market ring. Konami cancelled the project and opted to have the development teams work on the new console instead. The were given a choice between a few select genres to make a game and they opted for an RPG, though Murayama has stated that he would have preferred to make a side-scrolling shooter if he had been given the chance. Murayama was a huge fan of manga and wanted to make a type of story where there was a large supporting cast who got as much spotlight as the main character. He cited Captain Tsubasa as an example of what he meant. But he was worried the higher ups wouldn't quite understand the idea without him having to explain the manga he was reading; so he opted to compare it to the Chinese classic Shui Hu Zhuan (Suikoden in Japanese).
    Shui Hu Zhuan,
    or roughly translated to The Water Margin and All Men are Brothers in English, is one of the four great classical Chinese novels along with Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It was written somewhere between the 14th and 16th century China. The story tells a tale of 108 Stars of Destiny, reincarnated in the Song Dynasty as people of different walks of life who band together in the Liangshan Marshes as bandits to stage a war against a corrupt government body. The story mixes historical events and folk stories to create a powerful fictional work that is a cornerstone of Chinese literature. I've read parts of this book, and it's honestly pretty cool with the first half of the novel largely being the backstory for the majority of these 108 characters. The book is fairly dense and sadly, there is no perfect English translation.
    Unfortunately for Murayama, his pitch went a little too well, and the higher ups thought he was actually pitching an idea to make a video game adaption of the novel, so they green lit the project. This caused a bit of a panic with the development team who now found themselves at the helm of a very ambitious undertaking for a company and team new to RPG design. Looking at the 3D animation demos, Murayama and the staff walked away unimpressed with the early 3D design. They opted to stick to Konami's strong point of 2D sprites, though they did utilize some 3D effects in the battle system. Instead of making a 1:1 adaption of the novel, the team opted to tell an original story with an original cast that took inspiration from the novel. Murayama and Kawano decided to add more western fantasy elements to the game to appeal to a wider audience outside of Asia. Meanwhile, Murayama's love for card games served as the inspiration for the Rune magic system, and eventually the True runes themselves since he borrowed the play mechanic from a game he loved to play. Murayama's biggest contribution to the game design side of things was streamlining the process. Anyone who has ever played Suikoden will know that it is not a terribly difficult game, and this was on purpose as Murayama remembers growing up and being frustrated with early cRPGs that often had difficult and obtuse puzzles to figure out. Kawano was tasked with helping to design characters and being the game's main illustrator designing all the characters and overall world design. For music, the team managed to snag the underrated Miki Higashino, best known for her work on the Gradius series, as well as the TMNT arcade game and Contra III soundtracks. Higashino saw the game's setting and character designs and knew she needed to use a blend of world music to properly flesh out the world. Thanks to utilizing simpler 2D sprites and backgrounds, Hihashino was able to make full use of the CD-Rom technology for the musical score, giving the game a richer sound than anything else on the market including several voiced tracks and live instruments. In the final months of 1995, Gensou Suikoden was released on the Sony PlayStation in Japan and the following years in the North American and PAL markets. Being one of a handful of RPGs available for the console before FFVII and the RPG boom it brought, Suikoden managed to garner a lot of praise and fans in both sides of the Pacific, despite the hideous NA boxart.
    The Story
    Gensou Suikoden is set in the Toran region of the main continent where the Scarlet Moon Empire resides. Originally a part of the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia, the region broke free from the empire during the Harmonian Civil War and in a bloodless coup, became it's own kingdom in Solar Year 230 thanks to the noble Kranach Rugner, the Scarlet Moon Knight, and the brilliant tactician Julian Silverberg. Taking the Sovereign Rune as the royal treasure of his family, Karnach renamed the former capital Rupanda as Gregminister and started his dynasty. Seven years prior to the game's start, a Succession crisis occurred. The previous emperor had passed over his eldest son Geil Rugner and chose his younger son Michelan to be his heir. When Michelan passed away, Geil took advantage of his nephew the crowned prince Barbarossa of being away to fight off the City-States of Jowston, to have the royal council declare him the rightful heir of the kingdom. Using his influence among the nobility and taking advantage of Barbarossa's loyal generals all being being far away from the capital, Geil set up his new government and tried to have Barbarossa killed when he returned. Barbarossa managed to escape the attempt, but his beloved wife Claudia was killed in the escape. Regrouping in Pannu Yakuta south of the capital region, Barbarossa regrouped with his famed Six Generals and with the help of the Mathiu and Leon Silverberg, started a major counter-offense to retake the throne. Gregminister was devastated in the battle to retake the capital, and the war ended when Barbarossa slayed his uncle on the steps of the royal palace.
    In the time of the countries rebuilding, the City-States of Jowston attempted another seizure of territory from the bruised empire. Barbarossa did not wish to see this happen, but found it difficult to rally the war ravaged country into another conflict. His top strategist Leon Silverberg suggested a false flag operation to rile up the people by having members of the Royal Elite Guard dress up as Jowston soldier and burn the city of Kalekka to the ground. Many members of Barbarossa's inner circle objected including Mathiu Silverberg and several of his Six Generals. Eventually Leon's plan was approved and proved to be effective in rallying the people to repel the invading forces. Unfortunately this incident caused the resignation of several people within Barbarossa's inner circle and military forces. Combined with the growing corruption within the nobility and imperial bureaucracy, dissatisfaction began to grow beneath the surface of the empire despite Barbarossa's success in defending the realm and rebuilding the empire. The capital truly started to change when the imperial court assigned a new Court Magician named Windy. A mysterious and powerful woman who bared a striking resemblance to Barbarossa's late wife Claudia.
    Our story finally begins with Tir McDohl, the son of Teo McDohl who is one of the Six Great Generals and head of the Armored Calvary. Tir has come of age and his father brings him to the palace so he can be formally introduced to Barbarossa before starting his new career within the Royal Guard. Tir starts his first day accompanied by Teo's retainers who all serve as bodyguards for Tir. Pahn is a martial artist who once served Geil Rugner and lost a duel with Teo in the Succession Wars, Teo saw his promise and spared his life earning Pahn's complete devotion. Cleo is a smart and talented mage who served as a lieutenant in Teo's Calvary unit. Gremio was a soldier who served under Teo after he took him in when his family was killed by Jowston soldiers. Gremio practically raised Tir and is almost a surrogate father to him. Finally, Ted is a boy about the same age as Tir that Teo found wandering in a battlefield. He took him in but Ted lived in a different house than the other retainers, but he became very close to Tir and serves as his best friend.
    Tir is is put under the command of Captain Kraze, a self-serving bureaucrat who holds a grudge against Tir for gaining his position through nepotism, despite the fact he earned his by brown-nosing. His first mission is to go to Seer Island to receive the astrological charts from the blind Seer Leknaat. He meets the Dragon Knight apprentice Futch and his dragon Black who are used to ferry them to the island. They are accosted by Leknaat's grumpy and mischievous apprentice Luc before they finally meet the seer who tells Tir that a heavy destiny awaits him. With the first mission accomplished they are next tasked with going to the town of Rockland to collect the regions late taxes. They are accompanied on this mission by the Vice Captain Kanaan who is a cowardly glory seeker that is also brown noising his way to the top. What the group find in Rockland is a village in misery due to a choke hold by the corrupt administrator Grady. His troops regularly beat the locals for protesting his methods. Grady claims the taxes are late because they were stolen by mountain bandits from Mt. Seifu named Varkas and Sydonia. The group travel there only to encounter a powerful Ant Queen monster that nearly overwhelms the team. Ted then steps forward and reveals a mysterious rune he's in possession of that instantly obliterates the monster. Swearing to explain later, the group meet the bandits and capture them. they return to Rockland, where the bandits reveal that Grady is embezzling the taxes for himself and his troops. This falls on deaf ears as the groups argue and Grady bribes Kanaan to keep the incident quiet. When the group returns to Gregminister, Kanaan lets the group go home without reporting back to Kraze so he can get all the credit. Kanaan only asks for Ted to come with him as he knows someone who wants to meet him.
