By Ronnie Cave

Released in 1995 in Japan and 1996 in North America and Europe, before Final Fantasy VII introduced the JRPG into the Western mainstream, Suikoden is Konami's flagship RPG. The series is loosely based on the Chinese novel, Shui Hu Zhuan, or The Water Margin, as it's known in English. They appear to be fairly typical games, set in a standard fantasy universe vaguely inspired by both medieval Europe and Asia, but there's substantially more depth beyond the surface.

The stories focus on the tragedies of war, not a particularly distinguishing aspect amongst video game plots - many tactical RPGs, like Nintendo's Fire Emblem and Quest's Tactics Ogre, feature similar tales of political intrigue and backstabbing, evil empires and scrappy rebellions. Suikoden, however, is usually ahead of the curve, giving a more personal concentration on the people behind the fighting. The series' big draw is the ability to recruit up to 108 characters, each unique with their own style, personality, and role. Not all of them are fighters - some simply exist to be drafted into your hero's burgeoning castle, allowing you to assemble a loyal community from the ground up. Some act as merchants, some trigger minigames like gambling or cooking tournaments, and even theatrical plays. Over the course of the game, your castle goes from a barren lot to a fortress full of life. The characters you gather fulfill a number of diverse archetypes, including hot-blooded swordsman, rugged ruffians, exceptionally attractive females, wispy bishounens, and even anthropomorphic animals including dogs, cats, ducks, lizards, and others.

In each game, your army inhabits a fortress - although usually a castle, some games also stick you in a tower or a ship. All of these are all surrounded by a body of water - after all, this is still inspired by the Water Margin story. By recruiting more people, the larger your army will grow, and your fortress will slowly come to life. Although it sounds like a collect-a-thon, you'll be handsomely rewarded in the end if you gather all 108 characters before a certain point. Since each Suikoden title takes place at different times in the series' history, sometimes the characters overlap between games, although the main story usually features a whole new main cast of protagonists.

Like any well-told war tale, Suikoden keeps from becoming a cliche of good versus evil, approaching storytelling with far more maturity than the average JRPG. Its other major characteristic the gigantic world in which the series take place. Unlike many JRPGs, which let the players explore the entire planet, each installment focuses on a particular region. In each area, you'll see parallels to real world civilizations, based on their clothing, architecture and even music. One game may reference a specific region - in the next game, you might find yourself visiting it and learning more about it.

Another recurring theme involves the power of the 27 True Runes. The Runes are immeasurable powers that govern the world, and provide the source of all magic. Because of this, many of the major wars are often influenced by the Runes themselves. Throughout the game, you will often see the protagonist struggling to find balance within himself, and the power they wield will harbor deep consequences on those around them.

In the mainline series, Suikoden follows three kinds of battles: Regular, Army and Duel. Regular battles are fairly typical turn based JRPG fights. In combat, you'll fight enemies with as many as six people in battle. The fights themselves usually play out very quickly, with your entire party carrying out their actions nearly simultaneously, with their order determined by their agility. If you bring certain people to the group, you may enable the unite command. Like Chrono Trigger, you can have as few as two or as many as six people executing a powerful attack. These powerful attacks are not without consequence, and many tend to habe dehabilitating after-effects. Also, if things tend to get really ugly, you can bribe your opponents by giving money to escape from battle.

The second style of battles are the Army campaigns. These are wide scale battles where you will lead a large coalition against the opposing side, and are essentially simplified strategy-RPG segments. This type of battle usually occurs during a pivotal part of the story. Also, this is where gathering a lot of people usually comes into play. Every character, including the ones that aren't normally used in Regular combat, will have a role in the army battle. This is also the place where you might lose your allies in battle if you make the wrong decision. If one of your allies is killed, they're gone for good, and you're pretty much screwed on getting the best ending. Each of the mainline series all have different styles of the army battle. However, they all share a primary objective - beat the opposing side.

The third and final style of battle is the Duel, which involves one-on-one combat. The Duel battle plays like rock-paper-scissors with health bars. Each of the given commands all have an advantage and a disadvantage. Attack beats Defend, Defend beats Desperate Attack and Desperate Attack beats Attack. In order to duel effectively, you must predict what your opponent will use in battle, which is based on their dialogue. For example, if your opponent's dialogue look like he's giving you no mercy, you defend and you'll win that round. This will go on until someone is defeated in battle. Most of the Suikoden games follow this format, although there are minor twists in each one.

