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Your 2021 Gaming Diary

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1 hour ago, Hero-of-Time said:

but it appears nobody else picked it up

I had a quick go the other day but have been busy with DQXI. Now that game is finished though (kind of :heh:) I can properly check this out. :)

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5 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

..and while it doesn't reach the heights of say Shovel Knight..

Say no more.. :grin:

 

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I played though Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2. Still brilliant games. Feel much better to control after Grim Fandango.

 

Started The Medium but not feeling it at all. Has some interesting ideas but doesn't seem to do anything interesting with it. Puzzles are really dull, and the action/stealth sections just make me want Quick Time Events... which is definitely a bad sign. Probably won't return to it.

 

The inability to pet the cat at the start was probably a bad omen.

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7 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

There are times where you will be overwhelmed by enemies and some checkpoints seem to spread  out a little too thinly.

Up to chapter 4 and this is my biggest issue with the game so far, having to redo such large sections over and over starts to get quite annoying. I also keep trying to duck, which inexplicably isn't a thing in this game. :hehe: Other than that though it's pretty good.

1 hour ago, Cube said:

Started The Medium but not feeling it at all. Has some interesting ideas but doesn't seem to do anything interesting with it. Puzzles are really dull, and the action/stealth sections just make me want Quick Time Events... which is definitely a bad sign. Probably won't return to it.

Just started playing this today myself, I'm really enjoying it though. It's like classic Resident Evil on acid. :heh: The split screen and out of body sections have been pretty straightforward so far, but I imagine they'll be used in more complex ways as the game progresses. Really unique game mechanics regardless, and it's nice to play something that experiments a bit more with gameplay.

1 hour ago, Cube said:

The inability to pet the cat at the start was probably a bad omen.

:laughing: That was indeed disappointing.

Edited by RedShell
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6 minutes ago, RedShell said:

. Really unique game mechanics regardless, and it's nice to play something that experiments a bit more with gameplay..

See, my main issue is that it has the gimmick which could be interesting but doesn't seem to actually experiment with gameplay. Doesn't seem much different to other games that let you see alternate worlds or hidden stuff. 

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1 minute ago, Cube said:

See, my main issue is that it has the gimmick which could be interesting but doesn't seem to actually experiment with gameplay. Doesn't seem much different to other games that let you see alternate worlds or hidden stuff. 

I just think the fact you’re controlling the same character across two versions of the environment simultaneously is really cool (not to mention super impressive from a technical standpoint :cool:). And I’m still confident it’s going to do more with that mechanic going forward.

 

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@RedShell Yup, I also tried to keep ducking enemy attacks. It took some getting used to. :D 

If you aren't liking the checkpoint system now just wait until you get to chapter 8. That's the point where things get pretty tough.

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21 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

A Short Hike..

In a way, the game kinda reminded me of Journey.

For the second time today.. say no more :heh:

I've shared my feelings about Journey several times in the past so don't really need to go there again but I absolutely see where the comparison is being made!

I have went back to A Short Hike this afternoon just to explore for a bit after already beating it. I took my Gold Feather total from 4 to 9, played a little Beachstickball (or whatever it's called :grin:), opened up a couple of shortcuts and watered some of those bouncy flowers.

I feel like I would have appreciated the exploration more if it had been more of a requirement for reaching the top.

While 4 Gold Feathers was enough to reach the summit, it was tricky enough in places but it always seemed possible if I tweaked my approach a little in certain areas.

I was pretty surprised when I got to the top so quickly because I anticipated that I would need more stuff to progress, especially towards the end, so there was definitely something of an anticlimax!

As it is, I don't really see too much to pull me back into exploring the rest of the island even if I'm sure there are a few other neat touches to experience and humourous dialogue boxes to read :smile:

The ghost of Journey lives on..

 

Edited by nekunando
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Lost Impact on Shadow the Hedgehog is quite frankly the absolute worst 3D Sonic level I have ever played.

It's actually made me retroactively hate Maria from Sonic Adventure 2. That's how bad it is.

Pure misery in level form.

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14 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

If you aren't liking the checkpoint system now just wait until you get to chapter 8. That's the point where things get pretty tough.

