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ASK WHEELS
Suikoden Survivor Overclocked
July 11th, 2012

07/11- 12:00PM EST

Well it seems that just like in the Suikoden III opening when it says "the story never ends," people just can not get enough of talking about this series. I'm not going to complain. Keep sending in as many Suikoden comments/questions/stories as you'd like! Of course don't let this stop you if there are other topics you'd like to talk about, such as Nintendo's bungling of the Fire Emblem localization announcement.





The Letters
Suikohandheld

I think around two weeks ago, you've wrote something along the lines of "I wonder what the Japanese think of the handheld Suikodens" so I figured I'm going to write something, having actually played the latest PSP Suikoden and followed the online reactions to the game.


Wheels

Excellent, I did not expect to get a response from anyone with a finger on the pulse of the Japanese gaming community, so this should be quite interesting.

Quick disclaimer: I don't particularly care about the Suikoden series. I had some fun with some of the games, but I could really care less than it has a billion plot threads that hasn't been resolved yet like what Yuber and Persmerga deal is and why Viki and Jeanne are in every game and blah blah. This is my take as someone who doesn't have that much of a connection which I'm certain a lot of people are going to disagree with.


Wheels

That's perfectly fine. Different strokes for different folks as they say. As much as I enjoy the series I can perfectly understand why it won't be for some. This means you have a more level headed opinion than us crazy fans!

Ever since Suiko 3, the series has been bleeding out in terms of sales. Suiko 4 is the game with the most "mixed" reactions, but even Suikoden 5, a game that is generally agreed to be better than 4 and maybe as good as 2 sold LESS than Suiko 4. By this point, it's rather obvious that if the series is going to survive, catering to its "old guard" does not seem like a viable strategy.


Wheels

That's a shame, did Suikoden IV scare people away from even trying Suikoden V? It's odd that it sold so much less (about 110,000 fewer copies than IV according to Wikipedia) despite a more positive reaction. Was it too little too late? Did it come out too late in the life of the PS2? While I agree they couldn't continue just appealing to the "old guard" with that kind of drop in sales, at the same time I believe they could have appealed to new fans while at the same time not alienating the old ones.

Suikoden Tierkreis was supposed to be a reboot of the series to attract newcomers to the series. The removal of the "old" universe with its True Runes was intentional because the series has built up quite the web of continuity knowledge in the same way Superhero comic books tend to do. You can technically claim main series are "standalone" but I believe there was already one person who claimed he has no idea where to begin with in the series and for good reason.


Wheels

Oh, I completely understand rebooting the story. Standalone titles or not, it's hard to completely enjoy the series without having some idea about the stories and characters of all the games. That part of Tierkreis I get completely. My issue comes with the way it was rebooted, moving away not only from the gameplay ideas that made the series so fun to play, but moving to a more traditional JRPG style story instead of the intricate conflicts the series is heralded for. I know that sounds a bit unfair since Teirkreis doesn't have an awful story, but reboot shouldn't mean that they throw away almost everything that makes the series what it is.

Why use the Suikoden name instead of starting a new series? Maybe they just want the name to be relevant rather than having it falling into disuse and hibernation the way Breath of Fire did. Tir McDohl is still getting consistent marketing spotlights once in a while in Japan. The thing about series reinventions which make huge changes is that the bar is set really high but if executed right, the influx of new fans will outright drown out the people who "ragequit" the series at a drop of the hat. Examples include Final Fantasy 7 and Resident Evil 4


Wheels

That is absolutely a fair point (though I wouldn't consider FFVII to be a reinvention), especially citing Resident Evil 4 which completely revived the pit that series was falling into. Still, RE4 maintains the core gameplay of the series, just tweaking it to be faster paced and more relevant to modern gaming. Imagine how they could have done this with Suikoden! Duels in the style of a fighting game. Massive army battles as real time strategy. How about combat and exploration similar to Dragon Age Origins? Granted these are ideas more appealing to Western gamers, but you get the idea.

The problem here is that Konami just doesn't seem to have the competence to pull it off. Which, for me, isn't that surprising, because unlike most people, I think Suikoden is only an "above average" series in terms of quality, and Konami has been bleeding talent for quite some time. They lack the talent to actually go all the way and really bring the series to the next generation the way the examples I listed earlier did.


Wheels

Having not played many Konami games in recent years outside of the fun Castlevania reboot, I can see that. They certainly haven't produced any RPGs of real note in a long time. It is quite likely that we Suikoden fans will just have to be content with the series as it is, which is fine.