    Hours go by and a terrible storm hits the capital. The group lament how there is no glory in the Royal Guard and when Tir goes down stairs to see if Ted has returned, he finds his friend by the front door and nearly dead from a magical attack. Rushing him to bed to recoup, Ted comes to long enough to reveal that he knows the Court Magician Windy and she and the Royal Guard are after him. He reveals to the group that his rune is the Soul Eater, one of the True Runes, and that Ted has been running from Windy for over 300 years. The Royal Guard break into the house to arrest Ted having been informed by Pahn of his whereabouts since Pahn didn't want Teo for getting in trouble for protecting a fugitive. Ted gives Tir the Soul Eater in secret and gives himself up so that the group can escape. With Pahn and Ted both gone, Tir, Gremio, and Cleo find themselves made into fugitives overnight. They encounter a rough and boisterous traveler named Viktor who helps the group escape Gregminister and takes them to the city of Lenankamp where he reveals he's a member of the Toran Liberation Army led by Odessa Silverberg. Here they meet a former bureaucrat named Sanchez, the aloof former soldier of the Elite Guard named Humphrey Mintz, and Odessa's lover and second-in-command Flik. Though Gremio is against having Tir associate with the group, their situation makes it the only safe avenue for them so Tir agrees to help Odessa on a mission to deliver plans for a secret weapon called the Fire Spears to the Liberation Army's secret factory. On their journey to the rendezvous point, Tir and Odessa strike up a fast friendship as they bond over being former aristocracy who saw the corruption of the empire from the inside. When the group returns to Lenankamp, they find that their headquarters had somehow been discovered by the imperials and was in the midst of a raid. Flik, Sanchez, and Humphrey had already fled but while looking for survivors with Viktor and the others, Odessa takes an arrow for a child who stayed with the group. Dying, Odessa gives Tir her earring and tells him to seek out her brother Mathiu. She then orders them to throw her body into the underground river so that neither the imperials or liberation army will know she's actually dead.
    From here, Tir, Viktor, Cleo, and Gremio flee and head south to Seika where Tir meets the Mathiu Silverberg, the retired strategist of Kasim Hazel, Odessa's brother, and now a pacifist living his days in a small village as a school teacher. Initially against the idea of helping his dead sister keep the Liberation army alive, he is later accosted by soldier from his former command who try to force him back into service. Realizing his sister was right, Mathiu finally takes Tir's offer and helps him to establish the new Toran Liberation Army with Tir as the new leader. From here, Tir retakes the abandoned Toran Lake Castle from monsters to serve as their new base of operations. Tir and Mathiu then set off to battle each of the five remaining Six Generals who serve as magistrates in each of the Scarlet Moon Empire's regions. What unfolds after this is actually a powerful drama that touches on the realities of war such as genocide, the lost of close friends, greed, forgiveness, and questions about loyalty. While two of the generals are under the command of Windy through a special rune she uses to control them, the others have absolute loyalty to either Barbarossa or each other. Tir also begins to see the burden of being the bearer of the most cursed rune. In a brilliant move of gameplay and story integration, the Soul Eater gains a new spell with the death of a major character of which the game is marked with four of them. We also get a moment where the party travels through the memories of the past (perhaps the Soul Eater's memory?) to witness Windy destroying Ted's home village of the Hidden Rune and see how Ted came to bear the rune himself. The world itself aslo expands as we learn more about the Kelekka incident and events from the Succession War, both of which have left deep scars within the country and its people.
    Suikoden's plot is an interesting beast. On the one hand, it is a bit of an RPG/fantasy cliche storm with the usual elves/dwarves tension, rebels vs. and evil empire, one chapter is basically the RPG equivalent of Castlevania, and one death scene that is both strangely very powerful and incredibly gnarmy when you stop to think about it. On the other hand, the game deals with a lot of these cliches with a level of maturity not seen in the genre at the time. The very collapse of the empire has nothing really to do with world domination as is usual. We still have a power hungry individual pulling the strings, but the details are unique to these types of story. The game goes back and forth between being generic gnarm charm to being something incredibly compelling. Even to this day I find it hard to put into words. Because objectively, I can see how a detractor may point out how tropey and cliche the plot is, especially compared to later installments. Yet there is something about the game that has endeared itself to the fanbase and even people who play the series for the first time. It certainly has left an impression of the development team because despite the universal praise of the second installment, this is the entry that tends to get the most callbacks and reference throughout the series. In a lot of ways, it feels a bit like Final Fantasy IV to me, another game that is kind of laughable in hindsight, but somehow manages to tell a story with characters that really speak to people in a way that's easy to look past the flaws.
    On the gameplay front, Suikoden is weird beast as it continues this idea of ''generic but compelling'' aspect to the whole project. The game allows up to six characters to play in a party in a standard turn based combat system. Characters are separated by weapon range. Short range fighters (mostly swords, axes and wands) can only attack enemies in the front row when they are positioned there. If you put a short range fighter in the back row, they can't attack anything. Medium range fighters can attack the enemy front row and back row when placed in their units front row, but can only attack the front enemy row when placed in the back row. Long Range fighters can hit any enemy in any row from any place in their own formation. This does create some interesting dilemma's because short range fighters tend to be beefier and wear heavier armor, but you're only allowed to have three on your team at a time as additional units will be useless unless using rune magic or techs. Medium fighters have the best balance being decently strong but also decently armored. Sadly, medium range fighters also tend to be average at best lacking the physical power of short and long range fighters but also missing out on armor options and back row protection without nerfing their range. Long Range tend to hit hard but are frail in battle. Of course everything I just said has many exceptions. Tir for instance gets main character boosts and is actually a serious powerhouse overall despite his medium range build and lack of heavy armor use. Cleo and later Lorelai are long range fighters that can actually wear some heavier armor than is usual for the bow class users. Finally most mages use staffs which are short range weapons but they are restricted to light armor only making it a bad idea to put them on the front row.
    Another fun thing about the playable cast of characters is the development team's somewhat realistic take on a character's effectiveness in battle. Rule of thumb is this: if a character has a history as a soldier, adventurer, or mage, they are going to be pretty good in battle. If their profession is aloof scientist, little kid, senior citizen doctor, then they fight as effectively as you would think they would, which is not very well. It can be annoying when the game requires you to use said characters, but I do appreciate the idea that not all of your recruits are useful for combat even if they ask to be. Suikoden 1 has the largest playable cast in the game, technically Suikoden II beats it but not all of the cast is obtainable in a playthrough so it still stands. Of course it means not everyone would be super useful for adventuring. What does the inventor of the elevator know about slaying Siren's in the sewers of Shasazarade?
    Runes are the setting's system for magic and techniques and they come in many forms from simple elemental magic spells, to unique technique runes, and finally as support abilities like 2x XP or raising a characters critical hit %. The main issue with Runes is that you're only allowed to have one per character, and some people like Tir and Pahn have their runes permanently equipped to them, meaning less customization options. Granted, most characters with a permanent rune usually work best with said rune but I know some people get annoyed when options get stripped from them. Magic Runes get four spells per rune and are cast using a Vanacian magic point system like FFI and III. It sounds very limiting but magic is pretty potent in this game and the overall difficulty isn't so great to really require the extra fire power. What is interesting is that elemental magic runes have upgraded incarnations you can also acquire. So there is Luc's Wind Rune, but you can find and replace it with a Cyclone rune if you wish. The upgraded runes has the second spell or their weaker counterpart be their Lv. 1 spell and then gain an additional new fourth tier spell. Another interesting feature of magic is Unite Spells. This requires two characters using with similar speed ratings casting their Lv. 4 spell at the same time to create a combo spell. It is a challenging but super beneficial system as some of these Unite Magic spells are devastatingly powerful with the Water/Lightning Rune combo of Thor having the best damage potential of any spell in the game, which also revives and heals tour whole party. Technique Runes vary in quality and often exist to add flavor to a character. The main strength is that they can let a powerful character cause some major damage but often they are left unbalanced after use making the character defenseless and unusable for a round. There are exceptions to this rule and it's a large part of why characters like Valerie are well regarded in the game as her Falcon Rune let's her do 3x her normal damage with no fear of the unbalance status so she can honestly use this rune every round with no consequence. Tech runes are unfortunately rare in this entry with only six in the game. Of which only two can be farmed and they are limited to only specific characters. Though it says something about how all the characters with tech runes are often some of the more outstanding and memorable party members. Passive runes are the next most common behind magic. These do the usual things seen RPGs like status defense, and doubling the amount of XP or Potch you get in the game. Others raise percentage of a character's attribute like critical hits, dodging and countering. Unlike other RPGs, countering is something anyone can do if their stats are high enough and the Counter rune raises the likelihood of it happening. The most interesting rune, and one you have to seriously go looking for as its a rare drop, is the Phero rune. You see characters that have a strong connection to each other in battle have the ability to sometimes shield one another in combat. Gremio for instance will sometimes shield Tir from an attack and Hix will do the same for Tengar. The Phero Rune raises the chance someone will block for them, but unlike the above examples, it will be any party member of the opposite sex in the party. It's an interesting idea that sadly doesn't see a lot of use in the later entries.

