Category Archives: RPGs

Suikoden II reminds you to not join the Highland Army’s youth division

suikoden 2 just starting

I like juggling multiple games at once, and so for the moment, here’s everything I’m tossing in a circular motion over my head: Dead Island, Diablo III, Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, The Swapper, and Disney Magical World. Someone off to my side just threw Suikoden II in with the bunch, but it’s okay; I’m a decent juggler. Here’s the real dirt–I first learned to juggle with baseballs because I was generally lousy at team sports and often asked to sit the bench for Little League, and it was one way to entertain myself. Hey, at least I was improving a skill, though not one that my coaches intended.

Anyways, Suikoden II. It was this or moving right on to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but I think I need a wee bit more breathing room from Hideo Kojima’s zany nanomachine-influenced mindfuckery for the time being, though I am still intent on playing the remainder of that series before 2014 comes to a close. So long as I can stay one game ahead of Dan and Drew over at Giant Bomb, I’m good. Granted, I also had ambitions about playing a horror game for this glorious month of October, namely Silent Hill 3–yes, another Konami game–but that might not happen given that I’m simultaneously juggling a bunch of comic projects (like Inktober, hint hint).

If you’ll recall, I found replaying Suikoden for the first time in many years to be…an experience. Sometimes an odd one, sometimes a mechanical one, sometimes a repetitive one, but in the end, an enjoyable one. It turned out to be a rather short RPG too in the grand scheme of things, but given that I’ve now sunk just under seven hours into Suikoden II and haven’t even gotten a castle headquarters yet, the sequel is looking to be a much longer, more thorough journey. Let’s get into it.

A real quick summary of the plot goes like this: Suikoden II begins with Riou–who I naturally renamed as Hodor–and his childhood friend Jowy Atreides working together in the youth division of the Highland Army. One night, unexpectedly, Luca Blight, the prince of Highland, orchestrates the slaughter of their unit, blaming it on the neighboring city-state of Jowston. This gives the madman justification for invading Jowston and snowballing a, more or less, civil war. Luckily, Hodor and Jowy escape, eventually making friends with those caught on the other side of battle.

First off, this is a very serious story. Cue ultra and dramatic soundtrack. There are teeny tiny splinters of humor in the game, but so far, they are only with Flik and Viktor and their festering bromance with one another. Otherwise, it’s all about politics and really evil people doing really evil things to innocent villagers; yes, Luca Blight, I’m looking directly at you for that “act like a pig” scene. The game does a great job of making you feel like you really did get swept into the middle of all this, but also prompts you, or rather Hodor, to be the hero destiny foretells. I still wish he wasn’t a mostly mute protagonist, but alas, that’s just how these games roll.

Structurally and gameplay-wise, not much sets Suikoden II apart from its predecessor, though it clearly looks a whole lot nicer. Battles remain turn-based, you still do one-on-one duels, and the large-scale army fights are still there, though tweaked to be more RTS than rock, paper, scissors. The cast is much grander right from the start, and I love that Suikoden‘s Flik and Viktor make a return here, playing extremely vital roles in guiding Hodor and his friends safely through war and strife. I’m curious to see if anything is different with upgrading your castle besides that cooking mini-game; honestly, I don’t even remember how you get your castle, so here’s looking forward to that surprise.

Stray observations, a format I’m totally stealing from The AV Club for the time being:

  • You can run by holding down the Circle button right from the beginning of the game, which does wonders for moving about towns. In Suikoden, you could only dash if you had a specific rune attached, the True Holy Rune, which is one of the reasons I ended up using Stallion a lot.
  • The flashy random battle transition takes advantage of the PlayStation’s ability to render 3D polygons, even in a 2D game.
  • Animations on the character sprites have been enhanced x10.
  • I’m still coming across some strange sound effects, especially when attacking enemies in battle. Sounds like a wet sponge being stepped on. Not as weird as a dragon trumpeting like an elephant, but odd nonetheless.
  • Already took like five photos of bad grammar/spelling mistakes in the opening hour alone.
  • At a glance, seems like inventory space is even MORE limited this time around. Grr. Funk that.
  • I’m happy to see that Unite attacks are more plentiful, especially early on. You end up using Hodor and Jowy’s “Buddy Attack” a lot because it targets all enemies on screen, but I also enjoy seeing Kinnison and Shiro take down an entire column of creepy spiders with their “Loyal Dog Attack”.
  • Already got like three recipes, so bring on the Iron Chef mini-game.

