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ASK WHEELS
Q&A Rhythm
July 6th, 2012

07/6- 12:00PM EST

I hope you enjoy some Suikoden talk, because we sure have some more of it this week! In other news, Nights is getting a port to consoles and PC, so I'm hoping this will start a trend, and Sega will port more Saturn games. It may be a foolish dream, but I sure would love to see something like Panzer Dragoon Saga made available for all to play. Anyway, on to the letters!





The Letters
Even More Suikoawesome

Hey Wheels,

By now you know I am also a very big fan of Suikoden, so I would like to offer my point of view to Ian W. as well.


Wheels

I'd be glad to hear your opinions, and I'm sure Ian would enjoy them as well. Let's see what you've got!

I agree with him on Suikoden III. Being a European RPGamer, I had to jump through a LOT of hoops to get the game to work on my PS2, and when I finally got it to work, for some reason I couldn’t get into it.


Wheels

Sadly that is one of the dangers of importing that I've experienced myself, though thankfully it did not involve all the hoops that I'm sure you had to go through. I imported Tales of the Tempest to get a Tales game to play on the go. It turned out to be quite a terrible game! Oh well, importing 7th Dragon worked out much better. I seem to be getting a bit off track. Anyway, I wonder if just the great expectations from importing it created an unrealistic image of the game. Then again, perhaps it's just not for everyone?

Actually, I do know the reason. At first I was very, very intrigued by the game. Especially Hugo’s story was awesome, but then you run into this gymnast dude… If I ever go back to Suikoden 3, I am not even going to recruit the guy. All in all the experience was enjoyable though. Actually, I am getting rather excited now!


Wheels

Well that's good to hear that you still enjoyed it despite some hangups. What was the name of this gymnast dude? I need to avoid this person when I finally get around to playing the game.

But then onto Suikoden IV. Dear Ian W., do not let anyone tell you not to enjoy Suikoden IV. I personally felt it was a truly great game. Yes, exploration of the open seas was a bit strange and at times rather boring, but the story was amazing, and the game perfectly captured the ambiance of Mediterranean seafaring and all that, especially with the music. The fact that it took place in a very different time-frame and very different area from the first three games made it so that I wasn’t really put off by the fact that it was a very different game and a very different story. It still felt like a Suikoden game, just at a different time and place. Best of all, once you are done enjoying Suikoden IV (and you will, with the right mindset), you can then play Suikoden Tactics and a lot of things that weren’t explained in Suikoden IV will be explained there. Also, some characters will get more screen time than they did in Suikoden IV, so you get to know them a bit better too. All in all, those two games are great games in their own rights. Don’t let bad reviews discourage you too much.


Wheels

Very interesting. I was hoping someone would write in with their thoughts as to why they enjoyed Suikoden IV.  I figured that it must differ a good deal from the rest of the series, and that must have turned a lot of people off. Still, I remember lots of complaints of technical issues, and complaints about the main character and story in general. Regardless, it seems that this is the kind of game people should at least try, and not base their opinion solely on reviews. Good to hear Suikoden Tactics continues the story of IV, for those that did enjoy it. Did you run into any technical issues?

Suikoden V then... Many feel it returns to what makes Suikoden great, and I agree. It has the vibe. Yet, to be quite honest, I personally enjoyed Suikoden IV more. Goes to show, huh? I guess it is all a matter of taste.


Wheels

I suppose it is, since I thought V was the closest the series has gotten to the glory of Suikoden II...

That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy Suikoden V. I did, very much so. I will have to be very honest with you guys, I never got to finish Suikoden II. I know, it’s terrible… But at least I did finish Suikoden I (with all 108 Stars), Suikoden IV, Tactics and Suikoden V, so I do get SOME credit… Oh, and I helped a bit on translating Gaiden, but that’s a whole different story. Anyways, I digress… Suikoden V is a very engrossing game, and it has one of the characters from Suikoden II in it, which is awesome. I forgot his name, it’s been a very long time since I played, but it’s an amazing story.


Wheels

Oh my, you never finished Suikoden II? This is something you really need to fix at your earliest convenience. That game is simply amazing. The fact that you greatly enjoyed Suikoden V tells me that you should finish Suikoden II. Of course I know that's not exactly a cheap thing to do. Anyway, what's with the tease about translating Gaiden? I need to hear this story!