    Unite Attacks are the other main draw of combat. These pretty much work like Chrono Trigger's dual and triple techs except the larger party dynamic means you can get up four characters participating in a Unite attack. Like tech runes though these powerful skills can sometimes leave participants unbalanced so you have to be careful. Despite the massive cast, there are only twenty five Unite attacks in the game, which is the lowest in the whole series, but hey we're just trying to figure this stuff out. Sadly most players will only remember the Master Pupil Attack between Tir and Kai since it arrives very early in the game and is the best unite attack for random encounters bar none. It was so popular that almost every game has a variation of it with Suikoden III being the lone entry out. The fun thing about Unite attacks is that is makes it fun to experiment more with party configurations and some unites attacks are between some unconventional figures. The two most interesting of these being Humphrey (a stoic war veteran) and Krin (a simple and greedy thief) which is mainly weird because these two never actually have a story scene together. The other is the series comical staple of Flash Attack, which involves Liuken (an elderly doctor), Fukien (a humble spell casting monk), and Kai (Tir's Bo staff instructor). In this case, the obvious connection is that they are all bald and their attack involves them combining their shiny scalps to blind the enemy. It's funny as hell and again, involves a team that feels unconventional.
    There are two other battle modes in the game as well. War battles are big event battles that play like Rock Paper Scissors with Calvary beating Archers, Archers beating mages, and mages beating Calvary. You and the opposing army get to choose which to go with and see afterwards who chose wisely. Though collecting the rest of the SoD will help immensely. Between choosing rounds of choosing your offense, you can use some of your supporting units to help you. Strategist power up the attack of cavalry, Ninja's and Thieves can spy on the enemy and tell you what their next move is, and merchant's can bribe enemy soldiers to switch sides. There are also special units like the Dragon Knights that can cause untold damage to the enemy. The big danger of these battles is that a sizeable chunk of your 108 Star recruits can sometimes be killed if you make the wrong move. Maximillain is the example most people will often see since he seems to be flagged for death more than any other character. It can be pretty shocking to see them die and see how it affects some of the cast during the battle. The other game mode are duels, of which Suikoden 1 has only three, but they do sure leave a big impact. Duels work just like army battles in that it's a rock/paper/scissor type deal. Attack beats defend, defend beats critical, critical beats attack. Though it's a bit wonkier in this entry as you can technically lose even by following the rules if your character is under-leveled and poorly geared. It's a shame there isn't more of them in this entry, but later installments will fix this oversight.
    If there are two gripes I have with Suikoden's combat, one would be the game's terrible inventory system. There is no shared item bag you can use from the menu and your restricted to the ten slots each character has. 60 slots sounds like a lot until you discover that a character's equipment takes up space so that's now only 30 slots for item and even less if your character can equip a shield. There is a warehouse that can open in your castle that can hold a ridiculous amount of gear, but it can't be accessed outside of the castle and any extra loot or treasure you find in the field will have to be lost or come back to if all your inventory is full. Another annoying aspect of this is that some character's will leave your party for story reasons and they will take all their gear, runes, and items with them. My biggest PSA for this game is to make sure that Tir always has the Blinking Mirror. This the item that let's you fast travel back to your HQ and it will make traveling so much easier if you don't hand it off to Viktor or Flik who have a bad habit of wandering off from the plot. The other major issue with the game is how often the story restricts your party for you. It is surprisingly not the worst example (I'm looking at you SIV) but it is a glaring issue for sure. In a game with such a massive cast and so many party combinations, you almost never have a scenario where a story sequence let's you control who the other five members of your entourage is going to be. The most egregious example is the final dungeon where half of your final party is determined for you. Gremio is especially annoying because he'll always insist on being with Tir for half of the game. Gremio is a decent starter character but his stats are mediocre until near the end of the game so he begins to feel a bit like dead weight compared to other characters. The Kwanda Rosman chapter is another annoying example as all but one of your character slots will be filled with a story-centric character for this chapter and even worse, the last one if a short range fighter who joins you in the middle of a battle and take ups your sixth party slot and is utterly useless in the proceeding battle since he can't attack from the back row and the game won;t allow you to change your formation to correct this. The real reason this gets annoying is that some recruits in the game require specific party members and you may end up having to backtrack to them when it's possible to bring the right people along.
    Speaking of, Suikoden's most relished gameplay mechanics is the recruiting of the 108 Stars of Destiny and the advancement of your HQ. While a good half of your forces will likely join you through the plot, the other half of your army needs to be met in the various locations in the world and convinced to join your cause. The methods can vary from person to person. Some simply need to be talked to like Kai, others need to be beaten by some mini-game, others need specific recruits to be in your party. Some need you to be a certain level while others want your army to be a certain size. It's honestly the biggest challenge in the game to recruit everyone without a guide and even some can still be frustrating with a guide.

