Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki

 

Undernauts: The Labyrinth of Yomi PS5 Advertisement
Review by · July 16, 2022

Back when I was just starting to scratch the surface of RPGs, I was immediately drawn to Suikoden II. I quickly became entrenched in its story of war, sacrifice, political machinations, betrayal, loss, and friendship. It was a tale of everyday people banding together in the hopes of achieving a brighter tomorrow. I went out of my way to recruit all 108 Stars of Destiny, and the Suikoden series cemented its place in my heart as one of my all-time favorite video game series. You can imagine how excited I was when news of an English fan translation patch for Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki (aka Suikoden: Woven Web of the Centuries), what is now seemingly the final game in the vaunted series, released. I spent the better part of a day figuring how to successfully install the patch with my import copy of the game from 2012, afterwards discovering that, while it certainly isn’t the strongest Suikoden title, a worthwhile PSP adventure awaited.

The fan translation for Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki, done by Twisted Phoenix Game Translation with help from both Gensopedia and the Suikoden Revival Movement, once again shows us what is perhaps the true motto of the Suikoden series: when many people come together, something wondrous can happen. The translation itself is very thorough, starting with the opening and covering every facet of the game including cutscenes and menu screens, save for the Japanese dialogue shouted out by characters during the heat of battle. There are only a small handful of typos and odd instances, such as soldiers often addressing their superior officer as “ma’am” even when said officer is clearly male. The vast majority of the script is excellently translated and easy to follow. Considering the sheer length of the game and how much text and menus there are throughout it, this is quite an impressive feat! The subtitles and font also fit for the general aesthetic of the game and are readily visible, even going so far as to helpfully note characters of import’s names with different colored texts when they’re first introduced. Clearly, a great deal of effort went into the fan translation, and it should be appreciated in that regard!

The story for Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki centers around a world beset every hundred years by horrific monsters known as the Teras Pharma. The Teras Pharma are nightmarish entities capable of devouring everything in their path if left unchecked. They’d been successfully repelled twice in the world’s history: two hundred years ago and then again a hundred years later. However, the past fights came with immense costs along with the knowledge that in the 300 Imperial Year the Teras Pharma will return. Only the unifying force of the mighty Ionian Empire seems capable of defending the people, but there are those who doubt the empire’s benevolence following their earlier involvement in a town’s massacre. In the relatively quiet and peaceful Therbe Village, a young swordsman alongside his two friends, siblings Myrna and Gino, are training to protect their small settlement only to be vastly outmatched when the Teras Pharma appear. Only through the appearance of an enigmatic boy and a tree linked to a hundred years before their time may the trio be able to prevent a horrific tragedy. Thus begins the game’s narrative regarding the true motives of the Yggdrasilian Throne, ultimately spanning centuries.

The Hero and Astrid talk in Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki.
As you travel through time, you’ll meet various Stars of Destiny from different eras.

As a spin-off game, the plot for this particular Suikoden title is only loosely connected to the overreaching series narrative thanks to the “Infinity” concept explored in Suikoden Tierkreis, though it does attempt to touch upon certain themes and core concepts that the series is known for with varying degrees of success. I must admit that the time travel plotline involves a lot of head-scratching, but it resolves nicely in the game’s final scenes. The actual machinations behind the Yggdrasilian Throne and the Ionian Empire provides commentary on both human nature and politics in general that fits remarkably well for a Suikoden title. Many of the game’s antagonists show slivers of the complexity that many of the series’ most notable antagonists are known for; unfortunately, they aren’t explored or developed enough to stand out. Two of the most prime examples of this are Aaron and Rochelle of the Vermillion Axe, a terrorist group of sorts that forms to oppose the Ionian Empire. I understand what they were attempting to do with their characters when later plot reveals are made, but because neither were featured heavily in the story beforehand, the characters lack emotional impact. Machia and Damdin also suffer from the same lack-of-story-prominence. A reveal about the scalehorde, a reptilian-based people, that could’ve been quite interesting is left woefully unexplored due to it being mentioned so late in the game. The plot hits some interesting notes at times, though it’s hindered by the fact that the later half seems rushed when compared to its slower start.

