Suikoden (video game)
Suikoden (Japanese: 幻想水滸伝 Hepburn: Gensō Suikoden?, listen (help·info)) is a role-playing game published by Konami as the first installment of the Suikoden series. Developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, it was released initially in 1995 for the PlayStation in Japan. North American and British releases followed one year later, and a mainland European release came the following March. The game was also released for the Sega Saturn in 1998 only in Japan, and for Microsoft Windows in 1998 in Japan. On December 22, 2008, Suikoden was made available on the PlayStation Store for use on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable consoles.
The game centers on the political struggles of the Scarlet Moon Empire. The player controls the son of a Scarlet Moon Empire general who is destined to seek out 108 warriors (referred to as the 108 Stars of Destiny) in order to revolt against the corrupt sovereign state and bring peace to a war-torn land. The game is loosely based on the Chinese novel Shui Hu Zhuan, and features a vast array of characters both controllable and not, with over ninety characters usable in combat and many more able to help or hinder the hero in a variety of ways.
Suikoden plays like a traditional role-playing video game, with the player moving characters across a landscape, advancing the plot by completing tasks and talking with other characters. It has been compared to Beyond the Beyond and Final Fantasy VII.
The Hero may recruit up to a grand total of 108 new characters to his cause, although not all recruited characters are playable characters, and the battle system in Suikoden features six person parties in combat, with each character being individually controllable.
Combat triggers through random encounters and is largely turn-based in that both the player-controlled party members and the computer-controlled enemy combatants select their actions before the turn commences and, once the turn begins, carry out their actions in the order of their speed.
A variety of statistics determine in-game combat ability, including optimum weapon range. Weapon range requires the player to think about character placement in the standard battle formation. There are three ranges from which a character can have the ability to attack: Short, Medium and Long. Short range characters are typically swordsmen who have to be placed at the front row of the six party formation, while Medium range attacks can fight from either the front or the back row, meanwhile Long range attackers can attack from both ranges but benefit more so from fighting in the back row, usually due to either their low hit point total, their low physical defence, or both. They also benefit from being able to attack either the enemy's front row or back row in combat.
If all 6 characters lose all their hit points and are thus incapacitated, it is game over and the player must restart from a save point. Exceptions exist for certain plot battles in which winning is optional; the player can lose and the plot continues on, albeit in a slightly different fashion.
Weapons are unique to each character and require sharpening in towns that have blacksmiths. There are no weapon shops in Suikoden and equipment shopping is limited to armour and items. However, because of the need to sharpen a minimum of 6 characters' weapons at any one time, this can be a more expensive process than in a typical RPG. Information gathering and character recruiting is also a common place occurrence within towns. Wilderness areas such as the world map or dungeons generally feature random encounters with monsters that do not increase in difficulty as the player's party advances in level.
Runes are the source of all magic in the world of Suikoden. Characters have a certain number of spell usages per "spell level;" governed generally by their magic statistic. For instance, a character with 4 level 1 spell slots and a Water Rune could cast "Kindness Drops" (the level 1 Water Rune spell) 4 times. Other runes offer different benefits such as allowing a character to deal double damage at the cost of a 50% reduction in defence. Most runes can only be used in a limited capacity.
Two other type of battle system exist: duel battles and war battles. Both duel battles and strategic war battles are analogous to Rock, Paper, Scissors. In one-on-one duels, there are three commands: attack, defend and special. Attack beats defend, defend beats special and special beats attack. In strategic war battles, the four major groups are charge attacks, bow attacks, magic attacks and others. Charge attacks beat bow attacks, bow attacks beat magic attacks and magic attacks beat charge attacks. The 'other' command acts as a free special command enabling you to for example, learn what the enemy's next attack will be.
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The Hero (nameable by the player) is the son of a Great General of the Scarlet Moon Empire, Teo McDohl. Teo is called away to fight a battle in the northlands, leaving his son alone under the guardianship of several family friends to begin his career in the Imperial Army. The Hero soon comes to realise through his missions and association with his leaders that the corruption within the Empire's top tier has led to a country whose populace is enslaved and unhappy.
Through his friend Ted, he comes into possession of the Rune of Life and Death (also known as the Soul Eater), one of 27 True Runes that govern various aspects of the world. The Rune, ruthlessly hunted for by corrupt officials within the Empire and their manipulators, force the Hero and his companions to flee the capital city of Gregminster.
This early chain of events forces the Hero to cross paths with a rebel organization where he is sheltered, although he is only convinced of the need to struggle against the Empire when the hideout is attacked and sacked by Imperial forces. Recruiting the help of Mathiu Silverberg, a former Imperial strategist, the Hero's Liberation Army starts off as a small force working to unite rebel factions throughout Scarlet Moon, and eventually becomes a force large enough and powerful enough to bring down the Empire itself.
Suikoden boasts an extremely large number of characters with over 108 allied characters and numerous enemies and neutral characters. Many of the characters in this game would later go on to appear in other games in the Suikoden franchise. See List of recurring characters in the Suikoden series for a comprehensive list.
The soundtrack was published by King Records and released in Japan on April 5, 1996. It was composed and arranged by Miki Higashino, Tappi Iwase (Tappy), Taniguchi Hirofumi, Mayuko Kageshita and Hiroshi Tamawari. The soundtrack contained 2 discs and a total of 48 tracks.
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At the time of its release, Suikoden was considered to be one of the best RPGs on the Sony PlayStation. It has averaged a score of 82.32% on GameRankings culled from 14 reviews. Game Informer ranked it the 82nd best game ever made in its 100th issue in 2001. They felt that its originality made up for lower-than-average graphics and standard gameplay. IGN claimed the game was easily the RPG of the Year, stating that although its story was simple, the background visuals and music were beautiful and fantastic. It went on to say that it was easily one of the best RPGs ever made and one that never became boring. Game Revolution gave the game an A- quoting in particular its astonishing musical scores.
In a retrospective review, RPGamer stated that the game was original, breaking out from the typical "Mysterious stranger saves the world" story-line, and also pointed out that it was a relatively simple game suited generally for "novices" and for "die-hard fans" of the series who hadn't played it yet and rated it a 7.
GameSpot gave it a 6.5 rating, stating that, although not ground-breaking, it was certainly a good game, if short and easy. GameSpot considered the game as a "warm-up" before moving on to other RPGs such as Wild Arms or Final Fantasy VII.
Game designer Warren Spector listed Suikoden as his sixth favorite video game of all time. He credited it as an inspiration on his work, particularly the Deus Ex series as well as Epic Mickey. He said the limited choices in Suikoden inspired him to expand on the idea with more meaningful choices, with the development of Deus Ex.
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