    The castle is another fun aspect of the game as your recruits start filling up the halls and fixing the place up. Not all recruits are soldiers, several actual serve various functions at the HQ such as opening up shops, a warehouse, a blacksmith and spots for the game's various mini-games. Eventually it becomes a major castle town for the player and it's satisfying seeing some of the recruits mingle with each other. My favorite being the Narcissist corner started by Milich Oppenheimer. The castle serves as hub and expanding it gives a nice sense of progress throughout the game. It feels really unique compared to other RPGs that have large casts and gives a sense of camaraderie among them for the player. It's also just so nice when you beat that game and the game starts telling you what happens to each of them after the war.

    Musically, Suikoden has never been the RPG musical powerhouse that Square was pumping out at the time, but Konami is no slouch when it comes to musical muscle. Miki Higashino may not be a major name among RPG enthusiasts but her work on Konami's arcade scene speaks for itself. With that said, the music she composed along with Tappi Iwase, Taniguchi Hirofumi, Mayuko Kagetrouta and Hiroshi Tamawari for Suikoden is actually quite impressive if underrated. Tracks like Name Entry, Into a World of Illusion, and Theme of a Moonless Night are all impressive and memorable themes that get musical callbacks throughout the series even after most of the team left. What's truly impressive is how well they established the tone of the series. Choosing to pull from several genres found throughout the world, the Suikoden OSTs can often sound like a musical travel guide around the world as they pull from Moroccan, European classical, Asian period drama, and even rock and roll to create a beautiful musical tapestry that is pleasant to the ears and brings the various locations of the game to life. The biggest boon to her score is the fact that the game was able to make the most of the CD-Rom discs space to incorporate more orchestral music instead of using MIDI all the time. MIDI is till certainly here in the game but it's use is less obvious than games like Final Fantasy VII. The game was able to make use of vocal tracks that really bring out the cultural influence of the piece and leave a lasting impression as you hear the haunting ending theme, Aventunerio Antes Lance Mao. Again it's an underappreciated score, but one that doesn't really have a bad track if you ask me and it's nice to listen to some good music from outside the powerhouse of Square-Enix.

    So now it's time to ask the main question here:Why should you play Suikoden? I'm going to list five reasons you should and as a contrast (because I love playing Devil's advocate) I am also going to list five reasons you might want to avoid it. Let's get the negative out of the way first:

