Malik (4/21/04)

Suikoden (PSX)

From Konami

This review originally was presented on lazy.GEEKS (6/16/03)

Well, in my last review I covered one of my favorite Playstation RPGs, Wild ARMs, so I figured today would be a good time to cover Suikoden, the only game I have for the Playstation that could compare with Wild ARMs that is not call Xenogears. Just like Wild ARMs, I purchased this game when it first came out and have been playing it off and on for all of that time. 


The story of Suikoden is not just the story of one world or of one character like you find in most games. It covers a much broader area. As you play, you find the 108 Stars of Destiny...pretty much they are 108 people destined to change the land for the better politically and socially. Of these 108 characters, about 50 or so have pretty large involvement in the plot, and the remaining 58 have at least a minor part in the plot. At the same time, the area of the world you are in, is currently being ruled by an Emperor who is merely a puppet to his wife, the Empress...Empress of Evil! You play the role of the son of one of the top five generals under the emperor (I don't give a name, as you have to pick your own default name in this game). On top of all that, there are runes in the world that will affix themselves to a person and 26 of them grant unparalleled power to their owner. 

So with all that information, here's what you get; You end up finding one of the 26 True Runes (the Soul Eater...the rune that governs death) in the possession of your best friend, Ted, who ends up being accosted by the Empress's men (well the Emperor's men, but we all know who's in power here) and at the last minute, Ted passes the rune on to you and you escape from the corrupt empire before you also get captured. Confused? Well, there's thing you know, you end up joining a rebellion in order to stay alive, and things get even more twisted and convoluted. 

Long story short, your rune is the most powerful of the 26 True Runes and the Empress wants the Soul Eater more than anything and thus you are her prey. By being so power hungry, she turns the Empire into a corrupt state that denies freedom to too many, so the rebellion is started, and due to some plot twists, you become their leader. You end up forming alliances with several states that make up the Empire and several races including the Elves, Dwarves, and Kobolds. All the while you have to face the face that your father is one of the people you most respect and he is also your enemy. If you're confused, good. This means you must play the game...which is a very good thing. 


The graphics are typical of RPGs from this era. The in battle graphics consist of 2D sprites on a 3/4 view field. The graphics look fairly good in battle, and the special effects look pretty impressive (the magic spells you cast look like they looks like fire, and so on). 

In town, you get the standard 2D RPG look with pretty nice graphics that let you tell what is what and who is who. Nothing extraordinary here, but nothing mediocre either. 'Nuff said. 

The map screen however is the one place where the graphics take a slump for the worse. To let you see far enough on the map (it is a big world with towns few and far between), they zoomed out to the extent that your character is comprised of only a couple dozen pixels and towns are not much bigger. This makes the map look pretty lame, but it does it's job of letting you see far away successfully, so I can't complain. 

The most impressive graphics are found early on in the game when you enter the Imperial castle. The floors are highly polished, as any Emperor would like them to be, and when you walk on said floor, you see a slightly distorted reflection of yourself. When I first started the game, this is what truly caught my attention. It is truly a sight to be seen.

So, to wrap this section up, the graphics are pretty much par in almost all areas. They look like standard graphics for any 2D RPG of its day. Nothing special and not much that is sub par. Plus, all the graphics do what they are meant to do. I should also mention, the character portraits (and all 108 Stars of Destiny and a good 20 or so enemies have portraits) look really nice. You can tell by looking at the game that some time went into the portraits...if only some of that time was used on the world map screen, Suikoden would have been fine graphically. 


In a word, superb. In more words...well, the music has the proper feel for every situation. The music in the Imperial capitol, Gregminster, feels elegant and sophisticated. As if the Emperor personally picked out his town's music. The music in the more run-down villages feels more like the type of music the common people could afford to listen to. It's not bad music in poor areas, it's just more rustic (or red-neck). Meanwhile, in dungeons, the music feels tense and like you are in great danger with every second you remain there. Even the battle music is well orchestrated; when you fight weak enemies, it feels like you should be fighting weak enemies; and when you face a boss, the music makes you feel like you are royally screwed. In a sentence, some of the best game music I've ever heard.

