Reviewed: 11/22/2005


In an era where four hero parties were the norm, the armies were always evil, and a well-placed band of hippy rebels could throw off any yolk of imperialism, Suikoden walked right over some serious RPG norms. Why not take control of your own army, your own castle, and a couple dozen playable characters? Why not have united team attacks instead of each man for himself in battle? Why not give the game some of the ugliest box art this side of the Pacific? And thus the Suikoden series was born.

Take one Tir McDohl, son of the famous general Teo, and have him enlist in the military, where he goes through a series of disillusioning missions until finally his best friend is kidnapped, Tir gets a soul-taking rune fused to his skin, and he’s forced to escape the capital with his life. Okay okay, yes there are some rebels at this point, but mainly to lead to the meat of the game, which is to raise your own army. How cool is that?

While the story isn’t as eloquently told as it could be, it’s easy to identify with Tir,

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Tir McDohl. Hero. Warrior. Embarrassing fashion icon.

as he struggles to make hard choices about his own life and the lives of his troops. Unfortunately, the focus of war is so paramount in the storyline that many promising storylines are discarded to the wayside. With a 108 recruitable characters, many with deep relationships to each other, it feels like the game rushes along to each objective of raising the army, rarely giving you a chance to explore the complexity constantly hinted at. Since this is the first of the series, and since the rest of the games follow a continuing timeline, some of these issues are addressed in Suikoden II, which is sadly nearly impossible to find cheaply these days.

Graphic-wise, Suikoden relies on detailed sprites, instead of the blocky, terrible looking 3D that many other games were using at the time. Even considering the age of the title, the sprites, characters portraits, and especially maps are certainly not an eyesore. Stiff animation is forgiven for memorable battle effects, especially the later level spells. Battles do make use of some terribly rotated 3D, and with it comes a camera that zooms in and out at random. However, your home base of Toran Castle is especially well done, and none of your 108 party members are palette swapped versions of each other.

Pokémon fan? Gotta catch’em all? Collecting every party member,

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Later games in the series mention the name of your castle. Don’t name it “Peewee’s Playhouse” like me.

decking out the castle’s baths with fine art, and leveling up new combinations of party members for new attacks leaves any player totally addicted. Walking around is tedious until you land a holy rune, which lets you zoom around. Really, the most annoying part of the game is that Suikoden is so old it makes you use the arrow pad, which is jarring and clunky.

Six party member battles open up a myriad of combos to find and abuse, and with the game’s auto-battle option, it makes random battles a breeze and boss fights enjoyable. Runes, Suikoden‘s answer to magic and skills, are fused onto a character and let you deck out your spell casters and fighters the way you want. Do you double the attack power and keep the character out of the next round, or rely on two underpowered characters who have a strong double attack? The possibilities are nearly endless, and always interesting.

-Andrew Duff

Score Breakdown
Very Good
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Good
Story Great
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Very Good
Replay Value Bad
The Verdict: 7