Now, despite the flaws that I think the game had, the general reception for Tierkreis tends to be rather positive except for the aforementioned "ragequitting" fans, both in the English and Japanese market. A comment trend in review sites is that the game encouraged them to look for the older games in the series and look forward to the future of the series, despite nutcases constantly trying to sabotage the health of their series by hanging around internet forums and insulting everyone who claims to like it. Konami seems to consider the game a financial success which succeeded at its task.


Wheels

Well that's good to hear. I certainly would never complain about anyone liking the game, and encouraged everyone I knew to buy the thing back when it came out. That's just silly, and not helping the series in any way. No one is forcing old fans to buy the new game, and trying to ruin others' enjoyment of it makes no sense. Glad to hear it sold well enough.

Now, the bad news is that they took this chance and flubbed it up with the PSP installment, which was clearly rushed to try to beat out the end of the PSP life and the beginning of the Vita, which is a real shame. The game is really confused as to whether it wants to be low budget RPG (a really common complaint on Japanese review sites is that the game was "not an RPG, but a Visual Novel and a puppet play (a literal translation, they are complaining that the game uses a lot of cheap machima scenes for their storytelling) or a high budget blowout because they hired rather famous VAs for the game, including IIRC Norio Wakamoto (who's a rather popular meme-ish VA), Tomokazu Sugita (Kyon from Haruhi) and Kikuko Inoue (Belldandy from AMG). Unless those guys are working for bananas nowadays, that's a really bad mismanagement of funds.


Wheels

It seems odd to rush it out like that, especially considering as we've seen the Vita hasn't exactly flown off the shelves, and the title would be backwards compatible digitally on the Vita anyway. So why rush it? There's still plenty of big PSP titles coming out in Japan.

It would only take way too long to list out all of the game's flaws, so I think the quickest summary is that the game feels very obviously a beta. Tierkreis gameplay system was basically a simplified version of the main series, PSP Suiko decided it wanted to revamp the entire gameplay from the ground up but clearly didn't finish it.


Wheels

That does not sound very good. I mean the team that worked on the new games is new right? Why do a total revamp so quickly? Sounds like a lot of mistakes were made in the planning stages for this one.

There's a class system, but none of the classes are differentiated from each other except for the 1 class that heals. You have only 18 permanent character (and quite a lot of temps/Jeigans), but it doesn't matter anyway with that last sentence. Multi-classing is only unlocked like 1 dungeon before the end, and each character can only specifically multi-class to one specific other class.There's a formation system, but no one in the Japanese community seems to know what it does and the generally accepted answer is that it's broken. There's a resource management system where spells need reagants to cast and you produce them at HQ, but normal gameplay gives you like hundreds of these things. The camera goes nuts whenever you're too close to the walls and the automap is zoomed too close to be of any use in in-door areas.


Wheels

Yikes, sounds like a complete and utter mess. I think for once it will be a good thing that this game is highly unlikely to get a domestic release. Good ideas for sure, if done right it would have been an interesting take on the series. Oh well, hopefully it's not the last Suikoden game.

The only thing that saves it from being a complete failure in every way is that the writing is generally considered better than Tierkreis and more in line with the original series and the aesthetics (music/graphics) are above average. Don't feel too sad about this game not coming to the English market, because it's considered pretty terrible amongst the Japanese, hovering at around 2 stars out of 5 at Amazon.

-Davzz


Wheels

Just when I thought I would be perfectly fine with it not coming here, you mention that the writing is better. Perhaps they could clean the game up and release it on Vita or PS3 or something? Oh well, thank you for the information! While I have you could you perhaps tell me how the SaGa series has been perceived over there post Unlimited Saga? Also did the Japanese also hate Dawn of Mana as much as we did?

Suikoden and Forth

Hey Wheels,

Our back and forth questioning is slowly becoming another hobby of mine, as if I didn't have enough.


Wheels

That is good to hear! I've quite enjoyed it. To keep this going I will be sure to find some more questions to ask you.

Did I run into any technical issues with Suikoden IV? No, not that I can remember. I ran into a lot of random encounters, that's for sure.


Wheels

Ah so it's one of those with a high encounter rate then? That's a shame. The first two games had a nice low encounter rate that spaced out battles quite well. That coupled with very quick battles made for a smooth flow to the game. Not a huge deal of course.

It's funny how TwinBahamut and I have very different feelings towards III, IV and Tierkreis. I get where he is coming from with Suikoden IV. Compared to many other RPGs from the PS2 era, the graphics were quite bland. Seeing as I am a person who finds graphics the least important facet of RPGs, I really didn't have any issues with it. I mean, I prefer anything pre-PS3/X360, so... I personally think music brings more atmosphere to the table than graphics do, and I thought the music in Suikoden IV really fit the overall theme very well.


