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RPG Spotlight: Suikoden

One of the questions readers ask me most is if they would like a particular series. As a way to provide the answer and celebrate beloved franchises, RPG Spotlight gives a concise overview of the elements that give a franchise its heart and soul.

In this edition, I take a look at Konami’s Suikoden. Suikoden is best known for its political intrigue, blindsiding betrayals, and recruiting an army of 108 Stars of Destiny to overthrow corruption and ignite a revolution.

Claim To Fame


Suikoden captured role-playing fans with its intriguing political storylines alongside both traditional and tactical battles. Additionally, building your own army by recruiting Stars of Destiny around the world meshed well with the game’s themes and put players on an addictive hunt to find them all. The stars also determined endings, giving the best outcome for tracking all 108 down. Suikoden stands out most for how well it replicates the betrayals that come in war. We’ve all heard stories throughout history about how dire times turn even the staunchest allies against each other (Et tu, Brute?), but Suikoden lets players experience what a stab in the back feels like in a way few games do. 

Play If You Like


It depends on what you find intriguing about Suikoden, if it’s character recruitment, Radiata Stories is a good comparison. If you’re a fan of more of the tactical battles and political stories, the Fire Emblem and Growlanser games are a close match. 

History Catch-Up


Suikoden,  created by Yoshitaka Murayama, made its way to North America in 1996 for PS1. Murayama wanted to create an RPG to give Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy a run for their money. Murayama’s original vision became Suikoden II, and ultimately, decided to make Suikoden, a prequel to that story, because he didn’t feel he had the experience yet for his initial vision.  Murayama was greatly inspired by manga such as Fist of the North Star and Captain Tsubasa, along with the Chinese novel Outlaws of the Marsh. In his pitch, he used Outlaws of the Marsh as a main comparison, which lead to using the Japanese translation of the name, “Suikoden” as the game’s name. It also inspired the 108 Stars of Destiny hook, which was to represent the 108 outlaws from Outlaws of the Marsh. 

The first Suikoden did well with critics, but didn’t generate the sales Konami anticipated. Still, it helped cement Suikoden’s cult following, causing Konami to pursue it as a franchise. Suikoden II, which took place two years after the events of Suikoden, quickly became the series’ shining star, setting a high standard. Since then, Suikoden has seen plenty highs and lows. Suikoden III and V are generally well-regarded entries, while Suikoden IV’s faulty ship sailing system ruined an otherwise solid game. Fans have been pining for Suikoden VI, but have yet to see anything materialize, or even Konami confirming it still has interest in pursuing Suikoden further. The best that they’ve received is spin-offs for the 3DS and PSP, and none of the spin-offs have lived up to the core entries. 

Good Starting Points


This is tough. Suikoden II remains the series’ best outing, but is by far the hardest to find. Konami, please put it on PSN already! Since II might be hard to get your hands on, the first game isn’t a bad starting point, and it is available on PSN. I played it recently and found it aged well, but there are places where you just need to submit to an extra grind. If you can handle a game that takes a bit to get going, Suikoden V on the PlayStation 2 isn’t a bad starting point either. Suikoden V features some of my favorite blindsiding betrayals. 

Criticisms


The Suikoden games don’t really open up until you get your headquarters where you house all your recruits. The problem is that sometimes it takes a long time to get there, especially in the aforementioned Suikoden V. As the games have progressed, finding the stars have also become much harder with with some stars becoming inaccessible if you don’t recruit them by a certain point. Also, the endings for doing the bare minimum in regards to star recruitment are just awful, so Suikoden best serves the completionists at heart. The reliance on grinding at some points may also be a turn off for some, but Suikoden’s traditional battles play out quickly enough. 

On The Horizon


As we noted in our Lost RPG Franchises feature, Suikoden has hit a standstill. We never did get a localization for the PSP Suikoden side story, entitled  Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki, which released in 2012. Fans are still passionate about the series and have been trying to make their voices heard, even starting up The Suikoden Revival Movement, in hopes it urges Konami to have faith to do another mainline entry. Here’s to hoping the franchise makes a comeback. 

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