I had a hunch last time that I was nearing the end of Suikoden and it turned out to be true. After the floating fortress, all that was left was one final grand battle and the conquering of Gregminster castle. I thought there would be a twist with another extra area on top of it, but there wasn’t.
No real grinding necessary
I said last time that I would have to train to defeat the clam shell boss. I didn’t. All I needed to do was to do some gambling at the castle and then use the money to equip my party and upgrade their weapons to the proper level, which is 15.
The thing about Suikoden is that you need a lot of money to keep your characters up to date. The thing about that is that it’s relatively easy to collect that money. You can play Chinchirorin with Shilo at the castle. It’s a simple game with dice where you can quickly win big or lose everything. Part of it is skill based, because you need to aim to throw the dice at the middle of the bowl, but most of it is based on luck, since outside of that, you seem to have no effect on the outcome of the dice roll and even if you do hit the middle of the bowl, a die can still jump out and make you lose outright.
With this game and some not very clever saving and reloading, I was able to max out my gold within a few minutes every time I needed it, and I needed a lot of it. By the way, I say “max out”, because there’s an actual in-game maximum amount of gold you can have – one million.
I bought the best gear I could for the party I decided to attack the floating fortress with, did some random battling for the low level guys to catch up, upgraded their weapons and that was enough to more or less breeze through the dungeon and the clam boss. I captured (and later on recruited) general Sonya and then the final battle was all that was left. Again, why did general Teo have to die?
The final battle was my 15 and some extra thousand troupes, against the enemies’ even 20.000. Some clever use of ninjas and attacks dropped them down to under 10.000 before I even started losing my own, so it was an easy victory.
After that, the Gregminster region (I don’t know the real name of it) was free to explore, so I spent some time hoping I’d get to recruit a few more characters, but I couldn’t find any. On the plus side, the area was infested with high level enemies, so it’s a great and easily accessible place to train up everyone I wanted to.
I didn’t, though. After about half an hour of exploring, I tackled Gregminster castle with Victor, Flik, Cleo, Stalion and one more guy who’s name I forgot. There was some random exploring where I found a few high-powered items and then there was an extremely long and tedious series of fixed battles against soldier enemies. Just like in the island fortress, the soldier enemies here have a high chance to dodge your melee attack and do a counter, so I kept using multi-hit spells in every battle to win without them touching me. Luckily, I had just about enough of these to get through the entire area and reach the final boss.
I fully expected the emperor to join me against Windy at this point and there to be an entire extra dungeon – Windy’s lair, but Suikoden pleasantly surprised me here by not unnecessarily prolonging the whole thing.
The battle against Barbarossa was tough, though. He turned into a three headed Golden Hydra and I had to use all of my spells to kill off just one of his heads. He didn’t do much damage, luckily, but as soon as I killed the head, another head revived it. At this point, the battery on my PSP was extremely low, so I had to pause it here and postpone the fight for the next morning.
On my way home from the train stop, I thought about what should I do. There was obviously a mechanic related to the resurrection thing, because the enemies in the castle stopped giving decent experience, so there was no way I had grind to get through this fight. I even thought about looking at a guide on how to defeat the boss.
The next morning, as usual, it turned out I was making it more complicated than it actually is. I continued the same battle (so no reloading) and killed off the first head, which is the right-most one, the second time and noticed it was the third head (the left-most) that revived it.
Then I focused on the third head until it died and I was right – there was no more reviving. After that, I killed off the middle head and then started focusing on the first head for the third time. At this point, I was out of any type of healing, so it ended up getting close, but I managed to win it by using Free Will alone and only lost Victor by the end of it.
That was pretty much it. There was a sequence of the group leaving the castle with some of the characters staying behind to allow the others to escape, and I was awarded with a “what they did next” series of screens for each and every character/star in the game.
Suikoden is a charming, albeit a bit naïve JRPG and I greatly enjoyed playing it. It doesn’t try to be especially cool and it isn’t bothersome at any point. Since it’s on the lower side with graphics, everything is snappy and loads quickly. The fights are also quick, you can run away from weak enemies (or “let them go”) easily and you can even outright avoid random battles against weak enemies by using a specific rune. The entire game is designed so that it doesn’t get in the way of you actually playing and enjoying it.
The story puts me in a weird place, though. I get that it’s a good story. There’s war and sacrifice and drama and everything that makes an exciting story exciting. The thing is, the way it’s presented sort of feels like watching a school play based on a great story. The material is good, but the actors are school kids. I understand that the actors are school kids and I won’t take it against the story. If I take that into account and try to keep the story separate in my head, I’ll even enjoy the play, but yeah, the actors kind off suck. I hope I explained that well enough.
So in the end, Suikoden is a pretty great game and one of the better JRPGs I played that has presentation a bit on the poorer side, but doesn’t really suffer from it.
By the way, Victor and Barbarossa seem awfully alike, don’t they? They both wield similarly named swords, they have a similar stance and hairstyles. It’s like Barbarossa is an older version of Victor? If this hunch has any sort of bearing, I ask my readers not to tell me, because I intend to play future games as well, but I wanted to write this thought down just to reminds myself of it later on.
The fact that the “what happened to them” screens also showed empty slots for characters I haven’t recruited makes me want to reload my earlier saves and recruit as many as I can, all of them if it’s possible at this point, so that’s exactly what I’ll do.
I’ll also look up on some guides to see if there are ways to break the game and make the characters overpowered, since that’s part of the charm of a good JRPG. I’ll spend a few more hours with Suikoden and write another report, but after that, I’ll take a break from the PSP for a short while.
Why? Because I’m thinking about buying something. It’s not a PS Vita. It’s something I consider much better than a Vita, but I’ll say more if and when I buy it.
By the way, it took me 20-21 hours to beat Suikoden the way I did, just in case you’re interested.