Wheels

I don't mind graphics too much either, so that won't be an issue for me. I mean, as great as most of the sprite work is in the original Suikoden, it's far from perfect, so I'm prepared for such issues. Heck, I can still play the black and white SaGa games so I'm sure I won't be bothered either.

However, it is definitely not the most forgotten Suikoden game of all. That honor will probably go to the Suikoden Slot Machine, which funnily enough is ALSO based on Suikoden IV... Someone at Konami REALLY loved Suikoden IV, at least.


Wheels

What in the heck? I don't even know what to say about that one. That is probably the strangest Suikoden based thing I've ever seen. I guess just like Capcom's apparent love for the low-selling but fantastic Mega Man Legends series, Konami loves the underdog entry.

Also, can't really agree with him on how Suikoden I has aged. I think it's still great, but again... Not too high on graphics, so not too bothered by that. It's also still has THE best soundtrack of all Suikodens.


Wheels

I didn't agree either really. 2D PS1 games still look quite good, especially on a PSP. If it were a 3D game I'd agree, but Suikoden I still looks just fine, especially for a cheap download on PSN.

But to wrap it up; Suikoden IV was definitely nowhere near as good as either I or II, but I really enjoyed it in its own right, and I actually liked the fact that it wasn't the same thing done once more.


Wheels

Good to know. I'm going to save it until after I finally play Suikoden III, but I'm not going to ignore it. Hopefully I will enjoy as much as you did.

Anyhoo, I wasn't trying to tease you with the Gaiden story, but what has been going on has not exactly been sanctioned by Konami, and I am not sure if “modding” and “emulating” talk is appreciated on RPGamer, so I didn't go into it too much. I suggest just searching for it on the net and you will find it soon enough. Teehee.


Wheels

I'm sure it's fine given that Gaiden will never see the light of day in the US. Feel free to discuss it! I want to know more.

Oh, by the way, I don't think the bugs were the reason that Suikoden II hasn't shown on PSN yet. If I recall correctly, the EU version didn't have the music glitch, at least.


Wheels

Really? Well whatever the reason it needs to get up there. I doubt most are as crazy as me and willing to buy the game for $120.

But I will leave the Suikoden discussion for now, my time is better spent actually playing the games and finishing Suikoden II, finally!!! I also still need to finish Final Fantasy VI. I blame ADD.


Wheels

Oh dear me, you have to finish Final Fantasy VI! Go play it now. I'll wait...

Now onto a hot topic, will Elder Scrolls do anything new to the MMO genre? Probably not. MMOs have been so incredibly stagnant, and nobody dares to be different in fear of not becoming popular. I really, really dislike MMOs personally for it. I mean, you can say the same thing for many genres, including regular RPGs, but at least those have an engrossing story that is always interesting to unfold. MMOs are really just fecth quest after fetch quest and a lot of annoying folk with stupid names spamming you with messages trying to sell their phat lewt. But I suppose that is what MMOs are about... To each his own I suppose. Definitely not my thing though...

Now where was I?


Wheels

Not my thing either, for that very reason. Some of them I've found interesting, but World of Warcraft is the only one that has drawn me in for extended amounts of time. Being such risky ventures I guess developers are afraid of rocking the MMO boat too much, which is a shame. The genre has a lot of untapped potential.

Have you played Last Story? I am still thinking about picking it up... but I haven't touched my Wii in ages. Funny that I can actually play it... The way you guys feel right now, is how we Eurogamers have felt for many ages.

Cheers,
Daniel


Wheels

I know, I suppose we deserve this after being lucky for so long? I did import it and have quite enjoyed what I've played so far. It's a fast paced and relatively simple action RPG, with some of the best music Uematsu has produced in some time. It isn't long or full of any kind of exploration, and leans on the easy side, but still quite fun. I would recommend it, as long as you aren't expecting something like Xenoblade or Final Fantasy.

Oh, and in case you are curious, here is the website to the Suikogaiden Translation.


Wheels

Thank you sir! I'm going to check it out and will leave the link here for others to take a look.

Even More Suikoden

You asked about how old the novel Water Margin is, so here's the answer.

Water Margin (AKA Shuihu Zhuan in Chinese, Suikoden in Japanese) is from the 14th century, written during the Ming Dynasty of China. It is one of the four novels of that era that are considered to be the four greatest and most influential works of classical China, alongside Journey to the West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Dream of the Red Chamber. The novel is attributed to someone named Shi Nai'an, though this is heavily disputed. Some even claim that it was actually written by the same person who wrote Romance of the Three Kingdoms.


Wheels

That is some fine company right there. Not that I've actually read any of them, but I know of the influence at least of Journey to the West and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, mostly due to games related to them.

