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Page 1:
Introduction
Suikoden

Page 2:
Suikoden II

Page 3:
Suikoden III

Page 4:
Suikoden IV

Page 5:
Suikoden Tactics

Page 6:
Suikoden V

Page 7:
Suikoden Tierkreis

Page 8:
Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki

Page 9:
Gensō Suikogaiden Vol. 1
Gensō Suikogaiden Vol. 2
Gensō Suikoden Card Stories

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index


by Strikebomber - originally posted November 2009; last updated February 2015

Before Final Fantasy VII introduced the JRPG to the Western mainstream, Suikoden was Konami's flagship RPG. Released in 1995 in Japan and 1996 in North America and Europe, the series is loosely based on the Chinese novel Shui Hu Zhuan (Water Margin). 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 take on the people behind the fighting. The series' main appeal is the ability to recruit up to 108 characters; each 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 flourishing fortress. The characters you gather fulfill a number of diverse archetypes, including hot-blooded swordsmen, rugged ruffians, wispy bishounens, and anthropomorphic animals.

In each installment, your army inhabits a fortress - although it is usually a castle, some games also stick you in a tower or a ship. All of these are surrounded by a body of water - after all, this is inspired by the Water Margin story. The more people you recruit, the larger your army will grow. Consequently your fortress will slowly come to life. It is a little bit like a collect-a-thon, and you're handsomely rewarded in the end if you gather all 108 characters before a certain point. While each Suikoden title takes place at a different time period in the series' history, sometimes the characters overlap between games. However, the main story usually features a new protagonist.

Suikoden avoids the usual JRPG tropes by approaching storytelling with far more maturity than the average JRPG. Unlike other JRPGs, which let the players explore the entire planet, each installment focuses on a particular region. In every area, you explore places that have parallels to real world civilizations. Another recurring theme is that a character you recruited may come from a distant land to fight on your behalf. Depending on their character backstory, it may reference an unfamiliar territory. If you are lucky, you might find yourself visiting that region and learn more about it in the next installment.

Another recurring theme in the mainline series 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 their potent abilities, many of the major wars are often influenced by the Runes themselves. Throughout the mainline series, you often see the protagonist struggling to find inner peace, and the power they wield will harbor deep consequences on those around them. As of today, only 18 of the 27 true runes are ever mentioned directly.

The mainline series, Tierkreis and Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki follow a simple turn-based battle system, while spinoffs like Suikoden Tactics, Suikogaiden, and Card Stories deviate from the formula. The mainline Suikoden series has three distinct battle systems: Regular, Army and Duel.

Regular battles are fairly typical turn based JRPG fights. In combat, you'll fight enemies with as many as four to six people. With your entire party carrying out their actions, most of your allies will engage in battle quickly. If you bring certain people to the party, you may enable a so-called unite command. Similar in execution to Chrono Trigger's combined attacks, you can have as few as two or as many as six people executing a powerful attack. These are not without consequences, though, and tend to have debilitating after-effects. Also, if things tend to get really ugly, you can bribe your opponents with money to escape from battle.

The second combat style is the army campaign. These are wide-scale battles where you 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 decisions. If one of your allies is killed, they're gone for good. Consequently, you're immediately locked out on getting the best ending. Each title in the mainline series has its own distinct style for the army battles. However, they all share a primary objective - vanquish the opposing group.

Finally, the third style is duel battle. This is where the protagonist engages on a one-on-one fight against a major opponent. The Duel battle plays like rock-paper-scissors with health bars. Each of the given commands has an advantage and a disadvantage. For example, 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 expression and tone of the dialogue. For example, if your opponent's dialogue description looks like he's about to go all out, you defend. This will evade his desperate attack and you'll punish him with your own attack. The duel will continue until someone's HP is depleted. Most of the mainline Suikoden games follow this format, although there are minor deviations on each installment.

The spin-off Suikoden games have different styles of gameplay, and their story reveals additional insight to an already expansive world. Most Suikoden games are known to be relatively easy. With so many characters at your disposal, as well as their overpowering attacks, you are practically a killing machine. It's so easy that you can switch to auto-battle in most battles without worrying. Probably the only challenge you will get is finding the 108 Stars of Destiny. The series is notorious for missable characters. You may want to refer to a guide to find all of them.

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

Suikoden (PlayStation)

Suikoden II (PlayStation)

Suikoden III (PlayStation 2)

Suikoden IV (PlayStation 2)


Recurring Characters

Throughout of the main Suikoden games, there are well over five hundred characters. Covering them all would be a book in and of itself - however, there are a number of important recurring characters that help gives the series its identity. Here are some of the most interesting.

Leknaat

One of the few characters found in all of the five mainline Suikoden games. She's a blind sorceress and the "Keeper of the Balance", giving advice and guiding the players. She possesses part of the Gate Rune, one of the 27 True Runes, which accounts for her immortality.

Viki

Viki is a bit of scatterbrain. She appears in all five mainline Suikoden games and uses her rune to transport you to locations you've already visited. Due to the fact that she's the same age in every game, it seems to imply that she can also travel through time as well as space. In Suikoden III, she teams up with a younger version of herself, who seems to be infinitely more mature. She becomes playable in Suikoden II and has been usable in battle in every game since.

Jeane

This mysterious woman appears in all five Suikoden games, as well as Suikogaiden and Suikoden Tactics. Through each installment, she appears to be the same age, and tends to wear even more revealing outfits, if that's possible. She mostly takes on the role of selling and equipping runes. Although she plays a passive role in the first three games, she finally becomes active in battle in the fourth and fifth games. Her past is mysterious, and no one is clear as to why she hasn't aged.