For the reasons I’ve stated above at the start of this post, I’m playing Suikoden II slower and in much shorter chunks. Granted, that might all change once Hodor gets his castle headquarters and can begin bringing in a swarm of friends and allies, but for now, I’m okay with the pace. After all, there’s a lot more heavy moments to take in here, and no matter how many times Nanami told Hodor he didn’t have to wait with her for Jowy’s return, I’ve got all the patience in the world. You can’t rush through the good times.

Dead Island’s a lively tropical vacation full of zombies

dead island thoughts and stuff

Back in October 2013, I grabbed a digital copy of Dead Island for $4.99 on the PlayStation 3 and played for a little bit, actually finding it too unnerving to play solo, given that any group of three or more zombies proved deadly, and the to-ing and fro-ing for fetch quests felt both depressing and lonely. I don’t think I got out of Act I or even hit level 10 with whatever character I selected before putting the whole thing aside. Flash-forward to February 2014, and Dead Island is given out as a freebie for Gold users on the Xbox 360. Figured I’d try one more time.

For those unaware, Dead Island is a first-person, zombie-killing survival loot fest. What does that mean? Well, you will kill zombies, find better weapons, and use them to kill more zombies. There’s a high focus on melee weapons though guns do pop up later and are less exciting. The game takes place on the fictional island of Banoi, a tropical resort destination located off the coast of Papua New Guinea. You play as one of four survivors who discover, after a crazy night of partying, that the island’s gone to heck–undead heck, that is. Back on the PS3, I started off as Xian Mei, a hotel receptionist and spy for the Chinese government, but decided to go with former football-star Logan Carter for this second go-around, seeing as he is much better suited for wielding blunt weapons.

Your goal is, naturally, to get off this zombie-infested island alive. Along the way, you’ll do smaller quests for other survivors, like finding a necklace or reuniting siblings. All the quests exist to simply get you out in the wild, killing zombies, finding new weapons, and gaining XP. This can be a lot of fun, generally when it is you versus one or two zombies; it’s all about crowd control and managing your stamina, which runs out fast with each hard swing of your hammer or spiked baseball bat. Breaking a zombie’s bones or slice its head off in one swift action is very satisfying, even if the game occasionally bugs out or feels too tough for one person to get through.

Well, something happened the other night. I was playing through the campaign by myself, specifically the Act 1 mission where you have to protect a mechanic’s workshop while he tinkers with upgrading your van with some zombie-blocking armor. Naturally, all the noise he creates draws in a bunch of biters; I finished the mission just fine when, out of nowhere, another player joined my game. This player was clearly much higher in level than me–his gun shot bullets that set zombies aflame and put them to the ground in one single trigger-pull–and I figured he’d see what I was up to and decide I wouldn’t be fun to co-op with, given the differences between our characters. But no–he lingered. And then two other players joined, both just as high in level as him. They wanted to adventure with moi.

With these three other power-spewing players by my side, we blazed through the remainder of Dead Island‘s Act I and got pretty deep into Act II before I had to drop out to make some phone calls and play something less terrifying before bedtime. I wouldn’t necessarily call it fun for me or how I even wanted to play, as I spent the majority of my time just walking behind them, watching zombies getting slaughtered and free, unearned XP added to my character, and there seemed to be little I could do. Given that Act II begins in a new area, I wanted to explore more slowly and on my own, but these three were eager to just move on to the next mission, often firing guns in the air as a signal for me to hurry up and over. A part of me felt bad for abandoning them; heck, they joined my game, and were here to assumedly help me. So I followed behind for a good while, earning lots of XP, money, and weapons, and missing every important story beat along the way. Now that they’re gone, I feel very out of my element–like I don’t belong in Act II.

