Game Review: Suikoden (PS Vita)


Welcome to THROWBACK THURSDAY! Today’s topic is Suikoden, an RPG classic originally released for the PlayStation One in 1995. It’s now available for download on the PlayStation Store. Thanks to the success of the first title, there are now five games in the Suikoden main series, plus offshoots for portable consoles.

Suikoden follows Tir McDohl, a general’s son who becomes leader of the anti-emperor Liberation Army despite being, like, twelve.

My review below:

Combat/Gameplay: 9/10
Suikoden 1 has all the features of a classic RPG: an in-town map, dozens of NPCs, treasure chests in highly unlikely locations, a large overworld, and a traditional turn-based battle system. The game can be divided into three sections: 1) Tir becomes leader of the Liberation Army, 2) the Liberation Army growths in strength and influence, and 3) the Liberation Army marches against the final bastions of the empire’s power. The game encourages a linear progression through the storyline, with space for recruitment side quests opening up toward the end of the first section/beginning of the second.

The ultimate goal of the game is to recruit all 108 “Stars of Destiny,” who are basically sprites with character portraits who can be used in battle or perform a function in your castle, such as blacksmithing or selling items. The more Stars you have, the bigger your army, which helps with the army battle sequences. These sequences are a welcome change from the typical monster encounter—they involve a rock-paper-scissors system that requires foreknowledge and strategy. For example, first I send my ninjas or thieves into the opposing forces to suss out their attack plan. If they’re going to charge, I counter with magic. A bow attack will fall to a charge, and magic gets beat by bows.

My only issue here is that there’s no explanation for any of this, so I would have bungled my first battles by knowing nothing had I not checked gaming boards for advice. Same with the one-on-one duels, where you have the choice to attack, defend, or launch a desperate attack. I was always like, “Which one defeats what again?” LOL JUST KIDDING I ALWAYS ATTACK BECAUSE I’M AGGRESSIVE LIKE THAT, JUST ASK MY HUSBAND.

Anyway, on the plus side, moving around the in-game world is fast and easy, especially once you acquire the Holy Crystal (to dash), the Blinking Mirror (to teleport), and the world map. It only took 21 hours to finish this game. In RPGs, anything under 40 hours is wicked short.

Soundtrack: 7/10
There are some nice pieces, like town themes, but overall the soundtrack was pretty underwhelming. I give it a 7 instead of a 6 because of Crystale, a character who lets you change the sound settings. I chose “Animal” for a while, tickled at the meow whenever I confirmed something. That got old fast.

Story/Characters: 8/10
My failure to collect recruit all 108 people is literally the fault of a hardware glitch. See, at one point, I had just defeated one of the Five Generals. My PS Vita then warned me that my battery was low. Since I usually play until the thing dies on me, I went ahead and engaged my defeated foe in conversation, as one does. But for some reason the X button got stuck, so when my entourage asked me if I should execute him, it automatically selected the first option (yes) instead of the second option (no), which my goody-two-shoes nature would have chosen. “No big deal,” I thought at the time, since the game had been giving me false choices up to this point (i.e. my dialogue decisions did not affect gameplay). Only later did I find out that the dude was, in fact, a character who needed to be spared to be recruited and complete the collection and thereby have the glowing satisfaction of achieving the perfect ending. ARRRRRGH.

Am I going to replay the game to get him the next time around? Hah. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Anyway, I got over 100 folks into my castle, and they all have their own backstories and I'm told I will see some again in the next Suikoden games, so it's all good!

Minus points for Leknaat the Seer advising my character that fate is not set in stone (or something like that), contradicting later statements that Tir was born under the Star of Destiny, ergo destined to lead the Liberation Army to topple the emperor. However, she may have been hinting at the sikrot resurrection of a dead character. Who knows. In any case, it's disappointing that the game is so on rails that Tir never has a chance against fate.

Villain: 9/10
In this aspect, the effectiveness of this game is not how villainous or successful the Big Bad is, but rather how intrigued I am at what happened before, and what happens next. What is the real deal with [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]? Why so sangry (sad and angry)?

Also, the final boss ended up not being a total douche, and the death (I’m assuming) scene is pretty touching. I will always root for villains who are sympathetic and/or successful, and in this, Suikoden gets a thumbs-up from me.

Visuals: 8/10

I mean, I guess the graphics are okay for the time period and the gaming system. There are very impressive flourishes by human-looking sprites, like when they draw swords or hug. It’s cute on the Vita’s little screen. Then again, this was released on the same system that gave the world Final Fantasy VII, so Suikoden can’t compare to that 3D glory.

Overall, good visuals, generic NPC designs, nice character portraits, and the monsters are cool, especially the bigger ones like Sun King. The final boss looked great! roar

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TL;DR: An entertaining classic that creates anticipation for the next installment! Recommended if you’re a JRPG fan!

This post brought to you by Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate, which is not delicious when taken black! You have been warned!