Yuber

Little is known about Yuber, except that he's some kind of evil demon that interferes with the lives of mortals. He pops in and out of the first two Suikoden games, but dons a snazzy blue suit/hat combo in the third game, and teams up with the Masked Bishop and Sarah to wreck some havoc.

Yuber

Another strange demon with only a bit of implied backstory, Pesmerga seems to exist solely to hunt down and destroy Yuber. He joins your party in Suikoden I & II, but is sadly absent from the third. Many fans hoped that the conflict between the two would continue in succeeding games, but this particular thread seems to have been dropped.


Suikoden / Gensō Suikoden (幻想水滸伝) - PlayStation, Saturn, Windows, PSP, Mobile, PlayStation 3, PSVita (1995)

American PlayStation Cover

European PlayStation Cover

Japanese PlayStation 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 and his companions are left behind in the empire. While initially working as a low-level errand boy, Tir's fate begins to change. On the group's way to apprehend some local bandits, they encounter a deadly monster. In order to overcome it, one of Tir's companions somehow unleashes powerful magic against a strong foe. This sparks interest among the nobles of the Scarlet Moon Empire, especially Windy, the court magician. Windy's desire of such power has caused disarray to Tir and his friends and they are forced into exile. If that was not 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, he overtakes her position. Now Tir must overthrow the Scarlet Moon Empire, the place that was once his home.

Characters

Tir McDohl

He is a young man from Gregminister. His life takes a drastic turn as he takes hold of the Soul Eater Rune. 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. His relationship with his sister is strained due to their opposing views about the war. He serves as the main tactician in this installment.

Flik

Flik is a member of the resistance and Odessa's boyfriend. He is known by his hot-bloodedness and is the token pretty boy.

Viktor

He is a wandering swordsman. Because of his vagabond nature, he often gets 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. After the Queen's death, he has become apathetic towards running the kingdom. Because of his passive behavior, the aristocrats seize the opportunity to enact their own agenda for running the empire.

Mathiu Silverberg

She is a court magician who resembles Barbarossa's wife. Using that as her advantage, she manipulates people to do her bidding. Though she has strong political power, it is not enough to achieve her ultimate goal. She'll stop at no end to get what she wants.

Since this is the first installment in the series, the basic battle system builds the foundation for the subsequent Suikoden games. However, there are other minor features that differ from most RPGs. For example, instead of buying different weapons for each character, everyone sticks with their own weapon. It can be strengthened by going to the blacksmith and paying him for an upgrade. You can also attach rune pieces to the weapons, which adds different elemental powers to it. The magic system works like the original Final Fantasy. All magic spell are classified in levels, which can only be cast a certain number of times. Like most early PlayStation JRPGs, Suikoden features random encounters. They are fairly frequent, but the overall pace of the battles is very quick, so don't worry too much about the frequent random encounters.

The army battle in the first Suikoden is handled differently from the other games. Here, it plays a lot like rock-paper-scissors. You need to predict on what your opponent is about to do, and you choose your action. Unless you have any intel to anticipate the next attack, there's a lot of guesswork involved. Although it plays similarly to the duel battle, there are minor differences. With the aid of other characters, you have numerous options to bolster your attacks.

The visuals and the interface are dated, considering it was released during the early PlayStation era. The graphics in general are very rough and grainy. The interface is cumbersome, and you'll be shifting items frequently just to make room in your inventory. Occasionally, you'll be forced to use 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. For instance, if you need to have five people to recruit an important character, it might not be possible due to a mandatory character occupying the slot. The only alternative is either to load an earlier save file or start over.

Overall, the first Suikoden is a typical standard JRPG with a strong Eastern influence. The story is very simplistic and it can be finished within 15-20 hours. Although the first game is considered outdated in terms of gameplay, it's still worth playing to see where the story begins and how it relates to Suikoden II.

Due to its modest success, Suikoden was ported to other systems, first to the Sega Saturn. It came out in Japan roughly three years after the PlayStation release in 1995. The graphics are less detailed than its PlayStation counterpart, but it's considered a "Director's Cut" due to some 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, which shows some important characters and events. Some of the minigames you find in the original have alterations here. For example, the card minigame on PlayStation is a matching game, while the Saturn version is a 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. Lastly, there's a battle arena where you can win rare items. Everything else remains the same.

Gensō Suikoden (Windows)

Suikoden was also ported to Windows 95 and released in Japan, China and Korea. Instead of just directly porting the PlayStation 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 PlayStation 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 PlayStation game.

In early 2006, while the PSP was at its infancy, Konami released Genso Suikoden I & II for the PSP. However, there are minor differences. First off, it uses the Saturn version of the opening. Unlike some other PlayStation 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 from one place to another. Other than that, everything else remains the same.

In 2008, Konami once again ported Suikoden, this time to mobile phones. It's the same thing as the original PlayStation version, only with the graphics squeezed onto the mobile phone format. None of these ports were made available in the West, but fortunately, North Americans had their chance of getting this game on PlayStation 3 or Vita via PSN in late 2008 and Europe in early 2015.

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Suikoden (PlayStation)

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<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Introduction
Suikoden

Page 2:
Suikoden II

Page 3:
Suikoden III

Page 4:
Suikoden IV

Page 5:
Suikoden Tactics

Page 6:
Suikoden V

Page 7:
Suikoden Tierkreis

Page 8:
Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki

Page 9:
Gensō Suikogaiden Vol. 1
Gensō Suikogaiden Vol. 2
Gensō Suikoden Card Stories

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index