As you explore Banoi, the game is constantly letting you know that so-and-so is nearby, just click this button to join their game. I tried it once or twice, with it putting me really far away from the other player, to the point that I was basically still just playing solo, but listening to someone’s choppy voicechat. It’s a neat function that seems to work well enough, but I think I need to turn it off, at least until I complete the story once. Right now, I feel like I’m missing a lot of the atmosphere and small details by just jumping from quest to quest, completing a handful in under an hour. Maybe they were all boosting for Achievements, but I’m not really interested in that stuff anymore.

It sounds like Dead Island is a pretty long game. The level cap is 50, and I just hit 25, and there are still two more acts to go. I’ve come across some online grumbling about how these final sections are less fun than exploring the beach/resort area. Already, I’m disliking the city/church area, as there are way too many zombies to realistically handle; I’ve found myself sprinting past enemies more often to not. It’s also more closed off, with narrow alleys and buildings, whereas the beach felt very open. I’ll keep going though. I don’t want to be a zombie.

The end has arrived for Suikoden’s cruel Imperial regime

suikoden final throughts maxresdefault

Well, I did it. I beat Suikodenagain. I suspect this is probably my third time through as I most likely beat the game back around when my neighbor helped buy it for me from Kay Bee Toys in 1996, stumbling through it blind as Morgan, the eyeless slave swordsman from Falena, and only recruiting two-thirds of the 108 Stars of Destiny. Then a copy of PSM hit my parents’ mailbox, hinting that a certain character called Gremio could be revived before the end fight if you gathered everybody possible first. Well, I just had to try again, and so I did, successful in my endeavors, but never really returning to the troubled political strugglings of the Scarlet Moon Empire since then.

I decided to go back to Suikoden–and hopefully Suikoden II soonish–for a variety of reasons, one of which I’m still not ready to talk about. However, back when I played these games, I was not a writer. Or even an aspiring writer. I was just a goofy kid that listened to way too much ska music and rode his bike around the neighborhood after dark and liked games that seemed to last forever, mostly JRPG juggernauts, like Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Cross. Nowadays, a lot of what I play sits in my brain, swirling this way and that until I put it down here on Grinding Down, really thinking about mechanics and pacing and how effective or non-effective a transition was, etc. I often make the claim that Suikoden and its much more loved sequel are my favorite games, but I always worried that nostalgia played a big part behind that, and so it is healthy and informative to replay your old favorites every now and then, that way you can truly see if they stand the test of time.

Overall, I’d say that Suikoden is still an immensely enjoyable JRPG, if a little kooky and surprisingly easy. The first hour is very slow in terms of action and challenge, though once you get your castle headquarters and can begin traipsing from town to town looking for recruits, the pace picks up tremendously. Almost too fast. My save slot just before the end battle with Emperor Barbarossa is a nick over twenty-two hours, but please remember that at least two of those hours were spent simply grinding for a nameless urn. Once you get the castle, you kind of go from one big story event to another, with no push to take things slow and go do your own thing for a bit. I mean, you totally can, and I did, but many might not realize the importance of growing your army and just charge through every story beat. All you have to do is keep returning to Mathiu and he’ll always have some plan in the works.

Suikoden might be one of the easiest JRPGs out there. There is no difficulty setting, so it is what it is, and you can, more or less, simply press attack on every character in battle without seeing much resistance from the enemy. In truth, you don’t have many options during the turn-based combat: attack, rune (magic spells), and, depending on who is in your six-member party, unite. There are not as many unite attacks as I originally thought, and many force you to use some less than ideal characters to pull them off–no thanks, every blacksmith ever. Eventually, I ended up using “free will” a lot, especially when grinding, and there were only a few moments when things would go really poorly. So long as you are on top of healing, boss fights are straightforward. I can say that I only saw one “game over” screen, and that was during the second fight with Neclord up in his castle, and it was my fault for not having enough “heal all” spells or mega medicines. Not even Emperor Barbarossa in his true three-headed dragon form proved troublesome.