At this rate I'll never even see chapter 8! :heh: Have been stuck on 4 for a while now, why does literally everything in this game have to cause damage to your character!? :shakehead And whoever decided those propeller platform thingys should also be out to kill you wants such a slap. :mad: And another thing... 3 bloody boss fights in a row is not cool. ARRRGGGHHHH! This game is making me crazy! :laughing:

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3 hours ago, RedShell said:

At this rate I'll never even see chapter 8! :heh: Have been stuck on 4 for a while now, why does literally everything in this game have to cause damage to your character!? :shakehead And whoever decided those propeller platform thingys should also be out to kill you wants such a slap. :mad: And another thing... 3 bloody boss fights in a row is not cool. ARRRGGGHHHH! This game is making me crazy! :laughing:

I warned y'all it was a hard game. :p

Not to rub salt into the wound but I've just obtained the platinum.

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To save extra playthroughs I combined going through the game in under 3 hours with completing the game without getting any health or special move upgrades. It took some doing having only 5 pieces of health. It was a case of two hits = death! I figured it was best to tackle this while the game was still fresh in my head. My death count this time was a much more respectable 71 times.

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7 hours ago, Glen-i said:

Lost Impact on Shadow the Hedgehog is quite frankly the absolute worst 3D Sonic level I have ever played.

It's actually made me retroactively hate Maria from Sonic Adventure 2. That's how bad it is.

Pure misery in level form.

Imo The Doom is a worse level. Lost Impact is far from great but I found it bearable back when I played the game.

 

Been playing a bunch of different games lately but to say what they are would spoil an upcoming Youtube video... so basically I haven't started Symphony of the Night yet!

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My ninth(!) and final game of January is done. Yes, I had a lot of these games close to completion and some of them are shorter indie games, but I thought I'd give myself a nice big headstart on my quest for 35 games in a year. I might even hit the coveted 52 with any luck. This is another one that I'd started and only put 10-15 mins in to. Not much to say really...

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I've started Link to the Past and I've decided to run through every Zelda game in honour of the 35th Anniversary. Aiming for one a month, but obviously won't keep it that rigid, especially with the 3D variants. Hope I manage to get through the bulk of them before BOTW2 drops. I also really hope Nintendo reveal a Skyward Sword remake on or before E3 or I'm going to download the Wii version on the Wii U eShop. 480p warts and all. 

Edited by Nicktendo
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I initially felt something similar on my first playthrough of Sayonara Wildhearts. It wasn't until I went for the platinum and high scores where the game really came alive. Learning the levels layout, performing actions to the beats and aiming for perfect runs helped me appreciate the game a lot more. I imagine the game could fall flat for many if just playing it to just see the credits roll. 

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In terms of pretentious games, Sayonara Wild Hearts is absolutely one of the better ones I've played :heh:

I'd like to go back for a few more gold rankings at some point!

I absolutely wanna play Skyward Sword again too but it's gonna look terrible on a 4K TV.. just as Super Mario Galaxy 2 did..

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9 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

I initially felt something similar on my first playthrough of Sayonara Wildhearts. It wasn't until I went for the platinum and high scores where the game really came alive. Learning the levels layout, performing actions to the beats and aiming for perfect runs helped me appreciate the game a lot more. I imagine the game could fall flat for many if just playing it to just see the credits roll. 

Yeah, I get a similar feeling. I may go back and try and "platinum" it as a lot of the levels are short. So short, in fact, that by the time I'd got my stuff together and realised what type of level it was, it was already over. I liked the "retro levels" and got gold on all of them first time. I felt like the aesthetic was overkill TBH, and it was only on the third or fourth level that I clocked that it was basically a rhythm game. The controls are far too loose for my liking, especially on the floating / flying sections. I missed a lot of hearts due to the floaty nature of them. I also felt that a lot of the danger that came up was poorly telegraphed and you basically needed lightning reactions to avoid hazards, especially in the later levels. I guess learning the layout will mitigate that somewhat, but I'm still not impressed overall. I think this game tries a little too hard to be something it quite clearly isn't. 

Edited by Nicktendo
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21 minutes ago, nekunando said:

I absolutely wanna play Skyward Sword again too but it's gonna look terrible on a 4K TV.

Yup. The game looks like a blurry mess. I think the Galaxy games don't look that bad and SS definitely seemed to look a lot worse than those. 

 

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4 hours ago, Aperson said:

Imo The Doom is a worse level. Lost Impact is far from great but I found it bearable back when I played the game.

Nah, that at least has the option of just blitzing through to the end of the level.

If you're doing Lost Impact, you're going for a specific ending, which means you have to go for the Hero Mission and it's atrocious.

