So I just beat the first Suikoden. (Again.) And... it was good. It wasn't perfect,
but what is but for a 1995 RPG, this was years ahead of it's time, both in terms of story and gameplay. Grinding (for exp, anyway...) is a thing of the past; battles, while not too complex, are quick and relatively easy, so they're not a problem; the teleportation system you get later saves a lot of time; and there are other things, I'm sure. And of course, the story is more mature and complex than most other RPG's of the era. Well, mostly. There's still a witch going around causing havok in the country and corrupting people with 'dark runes', but rather than that just being that, here, it ends up being the Emperor who is still ultimately at fault; for all that Windy did, it was still the Emperor who turned a blind eye to both her actions, as well as to to his empire. All in all, for the first game in a series that lasted over 10 years, it's a great start.
That said, the game's not without it's problems. The encounter rate's still a bit too high, and while you don't have to grind for EXP, you do end up having to grind for money. Around the time you fight Teo, the prices for upgrading your weapons start to skyrocket, and by the end of the game, you'll find yourself having to take 20-30 minute chunks away from doing anything else just to upgrade your weapons. And suddenly finding yourself having to use a character you haven't used in a while, and thus having to upgrade them accordingly, doesn't help. Also, you can only equip one rune per character, which is okay, but it'd be nice to be able to equip more than just one. (And to not have to use a rune to run. That got old fast...)
The other problem with the game has to do with the characters. Oh, the main cast is fine. It's the other 90-something Stars that are the problem. I get that with such a large cast, most of them aren't going to get a lot of development, but most of them take little more than you just walking up to them for them to join you on what seems like a whim, and what little motivation there is for joining often doesn't make a lot of sense. There are exceptions, but for the most part, I really think they could have put in just a bit more effort towards the characterization and motivations of the vast majority of the 108 stars. As is, I could care less about most of them.
But again, this was just the start. The Suikoden series would move onward from here, and, if I remember correctly, just about every problem I had with this game was addressed in the sequel. I'll start playing it again soon enough.