In the early days of the PS, especially in western regions, there has been a great lack of RPGs in general. It took quite some time for those to hit local markets.
While „Beyond the Beyond“, released US only, couldn’t satisfy high expectations, Konamis first RPG for a new generation console-system „Suikoden“ could.
Although Suikoden didn’t provide noticeable technical innovation in terms of graphic and gamepaly,-even today- the epic tale of Mr McDohl and his friends can stay its ground.
Your alter ego this time is the son of the highly respected imperial general Theo McDohl, who, at the beginning just starts up his imperial career. However, as our little hero continues to fulfill his duties (which manly consist of travelling around and gathering information about various incidents) he slowly begins to doubt imperial ethics and starts off questioning his loyalty to the empire, who by then was already under strict control of an evil witch called „Windy“(Final Fantasy VIII greets...).
As a result of his thoughts an inner conflict he ends up as the leader of a group of rebells, travelling all over the country to increase their number in order to defeat his former employer.
It is possible to recruit up to 108 members (the 108 stars of destiny, as reffered in the game). Due to the high number of active participants, character development is not one of „Suikoden“’s strongest points, but still, Konami did a good job to give each of the major characters a so-called „touch of life“ and an individual personality.
Plot twists as well as dramatic and emotional moments pair up to form an interesting and surprisingly motivating piece of work.
Probably the greatest innovation in this very traditionally kept RPG is the weapon upgrade system. Instead of buying and equiping you have to find a blacksmith who forges your current weapon into a stronger one. This method is necessesary, for each character already has his/her unique weapon attached to him/her by the time of recrution, which sadly gives away a bit of RPG atmosphere.
In „Suikoden“ you will encounter three types of battles:
1. Standard battle
2. One vs One battle
3. Large Strategy battle
In Standard Battles your party may consist of up to 6 members, which leaves much space of individual tuning.
Magic comes in form of runes, which are to be attached to each character in advance.
You can choose to have some of your character’s attacks combine to one in order to perform a so called Unite attack.
This feature brings along lots of fun, for it is quite interesting to watch characters, who in the main game have some kind of relationship with each other, similar background or fighting techniques, act as one in battle, dealing huge amounts of damage in an individually animated way.
One vs One Battles follow the principle of Siccors, Stone and Paper, which in the game are called „Attack“, „Defend“ and „Desperate Attack“. If you listen carefully to whatever your opponent talks in battle you may predict his/her next attack.
When encountering Large Strategy Battles, you will have to command a whole army of little jumping pixels. Weither you rather use physical or magical attacks, or spy on the enemies – it’s all up to you.
„With light there comes shadow“
The same goes for „Suikoden“’s happy 108 character community.
Some of the characters are next to useless and unimportant as well in battle as in storyline and it is therefore not really necessary to look around the whole big world for them. The, at some rates huge, time effort doesn’t really pay off in the end.
The game’s difficult level is set pretty low. Experts as well as novice should have no problems beating the game in less then 20 hours.
At an early point in the game you will get your
home-castle (name can be chosen), which at the beginning is nothing more than a lousy old rock in the middle of a small lake. However recruiting members for your mission makes the castle expand. Shops, Elevators, dungeons, harbors, gambling halls as well as bathrooms and flower gardens are only some effects your members may have on your castle.
There is not much to be complained about „Suikoden“’s control.
Although your alter ego is only able to move in 4 directions, he acts very responsive and doesn’t bounce of objects you care to investigate.
The fact that in a game, which consists to nearly 70 % of travelling around the world map and all sorts of areas, does not have a dash button to let your slowly onscreen character move a bit faster is pretty annouing. Later in the game it is possible to walk quicker on the world map, however only if you have a high speed elf in your party, who is as a matter of fact, a rather weak fighter.
Menues have been arranged reasonably and easy to get familiar with-nothing out of the ordinary, but effective.
Graphics are generally good, yet not overwhelming. Area maps consist of very detailed and colourful handdrawn 2D maps, similair to those in „Grandia“ but in a Ã‚Â¾-top perspective.
Characters appear in eye-appealing shape, both in terms of color as well as in terms of animation.
Battle Screens don’t lack of variety and are overall neatly made.
The World map is probably the weakest point when in comes to graphics. Whereas the background comes in in Super Nes style your tiny little alter ego pixel appears to have been cut out of an old NES game. Dear Konami, two-frame animation is hopelessly out of time!
Character pictures are overall well drawn and appealing, but sometime lack of originality and color.
Konami did well to let „Suikoden“’s soundtrack appear in a streamed way. There are some quite exceptional pieces of music and you’ll definitely catch yourself humming one of the memorable tunes from time to time in „normal“ life.
The fact that there is no spoken dialogue (which is not really true for I heard a scream somewhen in the first quarter of the game) is, according to my opinion, rather positive.
Overall Konami did some great work with „Suikoden“.
Eventhough this game was already released back in 1996 it still offers great RPG entertainment and is definitley worth a look.