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After completing Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3 in recent weeks / months (as well as Bloodborne for the second time back in March), I decided to take a break from the Soulsbourne experience and replay BOTW. At least, I tried to. About two hours in and I just had no motivation to jump back in. I adored the game the first time round but frankly it just felt a bit boring. I think that's okay? I dunno. I'll give it another go at one point.

And with that, the Soulsbourne break barely lasted because I immediately popped in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I'm about two hours in and holy moly, this game is BRUTAL. I think the main issue here is that I'm playing it completely wrong. The muscle memory from Dark Souls (ROLL AWAY) is making combat more difficult that it needs to be. From my understanding, the best way to approach combat is to treat it as a dance between attack and defence. I'm getting there, but yeah, it's tough. It is absolutely gorgeous though <3

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I did finish one last thing in January, last night: Furi. It's a game I had played before (which is why I'm not making a bigger post), but felt like revisiting.

More specifically, the Furier difficulty, which I hadn't done before. I legitimately can't tell how hard it is compared to the normal difficulty (it's been a while, I can't remember enough to compare), but I had a blast going through it again. And the credits showed a note from the devs, thanking me for enjoying the game the intended way. That was nice.

Afterwards, I went and did the extra/bonus boss battles in Furier as well. Bernard was tough nut, but it also felt like the fairest fight, despite being the hardest.

Furi is truly a great game.

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2 hours ago, Goron_3 said:

After completing Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3 in recent weeks / months (as well as Bloodborne for the second time back in March), I decided to take a break from the Soulsbourne experience and replay BOTW. At least, I tried to. About two hours in and I just had no motivation to jump back in. I adored the game the first time round but frankly it just felt a bit boring. I think that's okay? I dunno. I'll give it another go at one point.

And with that, the Soulsbourne break barely lasted because I immediately popped in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I'm about two hours in and holy moly, this game is BRUTAL. I think the main issue here is that I'm playing it completely wrong. The muscle memory from Dark Souls (ROLL AWAY) is making combat more difficult that it needs to be. From my understanding, the best way to approach combat is to treat it as a dance between attack and defence. I'm getting there, but yeah, it's tough. It is absolutely gorgeous though <3

Yup. The rolling/dodging tactic will only get you so far. Parrying and then attacking is the key to mastering the game. 

I played through it last September and adored it. Brutally challenging but so rewarding once everything clicks. I actually preferred it over Dark Souls, which I played for the first time soon after finishing Seikro.

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28 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

Yup. The rolling/dodging tactic will only get you so far. Parrying and then attacking is the key to mastering the game. 

I played through it last September and adored it. Brutally challenging but so rewarding once everything clicks. I actually preferred it over Dark Souls, which I played for the first time soon after finishing Seikro.

It's kind of crazy that Miyazaki has now made three very distinct games with the same overarching philosophy. I can't wait for Eldin Ring.

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6 minutes ago, Goron_3 said:

It's kind of crazy that Miyazaki has now made three very distinct games with the same overarching philosophy. I can't wait for Eldin Ring.

That'll be the day I pick up a PS5. With all the previous games I waited a while after launch before playing them, but I feel like I've missed out on something by waiting. They're real event games in that everyone is talking about them when they release, discovering secrets as a community and formulating game styles. There's also the temptation of just googling where the best weapons are, or boss strategies, which isn't there yet at launch. So yeah - day 1.

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January update!

Jurassic World Evolution (PC)

 

At the beginning of this month I finished the main campaign with 5 stars on all islands. I’ve written my impressions before in the 2020 thread and my opinion hasn’t changed since, so I’ll keep it short. Basically, Jurassic World Evolution is a very entertaining, good-looking game that is pretty light on the actual sim part, but does a very fun job in running your own Jurassic Park. I’ll definitely pick up one of the DLC packs in a sale just to have a reason to go back to it.

Sonic Generations (PC)

 

This title was sitting in my Steam library ever since I picked it up in a sale. It’s the first time I’m playing a Sonic game on PC, so that’s new! In Sonic Generations, someone is messing around with a time-altering monster. This leaves Sonic’s friends frozen in time, and the blue hedgehog himself crosses paths with his old self, meaning you get to play two different Sonics throughout the game. 

This also introduces the main gimmick. Old Sonic goes through 2D levels old school style, while new Sonic tackles the 3D version of the same world. It’s a pretty cool concept, and in the end I even liked the 3D levels more, although they sometimes suffer from control issues leading to stupid deaths.