Undernauts: The Labyrinth of Yomi PS5 Advertisement
Undernauts: The Labyrinth of Yomi PS5 Advertisement

Everyone who has played a Suikoden title before no doubt knows of the Stars of Destiny: 108 individuals from all walks of life that can change the tide of even massive battles when joined together. Recruiting the Stars of Destiny has been a main staple of every title in the series save the Suikogaiden games and Suikoden Tactics, and I’ve always been impressed by just how much personality and development such a large core cast gets. The 108 Stars of Destiny play a role in Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki as well, and I like how deeply it goes into that plot point. However, spreading out the Stars of Destiny across various time periods has certain drawbacks, too. Once you find a Star of Destiny in the past and learn from them, they tend to drop from the game completely unless they’re one of the more major characters for a particular time period. Case-in-point, I almost entirely forgot about poor Pollock because you can meet him so early in the game and then he doesn’t do anything until he shows up in an ending scene much later on. You don’t even technically “meet” some Starbearers because they’re already deceased or somehow indisposed by the time you learn of them, resulting in them being nothing more than brief mentions on a codex or checklist. Those unfortunate characters don’t even get art! It’s a shame because the stories and designs given to many of the characters are quite interesting, and I only wish they could’ve been explored more thoroughly in the narrative.

Najin is about to learn a skill in Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki.
Some Star of Destiny recruitment scenes don’t even feature the character in question.

Given how the story is split into three different time periods, each one has a central character: the main protagonist from Therbe Village in the “present” timeline (the hero you can name), his ancestor Thorwad from the 200 Imperial Year, and the empress Astrid from the 100 Imperial Year. Each one of these characters has a retinue of others joining their battles against the Teras Pharma, conveniently making up the Stars of Destiny you need to find and recruit. I appreciated that the hero character was given a personality and spoken lines, but that the player could still make choices throughout the game to input their own decisions. Astrid is my favorite Star of Destiny from the game, as I love the political reasoning behind her marriage and how she stood firm for what she believed to be right. I quite liked most of the more story prominent characters such as Regius, Rolf, Jagwan, Zephon, Ilia, and Luseri. It’s honestly a shame that Zephon in particular doesn’t get more time in the spotlight. Not only are his mannerisms great, but there were so many inferences about his connections to everything just left up to speculation. The characters are all likable enough and I love when the plot does go into them, it’s just a shame that it doesn’t happen at regular intervals.

From a gameplay stance, there is a lot going for Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki even if, like Suikoden Tierkreis before it, the game nixes things such as the large-scale strategy battles and one-on-one duels that the main series is known for. Battles are turn-based affairs with up to six characters participating on a nine-position grid. You can strategically place up to three party members in the front, middle, and back rows. Characters in a battle party can also be linked together in a “unite” formation. Having access to unite not only grants an auto attack function for all linked characters if you want, but also chains additional damage percentages onto each successful attack. Players can choose either the unite auto attack when characters are linked, attack manually, or use a specialized skill. All skills require a certain amount of SP to use, which restores itself following each turn or can be increased using special healing items. Certain job abilities not only require SP, but also materials that you can craft at your headquarters. It’s vital to make sure you have enough magicite or malicite for your two magic-using classes, and enough healing items for your healers every time you venture into battle. 

A timed hunt battle screenshot from Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki.
Battles feature a wealth of options.

As you probably surmised, this is the first Suikoden game that uses a job class system. While it’s rather simplistic, it’s still generally fun. The nine jobs in this game are the more melee-based Spearman, Martialist, and Swordsman; the more mid-range Archer and Ninja; the support-based Herbalist and Jongleur; and the offensive magic classes of Magician and Shaman. There are eighteen party members in the present timeline who are assigned to them, with two characters representing each job. Because there are more jobs than there are spots in a party, you can tailor your battle party to be quite versatile. My personal preference is a Swordsman, Ninja, Archer, Martialist, Magician, and Herbalist combination, but playing around with the job classes makes for some effective parties all around! About the only job class that is absolutely essential in every party combination is an Herbalist, since they’re the only ones who can use vital healing items. There are also sub-classes you can unlock when your friendship levels are high enough (meaning lots of dining together!), but they aren’t necessary for beating the game. I didn’t even uncover them until the story’s final portion!