Recruiting men and women for the Liberation Army barely requires any extra legwork, not counting the two you need to grind for an item for. Most will immediately join up after you speak to them once. A few ask you to be a certain level or, such as in the case of Rubi and Kirkis, another character to be higher up before they’ll throw their bag in the fight. Occasionally, you need to bring a specific character with you to convince someone else to join. I’m looking forward to seeing if the requirements in Suikoden II are a bit more trickier. Gathering recruits is twofold: one, it is fun watching them move into the castle and claim a space for themselves, and two, it ups your army count during the larger-scaled battles, so it does have an effect on gameplay.

I ended up using the following characters as my main mission-goers: Cleo, Victor, Pahn, Valeria, Kirkis, Flik, Stallion, and Ronnie Bell, exchanging them when the situation dictated so. While there are 108 Stars of Destiny to recruit, not all of them are able to fight in the turn-based battles. Like pointless, nose-upturned Onil. Not many of the characters end up playing differently from others despite visible stat differences. They all have different weapons, but you can attach any rune you want to them, turning that martial artist into a healer or that pacifist farmer a wielder of fire spells. I made a mild attempt at trying a few peeps out that I normally ignored, but still found that they lacked personality, especially when you consider that Cleo and Victor are involved in story moments and others, like Lotte and Lester, just aren’t.

All right, here are a couple of other small Suikoden points I’d like to comment on. Just like as in Chrono Cross, you can collect new window frames, but all of them are disgusting and hard to actually look at, though I did end up at least changing the color of the transparency part of the text box to a light brown. The music, when not sampling elephant noises and strange banjo-plucking tunes for mini-games, is memorable and moving, especially that one scene at night when Odessa and Tir McDohl are having a little heart-to-heart moment. Here, have a listen. I ended up spending all my bits on sharpening weapons, rarely purchasing armor or items; you gain so many as you scour dungeons anyways, and the armor is not reflected on the character sprites, so whatever.

So yeah, Suikoden. Still a charming, enjoyable adventure of a boy who unknowingly takes up the call to fight back against an evil empire with the help of an assortment of characters of all different relationships, colors, and races. I wonder what George Lucas thinks of it. It’s perhaps a bit too easy of a game from beginning to end, making things like Costume Quest seem like a hardcore gamer’s nightmare, and the story is not as epic or deep as I remember–or grammatically correct–but it plants all the right seeds for the series to grow from, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Suikoden II plays in 2014. All I remember from it is the cooking mini-game.

My demon hunter Whisper in Diablo III is one to fear

Diablo3_demonHunter1

Here’s the thing: I’m a sucker for “complete package” versions of videogames, especially in this era of post-game DLC and pre-order bonus bull-doody items and unlocks. This gels well with my high patience stat, meaning I can wait the many months–and sometimes even up to a year or so later–for the games’ developers to realize they need another quick burst of cash-money, thus releasing some kind of Game of the Year edition which packs all the extra bits and bobs in with the main game for one, more often than not, easy-to-swallow price. That said, I’ve still not picked up the latest GOTY versions for Borderlands 2 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but my heart rests easy knowing they are out there; truthfully, it’s all about preservation because, one day, you might not be able to purchase that slice of DLC separately off Xbox Live or PSN if–and I dearly hope not–they no longer exist.

All of those words were written so that I could totally tell you that I picked up Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition over the fine Labor Day weekend, and it was priced nicely at just under $40. Mmm mm good. This package includes the original Diablo III campaign, its expansion Reaper of Souls, and some other new goodies, all of which I’ve never touched up to this point. The PC mouse-driven action RPG has been updated for consoles and console controls, just like how Torchlight was, and I have to say, besides a bit of clumsiness when sifting through inventory menus, it all feels really good and intuitive. Especially the combat, where it matters most. But more on all that in a hot cooldown.