You can breeze through the game fairly quickly, although there are plenty of challenges to undertake. Basically, after finishing the 2D and 3D levels of a world, a number of challenges unlock. You then have to tackle a challenge to get the key to the boss. You can choose which challenge and you only need to do 1 per world, but if you want to complete them all you can stretch your playtime. I didn’t bother to go for full completion, but just did a couple of challenges that seemed fun.

With all of Sonic’s friends on board, and also 2 versions of Dr. Eggman/Robotnik, there is quite a bit of funny banter and fanservice. All in all I enjoyed my time with it!

Horizon Chase Turbo (Switch)

 

Another game that I finished in separate playtimes, sometimes months apart, is Horizon Chase Turbo. It’s a great retro arcade racer, and I love everything: the music, the graphics, the playstyle. It’s just that I can’t play them too long in one go as it gets quite tense in the later missions. Definitely worth picking up though!

Donkey Kong Country (Switch SNES app)

 

This was one of my favourite SNES games, and it was a nostalgia trip to go through it again. I enjoyed it a lot, but it does show its age more than my other favourite SNES game Super Mario World. Mostly due to the weird hitboxes and the fact that the graphics are much more impressive on an old CRT screen. Loved seeing the end game credits again, forgot that it was pretty funny. Onwards to DKC2!

Also:

:grin: 

Bulletstorm: Duke of Switch Edition (Switch)

I picked up Bulletstorm in a quite recent sale, mainly because of Londragon’s praise on the N-E Café podcast. It’s a first person shooter, and the Switch version has the added bonus of playing as Duke Nukem.

I saw mentions however that it is best to play the normal campaign first because otherwise the story might become a bit incomprehensive. Well, this is a game you don’t play for the story as that’s flat of a pancake. But, you do play this if you want an 8-hour long rollercoaster of a game that rarely slows down, DOOM style. The gunplay however I liked better than that in DOOM, as there is so much crazy stuff you can pull off.

Besides your arsenal of weapons, you also have a leash and a substantial kick. This basically means you can drag in enemies/objects and/or kick them around. It leads to some crazy situations, like leashing in an explosive barrel and then kicking it to an enemy. You can also leash enemies into fences, kick them in cactuses and whatnot.

There are also a bunch of weapons to collect and use, with a primary fire and a charged fire. You start off pretty standard with a machine gun, a hand gun and a shotgun, but later on you pick up some weird stuff. No lasers though, only ballistic weapons which is pretty cool to see in a shooter set on a distant planet.

Also worth mentioning is the skillshot system. Pulling off crazy kills awards skillshots, and gives you points. These you can spend in drop pods where you can buy ammo or upgrade your weapons. Some skillshots are tied to specific weapons, where others are more in general.

The negatives? Flat story, repetitive enemies and way too much swearing. The ending wasn’t very satisfying either storywise. But as a crazy blow-off-steam-and-kill-everyone kind of game this was definitely what I needed and I breezed through it. Will probably go through it with Duke soon!

Manticore: Galaxy on Fire (Switch)

 

This game has been in my library for so long now, it was time to finish it. Manticore is a space shooter which I think was originally a mobile game. Each level consists of roughly 3 parts, a mission (escort, take out objects, stuff like that), a boss fight (basically a dogfight against a stronger ship) and an exploration phase where you can freely fly around the level to find ship parts and intel.

The reason I dragged this out so long is that there are quite some levels, but they are pretty repetitive. So it’s best enjoyed in a couple of missions every time. There is some fiddling around to do with upgrading ships and weapons, but all in all you are constantly playing similar levels while going through a forgettable story.

I kept playing it however because it plays well, looks great and I just like space shooters like this. Worth it if you can pick it up in a sale and like the genre.

Oh, I also finished What Remains of Edith Finch, so a reminder to myself to share my thoughts for the podcast! And currently I'm playing Xenoblade Definitive Edition, Resident Evil 6 (after enjoying Leon's and Ada's campaign, Chris's campaign is not very good), NiGHTS, Star Wars Pinball, and Steamworld Dig. So I hope I can scratch a bunch of these game off my February list.
 

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Time for my first update of 2021! Unfortunately, I only have one game to talk about completing in January after being ill the last couple of weeks, and before that just chipping away at Monster Hunter: World a little bit with friends (imagine that will be the case throughout the year), and investing far too much time into a FIFA 21 Career Mode (I know, I hate it too).

