RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on May 28th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Pure Nostalgia, Gensu Suikoden

I am not generally a person who likes to poke the past too hard.  True, most (if not all) of my writing tends to be nostalgia based, but I like to think of it as nostalgia with a purpose.  There are some games that I've purposely kept at a distance, primarily because I am afraid of damaging the nostalgia for said game.  Suikoden is one of those games.  But when I saw it in the PSN store for just under $4, I couldn't help myself, and decided to jump in and play.  I wasn't disappointed.  Well, almost.

Suikoden stands as one of my favorite RPGs of all time, just not my most remembered for some reason.  It was in the first group of games that I purchased after my defection from the Nintendo camp in December of 1996 and the second RPG I played after Beyond the Beyond, so no way but up, right?  Not fair, I know, as Beyond no doubt has its fanbase, but when I jumped ship from the Nintendo 64 I was really hoping for some RPGs that were on par with what was on the SNES, and (again) no offense intended, but Beyond was not one of those games.  However, Suikoden came highly recommended from my friend at Funco, who even gave me a Cousin Eddie "Real Nice" look. 

While I didn't remember much from my original playthrough in the winter of 1996, I do remember the bewilderment of my siblings (two younger sisters and one younger brother).  Not so much at the PSX and new games, but the absence of the N64 (and Super Mario 64), which I had sold previously to secure my guarantee of Final Fantasy VII, as well as other RPGs.  See, at the time I was in some sort of RPG glut, where I had played every game in the genre I could get ahold of, even going so far as to venture into Sega Genesis territory (and not playing the games that you would assume an RPG conquistador would).

This particular article has been a long time in the making, and as I mentioned previously was really brought about because of my deciding to replay it on my Vita.  This is all down to my aforementioned memory problems.  I have taken notes when I can, but there were only about three things that I could recall with clarity, and I thought it might be fun to splice it together with thoughts on them from my current playthrough (at the time of this article).

One of the few things I remember was the political intrigue and air of revolution within Suikoden.  It was such a different direction that I was used to, though not unique.  After all, themes of revolution were abound in many games of the genre, especially within the Square camp, but at the time most of the games I had played had been the opposite.  This really stuck in my young mind and it made the game feel more "real" to me than many others, though even with this, the overall RPG themes of "light versus dark" are far stronger than any political struggle, so in the end the Empire is nothing more than a heavily corrupt and evil government and must be destroyed. 

During my modern day replay, this bit of simplicity stands out more than anything else, and it makes me long for the three-dimensional characters and situations brought out in Dragon Quest VII and even Dragon Quest Builders, where the developers seem to delight in making you think and question the traditional nature of good and evil in the RPG genre.  It also makes me long for a bit of ignorance, like some sort of RPG "clean slate" or maybe memory wiping.  It doesn't feel that long ago when I felt I could be satisfied with pretty much any RPG experience (even the blatantly bad ones), and I inhaled everything I could possibly afford to buy or rent.  These days I tend to spend some serious time looking into the game before I commit, though now the only resource I seem to lack is time.  Once upon a time I was so nuts for RPGs that I would play them entirely in Japanese, a language that I did not, and still do not know in any capacity.  I played both Grandia on Saturn and the Famicom original of Final Fantasy III to completion back in '98 and '99 (respectively), assisted by the excellent walkthroughs found upon a much older version of GameFAQS.

I think the largest difference between Suikoden and others in the genre (and one I regarded highly at the time) was the battle system.  Featuring six characters to control, more than any game I had played, it somehow managed to still be one of fastest of the turn-based games I'd ever played.  Unlike some of the more traditional systems (and very much like that of D&D games), the rear row is very much in the back of the party, and completely useless unless they are magic users or capable of Medium or Long range attacks.  This plays a huge part in party management, as more often than not you have the choice of characters to take along at any given bit of story, at least in most instances.  Perhaps you may want to take along Pahn to level up a bit, but since he is Short range he would be useless if all the positions in the front row is filled.  Same with Clive; it would be a waste of all the time to get the character (who uses a Long range musket) to stick him in the front row. 

In the modern day playthrough, I still find the battle system fast-paced and good, but more often than not (unless I am fighting a boss) I found myself using "Free Will," the auto-battle system, for nearly all of the game.  I don't think it is because I find the system boring, though, but rather I was feeling that "daddy" time constraint I mentioned earlier.  While not the most strategic (which is likely why I "Free Willed" my way through the game) it is easily one of the fastest I've ever played, even beating out the speed of FInal Fantasy X.

The last thing I held Suikoden on a pedestal for was the amount of characters in the game, and how they eventually come together.  There are a total of 108 recruitable characters in the game, though many of them cannot be controlled in combat.  So why even bother recruiting?  Because the non-playable characters join your cause in a support position, that's why.  True some are nothing more than windows dressing, but even they will impact your "home base" in a visual way if not entirely functional.  Getting ahold of these 108 characters was something else though, and some require specific conditions (like Clive who I mentioned above), and even though I do remember spending a lot of time with Suikoden, I also remember that I started another playthrough almost immediately after finishing it the first time, which is very rare for me.  It was all down to the recruitable characters, and also the fact that I didn't find them all the first time.  My motivation was not just to "catch'em all" but also all the characters you recruit get a little snippet (American Graffiti-style) in the ending, and back then the ending sequence was the real reason that I finished those games.

In the modern day I have to admit I am not going nuts looking for characters to recruit.  Where I had found characters that I could not recruit, but if I still didn't meet the requirements I easily quit them, waiting for perhaps another opportunity later.  I didn't feel any sort of compulsion to get everyone, maybe because I generally feel during replays (especially RPG replays) that I am wasting my time, especially when the demands of daily life as a husband and father pretty much trump everything, and I have all those other games I would like to play before I die.  Whew, that got morbid, didn't it?

This article almost wasn't a "Pure Nostalgia" article, since my feelings and memories are bound up in just a few scant scenes.  Instead, I present this writing to you as a warning; a caveat against retreading old ground for the sake of curiosity, that perhaps an excellent memory should be just that and nothing more.

Thanks for reading!

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I've had mixed experiences when revisiting old games, and Suikoden is actually one of those games. I remember playing it back in the day and thinking it was only a decently good game, but when we did the community playthrough for it a few years back I absolutely loved it and now consider it to be one of my favorite games for the PlayStation. I'm not sure what the difference is; maybe I'm just older and better able to appreciate the more mature storyline, or maybe it was playing it with the community that made the experience better.

I've also replayed games that I loved back in the day like Mafia and Max Payne and found them too dated by today's standards to really enjoy them like I did before. There are other games from the era I'd like to revisit like Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, but I'm hesitant because I'm worried I'll have a similar experience.

At any rate, this was an interesting read!
@Disposed Hero: The storyline is very refreshing.  I love that it kind of follows the whole JRPG trope (famous general/king's kid has to save the world) but alters it just enough to make it feel fresh.  Out of your options (and personally speaking) if I had picked this up again in a community playthrough I think the outcome would have been different.

I am very hesitant of retreading old ground with gaming, but that mainly seems to be what I do.  Oh well.

Thanks for reading!
Nice commentary on not only Suikoden, but also your reflections during different time periods.  Have to say that this series is still one of my favorite RPGs of all time.  I always loved to see my 'castle' mature as my recruitment base grew.
@Marriott_Guy:  Thank you very much.  While I want to agree with you on the series, this is the only entry I have played.  I do have part 2 lined up for play within the next year or so (got it in the same sale as part one).

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