Since there’s such a limited number of readily available party members for a Suikoden game, the Stars of Destiny from the past are “recruited” to the cause by teaching their skills to characters from the present timeline, be it a party member or one of the numerous workers at your headquarters. For craftsmen and cooks, this pretty much happens instantaneously, but often for party members the Starbearer from the past temporarily joins the party and must be placed in a unite with the character who will inherit their skill. Characters who can learn abilities from one another are called master and pupil respectively, with the master passing on whichever skill they can to the pupil. You fight a few battles and select the “Teach” ability whenever prompted, picking out the skill you want someone to learn. Both characters will then use the skill, and a percentage indicating how close the pupil is to learning the ability will show up during the victory results. Keep repeating the process until you reach one hundred percent, at which point the skill is mastered and the pupil has it added to their own arsenal. Once the past Star of Destiny’s skill has been passed on, they’ll leave the party. 

Party members who have learned new skills this way or came with special skills of their own can also pass these abilities on to the second person who has their job class in the main party using unite and the teach command, though it is a much slower process to learn abilities between present day comrades than it is from past Stars of Destiny. For instance, it takes forever for Tserendrum, a swordswoman who joins the party later, to gain the hero’s learned skills and vice-versa. I had to stop trying to teach all of the various Jongleur abilities that Meamei acquires to Jansen because for some reason the bard skills were only being “taught” at two percent increments every battle. In theory, you can create incredibly powerful character builds with this system, but doing so is a time-consuming, tedious affair. I finally just went with everyone aside from Moudi and Ilia, the two Herbalists, knowing at least one higher level skill between them and any “affect all” enemy skills to save myself some time. Given their vital nature in battles, I found it best that Herbalists learn every ability possible for their job.

As in all Suikoden games, there’s a headquarters that you set up early in the plot. Sadly, there’s no comment box or character investigations you can do to learn more about them. But while there isn’t as much to do in this title’s HQ as in the series’ past, there is a wealth of activity to be had here all the same. You’ll recruit craftsmen to your fortress: two magicite crafters, two malicite crafters, two arrow makers, two armorers, two blacksmiths, two ring makers, and two apothecaries. The most vital of these are the makers, as they help resupply expendable items used in battle so long as you stock the supplies necessary. The status enhancing effects of the equipment tinkerers isn’t anything to sneeze at, either. Your craftsmen will learn new techniques and recipes from past Stars of Destiny, granting you more items and status boosts if you remember to visit their workshops and use them. There are also four recruitable cooks who’ll also learn new recipes from their counterparts in the past, with meals providing temporary status effects and boosts to the characters who partake in dinner. Depending on who is eating, special scenes may play that provide further insight into recruited characters’ personalities and lives at the headquarters. Dining together also boosts friendship levels between characters, which is vital to unlocking their secondary job classes.

Creating healing items for battle in Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki.
Resource management can be done at headquarters.

Beyond eating and resource management at HQ, players can “build” dungeons out of three types: earth, fire, and ice. Each dungeon is explored off-screen, providing items and materials upon “completion” the next time you return to HQ. You can increase the likelihood of finding more resources in a dungeon by putting potch (the Suikoden currency) into its creation. Once Luseri joins the party, she sets up a hunting activity where party members fight specific monsters in timed battles of various difficulties for a reward. You can also view a list of all the Stars of Destiny you’ve “recruited” thus far, see animated movies you’ve unlocked, look over a bestiary, and play music from the game’s soundtrack if you so choose. There’s also an item shop in your HQ that upgrades its stock based on stores you’ve been to around the world map.

Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki plays like a cross between a traditional, turn-based JRPG and a visual novel. World map travel and village layouts are all done via point-and-click. There are some dungeon areas to explore, though they’re often small compared to those in other games in the series. Dungeon exploration is hampered by weird design choices, though they’re often so short that they don’t overstay their welcome. Random encounters are gone too, replaced by visible enemies on the field. Theoretically you can avoid them, but dungeons are often designed so narrowly that you’ll still fight most enemies you encounter regardless. Sidas Forest and West Mt. Hioni are two of the more frustrating dungeon layouts, though fortunately most of the others aren’t nearly so aggravating.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about the way the game is designed is the backtracking. You visit spots repeatedly in the present day and in the two previous time periods quite regularly, both for main story purposes and recruitment. There are rules to time traveling in the game, too: you must stay within the vicinity of whichever Era Tree you used to initially travel back in time with. If a character you need to meet is in another area, you must first have a past character travel for you to plant an Era Tree sapling there before you can go yourself. This means backtracking from the time period you’re currently in to the present again, traveling to the designated area, and repeating the process all over again. Several recruitment phases will make you do this tedious process numerous times. Because you’re often going long stretches at a time before advancing the main plot again, you even run the risk of forgetting just how to advance the plot. Fortunately, the world map does note the next area of main story prominence for you, and there is a helpful summary available in the menu that helps refresh you on what you need to do next. Still, they could’ve easily cut down on the backtracking by providing something akin to fast travel between Era Trees so that you wouldn’t always have to go back to the present, exit an area, then travel all the way to wherever the next tree is located.