But, fortunately, there's plenty I want to say about that one particular game. Without further ado:

SUIKODEN | 1995

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Produced, written, and direct by Yoshitaka Murayama, developed by Konami, and originally released in Japan in 1995 as one of the earliest JRPG's to grace the first PlayStation, Suikoden tells an epic yet simple tale of betrayal, greed, and honour, in search of the truth. As Tir McDohl, son of a renowned general, players are given a chance early on to see first hand the corruption and tyranny eating away at the heart of the Scarlet Moon Empire whilst working as an Imperial Guard. After a friend becomes mortally wounded and passes on the Soul Eater rune, one of the 27 True Runes, Tir and his servants must flee the golden city of Gregminster, along the way finding themselves tasked with leading a rebel army against the Empire and gathering the 108 Stars of Destiny. 

Suikoden Review | Gaming History 101

The game's story and the gathering of the 108 Stars of Destiny is loosely inspired by a 14th century Chinese novel called Shui Hu Zhuan, known in the West as Water Margin or Outlaws of the Marsh, or, in Japan, as Suikoden. In the story, 108 outlaws gather to form a sizable army and maintain peace, and in this game, a very large part of the story is the gathering of the world's 108 Stars of Destiny, with whom the destinies of those in the Liberation Army are deeply intertwined. These characters can be found throughout the game's many locations, all with unique sprites and excellent portraits which I think do an excellent job of providing a lot of character to them, and once recruited, almost all of them are able to fight alongside you in your party, while others will stay at your castle to help out in any way they can; for example, Marie, the innkeeper from Gregminster, sets up an inn in the castle for you to rest and save at once recruited, whereas some others will set up shops filled with items and armour, play mini games with you, or offer services such as sharpening your weapons (the game's way of upgrading your weapons), storing items and equipment, upgrade your boat for faster travel, or to attach runes (which determine the elemental attack type and rune type of a character). As you collect more characters throughout the course of the game, more rooms and facilities will become available in your castle, as the size of your castle grows and the reach of the Liberation Army expands. 

However, as great as it is to see the growth that collecting characters and building your castle up has, the ending you see will be determined by how many Stars of Destiny you have gathered before the game's final battle, and the true and canon ending - which can be carried over through a save transfer to Suikoden II - can only be seen with all 108 Stars of Destiny gathered. And, as you can imagine, this unfortunately isn't a straightforward process, with different recruitment requirements for characters ranging from simply talking to them, to grinding for a rare item they've asked for which drops in battle, to beating them at an RNG-based mini game which involves rolling dice (though, once this character is recruited, it's the greatest high risk-high reward way to earn an insane amount of money!), to being locked behind Tir being at a certain level, having a certain party member with you when interacting with them (or, in one extreme case, as many as four requested party members - your maximum party formation is six!), in a hidden room in a dungeon, or, perhaps even worse: in the final room of a dungeon which you are kicked out of before you get the chance to recruit them, meaning you'll need to instantly go straight back in and through that dungeon - in its entirety - again. In quite a few cases, too, characters are only available to be recruited during short windows between story beats, meaning it's very, very easy to miss some characters if you aren't careful.

Because of this, keeping multiple save files is the best way to go, and unless you are willing to drive yourself insane going through potentially multiple 20+ hour playthroughs, I think it's worth looking up a spoiler-free recruitment guide for this game; I did, and trust me when I say that there is zero chance you will have gathered 108 Stars of Destiny organically in a blind playthrough, it's just far too tedious at times. This all being said, the reward of the true ending is worth following a recruitment guide for, so I would highly recommend it. 

Suikoden Screenshots for SEGA Saturn - MobyGames

Unsurprisingly, you journey between the towns, villages, mountains and forests of Toran through the use a world map, the scale of which honestly reminds me a lot of Chrono Trigger, what with its super tiny character and detailed depictions of miniaturised locales. The world map theme is literally called Tiny Characters in a Huge World, which is a very light and charming track to bob up and down to (and hum along with), as you make your way from one town to the next. While there are encounters on the world map, something I thought was really interesting was something I read about the design of the encounter rates on the world map: if you beeline from one location to the next, taking a relatively straight path along the way, the encounter rate actually reduces to allow for exploration; this is something director Muramasa included in the game to reduce the stress of getting lost on the world map. However, on the other hand, if you start walking in circles or start frantically changing directions at the drop of a hat - like I know I do when I want to grind - then the encounter rate will actually remain higher. I think that's such a cool addition, and logically it makes a lot of sense for a JRPG when the habits of players are known quite well now (clearly even some 25+ years ago too!), so it's something I'd like to see someone else include and refine a bit further in modern JRPG's with random encounters. 