    5. The game is fairly basic - Even for its time frame, Suikoden isn't really doing anything interesting for the genre, and if you're a serious RPG vet, then this game will likely have a heavy ''been there done that'' feel to it. The plot is tropey and the gameplay is mostly basic turn based with some combo attacks and only one slot for special abilities. Unless you have a nostalgia for early to mid 90s JRPGs, this game is likely not going impress you.
    4. The meat of the game's setup is hidden behind supplement material - All of that backstory about the Succession War I posted above, that's almost all from supplement materials that were thankfully translated by some fans for the wiki and even then good luck finding the primary sources. Suikoden 1's plot feels more epic when you have the full context but outside of some snippets here and there from NPCs and characters, you're not going to get much info about the Succession War and even the Kalekka Incident has more info than what is presented in the game. I am generally not the type who promotes reading supplement material to understand a game's plot. I feel all the relevant info should be right there in the game. Suikoden gives you a glimpse of what is there but it's shame the real juicy stuff is hidden off-screen including some backstory stuff like Gremio and Pahn's backstories or fun bonding stuff between Ted and Tir while training with Kai. Hell Odessa alone gets hit hard with this because her whole backstory is in this stuff and it;s actually pretty awesome and I can see why Flik was enamored with her.
    3. The game is very tropey - I'm willing to give the devs slack here because it was a first attempt at an RPG by a company that usually doesn't make many of them. The development team was also pretty new to the genre so it;s no surprise they rely heavily on tropes to get them through the writer's block portion of the development, but it does make some parts of the game cringe worthy. The Kwanda Rosman chapter is a personal pet peeve of mine since I've never been big on the fantasy trope of fantastic racism among the Tolkien races. Even the opening portions of the game can feel more gnarm than charm as the bad guys are all hamtastically evil. I mean Barbarossa or any one of real authority just needs to walk down the hall of the throne room and eavesdrop for a few minutes to see how unqualified and evil most of the nobility and bureaucracy are in Gregminister. Speaking of...
    2. The Neclord Chapter feels really out of place in the game - I get that it was likely meant to be a palette cleanser after the one-two punch that was the Milich Oppenheimer and Teo McDohl chapters, but this particular chapter does feel a little out of place in the game. In fact Neclord in general feels out of place in the series but obviously someone on the development team loves vampires because they get story focus for three games. While some might say this is likely Castlevania's influence on the team, his chapter feels more like a stealth shout out to Vampire Hunter D with Neclord feeling more like Magnus Lee in both motive and design. I don't mind the chapter, but I know some who do hate it. Not helped that Neclord is the most challenging boss in the game.
    1. It's too easy to get screwed out of the Golden Ending - I'm not generally opposed to making the best ending easy to acquire, nor do I feel its cheating to make it almost require a guide to do so, but I know a lot of people who would see this as a major flaw of the game's design. I know I screwed myself out of the Golden Ending in my first playthrough and only was able to do so because of reading a guide. Still, I feel the first game is a little more malicious in tripping the player up in this regard. It;s easy to not get all the Stars in the first playthrough. Hell there are four other Stars I didn't mention above the designers lay sinister traps that will lock you out of the best ending if you make the wrong choices or do the wrong thing. I feel it gives the game fun replay value but some gamers will call it a guide book trap. Course guides for a 26 year old RPG are easy to come by these days.

    So with that said, let's look at the best reasons to play this game:

    5. The foreshadowing is superb - Something that may not be noticed on a first playthrough, but certainly noticeable on second playthroughs of the series is a lot of the foreshadowing of the grander world inhabiting the series. Suikoden name drops places and people that feel inconsequential when you play the first game by itself, but coming back to this entry with some of the other games under your belt, you don't realize how early the series was really laying down the roots of the greater world Murayama and Kawano had envisioned. The fact the game is short makes a second playthrough a breeze too.

    4. It is incredibly user-friendly and noob friendly - If you're only here to play games for character and plot then Suikoden is definitely the series for you. the game was designed to be pretty streamlined and noob friendly, which is likely why it helped a generation be prepared to get their minds blown by Final Fantasy VII two years later. Two of the best features the game has is that XP is handed out based on the level difference of the enemy and the character, so low level characters will have their levels skyrocket if brought to harder areas and leveling up the game's 78 characters becomes a breeze. the fact the best characters are introduced at the end isn't an issue with this system in place. The other great feature is that walking in a straight line will reduce the encounter rate. This way it makes exploring easier and less frustrating for players.
    3. Recruiting the 108 Stars is fun - Forget what I said about the top five annoying people, the rest of the cast is fun to recruit and see what is up with them. Honestly the recruiting aspect of the game is one of the major draws of the series and gives it a bit of a Pokemon style ''Gotta Catch em' all'' factor that makes the games pretty fun to play.
    2. The characters are pretty awesome - I'm not going to lie, of the 108 Stars, maybe a fifth of them stay relevant throughout the whole game, but the ones that stick around are generally superb and fun. They help make the drama of the plot work despite the tropes and while Viktor and Flik are stuck in your final party, I bet most players would have taken them anyway since they are both great characters on and off the battlefield. Even the less plot relevant characters are surprisingly affable and memorable most of the time.
    1. Golden Emperor Barbarossa - It's going to be hard to talk about this without spoiling stuff but here we go. Suikoden is a series that goes back and forth with its villains. Most of them are either well-intention extremist or figurative(sometimes literal) monsters, or they fall somewhere in between like Windy. Windy is certainly the game's main villain but Barbarossa is the figurative main antagonist over her and yet he manages to be unique above all the villains in the series. The man only appears in three scenes in the entire game, and yet manages to leave such a lasting impression on the player in all of his scenes. What helps is hearing the way people talk about him. The man is spoken of as the greatest friend you can ever have and even when his own allies defect to the Liberation Army, it's always with a sense of regret on their part. This is a man who deserves to be admired because he really was once a great and just ruler. Things just changed for him and at the end of the day he's more tragic figure than some typical big bad. The fact his story manages to change Windy's more generic evil story into something greater is also a testament to his character. Suikoden is a series that often strives to keep their villains more on the morally grey side and I don't think they ever hit such a success as they did with Barbarossa. Course you'll have to play the game to see what I mean.

    In conclusion, Suikoden was a game that has stayed with me for a long time, even today I have the blasphemous opinion that I like it more than it's better recieved sequel. It's why I combo the two together in my Top 100 List because the idea of this game being lower on the list didn't sit well for me. My nostalgia for this entry is very strong, which is surprising because I didn't play the game until either 98 or 99. Deep into the RPG renaissance of the era, and yet it has stayed with me so strongly. I think part of it is because I didn't think I was going to lik this game at all and for a while in my first playthrough I was not impressed, but somewhere, somehow, it won me over before I got to the end, and considering my judgmental ass, that's impressive. Hell I'm replaying it right now and having a blast. I'm hoping some of you will now also play it, whether for the first time or doing a replay. Its a pretty fun opening to a great series.

    Next time: "My friend and I seal our thoughts here. We deeply regret that we could not make them one."
    Last edited by Wolf Kanno; 02-05-2022 at 08:39 PM.

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    Feel the Bern Administrator Del Murder's Avatar
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    I played Suikoden 1 and 2. Both were pretty fun and it was fun to collect the 108 stars. I liked that they all weren't fighting party members.

