For most people, especially gamers, the first game that they played tend to have a special meaning in their hearts. And when that game belongs to a series, it gets multiplied. The same can be said for me. I was and still am a gamer, although my maturity set me some way back to fully enjoy a game. For me, Suikoden II was the first game I ever played seriously during my highschool days. But I’m not gonna talk about the game itself, rather the series.
Suikoden 101…I mean 108
Suikoden, and all of its incarnations took the concept of a classical RPG where a guy gets tangled up in a mess and have to save the world (or more like, the current nation) eventually. The Suikoden series is loosely based on the Chinese novel Water Margins (Shui Hu Zhuan) that tells the story of a group of people who were trying to fight the current government oppression.
Indeed, the main storyline of any Suikoden main games are somewhat political, and for that same reason it differs from other RPG at that time (by that time I meant late 90s to early 2000s. And yes, I was already a gamer at that time). While during that time most of RPG focused on the saving-the-world-without-having-to-care-what-others-might-think stereotype since the dawn of Final Fantasy series, Suikoden focused to more different perspectives. As such, Suikoden, in Australian’s rating system, and in my opinion, should be on the MA 15+ category.
Suikoden series has a VERY deep storyline with some political essence added. Betrayals, murders, rise to power, deceived, backstabbing, corruption, political intervention, you name it, exists in the world of Suikoden. Thus it depicts real life (as in suffering and pain) more than any other RPG.
And then there were 108
Another thing that sets Suikoden series apart from any other RPG up until now, is the inclusion of 108 Stars of Destiny. While the main storyline focuses on a single man who are trying to gather up allies to fight the current government tyranny, the gathering of those allies that also made Suikoden worthwhile. There are 108 Stars of Destiny, which can be recruited as allies, and most of them, if not all, are playable characters (as in you can put them in your battle party).
It is a HUGE number of playable characters at that time. And recruiting them wasn’t easy as well. Several tasks have to be done before you can recruit them. But, as their leader you got a castle which serves as the base of your army fighting the corrupted government. The leader (that is to say, the player) is given an epiphany and destiny to change the world (at least the nation he’s currently in) and is given a True Rune.
Runes are the magic in the Suikoden world. It resembles kind of a tattoo markings on your body which can draw magical power. The main character is usually given a True Rune (or a sub-True Rune), a more powerful and one-of-a-kind magic which grants an eternal life as well. Now, although this might seem a bit like your usual hero-with-one-of-a-kind magic, usually the enemy has it as well.
Moreover, to add more pain and suffering in the storyline, True Runes comes with a cost. The first Suikoden game, the main character Tir McDohl is given the Soul Eater rune, giving the user a tremendous power, but requiring the life of his loved ones to be consumed by it. The second game, the True Rune is split into two, and is passed down to two best friends. You can imagine what happens next, they have to fight each other because the rune bestows power as well as conflicting destinies. The tagline of the series is somewhat along the lines of: “Is destiny unchangeable?”
From one Suikoden to another
The most interesting part in the Suikoden main series, is that it belongs to a single continuity. Although every game does not necessarily is the continuation of the previous series, it does belong to a single timeline. For this same reason, old gamers like me, who enjoyed the series much, is overjoyed in every single incarnation since there are so many cameos from the previous series. The Suikoden series is notable for its transferral of the completed save data, and only transferrable if the main character successfully gathers the 108 Stars of Destiny.
The latest Suikoden series in its main incarnation was Suikoden V in 2006, which were set around 8 years before the first Suikoden game. Although in Suikoden III (set around 16 years after Suikoden II, which in turn is set around 3 years after the first Suikoden) and Suikoden IV (set around 150 years before the first Suikoden) they made a huge mistake by changing the concept that makes Suikoden a Suikoden game, they finally get back to its roots in Suikoden V.
And I do enjoy playing these games since it brings back memories. Just a quick spoiler, Suikoden II has the most touching and best storyline (by best, I also mean that it is the most twisted). And I have to admit, I am still waiting for Konami to bring back a main Suikoden game (Suikoden VI, that is). It’s been four frikkin’ years!
Although it is a bit unfair to explain this beautiful series with a single article, Suikoden series remains an anticipated series in every game, if not the best series. The reason being that it is more than just your ordinary RPG, with a very deep and twisted storyline that forces you to reconsider that there is indeed a grey area between black and white in your life.