There are five mainline Suikoden games, and a few spinoffs which do not follow the usual formula. Instead, they have different styles of gameplay and story which usually gives additional background to an already expansive world. Suikoden games in general are known to be relatively easy. With so many characters at your disposal, as well as their overpowering attacks, this should come as no surprise. It even goes to a point where the strategy is borderline brain dead, as most battles can be won with the auto-fight command. Probably the only challenge you will get is finding the 108 Stars of Destiny, some of whom only appear in a certain parts of the story and can be missed.

Technically, the protagonist's name is chosen by the player, so they are sometimes just referred to as the "Hero". However, they do all have official names based off various publications. Sometimes there are multiple names depending on the source - these are mentioned, although they are titled based on the most used name amongst the fan community.

Although initially created Yoshitaka Murayama, he left Konami during the creation of Suikoden III. The successive games have been directed by Noritada Matsukawa.

Page 1: Genso Suikoden
Page 2: Genso Suikoden II
Page 3: Genso Suikoden III
Page 4: Genso Suikoden IV
Page 5: Suikoden Tactics
Page 6: Genso Suikoden V
Page 7: Suikoden Tierkreis
Page 8: Suikogaiden Volume 1, Volume 2 and Card Stories

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden II (PSOne)

Suikoden II (PSOne)

Suikoden III

Suikoden III

Suikoden IV

Suikoden / Genso Suikoden - PSOne / Sega Saturn / PSP / Mobile / PC (1995)

American Cover

European Cover

Japanese Cover

The first Suikoden begins with Tir McDohl, the son of the famous general, Teo McDohl of the Scarlet Empire. While his father is away leading battles in the north, his son is left behind in the empire, along with several of his companions. While initially working as a low level errand boy, his fate begins to change when one of his companions, Ted, somehow unleashes a powerful magic against a strong foe. This has sparked interests among the nobles of the Scarlet Moon Empire, especially Windy, the court magician. Windy's desire of such power has caused so much disarray to Tir and his friends that they are forced into exile. If that wasn't enough, he is burdened with the Soul Eater Rune, one of the 27 True Runes that bestows life and death. He eventually meets up Odessa, the leader of the liberation army, and through various circumstances, soon overtakes her position. With so many dreadful events occurring in his life, Tir must overthrow the Empire, the same place that was once his home.

Characters:

Tir McDohl
The protagonist of Suikoden, he resides in Gregminster, the capital of the Scarlet Moon Empire. He is named Ryui in the manga version.

Gremio
While Tir's father is away from the empire, Gremio takes care of young Tir. Although Gremio is technically a servant of the McDohls, he treats Tir like his own son.
Ted
One of Tir's closest friends. His background is rather mysterious. He possesses the infamous Soul Eater Rune, which must be kept secret among other people. Even so, he has shown kindness to his companions.
Odessa Silverberg
She is the leader of the liberation army. She hates the corruption that has plagued the Scarlet Moon Empire.
Mathiu Silverberg
He is the brother of Odessa Silverberg. Due to his views about the war, he refuses to cooperate with his sister. Because of this, their relationship is strained.
Flik
The resident Pretty Boy, Flik is a member of the resistance and Odessa's boyfriend.
Viktor
He is a wandering swordsman. Because of his vagabond nature, he often involved in civil wars in the region. He has ways to get around, even though some of his tactics seem a little blunt.
Barbarossa
He is the Emperor of the Scarlet Moon Empire. Due to the Queen's death, he has become apathetic towards running the kingdom. Because of this, the aristocrats around him have their own agenda.
Windy
She is the court magician who resemble Barbarossa's wife. Using that as her advantage, she manipulates people to do her bidding. Though she had a strong political power, it's not enough to achieve her ultimate goal. She'll stop at no end to get what she wants.

Since this is the first game, it's pretty much the base for later Suikoden games. However, some of the character customization mechanics are a bit different from the norm. Instead of buying different weapons for each character, they have their own weapon that can simply be upgraded as a blacksmith. You can equip different runes on the weapons, which in turn determines magic spells, if the character is capable of them. The magic system works like the original Final Fantasy, with each magic spell classified in levels, which can only be cast a certain number of times. All Suikoden games feature random encounters, although the loading times are quick and the battles are speedy, giving it an edge over many other sluggish Playstation RPGs.

