Now heres a game that shows how RPG’s should be done. Suikoden came out of nowhere, and stunned me. I had bought my PSX, was patiently waiting for FF7, and was looking for some awesome 32 bit RPG’s. After throwing Beyond the Beyond out the window, I shouted "Why? Why arent there ANY good PSX RPG’s out yet??" so I checked my gaming bible, Ultra Game Players (now out of publication), to see if theres ANY good RPG out. Humm....OK lets see....Lots of info on FF7...MORE info about FF7...Huh? Whats this? Sew-ee-ko-den? What the hell? Hummm....It sounds pretty good....108 characters? Wow! So I ran to my local Babbages store to buy it, (since I returned Beyond the Beyond) and then IT happened. Yes, IT. The feeling where you must play this game, non-stop, no matter what the costs. Suikoden is so good in so many ways its staggering.....

Once there was a hero named Barbarossa - "the Golden Emperor"- hero of the Scarlet Moon Empire. But the sun is now setting on that Empire.

The day is silently drawing near. The 108 Stars of Destiny are gathering.

You are the son of Teo McDohl, one of the Scarlet Moon Empire’s greatest generals. Surrounded by your attendant Gremio, your fathers servants Cleo and Pahn, and your best friend Ted, you live without want for anything in your peaceful life.

But one day, Teo makes a trip to the north to protect his Empire. It is then that you realize your place in the Empire and see the world with your own eyes for the first time. A world filled with resentment toward the Empire awaits.

The story for Suikoden is epic, adventurous, and emotional all at the same time. On the outside, everything looks fine with the Empire trying to put down those bad rebels. But look closer, and you learn that the Empire is not as good as it seems to be, while the rebels are in fact much better then they seem to be. And at the center of it all, is the conflicting emotions of actually fighting the Empire your own father believes in.

And moving the story along is Suikoden’s music. Ahh, yes.... Suikoden’s wonderful, brilliant music. Suikoden’s music ranges from chamber music, to oriental, to folk, to eerie ambiance. Guitars, flutes and drums are what you'll find here; there's even an occasional vocal or two. Apart from the occasional use of real instruments throughout the soundtrack, the digital instrumental quality is eerily, perhaps suspiciously (what does Konami know that the others don’t?) realistic.

Music of this magnitude comes along rarely, and must be snapped up the moment it materializes. This is what an RPG soundtrack is all about. From beautiful tracks like "Eternal Flow" (played in Seika), to the "Theme of Sadness" that made my eyes water the first time I heard it, to the Warriors Village theme (the FIRST video game track that made me actually think in my head "This ROCKS!!"), this soundtrack was, and still is, one of the best video game soundtracks I have ever heard.

Suikoden’s music stands as a modern triumph of musical ingenuity, a landmark in the evolution of game music.

The graphics, while not matching the soundtracks splendor, get the job done. The game is mostly 2D with sprites, consisting of a few neat tricks like reflections, but the battles have some detailed, textured polygonal backgrounds and some very cool spell effects. The only problem is that when the camera zooms up in battles, things can get ugly. Suikoden’s sprites arent too polished and can come across as quite pixelated, but this is really only apparent in the battles.

Speaking of the battles, they rule. These arent your little pansy battles where you take turns attacking the enemy with four characters from halfway across the screen, these are BATTLES! You have SIX characters, and they all attack at the same time! Thats right, with the exception of spells, your party member launch an attack all together, meaning that you’ll have people attacking the enemies with their short ranged weapons up front, while at the same time, your long ranged weapon people will be launching arrows upon the unlucky foes that would dare challenge your power!

Probably one of the most different and overlooked thing about Suikoden is the sound effects. Words cant describe the sound of healing one of your comrades...And that Arabian sound effect when you recruited somebody is damn cool! All the sound effects sound like theyre from old He-Man episodes, which may sound strange, but its really quite wonderful, probably the best sound effects for any RPG yet.

Suikoden is also quite unique with its armor and weapons system. You usually have the same weapon throughout the game, and never need to worry about buying weapons. You upgrade your weapons strength by sharpening it at a Blacksmith. Each time you sharpen your weapon it gains a level and will do more damage, but the higher level the weapon is the more money it costs to sharpen it. After certain points, the Weapon will get a new name, such as the Hero’s weapon upgrades Wolf Fang Staff to Dragon Fang Staff, and so on.

But what is particularly innovative about Suikoden is that it has 3 different types of battles; Team (the most common), One on One (which is completely 3D and awesome), and Army VS Army(its awesome too!). I already explained the Team battle earlier, but not the other two. The One on One is pretty awesome, and will really make for sweaty palms and rapidly beating heart. The camera pans around in complete 3D whoever is battling in , and the enemy often makes battle remarks like "You wont dodge my attack THIS time!" which clue you in to your opponents next move. If he says something like "Attack me with all your might!" that means he is will defend next attack, so you have to pay careful attention to what they are saying. And when you both choose Desperate Attack, watch out, some serious ass damage is going to incur! Its too bad theres only three One on One battles, though....

The Army VS Army battle is also a cool feature. For every character you get, about 200-600 people are added to your Army, which means you can have an army up in the thousands. They are pretty simple though, much like paper rock scissors. Charge attack beats bow attack, bow attack beats magic attack, and magic attack beats charge attack. But this doesn’t detract from the sheer fun of it all, it just could have been more complex.

But by far the coolest gameplay element is the ability to have your own castle! Thats right, your own castle filled with your army of power.....Often, recruiting people will make your castle better, like if you recruit Sergei, an unemployed inventor, he will make an elevator for your castle so you dont have to walk up the stairs! Its things like this, along with the staggering amount of characters that make Suikoden so great.

The introduction may not be awe inspiring, but it really express’s the adventurous spirit of Suikoden. It has this insanely adventurous music blasting out of your speakers, showing off key moments from the game, and interesting messages such as "Please, tell me the answer....Is fate unchangeable?", all while that super adventurous music is blasting . Cool. Whats also neat is all the little mini games which you can play if your just too tired at the moment to crush the Empire. :)

But, alas, all is not perfect with Suikoden. There are many characters, MANY characters, but sadly this makes for very little or no character development. You never learn about all the characters pasts, or what they think about a certain situation, no matter if its a really cool character like Kage or Pesmerga (although you may find out in Suikoden 2) ....And yes, the game is very short, it took me about 23 hours to find all the characters etc., and the second time only 20, then if you really wanted to blaze through it without getting all the characters it could take 15 hours. Compared to other RPG’s which have the depth of 60 hours, this seems pretty bad. But the thing is, it really isn’t that bad, because playing Suikoden for 20 hours doesn’t feel any shorter than playing some other RPG for 60. That 20 hours feels just as epic as any other RPG’s 60 hours of depth, which is amazing in itself.

Konami has created a game that rivals even Square’s best RPG’s, and is better than FF7 in my opinion. Suikoden is a masterpiece of the RPG genre. With tons of characters, a great plot, wondeful sound effects, unique battle system, and a spectacular soundtrack, this is a must have!

Graphics 8
Sound 10
Story 9.5
Batle System 10
Innovation 10
Extras 10
Presentation 10
Depth 9
Gameplay 10
Reviewer's Tilt 10
Total Score 9.7

Ice Man Ash's Reviews
Suikoden Reviews

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