Hello Kotaku! The last time I was weekend editor for Kotaku was in February and honestly, it seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened since then that even when I look back at my old articles, I feel like I am looking at a time capsule from a different age.
As always, I am honored to be back. A bit about me? I’ve worked in the game industry (LucasArts, EA) and occ asionally write articles for Kotaku. I am also the author of two books named Mecha Samurai Empire
Every time I write as a guest, I’ve started with an ode to a quirky part of gaming that stuck in my mind, be it oversized inventory in pockets or unused items hoarded in a JRPG for over a hundred hours. This time is my ode to the games that took us forever to end. This is separate from the never-ending backlog I have in games like Wild arms, the original Deny, and Final Fantasy XIII-2.
This is about games we’re completing, but it is taking a long time to get there. Sometimes there is a certain task that hinders my progress. I remember it took an extra long time to finish The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker because I was so annoyed about the Triforce search and how many rupees I had to collect. Some games were just too difficult for me as a kid, which is why I didn’t beat NES classics that much Blaster Master, Batman, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles until i was much older. In the case of the first Parasite Eve, I really enjoyed the game on PS1. But my memory card was defective and when I loaded it into the puzzle for a few days, all my backup files had been deleted. I was so frustrated that I haven’t seen the game in almost 15 years, but I was glad to finally get through and face the horror a couple of Halloween ago. There are instances when a game just didn’t resonate at some point in my life. It took a couple of tries to finish Lost Odyssey, but glad I waited as the story of immortality meant a lot more to playing it than I did (I’ll be writing more about why in an essay this weekend).
Some games are worth the wait. Others could have been better left unfinished. Suikoden is definitely in the former category.
I learned about it Suikoden almost twenty years ago. It was in an electronics boutique I used to go to. I don’t remember the name or face of the man who worked there, but he recommended some of my favorite games. the very first resident Evil, Riven, Castlevania: Symphony of the Nightand even an obscure PC adventure game called sanatorium. Pretty much anything he recommended I loved.
I just finished Final Fantasy VII and asked him if he had anything like it, knowing that it would be difficult to follow him. He recommended with all his heart Suikoden. I started playing it, but I couldn’t get into it. It was for stupid reasons; The medieval setting seemed a far cry from the epic cyberpunk masterpiece of FFVII that I longed. In a misguided moment, I finally gave it back.
A few years later a colleague at LucasArts asked if I had played Suikoden II. I admitted I didn’t because I didn’t like the first one. He insisted I play and he was right. I loved Suikoden II and also enjoyed his follow-up, Suikoden III. So I thought I’d go back and try to play the first one Suikoden once again. I didn’t find it as rich or complex as its sequels and I had so many other games that I wanted to play that I eventually gave up.
It was only about a year ago when I finally picked up Suikoden As I had seen, some people mentioned how much they liked the game. Fortunately, it clicked this time. I actually wrote about my experience with the first half of the game in Kotaku last year. I finally finished the second half of this year and it was better than I had hoped.
Suikoden does not glorify war but instead paints the cost of conflict in somber colors, even if it is an anime aesthetic. One of the most shocking moments of the second half is when Gremio, Tir’s friend and guardian, pays the ultimate price to protect him. His terrible death from man-eating spores was truly unsettling. After his friend’s death, Tir falls speechless to the ground, devastated by what he has seen. When he gets out of bed, he is depressed by the loss of his friend. All members of his army urge him to keep fighting. I felt hopeless at first, but that was soon replaced by anger when I wanted revenge.
The army you assemble is diverse. The Dragon Knights are great and unleash a heavy bombardment to open each battle sequence. The ninjas predict enemy movement, give you a sense of what to expect next, and share new insights into Sun Tzu’s adage about the importance of spies. Just before the characters go into battle, each takes a moment to speak, reminding players of how they each have a personal share in the battle. While you don’t get to know all With 108 characters, Suikoden tries its best to include as many as possible. It’s amazing to see your headquarters transform from an abandoned and rundown old structure to a worthy base that attracts the best soldiers and tacticians across the continent.
Some members need to be looked for, and recruiting new members often means bringing the right character with you. In the case of the master blacksmith, who can maximally strengthen your weapons, he must see all four of his disciples in Tir’s party before he is persuaded to join the Liberation Army. On the other hand, some recruits are downright hostile. In the fight against the floating fortress, the brilliant tactician Mathiu conjures up an armada with boats made of ice. Mathiu hates war, but joins Odessa at the request of his sister. He was part of the Empire but walked away in frustration after the tragic aftermath of the Kalekka incident. In the present, the army storms the fortress and defeats the commander of the imperial navy, Sonya. Ironically, Sonya hates Tir for killing his own father, whom she loved. She goes along, but only because she personally wants to see Tir fail.
It almost happens. During this crucial battle, the Liberation Army is betrayed by one of its own. Mathiu dies from wounds sustained in a fire caused by the traitor. But even if he dies, he puts the mission first and insists that the traitor not be arrested if it lowers the morale of the troops. He even invites his uncle Leon to join them, despite the fact that he was the architect of the incident that led to his disillusionment. The pathos of these individual stories and their interconnected threads is part of what makes Suikoden so convincing.
When my army finally emerged victorious, the Emperor Barbarossa of the Scarlet Moon Empire accepted his fate and realized that he had done everything out of his love for the sorceress Windy. The end is bittersweet. Tir is victorious, but has lost many of the people he loved. Depending on how many characters Tir recruits, Gremio can be revived. If not, it is even more depressing considering he lost Gremio, his friend Ted, and his father.
In the end, Tir refuses the presidency and walks away, Gremio by his side (at least in the good end). For those of you who have played Suikoden II with a Suikoden I file I saved, you know that he exiled himself to a fishing village.
As the credits rolled in and I learned what had happened to all of the characters, I felt this immense joy and satisfaction in finally finishing the game. I wondered why I had turned it down so quickly when I was younger. At the same time, I was grateful that I was able to experience it as I did. I had a greater appreciation for the show and knew what to expect in its future. I’m also glad I got through this year when every moment I got the chance to play was precious.
There are still a number of games I’m behind that I want to finish. I will enjoy them as much as Suikoden? I can’t tell, but I really hope so.
I apologize to the guy at EB who recommended the original game. It took me twenty years to realize it, but I was wrong.
In this sense, we are all human and we make mistakes. If you encounter any issues, have any questions, or just want to say hello, please leave a note in the comments or tweet me at @ TieryasXu.