I’m going to be replaying both Suikoden and Suikoden II…for reasons. You don’t need to know the reasons right now, and truth be told, I’d happily replay both of these games just because I can since I still own them as physical copies, but also to keep me in check, because I do like to tout them as some of my favorite games, if not my absolute favorite RPGs. That said, I’ve not touched them since my high school days, and I’m beginning to worry that maybe I’m relying a bit too much on nostalgia.
And with that, after completing another comic about Dan Ryckert’s food stories over at Giant Bomb, I popped in the disc for Suikoden, turned on my, as of late, dormant PlayStation 2, and sifted through my memory cards to find one with space for a save slot. I also discovered at this point that I’m missing Suikoden‘s instruction manual, ugh. Not sure where–and when–that thing vanished. Anyways, after checking all my PS1 memory cards to make sure I didn’t already have a game in progress, I selected “New Game”, rightfully named Tir McDohl to Pauly, and began old-school JRPGing.
Real quick: I’m going to be talking pretty specifically about mostly everything that unfolds in Suikoden‘s first hour, which is actually a lot of different events, so if you’ve not yet gotten to experience it and don’t want to be spoiled, I suggest y’all close this browser right now and move on to something else. All right, let’s go. Let’s show my nostalgia just where it is all truly at.
So, the main thing that surprised me about playing Suikoden again for the first time in over ten years is that…it’s actually quite goofy. Like, if the technology to include a studio audience laugh-track existed at the time for the PlayStation 1, Konami totally would’ve done it. Sure, sure, most people think about the heavy politics and twisted betrayals for both this game and later ones in the series, and they are right to do so. Besides the recruiting of 108 Stars of Destiny and upgrading your castle, the extremely adult tone and direction of the plot is where Suikoden stands miles above its competitors. However, almost right from the get-go, things are goofy and light-hearted and a bit juvenile, and maybe that is really only for now, before the shitstorm truly hits Teo McDohl’s son and friends.
Anyways, check this out. After returning home from meeting the Emperor and getting assigned to work with Commander Kraze Miles (just look at that name), Gremio announces that he’ll be serving dinner soon. You now get the freedom to explore the house and talk to everyone. If you go into the kitchen and try to talk to Gremio, you are given the selectable option to either A) scare him or B) tickle him, both of which result in a lot of stuttering. You can also scare Pahn, who is busy napping. Again, you can probably chalk this up to kids being kids, but I honestly didn’t remember any of this.
Your first mission sends you off to Lady Leknaat’s castle, to acquire some astral projections or something. To get there, you must meet with a spunky young Dragon Knight called Futch and get flown over on his dragon Black, which, I kid you not, sounds like an elephant. Oh, and speaking of sound, when you are in the menus and click on something you can’t interact with, it sounds a bit like a duck. Yeah, maybe Konami was limited for audio samples, but it’s pretty bizarre nonetheless.
On your way up to the castle, you’ll get a small taste of the combat system. It’s pretty standard turn-based action, with some characters able to unite for a joint attack or use magic spells/attacks via attached runes. The combat goes pretty fast, actually, and I like when multiple things happen at once. Strangely, there’s no fanfare when you level; you simply watch numbers increase. We’ve been spoiled over the years with games–both RPGs and not–making you glow, playing a tune, doing something special when you increase in level. I’ve also gone from level 1 to 7, gaining experience fast and not even coming close to falling in battle, save for the boss fight with the Ant Queen, where it’s mandatory, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
After speaking with Lady Leknaat, the next mission has you going to Rockland and then up a mountain path to beat up some bandits that are causing trouble for Rockland, a small town of impoverished and suffering smallfolk unable to pay the Emperor’s taxes. I spoke with one of the kids there and he flat out said that the guards hit him. Heavy stuff, not a lick of goofiness, so long as you ignore the cup minigame. Anyways, during an unbeatable battle with the Ant Queen, Pauly McDohl’s good friend Ted reveals he has some crazy dark magic up his sleeve to save the day. When you get back to Rockland, the mayor pays you, but then your helpless escort Kanaan takes the money, seeing as it belongs to Kraze; that small wah-wah-waaah jingle plays. Um. At least it wasn’t a dragonphant trumpeting.
Upon returning to Gregminster, Ted is requested to go to the castle while everyone else returns home to rest. A little later, just as it begins to storm, Ted shows up at the front door, beaten and nearly unconscious. Cleo suspects it might be “thugs,” a term I did not remember her saying or ever expected to come out of her mouth, but there it is. Turns out, the Emperor wants Ted’s magic rune and he risked everything to get away, so that he could pass the rune–one of the 27 True Runes, mind you–over to his good friend Pauly. We’re now hiding out in the local inn, looking for some way to sneak out of Gregminster without alerting the guards.
And that’s more or less the first hour of the game. I think my save slot says an hour and fourteen minutes. Some talk, some battle, some plot development, and a bunch of hard turns when it comes to tone and material. Either way, I’m excited to keep playing Suikoden, to remember what I remember, and to learn about the moments I clearly missed my first few times through it.