Suikoden - Retroview

You're in the army now, boy
By: Solon

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 3
   Music & Sound 5
   Originality 7
   Story & Plot 6
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Very Easy
   Completion Time 15-25 Hours  

The hero on his way to the castle
The hero on his way to the castle

   Funny enough, there are some great series which all start with games that are everything but good or special. Grandia was one of them, and Suikoden is another. While this game isn't entirely bad, there are so many important things left out of it, that I just can't enjoy it.

   Suikoden is a tiny adventure about a young boy called...whatever you want to call him. Let's just call him The Hero for now. In the beginning, it seems like The Hero lives a simple, quiet life in his hometown, but things start to change. There is a war going on, and you discover corruption and mysteries within the army. After escaping your hometown after a terrible incident, you become the leader of the Liberation Army to fight the evil forces that plagues the world and corrupts the people. The story is okay, but that's about it. Also, it's hard to judge it as it doesn't really end with Suikoden 1. It could have been better though.

   Battles in Suikoden are a little different from other RPGs. You have up to 6 party members in battle, 3 in the front row and 3 in the back row. Preferably, you put archers or mages in the back row and the fighters in the front row. While it can be tiring to press the attack button so many times for every round in a battle (if you just want to attack), there is a very handy command called "Free Will" in the command list. When you use this, everyone in the party attacks at the same time. While this is something you'll probably use for random encounters, there is the usual Attack, item, magic etc for tougher battles that requires some strategy.

This dragon served the party in FFV as well
This dragon served the party in FFV as well

   Suikoden also introduces us to the Runes. From these runes, you gain different skills or magic spells. The only way to get more spells is to either find more runes, or buy them at a store in one of the towns. There are also some runes that can be imbued to a character's weapon, to give it a special effect in battle.

   Characters power up through levels, as HP and stats increase when you level up. However, the actual attack power can only be increased when visiting a blacksmith. While all character only has one weapon each (that cannot be replaced, you can't even buy new weapons in stores), you have to upgrade them in the blacksmith. This is where you'll spend most of your cash earned in battle, I tell you. The encounter rate in Suikoden is very high, especially on the world map. Sometimes I couldn't even move for more than one two seconds before facing more enemies, so you'll need to carry around lots of healing items. Luckily, battles are easy at all times, so that's not much of a problem in the end. What is most irritating about this game is probably the interface. Each character has their own inventory with a fixed number of slots. The problem is that equipment is also mixed up in here, with other items. This makes the inventory much smaller, and you have to be careful with what you bring to the next dungeon. Then there's upgrading the equipment. While other games let your party replace equipment in a store, Suikoden doesn't. Instead, you have to unequip all the items you were going to replace by better ones, and then sell them. Then you can buy the new equipment, and then equip everything manually. It's very, very annoying. On top of this, the interface is ugly, and looks very old.

   What's cool about Suikoden 1 is the originality. Not even Chrono Cross had 108 characters, and many of them have cool sub-quests to complete in order to get them in your party. Also, the style in Suikoden 1 is different from most other RPGs. Cities, characters and even the music have a very Japanese feel to them.

   About the music though, a lot of tunes are much too similar, and extremely annoying. Some of them made me mute the TV, as I couldn't bear listen to them much longer than a couple of minutes without going crazy. There is nothing wrong with the sounds in the game though, to be honest they are quite cool. Battle effects are well-timed, and I liked the howling sounds from the magic spells cast from the different runes.

Crazy Battles
Crazy Battles

   While the sound effects were cool, the visuals weren't. Sure, this is an old game, but even Final Fantasy VII that was released the same year surpasses this. Of course, you shouldn't judge an RPG from its graphics, but I still have to mention it in the review, right? Luckily, the graphics were better in the sequels.

   That goes for the localization as well. While most conversations in Suikoden 1 are short, they are still full of spelling errors and sentences built up in a very strange way. Okay, okay, I'm not going to exaggerate here, but I have to say that I found a lot of language errors in the game. Period.

   Even though the game has so many flaws, there are still some things to do that are really enjoyable aside from completing the story. You can collect all of those 108 characters to get a special ending, and there are several hidden runes throughout the game for you to find. While the game is quite short, it also has a high replay value, especially since you probably won't find all of the characters on the first round. What helps more when you're about to run through this game is the difficulty. Suikoden 1 is very easy, and you probably won't even die once, except maybe on the final boss if your level is low.

   Most gamers will probably finish this game within 20 Hours, or maybe even less. What's good about it though, is that you can convert your save file from Suikoden 1 onto the sequel, so that some quests and secret stuff is unlocked in Suikoden 2. This is highly recommended, but not a must.In conclusion, Suikoden 1 is still an OK game. It just didn't have what I was looking for, that's all. I know a lot of people who love this game, and I think you should still give it a change, even after reading my review. What's more, the sequels to this game are by far some of the greatest RPGs ever made, so it might be better to have played the original game first.

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