And then the handheld Suikodens… which I refuse to acknowledge as Suikoden games. They just aren’t. I can’t for the life of me understand why they decided to give them the Suikoden name. First off, Suikoden has a hardcore following, so it’s not like slapping the name on would give them a million extra sales, and it has nothing to do with the main storyline. NOTHING! I am sure that the games could be enjoyable, but I cannot shake off the fact that they are called Suikoden, but are completely different things. So I won’t touch them. Besides, it didn’t help that the main character from Tierkreis is officially the most obnoxiously annoying character in the history of RPGs. I am sure the voice actor did his best and it was probably also a matter of cartridge space, but… I wish it had the option of removing the voice acting. It didn't do the game any good.


Wheels

I can't really argue with the annoying main character in Tierkreis. I will say that it is a fine little game on its own merits. Still, you're right, Suikoden doesn't have a huge following, so why put the name on a game that has little to do with the rest of the series? I know there's some kind of slim link to the main series, so why not more firmly develop that? Why not include all the gameplay variations that Suikoden is known for? It just feels like a completely wasted opportunity. It's not like sales of the series had completely fallen off the table. Oh well, we can only hope that Konami sees the error of this approach.

Anyhoo, I think my summer vacation is going to be spent playing Suikoden a bit once more. And my apologies Wheels, but I have no Qs for you to A.

Best wishes,
Daniel


Wheels

That's perfectly fine! I enjoy talking about Suikoden, whether or not there are any questions involved. Now get out there and finish Suikoden II!

Q&A Random Questions

 Hello Wheels! I hope you have been well.

In last week's Q&A, you mentioned how you wished Phantasy Star I & II would get graphical updates the way Final Fantasy has. There actually have been remakes of both games for the PS2, called Phantasy Star Generations 1 and 2. These games, as you might have guessed, were never released outside of Japan. It's a shame, since they look really cool in screenshots and videos. I did enjoy the games in more or less their original forms (I played I-III via the GBA Phantasy Star Collection), but I'm weird in that I like to experience old games as they were. That's why I played Ultima IV despite its archaicness , and am actually interested in the playing the previous games in that series. I find the graphics quaint and am oddly fascinated by how these older games were played. Obviously, the early Phantasy Stars are much more familiar to a modern RPGamer than Ultima, but I have the same mindset with both.


Wheels

I had completely forgotten about those! That makes me remember a funny story. At one point, a collection of the Generations games was supposed to come out in the US and I had it reserved at an EB Games for a long time. Of course, it never actually came out, but I must have left those five dollars on that reservation for at least a year. Eventually it became clear it wasn't coming out, so I had to cancel it. I really wish it had come out, as the older Phantasy Star games have not aged well. While I can enjoy old games like the early Ultima games as well, I perfectly get why many can't. I'd love to see updates of both Ultima and Phantasy Star so more people can discover why both are so great. They can skip remaking Phantasy Star III though.

Now for an unrelated question, what is you favorite character class out of any game? It can be a standard or common one like Mage or Cleric, or something more game or series specific. For me, it's still the HUnewearl, the female Hunter Newman from Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Zero. It's one of the few classes I've come across that combines high agility with good-for-non-Force magic. I love tearing into enemies with a pair of daggers or dual swords while being dodgy enough to avoid their attacks, then using Techniques in a pinch or to heal myself.


Wheels

I would have to go with with the wizard class from Tactics Ogre, specifically the remake for PSP. Unlike most RPGs where wizards typically just focus on damage dealing, there are a wide variety of status ailments wizards in Tactics Ogre can inflict in addition to the typical array of damage dealing spells. There are instances of this in other games, but the status ailments seemed much more useful in Tactics Ogre. Too often sleep and other such spells aren't anywhere near useful enough.

