I had some extra spare time, so I spent a few hours more than usual with Suikoden. I think I might actually be nearing the end of the game. HowLongToBeat says it should take me 25 hours, but I’m only 17 hours in and this is the vibe I’m getting.
Neclord isn’t just a cartoon villain, he’s a cartoon vampire villain. But before we get there, long story short, time travel was involved, I met young Ted, Viktor got a magical talking sword and I was back in the present.
During all of that, I got the Boar Crystal, which is supposed to be Pahn’s rune, but I hove no idea who is supposed to get it. Maybe Pahn really is still alive. I also got a Typhoon rune on Viktor, finally getting a character that can heal, but that didn’t last long – as soon as Neclord was defeated, Victor temporarily (as in, over the course of several dungeons) left the party.
But back to Neclord. I got back to his castle with the sword, explored the entirety of it, solved an actual, proper puzzle involving some lines that were given to me by a zombie I bribed and some paintings and got all the way to the top floor, but nothing was there. I was actually supposed to go back to the Warrior’s Village first and only then go to the castle.
Luckily, the second time around the puzzle was already solved and all the chests were looted, so all I had to do was ignore the random fights and get to the top again. I beat Neclord without much difficulty and recruited three more characters into the team. As I said, Victor left at this point.
While getting the sword, I also got three more characters – one was part of the story, but two were optional and required me getting some items. This brings me to an observation – newer games trained me to look for the obvious solution to a task.
If a guy tells me he wants something called the War Scroll and he’s in a library, I’m going to check all the books. The thing is, that might be a bit too easy and too obvious. The War Scroll was in the dungeon I visited next. The reason he was telling me about it was so that I’d remember what I need that item for and deliver it later. Suikoden requires some more long term memory.
I know, that’s stretching it a bit. I’m not saying one approach is better than the other, but it does seem to me like newer games tend to go with the more direct (and slightly less difficult to figure out) option. Take from that what you will.
After that, there was the process of getting the Dragon Knights on my side. I had to first get to their domain via a secret cave entrance and then find a cure for their dragons with the help of the medic that already helped us.
There’s something I noticed in the dragon cave. Monsters in Suikoden tend to drop extremely valuable stuff. For instance, the demonic floating heads/shields in the dragon cave drop Earth Shields, which have about 30 more defense than the strongest shield I could buy at this point. The elementals in the same cave drop permanent magic boosting items.
Sure, some of the monsters in Final Fantasy games drop amazing things to, but almost all of them drop something good in Suikoden. I think that’s a pretty cool approach and makes random battles ever so slightly less annoying, which adds up with all the other ways it makes them less annoying, like quick leveling, speedy and short attack animations, fast loading times, etc.
With the Dragon Knights, I’ve recruited 2 main characters, a ninja secret character that was badlyhiding in the castle courtyard behind a wall and I think I’ll be able to recruit the Dragon Knight leader soon, if I haven’t already – I wasn’t paying attention.
There has been a big reveal on how all of these runes work. There’s 108 runes of destiny which are all destined to somehow do something together. There are also 27 true runes, which hold great power. Windy has the Conqueror rune, I got the Soul Eater rune from Ted, and if anyone should possess both of these, they would become insanely powerful, so it isn’t a good idea.
The way the Soul Eater rune works is that it absorbs the souls of those closest to you and increases in power that way. This makes sense. Every time someone important died, the Soul Eater rune would level up and unlock a new spell/move.
Anyway, these 27 true runes are bound to specific character. The other 108 aren’t really manifested as abilities on characters, though. Each of the characters in the game is simply born under a specific rune sign, which is indicated on the tablets in Rune Castle. As for the spell runes you can attach to characters, those are just weaker versions of the True Runes and aren’t that important to the story . They’re more like materia in Final Fantasy – the story takes note of them, but you can use them however you want.
As for me, I’ve been mostly under-using them. I tend to completely forget about attaching runes to my characters, or I attach the wrong one and end up wasting time and losing on options in fights. I’m also not completely understanding how runes level up. At first, I though their level is tied to the character’s level, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Then I though there might be something about how long you use them, that the runes themselves gain experience, but there’s no indicator, so it might be that I’m supposed to simply pick a run for a character and stick to it, losing unlocked magics if I remove it from that character.
First proper game over
But back to the game. After dealing with the dragons and conquering the castle past the Northern Checkpoint, where I recruited one more imperial general (why did Teo have to die again?), there was the big event of conquering an island fortress.
There was a lengthy series of cut scenes with various character spending what could be their last night with friends, which is why I’m thinking the end of the game is near. The next morning, a plan was revealed to attack the island fortress with boats made of ice, using dragon breath, removing any seriousness from the scenes the night before.
The strategic battle for the fortress was actually a narrow victory and after that, I ended up next to a save point, about to infiltrate the fortress with a party of characters. I picked my party, went through the fortress, found a giant clam boss and got killed by it. There was no huge mistake on my part, no moment of carelessness – I simply got beaten. I ran out of healing items, the boss did to much damage and that was it. Hiro was the last one standing and I managed to keep him alive for a long time, but it wasn’t enough to kill the boss – I got the game over screen.
And this is where I’m at right now. I realize I can use a boat to go back to Rune Castle after the strategic battle and that’s exactly what I did. I need to gather some money, buy the best gear for my party and upgrade their weapons before I try it again.
I’m 17-18 hours into the game right now, and I really think I’m getting close to the end of it. I’m about to defeat the last of the five generals that isn’t dead or turned ally and then all that’s left is Gregminster and Windy. I was right about her all along!