SuikodenTierkreis(1)

Genre: RPG
Year: 2009
Developed by: Konami
Published by: Konami
Platforms: DS
#317
Feeling Like: Camping out

The 500 is a daunting project. I don’t know what possessed me to pick such an enormous number of games to write about; possibly because I only created this website to practice my writing and reminisce about my favorite hobby. Finishing was never a goal, so why not go big?

As I re-order my list and look ahead at the games to discuss, I must confess some of them inspire dread. Why *did* I rank that game higher than others? When push comes to shove, I don’t remember that much about it and the stuff I can recall about it isn’t all that interesting in the first place. Hmm.

But some games I really look forward to in terms of digging up nostalgia and justifying why I enjoyed them so much. Suikoden Tierkreis is one of those games; it’s the first entry on the list from one of my all time favorite series. It’s an RPG, my all time favorite genre. It’s a vast, flawed adventure which means there’s a ton to write about. The last RPG I “liked” in this way was Final Fantasy 12, and I was super happy on how that entry turned out.

So, here we go. Suikoden Tierkreis.

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Pre-rendered backgrounds? Charming. Polygonal characters? Ugly as hell. This dichotomy is Suikoden Tierkries in a nutshell.

I love this franchise. Much like Final Fantasy, it retains similar themes across each game, but they’re never direct sequels. The fundamentals are unique and immediately identifiable – primarily, the amount of characters you can recruit to your party is 108. That’s right – one hundred. And eight.

Not all will be playable in combat, but they’ll all pitch in somehow; opening a shop in your town, sharpening your weapons, cooking in the kitchen or just being a lookout. It’s the series’ trademark and I can’t imagine a Suikoden game without it. What it means is that every town is full of potential, every NPC is a possible future companion. You never know who will join you, or rise up against you. Most of the Suikodens will require you to have multiple parties and giant army battles, so there’s a huge incentive to visit every corner and perform as many helpful deeds as possible to increase the chances of recruiting a new member into your gang of do-gooders.

Secondly, you’re always going to have a home base. This is equally thrilling to me; I LOVE HAVING A HOME BASE. Whether it be a tiny house, a town, an airship, a space ship or a castle, I can’t get enough of it. It’s so fulfilling to see your partners in not-crime surprise you by clearing out a previously destroyed room so townsfolk can have a library there instead. A previously dangerous dungeon can shortly become your very own fixer upper. As you get more people around the world to join you, the base begins to feel positively crowded. It’s a respite. After a tough dungeon, warp home, see what Bob is up to in the basement, or how Jennifer is tending to her horses, or how Mildred’s garden is looking. These visits won’t always yield incredible items, but it creates a wonderful sense of community. It’s one of the main reasons I love Suikoden games and desperately wish more games would adopt this mechanic.

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Be it ever so humble…

The third trademark and this may be my own take on Suikodens is that the storyline usually revolves around warring factions, not necessarily romance or the same “save the world” trope you’ll see in almost every other JRPG. It’s refreshing; I don’t need to save the entire planet from an evil space alien/god, you can still create meaningful conflict by keeping the story smaller in scope. Besides, if you and your home and your friends are threatened, isn’t that the whole world to you anyway? One of the best games ever made, Suikoden 2, mastered this plot structure and we’ll go into more detail when we get much, much further up in the 500.

I could go on all day. Another aspect of the Suikoden games I love is the admittedly cheesy anime intros when you boot up the game. There’s always a rousing theme, and at least a few minutes of video showing you the characters that you’ll meet, enemies you’ll fight, your heroes gazing meaningfully into the wilderness and as the score builds you just can’t wait to get going. Look how goddamn exciting this looks! Never mind that the images you see rarely actually happen, they’re open to wild interpretation. Regardless, these montages do their job; they get you ready for a magical world of political intrigue, magic, monsters, castles and high adventure. I cannot stress this enough: FUCK YEAH.

