Suikoden of course was one of the first RPGs to appear on the PlayStation and, in my humble opinion, the first good one (*shudders at the thought of Beyond the Beyond*). I didn't find it 'til long after I had played FF7, so
for me Suikoden had fallen under FF7's shadow, but luckily I happened upon a pawn shop one day that was selling the very RPG I'm about to review (got it cheap I might add). I am certainly glad I did find it, as it is a memorable experience that I have relived more than once. On to the nitty gritty.
While this game like so many others has the dreaded random battles, they weren't so common that you were pulling your hair out, and the battles themselves were actually quite fun. The battle system is one of my favorites in any RPG to date, and for good reason. It's not ATB like the FF games, it's more turn based. After you have given all your characters their commands, they go at the enemies nearly all at the same time, which not only looks cool, but can end the battle speedily, preventing the random battles from getting tedious.
Also, when you have certain characters in your party, you have the option when you get around to giving them commands to use combos moves between them, instead of them attacking separately. It adds a new and welcome option to battles to give it some strategy and flair, also helping you determine whom you want in your party.
The magic system in this game is within the runes your characters can carry. Different characters can use different runes, though some runes only work on specific characters, and the runes have different levels of power. Depending on the character you give it to, they can use X amount of each spell on each level of a rune before having to recover. There is no such thing as MP, just how many casts you can do of each spell level on the rune you carry. Each character can only hold one rune, which means you have to choose wisely and balance between the attack and healing abilities of your party.
One thing I have yet to mention is that, that is just the normal battle system, there are 2 others. The first I will mention is the least common of the bunch: one-on-one duels. They only happen at key points in the game, and despite the fact that that it would've been better if there were more, it is quite enjoyable. It's a complicated game of rock/paper/scissors, and each command has a command that defeats it, draws even with it, or counters it. Often times what the opponent says can give you an indication of what they are going to do and if you understand which commands do what you can basically get through these battles easily.
Lastly, there are the army battles. Much more common than the one-on-one duels, though nowhere near as common as regular random battles, the army battles also occur at key points in the game. Much like the duels, army battles are a complicated game of rock papers scissors, but with more strategy and other factors involved depending on the battle and what characters you have. There are option such as using your archers, using magic attacks, or just straight up going after the enemy and attacking them, each having a command that defeats it. Also, certain characters in your army can do things for you like find out what your enemy is planning on doing in the next round. Battles in this game are just good fun.
Another feature of this great game is that eventually you get a castle and can start recruiting members for your army. As you get more people, your castle gets bigger, more rooms are added, and of course some of the people
you recruit become your own personal merchants who unfortunately still charge you for their wares. Also, some characters add cool things such as elevators and teleportation devices to your castle so you definitely wanna recruit whoever you can. Lastly, as you might've guessed from above in my gameplay review, recruiting members can help significantly in army battles. The recruitment feature added replay value and more overall fun to a game that would've been great without it.
This game's graphics aren't exactly amazing but they were somewhat impressive in their time. The characters are all done well, have their own unique looks, and animate well in combat. There IS a lot of pixilation when the game zooms in on a character who is striking a critical blow, but it's not that big of a deal. A lot of spell animations are quite cool and are probably the most impressive thing about the game's graphics, but overall its graphics are nothing much to talk about and really could've been done better.
This game's story is quite good. It has some pretty cool twists along the way, and it kept me interested the whole time through, something that few RPGs have accomplished recently. You start out as the son of a general in the
empire's army and early on have to go on your very first mission for the empire as you try to become part of it. I won't spoil anything but as usual in an RPG, this simple mission is the start of something much bigger. Great storyline, and though there's a TON of characters in this game (106, not all playable), a lot of them have distinct personality, and are very likable (Viktor is the best).
This game may not have the best sound FX or music around, but it does have some good stuff in it. I don't have the OST, so I can't go naming tunes from this game, but I can point out what I remember was good. The battle
score is pretty cool, and since the battles can go really fast as I mentioned before it never gets too tedious. Overworld music was forgettable but once again it never gets tedious. I can't remember much else, since is has been a little while since I played it, but at certain points in the game it does have some very fitting music and can
The sound FX aren't so great, some of them are bad, like when your main character twirls and smacks the enemy
with his staff, it sounds rather muffled. Sword slashes sound fine, and the sound FX for casting spells are good.
In general, though this game's sound while not great, it also never gets on your nerves and does its job decently.
This game is great and I'd recommend that any RPG fan play it. It's really a solid game that I plan to play again some time, and easily one of the 20 best RPGs I've ever played. Get a copy from a yard sale, e-bay, pawn shop, wherever you can find it, it's worth it. Then try Suikoden II next, and DON'T erase your Suikoden 1 data after you beat the game.