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Tips and Tricks for Suikoden 1

    Since I'm replaying the first game, I figured I would offer a bit of a mini-guide about some stuff players may miss in this game. I sort of did something like this in the main post, but I think it would be better to discuss it in it's own post.

    Recruitment
    Here's the top five most annoying characters to recruit and the method to do so:
    5. Jabba the appraiser, he starts a long trend of the appraiser character being a bit of a pain to recruit. He won't join your team unless you bring him an item he can't appraise. You need to speak to him first so the item in question will finally start dropping and even then you'll still have to deal with Suikoden's funky drop system to get it. So expect to grind a bit. I will also mention that this usually the course of action for any character whose recruitment is based on acquiring an item from a monster. You need to speak with them first at a point where you can actually ask them to join your army before they'll mention the item in question and the item will finally start dropping for you. Thankfully, both the Nameless Vase and the Opal (another item needed for a recruit) are from monsters you encounter close by. The later games are not as nice... 4. Pesmerga - This guy always appears late in the game and is a real powerhouse having the best raw stats in the game at the cost of most of his equipment being permanently fixed to him. He will usually pop up after your party has a Lv. 4 HQ and have encountered his arch nemesis Yuber during the main plot. The reason he's a pain is because he's usually taking it easy at the end of a former dungeon. Adding to this is that the game often never hints to this very well, so you'll likely never encounter him if you don't backtrack a bit. In the first game, he's found at the end of Neclord's castle but you'll likely won't be able to recruit him until you have at least a 100 of the 108 stars.
    3. Clive - Another character who is incredibly easy to miss. He's hanging out in an inn in some backwoods town you go to half way through the game. He won't start appearing there until you have the Lv. 4 HQ (see Pesmerga above) and even more annoying is that he appears in the inn randomly so even if you have the first requirement, he may still not appear. Even more annoying is that the RNG won;t reset unless you leave the town entirely, so expect some annoying back and forth here if you're unlucky. Clive is another great late addition to the game being one of the fastest and most powerful Long range fighters and the only gun user in the game. Give him a spark rune and you'll likely never have to heal your party after a random encounter again. Hell even some boss battles if you're lucky.
    2. Mace - The final blacksmith is someone you're going to run into before you can actually recruit him. Mace is one of the hardest characters to recruit because you really only have two shot at getting him. And that's not counting the fact he has other requirements as well. There are four other blacksmiths in the game who are all apprentices to this guy. You need to have recruited all four of them and get a Lv. 4 HQ. Then make a party with all four of them in it and go speak with him. There are only two free periods in the game where this is possible after you unlock the area he's chilling at since the plot will often keep your team too filled to use all the blacksmiths. One is the night before the mission in Moravia Castle, and the other is the night before the raid on the naval fortress of Shasarazade. If you miss either chance then kiss the Golden ending and Lv. 16 weapons goodbye.
    1. Leon Silverberg - It seems almost fitting that a character who plays a huge part in the game's backstory would be the biggest pain in the ass in the game to recruit. Like Mace, Leon has only two chances at being recruited. You'll encounter him way earlier in the game but he will be the second to last Star of Destiny you'll recruit due to all the conditions for his recruitment. After you get your HQ to Lv. 4, you need to speak to Leon in the ruins of Kalekka where he'll mention how impressed he is with the Liberation Army. After this you need to speak with Mathiu about this, which Mathiu will then write a letter asking for his assistance which you need to deliver back to Leon. The main reason this is so difficult is because Mathiu is often the character you need to speak to in order to advance the plot. There are very few times in the game where he's not he event flag for moving the plot along. The only two instances are, you guessed it, the night before Moravia Castle mission, or before the major battle with Sonya Shulen's forces at Shasarazade. If you do the latter, you have to immediately leave after the war battle with Sonya (don't enter the dungeon) and return to Kalekka to drop off the letter. It is easier to screw this up since you don't even realize you can leave. What's even more annoying is that outside of story charm for anyone who read my description above or kept up with the supplement material, Leon is mostly useless as a character as he only gives you one more use of the Strategist ability in a War Battle and there is only one or two battles left like that depending on when you recruit him.

    Runes
    There are 32 runes in the game that can be equipped on party members and used in battle. Of those runes, only 7 of them are one of a kind.

    Runes are broken up into three categories: Magic, Technique, and Support.

    Magic Runes
    Magic runes come in seven elemental flavors: Lightning, Wind, Earth, Fire, Water, Light, and Darkness. All the elemental runes have a higher tier version of themselves you can also find except for Light and Dark. So Lightning becomes Thunder, Wind becomes Cyclone, Earth becomes Mother Earth, Fire, becomes Rage, and Water becomes Flowing. Light is represented by the rare Resurrection Rune, and Darkness only appears as the one of a kind True Rune Soul Eater. The stronger tier rune drops the first spell from the lower version and replaces it with a new fourth tier spell.

    The magic runes are:

    Wind/Cyclone - These runes give a well rounded selection of healing, damage, and status magic making them incredibly versatile. the Unite magic it has access to is also one of the best spells in the game. Both of the game's best mages, Luc and Crowley use this class of runes.

    Fire/Rage - Great for handling mobs of enemies, fire magic specializes in AoE magic, though it does have a few powerful single target spells as well. It will be the first magic rune you acquire in the game. It's only weakness is that most bosses have a strong defense against it.

    Lightning/Thunder - The opposite of the Fire/Rage Class, it focuses on lots of single target spells with a few unique group hitting spells for versatility. Very powerful rune and great for boss battles. It's biggest drawback is that the spell that do target groups tend to do so by attacking in a straight line. So it's way less effective for dealing with groups.

    Earth/Mother Earth - Easily the worst magic rune in the game, the earth rune deals mainly with support/defensive magic though this version does have two offensive spells unlike later entries. The main problem is that the two defense raising skills (Lv. 1 Earth Rune/Lv. 4 Mother Earth Rune) are bugged and don't work. Likewise, the two offensive spells will not work on enemies that are flying, of which a surprising number of annoying enemies fall into. The best spell is Copper Flesh that protects a character from all damage for a round, but it's single target. The runes only real use is accessing the Unite Magic it has with Fire magic.