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WHOOO BACK ENTRANCE

Now, in terms of Suikodens, Suikoden Tierkreis is my least favorite on the 500. You won’t find Suikoden 4 anywhere near here because it’s one of my least favorite games I’ve ever played, but that’s besides the point. As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’m not the biggest fan of handhelds. In terms of having a pint-sized Suikoden though, I could hardly complain. I loved what they did with the hardware – the top screen would show you where in the world you were and the bottom screen was reserved for the rest of the gameplay.

I ADORE this.

I was recently reading the Broken Earth Fantasy trilogy (excellent, by the way) and couldn’t help but wished there were more maps of where the characters were. I got a bit lost as to where they were location-wise and kept having to switch to the map on the first page. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a novel, or audiobook screen that would show you where the characters were? I realize that would probably ruin a lot of people’s experiences, and interfere with some literary artistic licensing. I get that. Maybe I should just pay attention more? But still, a guy can dream and I want to applaud Konami for including this touch. It doesn’t hurt that the world screens are beautifully drawn, despite the poor resolution.

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They really did capitalize on the DS hardware. Excellent use of two screens.

I remember playing Suikoden Tierkreis while camping with friends. It was very, very wet. I’m talking non-stop rain, no campfires, tarps everywhere that eventually failed under the weight of the ceaseless water. We did not have an engineer on hand, obviously. Still, it did add a bit to the Suikoden flare – several of us spent hours and hours trying to set up shelter so we could all enjoy our cold camping food together.

There’s something about a group of colorful characters banding together for a common goal. It’s what I love about party-based RPGs; I get a warm, fuzzy feeling. You can do it in so many different ways too – hell, the most recent Dolemite movie on Netflix (starring Eddie Murphy, terrific – go watch!) is basically the Muppet Movie…with loads of swearing and nudity. Still, when a group has common goals and pure intentions, you can’t help but want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of that! AND HAVE A CASTLE WHERE ALL MY FRIENDS CAN LIVE.

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Centaurs and dolphins and squirrel-cats, oh my!

It’s not perfect. I loathe the character models that seemed to plague every DS RPG. They just don’t appeal to me – the heads are too big, they don’t move right, bah. That’s a stylistic preference on my part that’s hard to quell. The character portraits, while standard anime fare, are a style that I DO like so it’s not all bad.

Another part that puzzled me was the voice acting; some of the characters sound great, but the main character’s linesaredeliveredsofastit’slikethemaincharacterhadtousethebathroomrightnow. It’s bizarre – did they speed up the audio? Did they tell the voice actor to sound too energetic? Super strange.

Finally, the lines can be a bit weak. “You can’t know until you try!” works in tandem with the story, as you’re trying to disprove the world’s main religion that destiny is pre-determined, but it sounds overly eager after the 17th time the main character quips it.

Aside from that, it’s a fun little game. Exploring your castle’s mysterious rooms, solving puzzles, battling the establishment and weaving your way through a fully realized, interesting world is an incredible feeling. They managed to cram a huge game in such a tiny console and I was consistently impressed, if not overjoyed. The plot has some intriguing developments that suck you in. There’s no overworld, and it doesn’t hold a candle to some other Suikodens, but it was *a* Suikoden and that was enough for me.

This was also the last game in the series I played…it was the last in the series that hit North America, and Konami hasn’t made a new Suikoden in 8 years. Since they’ve seemingly taken their ball and gone home to make pachinko machines, I’m not holding my breath and it’s absolutely devastating. I would lose my collective shit if Suikoden 6 was somehow announced.

Aside from the little hurdle that Konami doesn’t like video games anymore, it would still be an incredibly risky and expensive project. Having so many character is great for the player, but that means you need voices for those 108 characters. Artists to create them. Storyboards to ensure they all have a backstory. Most games can’t do that with a handful of characters, let alone over a hundred. I get it.

But this isn’t the blog where you’re going to see rational, level-headed analysis. It’s a nostalgia trip about video games. So, I’ll conclude with

-Suikoden is awesome!
-I want Suikoden 6!
-Konami sucks (until they make Suikoden 6 in non-pachinko form)!
-Video games are great!

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