Retro Review: Suikoden
Developed and published by Konami and released in the U.S. in December of 1996. Suikoden is a traditional role-playing game with a wide scope of battle systems and mini-games. Recruit 108 Stars of Destiny and unify an empire divided by war. As the son of one of the great generals of the Scarlet Moon Empire, a lot is expected of our hero as he is groomed to follow in his father's footsteps. Tir (as the hero is known in official sources), at this point in his life however, is just concerned with hanging out with his companions and best friend Ted. When Tir’s father Teo is tasked with leading a battle in the north, our hero is called upon to work for the empire and complete some tasks to see if he is ready to join the Imperial Army. Together with Ted, and Tir’s family guardians, Cleo, Pahn, and Gremio, our hero begins his journey and soon discovers that the Empire might not be all that he was raised to believe and corruption lies deep. As fate would have it, we discover that Ted is also not who he seems to be and is the bearer of one of the 27 True Runes, the Emperor is obsessed with this True Rune and wishes to capture Ted and obtaining this power for his own nefarious needs. Destiny intervenes and our hero accepts the burden to become the new bearer of this True Rune, known as the Soul Eater. Thus begins our journey to recruit the 108 Stars of Destiny and unify the region.
At first glance, you may think the graphics in Suikoden (pronounced, ‘swee-kuh-din’) are nothing to write home about. Take a minute to look at the intricate details of the canvas like paintings that create the backgrounds for the world and the many places that you will visit. The sprite work is some of the best of this era of RPGs and the character portraits are stunning to look at, not to mention the rune magic and battle effects are also quite a sight to behold. The soundtrack, composed by Miki Higashino, incorporates inspiration from both the East and West and is certainly amazing just by itself. Whether you are talking to your companions in the warmth of your own home, or escaping the Scarlet Moon Empire in desperation, the music captures every moment perfectly.
What separates Suikoden from most other RPGs during this time is the expanded use of the various battle systems. You get your traditional turn-based battles, albeit with 6 character parties instead of the normal 4 person teams that we’re accustomed to. On top of that, this world will also throw at you large-scale military battles and the occasional one-on-one duel. Both of these will rely on a rock, paper, scissors type of system to determine the outcomes. A simple yet, dramatic and engaging plot with plenty of side plots to keep you busy for hours upon hours and never really become tedious or boring. The bread and butter for Suikoden though are the recruitable 108 Stars of Destiny. Each character you recruit has something to offer, whether it’s as a valued member in battle or a helping hand such as shops, inns, or even mini-games in the castle headquarters that you will eventually acquire. Can you recruit them all and gather the strength needed to overthrow a corrupt empire and bring peace to the land?
Suikoden is a wonderful game for beginners in the RPG genre, never too difficult and pretty evenly paced. It’s also the entry point to a long-running series spanning multiple generations of consoles and handhelds, some of which are directly connected and others...not so much. There is something for everyone here! Pro-tip, if you plan on continuing the series, make sure to keep that save file!