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Best Game Ever – Suikoden

posted on June 22nd, 2006 by pat

Growing up I always played games, but only recently would I have ever thought of myself as a “gamer.” I had a Nintendo for several years, then a Genesis, but until Playstation (and High School) I played mostly NBA Jam, and whatever the rest of the kids from school/the neighborhood were playing. This included a lot of games I would now scorn, such as games licensed from movies. I always noticed Genesis games on the shelves that looked as though they might be interesting due to the dragons and medieval knights on the covers, but I was apparently unable to take the plunge at the time.

He’s a goner.

Come high school, I met a bunch of people different from myself (basically I hadn’t met anyone not Irish- or Italian-Catholic) who did different things (other than play baseball and basketball). One of these was our friend Jay who was kind enough to lend me Suikoden and condescending enough to warn me repeatedly that there were periods with little action, a lot of reading, etc. Basically the warning you would give someone who had only ever played the types of games I had only ever played.

It ended up being the start of something beautiful. Strategic elements, characters, a fantasy based plot; the game had it all. Now I can look back and know that it was a very good, but in no way unconventional RPG. At the time, I was enthralled by everything about it — chasing down a vampire while he played the organ in his castle, finding characters that could improve my weapons (and in this game my castle- still really cool), but most importantly my characters got stronger. I could build an unstoppable army that could have walked to the ending (and on subsequent playthroughs I did, you almost need to if you want every character).

These are mostly things that are general to RPGs, though. Would another one have held my interest initially the way Suikoden did? It’s tough to say. There are certain gameplay elements that I wish we saw more of in RPGs. For example, the more characters you recruited (108 in all) the larger and better designed you castle became. Recruiting an artist added murals, recruiting blacksmiths gave you ready access to their ability to improve weapons, the list goes on.

Ditto.

Also, the battles were more than the traditional turn based party battles. You could team up on enemies with the right combination of warriors. More importantly there were one on one battles with opposing generals as well as battles where entire armies faced off against one another. So my answer is that eventually I would have found RPGs anyway, since the match between them and myself is too good to have gone unnoticed forever, but the fact that my introduction came from Suikoden made the experience all the sweeter.

I have since gone back and played many, but no where near all of the seminal RPGs I missed over the course of my youth while I was wasting my time running around in the fresh air. I have played the early Final Fantasies, the Shining Force games, Chrono Trigger, and a few others.

Since my Suikoden experience I have played a number of other modern RPGs. Probably too many to list here, but ironically none of the sequels to my first. I have thought about playing the rest (the price tag on the second is prohibitive, and could I really play the rest without playing the second? This isn’t rhetorical, I would actually appreciate input) but I must admit, I have been unfaithful. However, Suikoden will always hold a special place in my heart for opening up those doors and introducing me to characters whose stats increase as you play.

8 Comments

  1. Christian said on June 22, 2006:

    I just played Suikoden fairly recently, and while you’re correct that it isn’t the most original game in the genre, I was amazed at how many little things it did right that saved the player from a lot of frustration. For example:

    -Fast level ups. Every new area guaranteed you a couple of good levels without much hassle. Also, despite having 50+ potential party members, there was little level grinding, since bringing a level 12 character to battle with your lvl 50 party caused them to jump up to lvl 30 or higher with just one fight. In less than five minutes you could have two or three weak characters up to snuff.

    -Overworld. The Overworld was a pretty slow moving affair, but the random encounter rate is so very well done that you’re actuall itching for battle when it comes. You can actually go more than five steps without being attacked, and this helps keep the pacing of the game.

    -Upgradable weapons. That’s one less piece of equipment you have to deal with, since you can only upgrade, not equip.

    -Fast battles. As pat said, your characters can not only use team attacks, but during regular attacks they will often strike at the same time, instead of waiting for an invitation. This makes battles go lighting fast.

    I think the reason a lot of people enjoy Suikoden is because it was Konami focusing on making a refined, polished 2d rpg, before the FMV bandwagon that is FF7 drastically changed the genre

  2. jay said on June 22, 2006:

    I remember leveling all my character to 50 or some arbitrary point. It does go quickly if you keep Viktor and Flik or other powerhouses in the party.

    This article reminded me of a post on RPGFan I made that got everyone angry. I said Suikoden 2 is a great game because it’s more of the same. “More of the same?!?!?!?! It has different characters, the war battles are now generic SRPG fare, and what about the new animations and music?”

  3. pat said on June 22, 2006:

    christian – i agree with most of your points. all those little things were done really well. although i think upgrading weapons is essentially the same thing as buying new ones since each successive level cost more and you could only upgrade to a certain level with each blacksmith. it was very cool that your weapons had names though.

    and you did level up quickly at first, but anyone who ever saved pan (i think thats his name – second picture) knows that grinding levels can take a while.

  4. jay said on June 22, 2006:

    Jesus Christ, it’s Pahn! Saving him was a bitch, but leveling your low level guys was also easy. I guess it evens out.

    The weapon upgrades worked like new equipment but were still a gentler system for those new to RPGs because it slightly simplified buying new weapons, unequipping the old, then equipping the new. Though the game probably had armor so maybe dealing with that negates any simplification from dealing with weapons.

  5. Christian said on June 22, 2006:

    about the weapons- Pat is right that its essentially the same. I simply liked that it was one less item I actually had to equip. There was no choice of save or sell when it was time to upgrade, no chance of weapons cluttering the inventory. You just paid the money and got a better weapon. Simple as that. There were no buffs or bonuses that would make you consider keeping an older one.

  6. TrueTallus said on June 22, 2006:

    The second game really is great, particularly since you now have a save from the first. I’d definately get at least that one. If the price is REALLY ridiculous, try Suikoden 5. It seems (to me) to be the next most ‘suikodeny’ in the series…

  7. jay said on June 22, 2006:

    At that price level the question becomes: Suikoden 2 or Panzer Dragoon Saga? And hey TrueTallus, thanks for commenting.

  8. Bradon said on March 17, 2011:

    Man I have to say, Suikoden is the greatest game ever made. I love this game and have gone back and played it over and over again. I will tell you this though; I got the first suikoden game in 1998 and loved it. After beating #1, I purchased #2 in 2000 and loved that game too. I do want to tell you this; you asked if you need to play the second to play the rest. Well from my experience I dont think any of the games after 2 are worth getting. 1 and 2 are the only truly good games. The others just dont get the job done.

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