I'm still on the fence about Kingdom Hearts 3D. The demo was kind of fun, but I definitely got a greater kick out of seeing Neku in another game, even if it isn't a TWEWY follow-up. It isn't likely that sales of this game would spur Square Enix to make a sequel to The World Ends With You, right?  It's not like I have to get it day one. I could just wait for a price drop. Kingdom Hearts games tend to be easy to find in stores. I've never cared for the KH games, but I adore TWEWY. What's makes this oddly harder for me is that there is a remix of one of my favorite songs from TWEWY," Calling", by one of my favorite artists, Olivia Lufkin. While I prefer the original version to this remix, it's still pretty good and just the idea...It's like SE is trying to get me to buy KH3D. :P


Wheels

I think Square Enix is interested in doing a sequel to The World Ends With You regardless of sales of Kingdom Hearts 3D, so don't buy it just for that! I think KH3D is going to be one of the better games in the series, but I doubt it will change your mind if you dislike the other games in the series. So don't worry about buying it! You can always get that cool remix from iTunes without playing the game. Just play The World Ends With You again instead of forcing yourself to play something you won't like.

Yay for random, unrelated questions and comments. Without a focus like my last series of letters, the next few letters of mine will likely be similar to this one. Well, you don't mind, right?

-Strawberry Eggs


Wheels

Not at all! I love all sorts of random questions. Let me ask you a question, what system do you think a The World Ends With You sequel should be on, and how can they further innovate the gameplay of the original?

Even More Suikoden

I was reading your last Q&A, saw the Suikoden discussion, and had to throw
in my feelings on the subject.


Wheels

Excellent, I was hoping for further Suikoden discussion!

First off, I need to say that I absolutely loved the original Suikoden back when I first got to play it. The combination of 108 playable characters, massive military battles, dramatic duels, and a fun story focused on the politics of a single nation rather than a generic save the world plot all added up to make the game extremely enjoyable. That said, while I loathe to use the phrase, the game hasn't really aged well. The 108 character don't really have anywhere near as much personality as they should, the gameplay is rather simplistic, and the Scarlet Moon Empire isn't fleshed out very well. That said, these problems only exist because I can compare the game to later entries, which simply do everything better.


Wheels

Oh I don't think it has aged that badly. It still has good looking sprites, speedy combat, and the unique  hooks that only a Suikoden game can have. Of course, you're right in that it doesn't compare that favorably to newer games in the series. It still compares quite favorably to many of its PS1 contemporaries despite this.

Suikoden 2 is an amazing game, and every fan of the genre needs to play it. That's all that really needs to be said about it, other than the fact that I wish we could get a new localization for it that doesn't have all the bugs the original version did. The missing music in particular is really disappointing. I will brag, though, that I bought the game when it was first released at a very reasonable price. I will never let my copy of that game go.


Wheels

Yes, Suikoden II could really use a fixed up localization.  I wonder if those bugs are the reason it hasn't shown up on PSN? Anyway, there's no way I'll let my copy of this masterpiece go either.

You talked about Suikoden 3 with mixed feelings, but I really like that one. Other than the lack of control over your party caused by the pair system and the loss of seeing hundreds of soldiers clashing in a giant melee, I really liked every new thing it brought to the series and really miss how all of those things were missing in later entries. The complex skill system was a lot of fun to experiment with, I liked how it made positioning relevant to major battles but easy to ignore for simple fights, its unique way of calculating time within each turn (so that you can both use an elemental sword rune and attack the same turn, or take several turns to cast a powerful spell) was innovative, it actually had a decent implementation of powerful mounted units, and it had a great mass battle system and my favorite dueling system in the series. Story wise, the split perspectives made it much easier to really make use of the 108 stars and was great for telling the story, and I find the Grasslands to be the best setting in the series, too. I even like this one's graphics and music more than the other PS2 Suikoden games. Suikoden 3 is the entry that did the most to advance the series and make it truly unique, and I wish more people would recognize its accomplishments.


Wheels

Well I should note that I was talking about others mixed feelings, as I have sadly not been able to get to it yet. It sounds to me like people may have just been turned off by changes to the battle system (you know how that can go with series). Everything you describe sounds fantastic to me, so I'm not sure what the issue is. Regardless, it certainly appears to be the most well received entry in the series (and has an amazing intro).

