Suikoden: Are You A Star of Destiny?
There aren’t many things I can say in my life that have had a huge impact on me as a person. Probably three in total. Oscar Wilde and his deep, thought-provoking stories are one; Winston Churchill and his dynamic wartime leadership is another (the admiration I hold for the strength and perseverance he injected into the world during WWII is colossal). The third would have to be that brilliant, under-rated RPG series known as Suikoden – and if you haven’t played Suikoden, believe me, you are missing out. This series will, quite literally, change your life.
This game first came to my attention at the age of thirteen one morning while sick in bed. I’ll always thank God thereafter for that particular flu (not something you tend to give thanks for, but this was an exception) for it brought to me my younger brother who, while pitying me in my miserable, bed-ridden state, decided to cheer me up by handing me an RPG game I had never seen before; he raced out again before I could sneeze on him and I stared at this game, wondering why I was holding it. I was never a big gamer; apart from the classic Streets of Rage and Sonic the Hedgehog, I rarely touched a console. Nevertheless, I popped the game into the Playstation and watched unenthusiastically as a character with long hair and a bandana who I had named Lewis (after a boy I fancied at school) wandered around a palace, talking to various people. My lack of enthusiasm had significantly changed two hours later and I was hooked. What followed was a glorious thirty-five hours of role play, where the main character – upon recognizing the corruption of the empire he lived in – was forced to fight against the same people he had grown up with, with only his closest companions to accompany him, battling all manners of foe, creating an army, acquiring a castle and – in introduction to the true beauty of the Suikoden series – collecting 108 Stars of Destiny along the way, those who would each play a significant role in the demise of the Empire and bring forth the new Liberation Army to victory. Betrayal, friendship, honour and war are common themes of the Suikoden series and, for the lover of doing what’s right in the face of injustice and hardship, this game is a dream come true.
A year later I was playing Suikoden II and this was even better. The story of two best friends, divided by their beliefs, suffering from the betrayal of their own country, forcing them to flee as fugitives and, ultimately, resulting in the betrayal of one friend to another as they led their own opposing armies into war was powerful stuff! Now, sixty hours of gameplay was mine to enjoy and, what with collecting another 108 Stars of Destiny, fighting epic battles, enjoying fun mini-games such as Hai Yo’s brilliant cook-off (causing you to want to eat in the process!) and feeling as though you were on a rollercoaster ride with the unexpected, sudden twists and turns that the game provides, there was hardly any time to do anything other than sleep and eat. Suikoden II, like its predecessor, will have you laughing, crying, raging with indignation, hurting, and enjoying the interaction between characters; it will take you into a world where honour, courage and friendship are the only weapons against cruelty and tyranny; it will bring a passion to your life that you will never forget; it will help you grow as a person and it will show you what truly matters in this life, instilling its own morals and values into you. Truthfully, I can say that I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for Suikoden: a stronger person who believes in choosing to do what is right over what is easy and who values friendship and loyalty above all else. I strongly suggest all those who have not played the series to give it a shot – there is nothing to lose with Suikoden, but everything to gain. Some years later I played Suikoden V and, again, the common themes were prevalent, especially some of the most beautiful music I had ever come across.
I no longer have a copy of Suikoden II – due to rarity, they are selling at something like £200 on Ebay and Amazon! – but I should hope to purchase one again in the future. After losing my copy, I tried to find other RPGs that could provide me with the same feeling, but unfortunately none could quite achieve it. We can only hope that this brilliant series will one day be revived – at the end of each Suikoden series, one whom the main character loves dearly is resurrected if you have successfully collected 108 Stars of Destiny by the end. This shows us that just because something has gone, it doesn’t mean it can’t come back and this rings true for Suikoden as a whole. The ‘Suikoden Revival Movement’ works tirelessly to revive the series and surely their efforts will pay off in the end, so that those of us who are already fans and those who are yet to enjoy the series can benefit from the powerful, expressive storyline, the touching music and the engaging characters Suikoden has to offer. The beauty of this game cannot quite be described in words, but I hope that its influence can have an impact on individuals for many years to come.