    Water/Flowing - Not as good as later incarnations, the rune is the only not to have an offensive spell, opting for a buff spell that raises evasion instead. Thankfully all of the healing magic also restores status. The biggest issue with the rune is the redundancy of its spells election. The third and fourth tier spells for the Water rune (second and third for Flowing) pretty much do the same thing which is heal the whole party. The difference being one does it for 300hp and the other heals all HP, but on a strong enough mage, the 300hp group heal will likely restore way more than that. Likewise, Mother Ocean has the benefit of being able to revive a party member who is dead, but it's a fourth tier spell despite being a group resurrection/heal spell, it's fairly impractical.

    Resurrection - A very rare rune, most players will only see it when they recruit Fuiken since he has one permanently attached, but you can gain more as a rare drop from an enemy later in the game. This rune is the only Light elemental magic in the game. There is nothing in the game immune to light magic, but a lot of enemy types that are weak too it, including Neclord, the game's token That One Boss. So it's a great offensive run despite one of it's spells being somewhat weak, and the other being the high cost fourth tier spell. Resurrection also comes with a great group healing spell, and a low cost revival spell of which there are only two of them in the game.

    Soul Eater - It goes without saying that True Runes live up to their status as the top tier powers of the game. Soul Eater has two different instant death spells which work on every non-boss enemy in the game, which is great for random encounter and grinding. It's two offensive spells are also great since no enemy has a defense against it and Judgment is the most powerful spell in the game even outclassing Unite Magic spells. It's main drawback is that the powers are locked behind the plot so you won't have access to these higher spells until you reach certain milestones in the game. Course that doesn't apply to the entries it also makes an appearance in...

    Technique Runes

    These do what they say on the tin, they let the user perform a special technique. They are the smallest category of runes with only six types in the game. I'm not going to really list them because they all do variations of the same thing which is to deal anywhere from 1.5 to 3x damage and possibly cause the user to be unbalanced after use. Also most of these runes are unique to a specific character and are usually fixed to them.

    The Falcon and Hate runes are the only ones I will point out because while both are fixed to their respective users, these runes both do 3x damage and do not cause unbalance status meaning that these characters can use these rune with impunity. The worst one of these runes is the Trick Rune which looks like a unique one of kind rune, but it can actually be farmed from a specific enemy in the Dwarves Vault. The problem is that while the rune doesn't have the unbalanced issue, it does really low damage and can only be used by Juppo (who comes with one anyway that's fixed) and his niece Meg. The rune only does 1.5x damage and neither character are powerhouses so the damage is negligible.

    Support Runes

    What it says on the tin, these runes cause passive effects for a user. I will state a few that are worth using and some to avoid. The main issue with a lot of these runes is that their effectiveness in Suikoden 1 is negated by the one rune limit to your characters. A lot of these runes get way more use in the sequels where you can equip multiple runes.

    Best:

    Killer Rune - Boring but incredibly practical, the Killer Rune simply raises the chances of dealing critical hits. Granted the effectiveness of this rune comes down to a character's Skill/Technique stats, but even those who don't have high stats in those area can benefit from it. Suikoden has a lot of characters who are poor at using magic, and specialize in hitting things hard, so this rune easily sees a lot of action.

    Counter Rune - Dodge an enemy physical attack and counter with an attack equal to the user's normal attack. Like the killer rune, this one works best when the character has the stats to make it activate more often, but it's a pretty useful rune for people who want variety in their builds.

    Double Beat Rune - One of three unique support runes, of which there is only one of in the game. The Double Beat Rune lets the user attack twice in a row. It comes equipped on Eikei but unlike most unique runes found only on characters, this one isn't fixed, so you can actually remove it and give it to someone else like Viktor or Pesmerge...

    Spark Rune - This is a weird rune that I probably only like so much because of it works really well with my play-style. The rune makes the whole party have the same speed stat as the bearer when using normal attacks. Great for parties where you have some slow but heavy hitters in the team and you don't want to be healing up after every few battles. This is another support rune, of which there is only one in the game.

    Worst Runes:

    Hazy Rune - This rune raises a character's evasion rate to physical attacks by 1.3 which frankly isn't enough to help the characters who would need it (mages and tanky characters) while also using up their one rune slot that can be used for better things. It's annoying that Kai is stuck with this rune. The Counter Rune is a much better rune since counters in this game also negates the attack, meaning it does the same thing as the Hazy Rune but also allows the character to perform another attack.

    Gale Rune - Doubles the speed of a character. Like the Hazy Rune, it's not that great since it deprives a character who would need it from using a more effective rune like Killer or Counter. This is why I also prefer the Spark Rune since it can effectively do the same thing except party wide.

    Phero Rune - This rune is pretty interesting on paper but impractical in use. It basically makes characters of the opposite gender of the user take hits for the user. It doesn't work all of the time either but it will raise the likelihood you will see it. The issue is that very few characters really benefit from it except maybe vendor trash party members like Lieuken or Sergei who are awful characters all around and can't benefit much from using a magic or killer rune. The other issue with this rune is that it's only available as a rare drop from one enemy, meaning you may got through the whole game without ever seeing it.

    WK's Character recommendations:

