Some of the most memorable games have made their mark not only by virtue of excellent gameplay or aesthetics, but also by having created a vivid and imaginative setting whose story was told over several years, spread throughout a series of games. This method of storytelling has worked for almost as long as gaming has existed, from the Fallout's apocalyptic nuclear wasteland to the idyllic Fantasy land of Lufia. Instead of creating worlds that were tossed aside and discarded at the end of each game, these titles focused on creating the universe bit by bit and letting players explore unique areas or periods of time within these settings. Even non-RPGs have benefited from this method of storytelling and world building; the Halo series has more depth and detail to its lore than your average Tales or Final Fantasy game.
One of the series that utilized this form of storytelling to its fullest potential was Suikoden. Each game focused on a specific region and time period of the Suikoden world, and gave insight and subtle hints not only to the background of the setting, but also to the individual cultures and ideologies of the people that populated the world. These ideologies and cultures, much like the real world, would often lead to conflicts over sovereignty and independence. From the deep-seated mistrust between the Grassland clans and the merchant nation of Zexen that led to a tense and uneasy alliance against a common enemy, to the unforgettable struggles of the City States of Jowston to maintain their independence from a madman-led Highland Kingdom, there has been no shortage of conflict and war throughout the series.
War has always been a pivotal aspect of the Suikoden games. Each entry in the series focuses on the most important battles in the country where it is set, and while other games have been content to have lead characters only at the periphery of major conflicts in the storyline, the Suikoden series dared to be different and cast its players in the roles of unlikely generals fighting for their survival. As a result, each game is a humanized look on war and the terrors it unleashes not only on the civilians, but also on those who have been placed on the frontlines. The lead characters were constantly forced to endure hardships and sacrifice before ending the conflict for good, and in successive games we were given a glimpse of how successful (or unsuccessful) their struggles ended up being. This created a living, breathing world that aged and evolved with each successive game, where characters from previous games would make appearances to show us the extent of their growth and adaptation (or, in some cases, lack thereof) to the ever-changing political climate.
The games were not lacking in the gameplay department, either; each main entry featured three different methods of play that were dependent on the scale of the battle: one-on-one fights, group battles, or army conflicts. One-on-one fights were akin to rock-paper-scissors, with players making educated guesses about what the opponent was about to do based on their attitude during combat. Group battles, which made up most of the game, were small scale skirmishes that took place as turn-based battles. Army conflicts proceeded as strategy-type minigames focused on leading your armies in large-scale fights. This varied style of gameplay set Suikoden apart in an era chock-full of "me too!" RPGs riding on the coattails of the Final Fantasy craze.
The Suikoden timeline reached its furthest in the third mainline entry, Suikoden 3, during which Yoshitaka Murayama, the creator and brains behind the series, left Konami because of creative differences. As a result, in successive entries, Konami has opted to explore the rich history of the Suikoden world (IV, V, and Tactics) and alternate realities (Teirkreis). While each of these games have had excellent stories and contributed much to the series canon, the future of the Suikoden series – both literal and figurative – remains in doubt.
With so many questions unanswered and so few games that offered satisfying conclusions to the mysteries presented to players, continuation seemed to be a no-brainer. With such a rich history and fascinating elements to the story, Suikoden still has many questions that need answering. Suikoden VI should continue where Suikoden III left off, and answer the questions that fans have been asking since the inception of the series. What are the actual goals of Hikusaak and the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia? Who are Jeane and Viki, and why don't they ever seem to age? Did Pesmerga ever catch Yuber, and what was the result? What are Leaknaat's plans? How do the True Runes figure into everything? With every entry into the series, there have been few answers and only more questions. If Konami is to offer a satisfying conclusion but doesn't want to commit to the series, they should just end it; make Suikoden VI the final entry in the series, and offer conclusions and answers to as many mysteries of the series as possible – if they were able to manage the trainwreck that was Metal Gear Solid's story, solving the riddles that have been plaguing Suikoden from its early days should be easy by comparison.
Unfortunately, it's been 5 years since a mainline Suikoden game has been released and Konami shows no signs of making another. Fans are left to do nothing but speculate and grasp at any amount of information trickling out. The mysteries of Suikoden may be destined to be forgotten and never solved, but this fan still hopes that Konami hasn't forgotten its flagship RPG series. There are still many more adventures to be had and questions to be answered in the world of Suikoden.