11/11 – Suikoden

Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

Around the time of the first Borderlands, I recall reading a quote. Unfortunately, the name of the speaker has long since left my memory but the quote itself has stuck with me for some time. They said, “the future of all genres is the RPG.” What they meant by this was that every genre would benefit by adding aspects of RPG’s into them. I think the reverse is true as well, though, and today’s game is a perfect example of how the RPG genre can benefit from borrowing aspects of other genres. Today’s game is Suikoden, developed by Konami and released on the Sony Playstation in 1995.

Suikoden starts off like many other JRPG’s before it. The nameable, silent protagonist is set to become a knight, like his father, the great general Teo McDohl of the Scarlet Moon Empire. Your servants accompany you as you start your work for the Empire. Things soon take a turn, however, and your life-long friend is attacked for holding a True Rune, one of 27 such artifacts of power that the Empire is searching for. You are given the rune and flee to the only people who will now take you, the rebellion against the Empire.

Suikoden takes a long time to get going but eventually, players are made the leader of the rebellion and must grow their army. Suikoden never leaves the JRPG genre but it starts to incorporate other genres as you travel the world and recruit up to 108 allies to join your cause. Some of them are potential party members, some take up other tasks around your castle. The more you get, the larger you can build your castle. Suikoden also includes army battles where you must use the might of all of your forces to fight a large army of enemies. Every recruit you have gathered will help you in this fight but you must be careful or you may lose party members you worked hard to recruit.

Suikoden was co-created by Yoshitaka Murayama and Junko Kawano, the former serving as the game’s director and the latter serving as the game’s chief designer and artist. They based Suikoden on a Chinese novel about 108 outlaws that join together as an army, similar to how Suikoden has 108 possible recruits for the rebellion.

Suikoden received high critical praise, particularly for its inclusion of other genres such as very light city building and turn-based strategy games. Recruiting characters was varied and interesting with each person requiring something different to join up. While it would spawn a successful franchise, Suikoden wasn’t as popular in the west as in Japan during the 90’s. Reports have attributed this to Sony of America preferring 3D games to Suikoden’s 2D sprite work, as well as the name and box art not resonating with American audiences. I’ll post an image of the North American art on my Twitter, @vg_oftheday, if you’d like to see why this could very well have been the case.

In retrospect, Suikoden is a highly respected JRPG, although is often overshadowed by Suikoden 2 which many regard as one of the best JRPGs of all time. Still, Suikoden has become a beloved game in its own right and went on to inspire mechanics in many other JRPGs such as Chrono Cross, Radiata Stories and more recently, Ni no Kuni 2. While the series may be dormant now, Suikoden’s legacy continues as it inspires a new generation of developers.

Thank you so much for listening! For archives and transcripts of our episodes, check out videogameoftheday.com where we have every single episode of the show available for your listening pleasure. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day!

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