    With almost 80 playable characters, it can be tough figuring out who to throw into your team. So I'm going to give you my own recommendations. I will leave out three characters though: McDohl (the MC), Viktor and Flik. You will almost always have two of these characters in your active party throughout the game and spoilers, all three are going to be used in your final team as well regardless of how you feel about them. So instead I'm going to talk about characters who may only be required to be used for certain parts of the game or are completely optional. Also, for those who care, Suikoden 1 uses an algorithm for stats that has several variables (think FFIV after you reach Lv. 70) so even though some characters have the potential to be absolute juggernauts they can sometimes be a bit weaker if RNG hates you enough. Likewise, some characters that may be mediocre can potentially be the best party member if fortune smiles on them enough in level ups.
    Pahn - An interesting trend here is that McDohl honestly starts with a killer team in the game. Pahn might seem to be dumb muscle but he's got the best stats of the three martial arts characters, the Boar Rune is a pretty damn good tech rune even with the unbalanced handicap, and he has incredible synergy with a lot of characters giving him three separate Unite Attacks that are all fairly good. The real trick with Pahn avoiding a potential story line death if you don't prepare so you can avoid it.
    Cleo - Adding to the fact McDohl starts with one of the best teams. Cleo is debatably the best Long range fighter in the game. Cleo is fairly unique for she's one of only four female characters who can equip the heavy helmet class of armor that significantly raises her defense for the usually squishy L fighters. Likewise as a female, she gets access to some of their better defensive items that keep her fairly tanky in the early to midgame as well as the Wing Boots that give an insane +10 to speed on top of her high speed stat. Her weapon is also much more powerful than usual L fighters opting to use Lances that she throws over the typical bow and arrows of this class. Rounding all of this out is her strong affinity towards magic of which she'll likely be your main mage in the early game. Cleo is a fairly well rounded character that can carry you the whole game.
    Gremio - This might throw a people off a bit. Gremio is Suikoden 1's lethal joke character. He's required to be in your team for half the game but he starts to quickly fall behind the rest of his team due to his low weapon power and mediocre stats. This changes if you can get him to endgame. After Lv. 50, Gremio's stat pool switches from his normal one, to a much better one that will skyrocket his stats and round him out into something much better giving him significant boost in his defense and strength. Likewise, he has a killer Unite attack with Pahn and will innately protect McDohl from physical attacks when low on health. Likewise his Axe class of weapons get huge attack boosts during their final three levels.
    Luc - Luc is an odd one in this game. He has a Guard Robe and Speed Ring permanently fixed to him, meaning he loses out on the more useful Emblem accessories to boost his magic and he's forever stuck as a glass cannon due to having the second lowest tier of robes stuck on him. On the flip side, Luc is one of the fastest mages in the game and his magic and speed are on the same growth path as Crowley, the game's debatably better mage. Likewise, despite Luc's obsession with the Wind Rune, it can be replaced with something better like a Cyclone Rune. So despite some of his drawbacks, the game actually hands you one of the best mages off the bat.
    Valeria - Valeria is a beast of a character. She has the same equipment pool as Cleo but even better stats to offset the light armor restriction and she can use shields to better increase her defense. She's a fairly powerful fighter on her own compared to most Short range single sword fighters but Valeria chumps them all by having the Falcon Rune which gives her ridiculous damage potential. She also is a story recruit that arrives relatively early in the game, so she can stay a powerhouse on your team for most of the game.
    Humphrey - I don't normally like tanky slow characters but Humphrey has enough customization options to offset this like being able to equip the Windspun armor that boasts the best defense in the game and adds +20 to the characters speed. He hits really hard and is also available fairly early in the game. He sucks at magic but a Killer Rune does wonders for him.
    Milich Oppenheimer - Despite his foppish demeanor, Milich isn't lying when tells the team he could probably whoop their ass without his death spores. He's a red mage style character with more emphasis on the mage part, but he's a decent frontline fighter with good overall stats to keep him alive while he rains death down his enemies with his ridiculously high magic. Just don't let your emotions get the best of you when it's time to recruit him.
    Kasim Hazil - Doesn't look much on paper but he honestly has the best offensive stat spread of the Six Generals with the exception of Sonya. Kasim just pours all his stats into attack power, defense and HP. He's one of a handful of characters that actually get over a 1000hp if you're lucky. His only drawback is the limited nature of Short range fighters meaning he's always fighting for a spot in the party. He also arrives late in the game but he's a story recruit so you're guaranteed to have him at endgame if you're not using a guide.
    Sonya Shulen - Sonya is probably the best of the Six Generals. She's the inverse of Milich in that she's more fighter than mage. Being a Medium Range fighter gives her more flexibility in team builds. Her only failing as a character is that she will likely be the last person you recruit in the game so she's really only available for the final dungeon and screwing around.
    Crowley - The ''best'' mage in the game. Crowley appears late in the game but starts with some hefty stats and a Cyclone Rune making him instantly viable from the get go. Being able to equip the useful Master's Robe with it's auto-Regen properties also gives him way more survivability than Luc. Crowley's only real drawback is that he's a late comer to be recruited due to all the conditions that need to be met, in addition to the fact he's easily miss-able due to hiding out in a secret room in the dungeon he's occupying.
    Clive - Is debatably the best Long Range fighter in the game next to Cleo. He can't use magic as effectively as she can, but in an unusual inversion of RPG logic, Clive can easily out-damage her with his normal attack because he uses an honest to goodness rifle instead of some bow or throwing weapon. The man can do as much damage as some of the strongest front-line fighters from the safety of the back-row. and he's one of the game's fastest characters only beaten out by some of the elves. His weaknesses are simply how obtuse recruiting him is in addition to arriving late in the game.
    Pesmerga - Another character that divides the fanbase up on how good he is. Pesmerga is a mix of characters like Viktor and Kwanda being a powerful front-line fighter with great damage potential combined with heavy armor makes him a powerhouse. Like Crowley, Pemerga has a tendency of being recruited with fairly high stats compared to your other recruits. His most annoying attribute besides the usual problems of arriving late in the game and being tricky to recruit is the fact he's stuck using Dragon Armor that's fixed on him. Made more annoying when players hacked the game and discovered he can equip the Windspun armor to boost his abysmal speed. stat. Still, this is actually his best incarnation due to being more flexible than in Suikoden II.

    Misc.
    Easy Prosperity or Fortune Rune

    You can leave Gregminister early in the game after talking with the Emperor. You can do so faster coming home or after Ted joins your team. While grossly under-leveled. If you fight a team of three Bon Bons (they look like Trebbles from Star Trek) these can easily be beaten by a lone McDohl or a team with Ted in it. This will skyrocket your level enough to get you to the mountain town of Sarady to the west of the capital past the Tigerwulf Mountains. In this town,. you can speak to a man who will reward you with either a Fortune Rune if you come alone, or a Prosperity Rune if you come with Ted. The Fortune Rune doubles XP, the Prosperity Rune doubles money.

    Before you officially get the Soul Eater, be sure to unequipped any Runes you may have given to McDohl. The Soul Eater will overwrite the rune instead of removing it, making it lost forever.
    The easiest way to get money in this game is to play the betting mini-game with Gaspar once he's recruited. The game is bugged and there is actually a sweet spot that will let you win like 90% of the time. With the high betting cap, it's easy to max out all your money in a few rounds of the game. Even better, his mini-game is located very close to the Castle Inn (save point) so it's easy to save scum yourself to victory.

    If you're going for the Golden Ending that requires all 108 Stars of Destiny, you will need to make sure you use Pahn a bit in the early game and keep him both well-equipped and weapon maxed out. There is a story point in the game where Pahn has to do something reckless and you'll need to keep him up because even though it's not a traditional battle, his gear and stats still factor in.
    Last edited by Wolf Kanno; 02-06-2022 at 12:04 AM.

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