You openly wondered in your last Q&A about whether Suikoden 4 was a bad game or just a bad Suikoden game, and let me answer that one. It's just a bad game. It is easily one of the ugliest PS2 games I've ever played, has a terrible plot, a terrible main character, a very tedious overworld, a poorly organized structure, and unmemorable battle gameplay. Also, as far as the series is concerned, it has the worst mass combat system, the worst music, the worst art style, its graphics seem rushed or unfinished, it abandons all of 3's innovations, it introduces a new "cinematic" style to dueling that I just don't like, its characters are as dull as Suikoden 1's (even though 2 and 3 do so much to make them more interesting), and it just doesn't introduce anything new that makes up for its many flaws. It's the one Suikoden game I've abandoned halfway through with no intention of finishing, even though I've played the others to death.


Wheels

Yikes, it almost sounds like you're describing a completely different game from Daniel. I can think of a lot of games that could contend for being the worst looking on the PS2, so I think it'd be tough to hand that title to Suikoden IV. Anyway, I'm still not sure what to think of this game because I keep getting conflicting opinions! I'm just going to have to play the thing myself. I just can't imagine how the same team responsible for such an amazing series could put out a complete turd.

From what I hear, Suikoden Tactics, the tactical RPG spinoff of the series that is set in the same place and time as Suikoden 4, actually does a lot to redeem that setting and its characters, and is a pretty fun game in its own right. That said, I haven't played it, and can't say from my own experience. It is easily the most forgotten Suikoden game though.


Wheels

This seems to be the universal opinion out there, that it does a good job making up for the mistakes of Suikoden IV. At the same time, I'd have to say its place as most forgotten Suikoden must be due to its relation to Suikoden IV. That's a shame, as it appears to be well liked by haters and lovers of Suikoden IV alike.

I'll agree with you that Suikoden 5 is a great return to form for the series after 4, though it is much more in the vein of 1 and 2 than the more innovative 3, but it is quite fun, and it easily has my favorite mass combat system out of the series. The characters really shine in this one, too. That said, it is a little slow to get through thanks to loading times and some clunky mechanics here and there, but well worth playing. In the two times I played through the game (a blind run in which I got 60 or so characters, followed by a 108 star run right afterwards) I accumulated 160 hours of playtime, which is easily a PS2 record for me and a number I have never matched on a single game since (though Dragon Quest 9 is inching towards that). I highly recommend this one.


Wheels

Oh my, that is quite the playtime! Anyway, "slow" would be a good way to categorize the issues of Suikoden V. Other than the annoying loading times, the game itself takes a bit to get going. At the end of the day it is more than worth the patience required to play it. I just wish they'd make an HD update, or at least get it on PSN so we could get around the load times. Now that I think of it, an HD collection of the PS2 Suikodens would be quite nice...

Tierkreis is pretty different than the rest of the Suikoden series, but I still really like it. I rather like many of the things they did with its plot, setting, and characters, particularly its greater focus on why the 108 stars are important rather than just ignoring that concept like every other game does. Abandoning the idea of True Runes makes this game feel like less of a rehash of the same plot over and over, like some previous games could start feeling like. It also has great music and hits a nice balance with the amount of story given to each character. I know it has its detractors, but I really enjoy it.


Wheels

I like the game, I really do, but why ditch all of the gameplay elements that make Suikoden great? No army battles? No duels? Moving to a more generic JRPG story instead of the types of stories that made the series great? They could easily have ditched the true runes and kept many other aspects of the series. Tierkreis just doesn't feel like a Suikoden game.

Even with the poor fortunes facing PSP RPG localizations as of late, I still hope that the newest Suikoden game will be brought over sometime in the future. That one seems to be rather strangely ignored by even the most dedicated of Suikoden fans for some reason, but as one of the few fans who likes even Tierkreis, I think I'm obligated to give it as try sooner or later.


Wheels

I'd like a localization, but that seems very slim at this point. I'm not sure how it was received in Japan for that matter. The famitsu score wasn't amazing. Of course, this is all moot because I'll probably import it at some point anyway. I hope it sells well enough to keep the series going!

Hmm, considering this is a letter to Q&A, I should probably be throwing in a few more questions... Let me think... Ah, here's one. The original Suikoden was the very first game I played in which I used my own first name for the main character's name. I used my middle name for Suikoden 2's main character. To this day, I still mostly think of those characters as having those names, to the point where I both forget that I named them and that they're named after me. Have you ever done something like that in an RPG? Name a character after yourself? Forget that the name you gave a character is in fact not the canonical one?