Something which is really strong when it comes to Suikoden is the visual and musical identity of its locales, some of which are influenced by the West and others of which are clearly inspired by the East. It adds a whole lot to the scale of the world, keeps things fresh, and really breathes some life into some areas and the characters you can find there, every place having its own bit of history, or hinting at another location in the world.

Dungeons throughout the game are pretty linear, though I'll mention here that it's always worth keeping an Escape Talisman to hand, as, unlike many more modern dungeon designs, you aren't kicked out of dungeons after completing them, meaning that you'll otherwise have to backtrack through an entire dungeon to get out. Similarly, something I didn't notice until far too late in the game, is that an item called the Blinking Mirror can be given to a character (I would suggest Tir) to teleport back to your castle from anywhere on the world map, and that a certain character, once recruited, acts as a means to teleport you to locations throughout the world, Hopefully that will save someone some backtracking!

The writing of the world is simple, but there are some excellently executed parts throughout, with smaller subplots feeling almost episodic in how they give you another character to try to fit into your party and dealing with the various aspects of being at war. No, it doesn't dig that deep into it, but it's how it characterises these moments and brings them to life in the pixel art of the sprites which makes you swear that the character portraits change at times; nothing is black and white here, and the director clearly had a vision of painting this world for you, but giving players the opportunity to colour it with their own interpretations of events. While there are certainly some fantastical elements present - such as the inclusion of elves, dwarves, and kobolds - it stays grounded in its character's intentions and the political landscape of Toran. 

Super Adventures in Gaming: Suikoden (PSX)

Of course, an essential component of any JRPG is its battle system. But Suikoden's battle system, while turn-based, is actually a bit different: a maximum party of six at any time, with two rows of three characters each, where you choose all of their commands at the start of each round before watching it all play out, with turn order - as ever - being determined by a character's speed. In terms of commands, there are genre staples here, such as the option to Attack or Defend. Depending on their weapon, characters have access to either Short Range (swords and axes), Medium Range (spears and staffs), or Long Range (bows and arrows) standard Attacks (which, by the way, can be infused with an elemental type if a rune piece is attached at a blacksmith). Short Range attacks can only reach one row in front, meaning you want to put that character on your front line; Medium Range attackers have a range of up to two rows, so can reach the enemy's front row if placed in the back row, or the enemy's back row if placed in your front row; and lastly, Long Range attackers have an unlimited range, meaning they are able to hit the enemy's back row from your own back row. It's a simple thing to add range to turn-based battles, but it keeps things fresh, and means you'll be left figuring out a new preferred formation when your party is changed up (which happens quite a lot throughout the game's story as characters come and go). 

In addition to the above, though, the game also makes use of Rune Attacks and Unite Attacks. Rune Attacks are determined by the character's equipped Rune (note: these are actually referred to in Items as Crystals; also note that not every Rune is one of the 27 True Runes I mentioned briefly earlier), which allows the user either the use of magic (the higher their magic stat, the more abilities they have access to with a given rune) or a powerful physical attack, whereas Unite Attacks are like Chrono Trigger's Techs, allowing certain characters to team up to perform a team attack. Though magic Rune Attacks are balanced somewhat by having a set limit on how many times you can use a certain spell between resting (note: there are no items to replenish these spells between resting, either at inns or as part of the story), and is only increased either through an increase in your magic stat and/or character's level, there are powerful physical rune attacks, such as the Falcon Rune, and Unite Attacks, such as Tir's and Kai's Master-Pupil Attack, which are very overpowered and do not have such a limit, meaning they can be used as many times as you like. 

There are two other types of battles, which I'll just mention briefly here due to how closely tied they are to the story: Army Battles and Duels. Both depend on rock paper scissors mechanics, the former being a mini game between the Liberation Army and the Empire during major battles where the aim is to reduce their numbers to zero. Tying back to the 108 Stars of Destiny, the more you have available for Army Battles, the merrier, as you'll have greater attacking options (attacking options are grouped in threes, and some aren't complete until late in the game), and other options are available too, such as using a strategist to boost the attack of your soldiers involved in a Charge attack, or using a ninja to get accurate intel on what the enemy's next move will be. It's worth noting that in Army Battles, you can actually lose Stars of Destiny permanently (which is why it's so important to win with casualties kept to a minimum), so remember to save frequently and beforehand; don't worry about missing it being said, as the game couldn't be clearer when it tells you that a character has died in battle. In Duels, major one-on-one confrontations take place between key players on both sides, with the phrase uttered between rounds by the enemy subtly hinting at the type of attack that they'll be using next (a certain guy with a red bandana is someone you'll want to have in your party at all times up until his duel, trust me). 