The novel really is interesting, and it if you read it a lot of similarities to the games really stand out. A lot of major recurring plot points from the games, like how the main character often only takes charge of the 108 stars after the death of a previous leader, come directly from the novel. The characters in the novel often do things like recruit the generals of the armies that they defeat, and as I alluded to in my last letter there even is a giant tablet with the names of all of the 108 Stars on it. Naturally, a major location of the novel is the fortress the main character use as a base for their banditry. Several games characters are very strongly based on the novel characters as well, such as how Luc shares the same star as a (Taoist?) priest who commands powerful magic, the True Holy Rune people are based on a guy who can run through the sky and across the length of China in less than a day, the pair of colorful knights (like Camus and Miklotov) are based on a pair of skilled generals who were sent by the Chinese Emperor to defeat the bandits, or how the gunner Clive is based on a warrior who defeats nearly every major character with his incredible skill at throwing rocks.


Wheels

Excuse me, I need to go on Amazon and try and track down a copy of this novel...

Of course, as I mentioned last time, the characters of the novel can be pretty psychotic. They are bandits after all. Even the guy who shares the same star as the main characters of the videogames begins his misadventures by killing his wife and goes on to command his bandits to commit all manner of gruesome deeds. Various other scenes involve the murder of innocent children and a rather excessive amount of cannibalism. There are several cases where the bandits deliberately ruin a guys's life and frames him for crimes he didn't commit just because they admire his skill and want him to leave his honest life behind to come work for them.


Wheels

OK then again maybe not. I guess in that regard it is a far cry from the games. Might still be worth a read but now it sounds far more disturbing than I originally thought. It would be interesting if someone made a game based on the book where you actually play the group of bandits...

You know, talking about what the original novel was like has reminded me a bit about our conversation about Suikoden Tierkreis and the fan outcry against it. People complained that it really isn't a Suikoden game, or even that it should have a different title, but I think that's a bit silly. It may have dropped the True Rune plot and it lacks some of the fun mechanics from the earlier games (we all miss the military battles), but it still keeps the 108 Stars story, and that is the one thing that the games really took from the original novel. In fact, Tierkreis builds upon that concept far more than any previous Suikoden game, and in doing so it brings in more ideas from the original novel that weren't seen in the earlier games. It may not work perfectly as a sequel to the previous games, but it works just as well or even better as a game inspired by Water Margin.

-TwinBahamut


Wheels

That seems a fair point. You know how fans of games can be (certainly based on my own reaction). I'm at peace with Tierkreis and wouldn't mind more games like it if that's the way the series is going to continue. One think we can all agree on, more Suikoden is not a bad thing!

The Q&A Ends With This Letter

Dear Wheels,

I know I don't normally send a letter this soon after I already sent one, but you asked a question, so I shall answer.

What system do I think a The World Ends With You sequel should be one, and how can it be further innovated? As for the system, while this may not be original, I think the 3DS would be a fine fit. I imagine many DS owners have gotten 3DSes by now. Not only does it have many of the features the original had (two screens, touch screen, microphone wireless and wifi capabilities), but the 3DS has an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and cameras. Just imagine the sort of psychs that can be pulled off with these. StreetPass and SpotPass could both be used to exchange information or to mingle far more effectively than in the original.  As you can see, I'm not good at coming up with details, but surely the folks at Square Enix and Jupiter can.


Wheels

You know I really didn't think about the different possibilities that the developers could accomplish with the various features of the 3DS. I was mostly imagining how they could potentially do a console The World Ends with You game. The WiiU's gamepad would make things interesting.

What I think would be really cool is that rather than a direct sequel (though the old characters could certainly appear in the game, even if just as cameos), it could take place in another district of Tokyo: Aoyama, Shinjuku, or perhaps most appropriately, Harajuku. As I recall, the Reaper games are played different for certain (or perhaps all) cities or specific areas of cities. This could certainly explain any major changes to the battle system. Heck, they could completely change it.


Wheels

I think that's their best bet. Have the cameos for fans of the original, but make a new cast to bring in new fans as well. Another district of Tokyo would be interesting, but maybe go even further and make it take place in a European city? Or perhaps America? Not specifically as something to attract Western games, just as a way to shake up the setting.

Now then, if I may ask something: How do you think the 3DS's new features could be used for a potential TWEWY sequel? Do you perhaps think another system would be a better fit for such a game?

-Strawberry Eggs


Wheels

I think the 3DS would be best equipped for a sequel now that you've brought up the idea of using the gyroscope and the other features. I'm not sure how exactly they would use them, but it could be interesting! We'll have to see, hopefully if they are doing a sequel we'll hear something soon.
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week folks, go see Brave!

-Wheels


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