Wheels

I often named characters after myself, especially in the old 8-bit days when there was a four letter limit (Mike for the win). Forgetting the canonical name I believe did occur for me with Final Fantasy IX. I didn't really like the name Vivi so I always used to give him a different name. The funny thing is, I can't remember what the alternate name I used was!

Also, while I'm on the subject of Suikoden, I need to give more of a shout out to Water Margin (AKA Bandits of the Marsh, AKA many other things) the story that started it all. A few years ago I stumbled across a copy of that novel in a library, and as a fan of both Suikoden and all kinds of old folktales, myth, and old literature, I had to check it out. The translation was a bit questionable at times and the whole thing was incomplete (it went up to the point where the Tablet of the 108 stars appeared but didn't cover the later stuff about the battle against China's invaders), but it was a good book to spend several hours reading. I've got to say, it is pretty fun and crazy, though it requires a certain level of tolerance for main characters who are complete psychopaths. I've recently heard someone describe that book as the literary equivalent to a D&D game that goes off the rails because of power-hungry players, and I'd compare it just as much to watching a few games of something like Skyrim where the players spend all of their time robbing others and murdering random peasants and still getting praised for it. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I suppose.

-TwinBahamut


Wheels

Interesting, I never realized the story was based on a such a story. I'm going to have to track it down and give it a read, sounds worth it despite the issues. How old is the story?

P.S. I almost forgot to mention this in my big Suikoden discussion, but you need to listen to JuMeSyn and play Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation. I'll forgive you if you find the game's rather poor graphics, plodding story, and limited unit choice to be a problem at first, but I assure you that it gets better later and that Original Generation 2 is a very big improvement over the first one (though it is better to still play it second for plot reasons). I'll certainly agree that the unit customization is a lot of fun in the Super Robot Taisen series, and it is well worth it to spend half your time in that part of the game. One thing that I really like about the games that JuMeSyn didn't mention is the strategy added by the game's Spirit Command system. Every character has a set amount of Spirit Points, that can be used to activate commands like Guts (which fully heals a robot's HP), Valor (which doubles the damage of that unit's next attack), or Love (the ultimate skill with the combined effect of six other Spirit Commands). To be perfectly blunt, even normal enemies can destroy your army if you don't use these, so careful rationing of SP and controlled use of these commands is key to winning. This is both extremely appropriate for something inspired by super robot anime and adds quite a bit of strategic depth that provides a very different experience from any other tactical RPG series.


Wheels

Well you'll be happy to know that's I've already started digging into Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation! I don't mind the poor graphics, plodding story, or even the early limited unit choice. It seems like great tactical fun to me. I even went ahead and tracked down the second game as well (Gamestop has GBA games at 75% off), so that should tell you how much I'm enjoying it. You win SRT fans, you win.

Twitter Lightning Round

@AskWheels Why do people keep talking about supposed Suikoden sequels? The series -totally- ended on a high note with 2.

-@CofLSilk


Wheels

Whoa whoa whoa, we will not be ignoring the fantastic Suikoden V. How could you suggest something so monstrous? Also Suikoden III and IV are also quite amazing I've heard depending on who you ask!

@AskWheels Why do you do the things you do?

-@kylelitke


Wheels

I played too much Final Fantasy Legend as a child.

@AskWheels Where's the beef?

-@OnyxOblivion


Wheels

Well in Atelier Rorona, first you must collect some monster meat, then you'll need the requisite herbs, and then...wait that's not really what you asked at all.

@AskWheels how many ladies does it take Adol to save the land?

-@EricRPG


Wheels

All the ladies. All of them. Seriously, in Ys Seven almost all the major female characters become party members at some point.

@AskWheels Dear Wheels -- I know you've played some of Game of Thrones. What are your thoughts about it?


Wheels

I think it's a buggy, mostly just OK game that is made much more interesting given the story connections to the Song of Ice and Fire series. I would be willing to slug through a lot of gameplay issues in a Game of Thrones game. Thankfully, this game isn't quite that bad. So long story short, it's OK.
IN CLOSING

That's it, I'm off to go play even more SaGa...

See you next week!

-Wheels


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