Entropic Crusader

Home of sci-fi and fantasy author, Benjamin Matthews

Ah, Suikoden. This is a series that holds a very special place in my blackened, cynical heart. Back in ye olden times, meaning 1997 or so, I had an original Playstation. Such a great little machine, it’s a real shame to see the company responsible for it go so far off the rails, but alas, that’s the world we live in now.

Anyway, the first Suikoden released in the same general period as Final Fantasy VII, 1997 here in Airstrip One… sorry, I mean the UK. That’s some pretty serious competition there, huh? But really it wasn’t, not like it would be these days. There were so few games being released back then that it was quite possible for two games like this to coexist without problems.

I first came across FFVII when I visited a friend’s place (bringing a couple of dozen cans of beer with me, of course) and he was playing it on his PS1. I didn’t have the console at the time, so I mostly just crashed there and watched him playing, stunned and awestruck at the amazing graphics.

I’m not being facetious either, the graphics really were mind blowing at the time. The summoned creatures were incredible to my impressionable young adult mind (especially upon finding the Bahamut Zero materia), and the magic spells were awesome. But more than that, it just looked like a super fun game to play.

So when I could afford it, I immediately went out and bought a PS1 with FFVII and proceeded to play the ever-loving shit out of it. 99 hour playtimes were not uncommon, and in reality it was more like 150 per run, because the game’s timer couldn’t count higher than 99:59, hah.

Eventually I had exhausted the game and was casting about for something similar I could play. At one of my local game stores (which were a common sight back then, and where I got most of my gaming news) I came across a game whose cover immediately stood out, calling to me from across the store.

That game was the first Suikoden, a truly amazing title that had me hooked for yet more hundreds of hours. While the graphics were substantially below the bar set by FFVII (though they hold up far better today due to being sprite-based), the premise of the game is what really piqued my interest: a fantasy world full of political intrigue and 108 recruitable characters? Okay… keep talking, game, I’m interested…

Needless to say, I bought the game on the spot and headed home to play. It was approximately three weeks later that I finally resurfaced, after putting many dozens of hours into the game. It was, to me, an instant classic and went straight into my top games of all time. It also remains there to this day.

Suikoden is one of those games that melds together several different types of gameplay and makes it all work flawlessly. You have the JRPG aspects of the game; building a party, turn-based combat, colourful characters, inventory management, and so on. But then you have the war simulation aspect, where you recruit a potential roster of 108 characters, plenty of whom can join your party, but you also build an army to fight back against a tyrannical empire.

You eventually come across an abandoned castle on a lake and make it your home (after a suitably difficult boss battle, naturally), which can then be upgraded with new shops, an inn, a lift to make getting around easier, and a bunch of different things in addition. A good number of those characters you can recruit aren’t direct party members, rather, they open up these new areas of the castle for you.

And if that wasn’t enough, you even fight one-on-one duel battles featuring your main character and a number of the Big Boss characters you face over the course of the game. It’s a pretty simple system of rock-paper-scissors style combat, but each of those fights is integral to the overarching story, and one fight in particular is an absolute gut-punch.

Then at the larger scale, you have the full-on war battles which also run on a rock-paper-scissors style system, and feature thousands of troops led by your major characters. These are just as important to the story as the duels, and you can even have major characters die during them (though most people just reload and try again in that instance).

If that all sounds awesome… yeah, it is. Sure, the game is old now and some aspects of it haven’t aged too well (inventory management especially), but the overall aesthetic? The gameplay? The experience? Those things are all just as great now as they were when it first came out.

Part of that is simply due to the stellar soundtrack by the always-awesome Higashino Miki. She didn’t want the game to have a generic-sounding fantasy feel to it, and when you listen to some of the tracks… well, have a listen yourself. Just that opening theme song is enough to get you hyper for the adventure to come, and is a stark reminder of how exciting it used to be to start up a new game. That’s a feeling I’ve not really had for, I dunno… at least a decade? Last time was probably Xenoblade and that general era of games (the likes of a new Tales of game was always exciting, too… was).

So why am I talking about this 28 year old game now? Well, first because it’s just an awesome game series that anyone who’s into JRPGs should play. But second, and more importantly, it’s because Konami announced that a remaster is coming this year (release date unknown for now, it’s just ‘sometime in 2023’).

Now, it’s certainly true that I harbour a great many ill-feelings towards Konami as a company. They’re garbage, in short (obligatory #FucKonami), and I really don’t want to give them money if I can help it. But at the same time, it’s Suikoden I and II, and they’re coming to Steam and other platforms. With crisp, updated graphics and gorgeous new backgrounds, while still keeping the original sprite work.

On the one hand, I want to support this release so that one day we might get a proper HD remaster of Suiko V, which is my favourite of the whole series. But on the other hand, it’s fucking Konami. I’m also a tad worried because it’s… well, let’s be real, it’s #CurrentYear and there are a great many ways they can potentially fuck this up.

Will they mess with the localisations and introduce woke crap for the mythical MODERN AUDIENCE? Will they massively overprice the release? Will they mess with the basic gameplay mechanics that fundamentally alter what made the games great? Who knows, but this is Konami we’re talking about, and it’s never wise to underestimate their idiocy.

Out of these potential problems, the last issue is the one I’m least concerned about. Judging by the trailer video I linked above, the gameplay mostly seems to be intact, they’ve just added a few minor QoL features like diagonal movement and an autosave function.

After some of the changes that were made to Persona 5 The Royal as a result of noisy, whinging Western idiots, I’m always on-edge when it comes to any release like this now. Honestly, the localisations were already solid (Suiko II’s original American release notwithstanding; that was a travesty), so they don’t need to do much, if anything. Just… leave it be, Konami, let the games speak for themselves, apart from the graphical upgrade.

Really, my main concern is actually the pricing. Square-Enix are absolute assholes when it comes to pricing their games, and I expect Konami to follow suit. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong and they’ll put the dual remaster out at something reasonable… or maybe they’ll show once again why the #FucKonami hashtag movement got started in the first place.

All in all I’m cautiously optimistic, going by the trailer. It looks like a solid remaster project where they’ve retained the look and feel, while modernising some things that desperately needed it, such as new, high-res backgrounds to go with modern monitors. Assuming they don’t mess with the localisation too much or overprice the collection, I’ll be picking it up on release and playing the ever-loving shit out of both games again.

I’ve been hankering for a bit of Suiko action for a while now, and this news came at just the right time. So please, Konami… don’t fuck this up.

Of course, if they do mess this up, there’s always Eiyuuden Chronicle – Hundred Heroes, which is a spiritual successor to Suikoden by some of the original devs that was Kickstarted a few years back. And you can bet your ass I’ll be getting that on day one as well.

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