The combat oriented sounds sound like they should. When you cast magic, you get nice sounds that fix the spell. If you cast a fire spell, it sounds like the gentle roar of flames burning, if you cast a water based spell, it sounds like water dripping or flowing, and so on. I can't really comment on if the death magic sounds right since I never heard the sound of death, but it sounds pretty impressive. Also, when you strike someone with a weapon, the sound corresponds to the weapon used. Swords sound metallic, arrows sound like the whizzing sound of arrows flying through the air, etc. 

Best of all, in this game, ambient sounds sound wonderful. When you approach a fountain, you hear that natural sound of water splashing and flowing. And when you walk away from said fountain, the sound get softer until it is no longer in your range of hearing. 

Game Play this is how a game is meant to be played. When you travel around town or through the world map, it feels like any other RPG from the 2D era. You walk, you talk, you buy, you sleep in inns, and so on. Nothing too special, but that is not a bad thing at fact this makes it feel special. 

When you enter combat though, the game starts to shows it's truly great qualities. There are three different types of combat in the game. You have your standard party battles (when you face normal enemies and most bosses). You next have the kingdom/army battles. In these, your rebel army faces off against the hoards of the Empire. Last, but not least, is the one on one duels. This is where you (or one of your servants in a special instance) face off against generals of the Empire and try to prove your own personal might. 

The standard fights are done in the glorious ways of old school RPGs. You have standard actions such as attack, use magic, run like a sissy, etc. Also you have a few innovative features. These include Unite and Auto. Unite is when two or more people with special ties in your combat party work together to deal extra damage, hit more enemies, or cause status ailments to your foe. This adds to the strategy of forming your party, since even if one character may seem weak, he/she may prove useful beyond expectations when he/she teams up with a friend or two (or more). Also, the Auto is quite fun as it will have all of your people just physically beat down the enemies without you having to give orders. This is nice when you face off against weak foes and just want to get it over with without having to run like a coward. Best of all, as you can tell from the unite description, you get a nice large combat party...6 people to be precise. It gives you room for a mage, some tanks to take the damage, a healer, and a support player (someone to boost stats or whatever). 

In army battles, you play a complex game of paper, rock, scissors. Your main options are either magic (attack magic, that is), charge (melee combat), or bow (ranged attacks). Like in PRS, one is always better than another. Bow beats magic beats physical beats bow. You can also choose to have a spy see the enemies next attack (you only get so many spies and they can fail you), send a bombardment from dragons (once you find them), or try to boost your charge attacks with tacticians. Your strength is primarily based on who you use to lead each attack and how many troops you have (level means nothing). Even though it is a quite simplistic design, it is fun beyond words...too bad there are only a half dozen of these fights in the game. 

Last of all in combat is the duals. Like in army battles, there are only a few of these, which is a shame as they are quite fun. Pretty much you have three options and once again it is a game of rock-paper-scissors. Defense beats special attack beats attack beats defense. You can try to guess what your opponent will do by listening to his words between each round. If your opponent says that he will crush you, you can assume defense will be the way to go, but if he says you are too strong for him, assume he's going defensive. Unlike army battles, your level affects duels. So if you keep being beaten, it usually means you need to gain some levels (there are no duels you must lose; at least if you want the best ending; even if the game continues with your loss). 

Also, you get the option in playing Suikoden to upgrade your castle...your rebel forces need somewhere to call home. If you find someone who builds elevators and you convince him to join you, your castle will have elevators. Get a merchant in your castle and you can now buy things from the comfort of your own home. Also, as your army grows, your castle will be expanded (when you get all 108 Stars of Destiny, you need a pretty big castle to house them all). 

Anyways, other than those features, Suikoden is pretty typical of old school 2D RPGs, but as they say (I don't know who says it, but they do) if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 'Nuff said. 


Overall, many people missed out on this game since it was a 2D RPG in the era of Final Fantasy 7, but it is never too late to relive a classic. This game is not too much like it's 3D sequel of Suikoden 3...but once again, not a bad thing. I have played this game a dozen times or so, and still play it from time to time (I just finished playing it a few months ago, for the 12th or 13th time). This game is perfect blend of political intrigue, personal achievement, and military strategy all in the setting of medieval fantasy. I wholeheartedly recommend this game to anyone who feels they are a RPG fan. I give Suikoden a 9.5 out of 10.