The Army battles are handled quite differently from the other Suikoden games. Here, it plays a lot like rock-paper-scissors. You need to predict on what your opponent is about to do, most of which relies on luck. Though it plays similarly to the Duel battle, there are some some differences. With the aid of many other characters, you have many options to buff up your attacks or options to support your attacks.

The visuals and the interface are somewhat dated, barely looking any better than a typical SNES RPG. The character portraits, provided by Junko Kawano, are quite ugly. The graphics in general are quite grainy, and the larger objects are quite pixelated. The interface is quite cumbersome, and you'll be moving items amongst characters just to make room. Occasionally you'll be forced to a specific character for plot reasons, leaving less room for your favorite characters. One of the major aggravations comes with the need to recruit all 108 Stars. During the course of the story, one of the major characters is killed, but returns to life if you've found everyone by the end. Since some characters are only recruitable at certain parts of the game, it's entirely possible to miss them and end up being forced with the crappy ending. The only alternative is either to load an earlier game or start over.

Overall, the first Suikoden is a pretty standard RPG with a strong Eastern influences. The story is quite simple and fairly short, although it flows quite nicely. Although now the game is considered outdated in terms of gameplay, it's still worth playing to see where the story begins.

The first Suikoden was translated into English and released in both North America and Europe. The American cover features Westernized art that bears little resemblance to the actual in-game artwork, a holdover from a common practice in the 16-bit era that eventually dissolved. Suikoden was later ported to a few other systems, none of which did saw overseas releases. The Sega Saturn version came out in Japan roughly three years after the PSOne release in 1995. It's considered a "Director's Cut" due to the additions not found in the original version. Although there are some significant changes, most of them are quite subtle. First off, there's a new intro. It shows numerous important characters and events as opposed to gameplay footages from the PSOne version. There are some graphical changes on cutscenes as well as in battle. Some of the minigames you find in the PSOne version have alterations. For example, the card minigame on the PSOne version is a matching game, while the Saturn version has blackjack game. There is a minor event where the pirates kidnap one of the female characters in the castle, and it's up to you to go after them. Other than that, everything else is the same thing as the PSOne counterpart.

Suikoden was also ported to Windows 95 and released in both Japan and China. Instead of just directly porting the PSOne version over, they totally rebuilt it and designed it around the Windows interface. The main window is where all of the action takes place, and runs in the same 320x240 resolution as the PSOne game, so it's pretty small. Everything else - the dialogue, the menus, the battle commands - each take up their own window, where you can select them via the mouse. You can also move your character with the keyboard or by pointing and clicking. The graphics and music are otherwise identical to the PSOne game.

In early 2006, during the dawn of the PSP, there were few games that was coming out for the PSP. Konami is willing to contribute the PSP library and released Genso Suikoden I and II for the PSP. However, there are a few minor differences. First off, it uses the Saturn version of the opening. Unlike some other PSOne to PSP ports, which simply stretch and filter the graphics, it actually uses the proper widescreen resolution, and zooms out the display to fit all of the extra pixels. Now, Tir can move diagonally when traversing to one place to another. Other than that, everything else plays a lot like the original PS1 counterpart.

In 2008, Konami once again ported Suikoden, this time to the mobile phones. It's the same thing as their PS1 original version except that there are graphical differences to fit the mobile phone format. Since Japan's phones are much more advanced, it's pretty obvious that the mobile phone version will not get the overseas release.

The people outside Japan questioned whether or not Konami will release their classic gem. Fortunately, the people in North America had their chance of getting this game via PSN in late 2008. For $5.99, the North Americans can experience this PS1 classic on their PS3 or PSP. It's quite a steal compared to the prices of the original game on eBay. As for Europe, it's unknown whether or not they will get this game.

MP3s Download here

Confrontation With Monsters
Forgotten Days
Theme of the Moonlit Night
Beautiful Golden City

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (Windows)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Suikoden (PSOne)

Comparison Screenshots - Introduction

PSOne

Saturn

Comparison Screenshots - Console/Portables

Saturn

PSP

On to Page 2

Back to the index