Before you can even begin killing and looting legendary gear in Diablo III, you have to pick from one of six available character classes: the witch doctor, the barbarian, the wizard, the monk, the demon hunter, and the crusader. What is appreciated is that you can play all of these classes as either a man or a woman. I went with a female demon hunter as I’m big on crossbows and rolling away from enemies in these kind of games, and the random name generator eventually came up with Whisper, which I think is the most badass name a demon hunter can claim. In truth, all the other classes seem like a lot of fun (the monk was a close second), but like with Borderlands 2 and Dead Island, I need to just pick one and focus on it all the way to the end.

Well, let’s quickly cover the weakest and easiest to ignore aspect of Diablo III: its story. The game takes place in Sanctuary about twenty years after the events of Diablo II, a game I played a bunch of, but never really got far in, though organizing your inventory was a masochistic joy. Deckard Cain and his niece Leah are in Tristram’s cathedral, investigating a bunch of loose pages from ancient texts regarding yet another ominous prophecy. Then, without warning, a mysterious star falls from the sky and crashes through the Cathedral, creating a deep crater and sucking Deckard Cain down. Evil monsters quickly reveal themselves, and your character is on his or her way to Tristram to see how you can help. It’s good versus evil and pretty generic at best, but at least the voice acting is enjoyable; I’m proud that I rightly recognized Jennifer Hale’s voice for Leah after a minute or two.

But one doesn’t play Diablo III for its novel stab at videogame literature, right? You play to click on things, lot of things. Well, in my case, hit the A button on things, lots of things. And the right trigger a lot, too. The left analog stick moves your character, and the right analog stick is a dodge move for whatever direction you push it in. The face buttons all relate to a skill move, and right now Whisper can drop a handful of caltrops to slow enemies, as well as get herself out of a mob of enemies with some swift gymnastic flips. Right trigger is for my favorite active skill so far–Rapid Fire. This uses up Hatred–regenerating mana for demon hunters, basically–but is able to take out a ton of enemies in one gulp, often revealing a yellow orb for killing at least ten of them and doubling Whisper’s damage for a short window of time. Even though she is using a bow for it, the attack sounds like she’s wielding a machine gun.

I’m still fairly early in Act I, and all I want to do is go home right now and play some more. Yeah, it’s that kind of game, where you’re always close to leveling up or you just found a new weapon or piece of gear and want to see it in action, and before you know what is what, you’re five levels deep in some dank crypt, killing zombies and ghosts and having a blast. Given that this is both Diablo III and its expansion, which offers up Adventure Mode and more, I’ve got plenty of road still to travel with Whisper. Also, I’m using followers, and unlike in Skyrim, I am not 100% hating them, though I still think they could be a bit more proactive in battle and a whole lot less whiny.

Stay tuned for further updates about Whisper and the many denizens of Hell that she’ll be slaughtering…

Grammar is not Suikoden’s greatest joy in life

suikoden grammar 55-PSOGL2_160

During my recent replaying time with Suikoden, I noticed that the translation work, well…it needed some work. Meaning that there were a constant number of grammar and punctuation mistakes across my logged twenty-two hours of grinding and recruiting, enough that I eventually began snapping crappy photos via my cell phone–when I could. For documentation’s sake, of course. I mean, it might be another ten-plus years before I touch this RPG again, and maybe the world won’t even care a lick about good grammar by then–the horror!

I’d love to tell you that I noticed all of these errors back when I was a freckly, green-haired teenager with ska patches covering my backpack, but that probably wouldn’t be true. I don’t think my editing skills really blossomed until college, until I was told to stop pursuing art. Nonetheless, the spelling mistakes and grammar errors don’t detract one bit from Suikoden‘s fun gameplay, then and now; they’re just easier to spot in 2014 when playing on a larger TV screen, and once you spy one, you’ll be constantly looking for more.

Anyways, below are only four examples, but trust me when I say there were many others that I accidentally button-pressed through too fast or the text on the screen disappeared before I could ready my phone. This was especially the case during the final montage before the credits, where every single 108 Star of Destiny you recruited before the final battle with Barbarossa gets a tiny sentence about what they did after the war was over. Unfortunately, these little blips of text don’t stay on the screen for very long, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Or, y’know, you could play Suikoden all the way through. Or just watch here. The most common problem I spotted was subject-verb agreement, such as “Become the Commander-in-Chief and protect the border” for Kasim and “Embark on a journey to improve his imperfect self” for Pahn. They also end up spelling Barbarossa as Barbarosa on several accounts.