If I'm being honest, I think I only had trouble with one or two bosses throughout the course of the game, the first time being against arguably the hardest boss in the game, Neclord, this hundreds of years old vampire who lives up in this castle and takes girls away from local towns and villages to marry them (greatest jump in HP from the last boss, multiple attacks which hit a number of party members, and the ability to poison you; also an awesome rendition of a typical wedding theme in minor when you go to his castle, which I really appreciated!), and the penultimate boss, who is faced shortly after another boss with a high HP count but before you get the chance to rest (meaning no chance to replenish your magic Rune Attack slots between battles, which for me made some characters almost useless). The only other real downside to battles I guess is that if there's one enemy left you need to work your way through all of the character command menus when you might be able to take them out with just one, but otherwise I think it has aged really well, comparable even to modern Quality of Life expectations for JRPG's: enemies move up a row once the first row is cleared, meaning more party members will get the chance to attack as the battle goes on; when engaging in battle with lower levelled enemies, you can decide to use Let Go to escape with a 100% success rate, which becomes Run, which has a less than 100% success rate, if their level is equal to or greater than your own; and instead of missing the target if they faint, it just aims at the next enemy instead. I didn't wipeout once during my playthrough, save opportunities are plentiful throughout (apart from one time, where I swear I couldn't save for over an hour), and the game has one of the best designed levelling systems in a JRPG with more characters than there are party member slots that I've ever played. 

Yes, you read that right, and no, it isn't hyperbole: Suikoden's levelling system, with its insane number of playable characters and its constant want to swap people in and out throughout, is extremely well balanced and designed, to the point where I didn't need to grind once. How? Level-scaled experience gains. Each level-up requires 1000 EXP, whether that be going from Level 5 to Level 6, or from Level 55 to Level 56, but it scales against the level of the enemy you face; for instance, taking out a Level 10 enemy with a Level 5 character provides more experience than a Level 7 character would get for the same battle, as the experience multiplier is greater, due to the greater difference in levels. Now, this isn't something unique to Suikoden, and has been around in JRPG's for a long time, but what makes this stand out to me so much is how they evidently bumped up that multiplier not just for when you are underlevelled, but even when you're overlevelled, too. For example, about 70% of the way through the game, I found myself being forced to use a character I had not used once since he was introduced some 10+ hours earlier, and my part's levels were all at 48 or thereabouts, and he was down at Level 23. In almost any other JRPG, I'm finding out at that point that I need to backtrack to level up this character to a point where he's actually of some use. 

But in Suikoden, I knew I could power forward into the next dungeon, keeping him protected on my back row for just a few minutes as I made my way through. SIX battles later and he is already at Level 44, and I can move him to the front line in battles now; by the time I completed that dungeon, he was just 1 level below my other characters. That's pretty insane and, genuinely, an awesome way I think to keep every character in the game viable, even late into the game if the story calls for it. General rule of thumb throughout my playthrough was to just make my way through an area and battle until battles seemed easier, the EXP I was getting reduced significantly (signalling that I was now overlevelled), or heck, just paying attention to when the Let Go option becomes available in battle. Because of this, I feel I can genuinely recommend this JRPG to anyone, and the genre is just that much more accessible; in fact, I'd go so far as to say that this might be an ideal first JRPG, alongside Chrono Trigger. 

Oh, and you're going to flush with money throughout. Start running low or want to save up for the next best gear? Don't grind, just go play some Chinchirorin, that RNG-based dice game I mentioned before. 

Is fate unchangeable? Let's play Suikoden!