An anime cutscene screenshot featuring the Hero and Myrna from Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki.
Many story moments are presented in anime cutscenes.

Graphically, the game tries to go for the more “realistic” 3D look like many other PSP games, though I’d say they aren’t nearly as detailed or expressive as those found in titles such as the original God Eater or Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Instead, there are lifeless character models with odd body language. Wisely, the title relies on visual novel-style aesthetics when it comes to story scenes, often using the large and more detailed character art portraits and text boxes to cover up the game graphics. They also utilize anime cutscenes whenever possible, which are more visually pleasing. Visual scale in particular suffers a lot in this title. They’re trying to tell an epic story of warfare and a battle against horrific creatures but are unable to properly convey this largely due to the technical limitations of the console. The Teras Pharma don’t look at all intimidating in the game graphics, though they are impressively frightening in the animated scenes. The Ionian Empire doesn’t seem like a potential threat when you can only see five soldiers on screen despite writing saying their force numbers in the thousands. It’s hard to believe you really traveled through time when the villagers from one era to the next all look identical. Such things diminish the game whenever they occur. What each scene tries to do is comprehensible, but the ideas just aren’t getting conveyed as well as they could be. There is a huge discrepancy between the intricate art and animation when compared to the actual game graphics.

From a sound effects and music stance, however, I’m pleasantly surprised by Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki. The voice acting in large part is what carries the plot forward when the graphics fail to convey the scope of a given moment. The characters’ vocal delivery is impressively emotive and really sold me on the story scenes. Sound effects help to illustrate the scale and scope that the visuals just can’t, such as the sounds of many people marching when only a few can be seen on screen or the clashing of numerous weapons when the Vermillion Axe and the Second Branch of the Ionian Empire meet. The soundtrack is a delight to listen to as well. “The Giving Tree” by Chiaki Ishikawa is probably my favorite Suikoden opening theme, and I always stop to listen to it before loading up a save. Tracks such as “Beginning Theme” have overtures of classic Suikoden melodies, and I adore the memorable featherfolk theme song, “Timid Winged People.” Other notable songs include “With a Determined Heart” and “Proud Knight’s Oath.” I especially love that even the Jongleur music pieces have full-fledged tracks you can listen to at HQ such as “Rondo of Wind” and “Heroic Scherzo.” The musical score is one of the game’s strongest elements.

Overall, I ended up enjoying my time playing Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki. I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to play what is most likely the last game in the series. It isn’t the strongest Suikoden title; in some ways, I feel that it having the Suikoden moniker is its biggest disservice. There’s so much expectation associated with the series, and this title really only scratches the surface. Still, I did find this game enjoyable. If nothing else, playing it has helped make the wait for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes a bit more bearable and once more has me remembering a series I greatly adore. I suppose that in and of itself makes the trip through time and the Infinity once again ultimately worth it.

Fan Translation Disclaimer: Over the last two decades, fan localizations of titles unreleased in the west have opened up exciting new experiences for gamers around the world. However, it’s important to note that fan translations are NOT endorsed by the original developers or publishers of these games. As the story and dialogue in fan localizations are unofficial interpretations of the original text, our “Story” score may not accurately reflect the genuine intent of the developers. RPGFan only reviews fan translations if there is little to no evidence of an official localization in the immediate future.


Pros

Engrossing RPG with lots to do, excellent music and voice acting, gorgeous art and animation, likable characters, interesting story beats.

Cons

Doesn't explore or develop characters as much as one might hope, time travel plot is a bit of a head-scratcher, questionable gameplay design choices, game graphics don't match art or animation, backtracking can get tedious.

Bottom Line

While not the best Suikoden game, Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki is still a mostly above average JRPG for the PSP.

Graphics
75
Sound
80
Gameplay
78
Control
80
Story
81
Overall Score 81
For information on our scoring systems, see our scoring systems overview. Learn more about our general policies on our ethics & policies page.
Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling is a reviewer for RPGFan. She is a lover of RPGs, Visual Novels, and Fighting Games. Once she gets onto a subject she truly feels strongly about, like her favorite games, she can ramble on and on endlessly. Coffee helps keep her world going round.