Right. Check these goofs out:

WP_20140822_001 WP_20140828_001 WP_20140830_001 WP_20140831_001

The lengthy grind for an urn without a name

nameless urn suikoden blog

I find it both bizarre and amusing that Suikoden gives the player two extremely similar recruit requirements at nearly the exact time in the plot, and both ask that a specific creature be killed in hopes that it drops a certain item. Nothing too out of the ordinary in a JRPG. However, from what I can gather, the drop rates for both of these monsters range dramatically from one player to another, and some people find the item after the first battle and others, like me, end up grinding for two hours just to see its name pop up. As the Brits say, that’s a bunch of bollocks.

Okay, details. The first side recruit involves killing Nightmares, which are floating casino-card like enemies, in the Soniere Prison; one will eventually leave behind an opal, which you can then give to Esmeralda to get her to sign up with the Liberation Army. The second recruit quest has you murdering Holly Fairies for a nameless urn, which will most likely stump even Jabba, a wizened appraiser from Rikon. The objective couldn’t be clearer: kill X until X drops Y. The problem is, there is no way to tell when you’ll see that item. Might be within minutes, hours, or–the horror!–days.

In fact, I had almost left Soniere Prison entirely and started that really tough Gremio scene, but I purposefully back-tracked for a bit to get into a few more fights starring Nightmares. I would wager it only took four or five more rounds until an opal hit my inventory, so that was nice and had me thinking optimistic thoughts about future grinding quests even though I knew what story beat was coming, but hey, at least I didn’t have to grind for two hours first.

So after gathering up a few more recruits for Castle Castle, I double-checked my list to see who I could still get on the non-Imperial side before serving Milich his just desserts, and I noticed that Jabba the appraiser was still calling Rikon home. So off I went, to grind outside on the world map for a bit, searching for that nameless urn. I skipped all battles not involving Holly Fairies and, given how well the opal hunt went, figured I’d maybe spend fifteen minutes at most doing this before getting the urn and moving on with the game. Nope. I grinded Holly Fairy fight after Holly Fairy fight for at least an hour and a half, having to even mute the game’s sound and listen to a podcast so that I didn’t lose my mind. Eventually, I gave up for the night. Upon returning to Suikoden in the morning, it took another thirty minutes or so of fighting the same fights before those magical words appeared on screen: Obtained Nameless urn. My heart swelled, I shoved it right under Jabba’s whiskery nose, and saved my game twice because I was so ecstatic and distracted that I immediately forgot if I had saved or not after just choosing to save. Oh man.

I don’t remember if there are any further “grind for item” quests in Suikoden, but I certainly hope not. Two hours is much too long to devote to such a mundane and trivial quest. My logged playtime is now in the twelve-hour range, and I think this is one of those early JRPGs that you can probably complete in under twenty hours. We’ll see. I am a bit obsessive about getting all 108 Stars of Destiny, no matter what it takes. If any good came out of this, it’s that Pauly McDohl got mega-rich and sharpened all his friends’ weapons, and it wasn’t even any of their birthdays. What a nice, army-raising boy he is…

Suikoden’s rock, paper, scissors take on war

Blog Suikoden Army Battle

All right, I know I teased you last time I covered Suikoden about forthcoming elves and kobolds, so let’s get right to it–I met some elves and kobolds.

After a mighty banquet and stealth ninja assassination attempt (how rude!), Pauly McDohl and his friends tried to leave Castle Castle in hopes of pursuing new recruits, but stumbled upon an elf, exhausted and drenched, right on their front doorstep. Evidently he was so desperate to speak with Lady Odessa that he swam all the way over. Hmm, well, Kirkis, we have some bad news for you, as does he for all of us. The pointy-eared fella who could probably pass for a rebellious teenager from Lothlorien based on his ginger hair says that the Great Imperial General Kwanda Rosman is planning to exterminate all the elves.