Just like almost every other game, Suikoden has its flaws, and while I've mentioned some of them throughout, one I've been saving until now is the item management. It's really quite a mess. To put it simply: each character can carry up to 9 items each, which is where the nightmare begins, because up to a maximum of half of those slots per character are going to be used on keeping defensive gear equipped. There isn't a shared inventory, either, meaning that it's probably best to keep healing items on every other character, and then you'll need some items to heal status ailments too; that Blinking Mirror should be kept on Tir, like I mentioned before, meaning he's basically out of slots already. There are no items to revive during battle (you can use medicine outside of battle), the only way to do so is to equip a Sacrificial Buddha. Oh, and people will come and go from your party without much of a heads-up, and there isn't an option to swap items out when they do, which means you could potentially end up losing access to any worthwhile Runes or pieces of equipment you just so happened to have equipped to them for a potentially long time. Again: equip that Blinking Mirror to Tir! 

Now, odds are, Miki Higashino isn't the name of a video game composer you've heard before - but I can tell you now that it probably should be, because the quality of her work as the lead composer on this game is pretty high. Prior to Suikoden, the soundtracks of note Higashino had worked on - all for Konami - are probably Gradius, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Contra III: The Alien Wars. I can't speak to the quality of her work on those titles, but she really does not pull any punches on this game's soundtrack, every track being so unique and doing a great job of portraying a certain emotion or place in the world. She's on the record as saying that she wanted to avoid doing something like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and instead made a soundtrack which uses influences from the East and the West, painting every location's soundscape to near perfection in my eyes (ears?). It's so rich and diverse, it adds a lot of texture to these 2D spaces; I highlight music a lot, but I really think it's brushed aside sometimes just how important music is when nailing an atmosphere or moment in a show, film, or game. I've just finished listening to the soundtrack again, and have some twenty tracks written down which I would highlight if given the chance, but instead I'll just mention a few which stand out to me.

Royal Palace Consultation certainly lives up to its title, offering this almost funny level of over the top snobbery which few tracks in my mind come close to, yet some of those violin strings still strain with excellence. The eerie repetition and the synth or strings (?) coming in over the top (the sound of which really reminds me of Metal Gear Solid) hang this palpable tension over you in This is Just a Rumor. I think Forgotten Days might be one of my very favourite tracks, because what the strings hint at at the beginning with their repetition isn't at all what the flute leads it towards, and once that main melody is solidified and those natural sounds start to creep in, I can almost imagine myself in some lush field sat on the steps of some countryside house. Passacaria, which is Neclord's theme, goes all-in on organs, as you might expect for some vampire lord of the night; it's sinister and foreboding, yet almost nuanced with a tinge of regret and questioning - maybe hesitation? - like he's driving himself crazy, pacing back and forth in his castle after living through so much for hundreds of years. I'm a bit of a sucker for main themes which are incorporated well, and that there are multiple arrangements of the main theme throughout this game - epic, light, a guitar solo - the Ensemble Arrangement of the Main Theme is my personal favourite, capturing the lost innocence of many of the Stars of Destiny, but looking ahead together with a warm sense of comradery and hope. Island Fortress, the theme of your castle for much of the game (there's an updated version later on, but this one I personally prefer), stays true to that, and I find it very hard to not smile or hum along to its jolly melody. I love the brass opening of An Old Irish Song, and then how it softens and ascends in this ethereal-sounding melody. Theme of a Moonlit Night is one many who have played this game seem to agree to love, and it's not hard to hear why, with its optimistic solo harmonica sound then joined by others to give this great sense of togetherness and reassurance. Theme of the Advancing Army is probably the most Final Fantasy-sounding track in the game, what with its swashbuckling call to adventure, and textured main melody. I think my favourite track, though, is probably Avertuneiro Antes Lance Mao / After the Battle, which is charged with emotion, and almost sounds pained, before a triumphant choral section which reminds me a lot of Victory Celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi. That all being said, of course I have to leave the final track as A World of Illusion, just as an excuse to show the awesome opening credits and resounding epic version of the main theme: 

From what I've read and heard, Suikoden can't seem to shake this reputation that it was a warm-up for something better - something grander - in the form of Suikoden II. It might well end up being the case that I do enjoy its sequel more, but even if that is the case, I only think this line of thinking serves to diminish the accomplishments of what is in its own right a well-crafted JRPG, clearly overflowing with charm and heart, and which served as an excellent directorial debut for Yoshitaka Murayama.

Well-paced and well-crafted, Suikoden is well worth your time. It celebrates differences - in cultures and in ideologies - with a large cast of greatly realised characters on both sides of war, a wonderful soundtrack, and a timeless story about the courage of humanity in the face of adversity.

Even at his most powerless, man's existence is never without meaning. 

Edited by Julius
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