Well, we simply can’t allow that, and so the gang is off, first through the woods, which are unnavigable without Kirkis’ help, then through an empty kobold village, and off to visit the mighty elves, who live high up in the trees and just think the snootiest of thoughts when it comes to humans. Long story short, things go awry, and the gang is tossed into jail, though Kirkis’ girlfriend helps set everyone free shortly after. We then visit the home of the dwarves, where we learn that Kwanda Rosman was able to build a Burning Mirror after stealing the blueprint from one of their mines. The dwarven leader doesn’t believe this, so he tasks us with stealing something to prove such a feat is possible. I won’t go into more detail there as it is a pretty straightforward dungeon crawl, though I must comment on the “telephone puzzle” to open the boss door, another nugget of strangeness I forgot over time.

Upon returning to the village of the elves, we find it burnt to the ground. We were too late, and now Kwanda Rosman must pay, taking us into Suikoden‘s first large-scale army battle, which, much like the castle and 108 Stars of Destiny, is to become a trademark of the series. In these, it’s all about scope, with your army of tiny pixelated soldiers versus another, and the army count actually does reflect the number of people you’ve recruited, so even if Onil and Krin serve little purpose once in your castle, they at least participate in war. Basically, you select from four options: charge, bow, magic, and others. Your opponent is also making a choice, and the outcome is determined in a rocks, paper, scissors fashion that I’m sure Fire Emblem: Awakening could appreciate. Let me break it down:

  • Charge beats bow
  • Magic beats charge
  • Bow beats magic

If both players pick the same attack, the damage is reduced for both, but still accounted for. The “others” option allows thieves to sneak in to the opposing army’s camp and steal gold or get a hint as to what attack they’ll do next. It’s really just a guessing game, and I got creamed on my first two attempts, even ending up losing Eileen. See, for many of the non-vital story-related characters in your army, death can come quite easy during these army battles, and this is permadeath, so you best be careful with who you send out. Since I’m ultimately going for 108 total Stars of Destiny, this was an instant “reload my save” scenario, something I’m usually against. Finally, with a little luck and a good streak of my army casting magic against Kwanda’s charge attack, the fight was over. Now it was time to storm the stronghold.

Once you get through all the random encounters, open all the hidden treasure chests, and take care of that dragon miniboss, which was a bit hard since I still don’t have much in the “heal the entire party” option, you fight Kwanda, one on one. Mano-a-mano. And just like the army battle, it’s a game of choices. Here, let me break it down one more time:

  • Attack (damages opponent, even a little damage through defend)
  • Defend (blocks opponent, counters if against desperate attack)
  • Desperate attack (deals big damage, but can be countered)

Once again, it’s the whole rock, paper, scissors thing, but at least this time, so long as you read the dialogue carefully, your opponent’s attacks are televised. Like, when Kwanda is ready to do a desperate attack, he says something aggressive so you know to hit defend. I beat him on the first try, so it’s a much easier way to fight, going for something more cinematic than strategic. Anyways, because Pauly McDohl has an obsession with recruiting characters, he let Kwanda live and join the Liberation Army since he was clearly acting under a magic rune spell.

I’m hoping to progress further in the game and not need to stop and comment about every single section I encounter. However, when I last played this game, I wasn’t even a writer, just some mopey teenage kid who thought ska was the gratest music ever, that khakis were more comfortable than jeans, and that George Constanza had a way of looking at the world that I totally grokked. Yeaaah. I think, at this point, I’ve seen all the big component parts of Suikoden–if I remember right, that is–so all that should be left is story stuff and more turn-based fights, army battles, and one-on-one combat scenarios. Plus more recruiting. Gotta grow that castle, after all. As soon as the Kwanda stuff was done, I went right back out to grab a few more friends for the fight before seeing what Viktor and the recently returned Flik were talking about. I guess I’ll be back if something strange or interesting pops up and I’m compelled to write about it. Until then.