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Thanks For The Memories: Suikoden – A Tale of Two Brothers

Guest writer Ammon reflects on one of the biggest influences in his gaming and personal life

Welcome to a new segment where we take a look back at the games that shaped the gamers we are today. The age of the average gamer is rising, with many of us having grown up with games over the course of decades. As old and cynical as we become, there are still memories that we cherish that should serve to remind us to take a step back sometimes and marvel at how our favourite past time has evolved. Maybe it was your first console or the first time you memorised the command LOAD “*”,8,1 on the Commodore 64. Perhaps it’s playing NBA Jam with your grandma on the MegaDrive or that time you challenged the local bully to a game of Street Fighter and beat him in front of the entire school while Kenny Loggin’s Danger Zone played in the background. Whatever it may be, let us know so we can all wear the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia together.

For our first episode we have guest writer Ammon Bennett taking us back to the 90s with his memories of Suikoden. Enjoy…

A Look Back

Videogames have impacted my life by strengthening my relationship with my brother, and helping me understand what friendship is.  My first memory of gaming comes not from me actually playing them but rather watching my Mum and my brother play. I learned many swear words from my mother when she played Ecco the dolphin on the Sega MegaDrive for example. But my brother (older by six years) loved RPGs, and his favorite was Suikoden on the PlayStation.

That beautiful box art

That beautiful box art

Suikoden is a Konami-produced JRPG title that is based on the classic Chinese novel Water Margin by Shi Nai’an and Luo Guanzhong.  Suikoden tells the story of a young man betrayed by his nation who joins the rebels that are fighting against the corrupt empire. Although it’s not a unique or original premise, Suikoden tells the tale with charm, charisma and compelling characters.  Throughout the game you have the opportunity to meet and recruit characters into your cause, 108 to be precise, each with their own unique story about why they chose to fight.

Let me explain a bit about my childhood first. We didn’t exactly grow up in luxury and our single parent mother worked full time at Coles to support me and my brother.  One of the best things of my childhood was the monthly trip to the video store. On this one occasion my brother and I decided to get a game rather than a movie. There was a close debate about whether to choose Legends of Legaia or Suikoden. The box art is all we had to go on: the 3D blue-haired boy from Legaia, or the multitude of colourful characters on the Suikoden box.

Our eventual choice to go with Suikoden that fateful day started a relationship that has gone on for almost 20 years.

The turn-based combat was effective and efficient, employing 6 characters in your team that could combine with others to do special ‘unite’ attacks. If the enemy was below you in skill you could just let them go, saving time for battles that actually mattered. My brother would do voices for each character as he read the dialogue bubbles to make it entertaining for me since I was just watching. Even though I wasn’t playing I enjoyed watching because the story was so good.

Twice as beautiful; twice as good

Twice as beautiful; twice as good

The first Suikoden was and still is a great game, Suikoden 2 however was even better and is recognised as one of the PlayStation’s greatest RPGs. Suikoden 2 improved on many of the game’s mechanics and the art was improved significantly.

It was in limited print in PAL regions, and one day the copy we normally hired from Blockbuster had simply vanished, likely snatched up by another fan (we actually bought the original Suikoden outright after hiring it four times in a row so it wouldn’t be surprising). Many years later when I had a job I went on the Internet and managed to snag a copy for $200 (and it wasn’t in amazing condition either). I ­­­played through it myself this time as my brother had moved to Japan, but we talked about it online. The story in Suikoden 2 expands on the themes brought up in the first: family, friendship and loyalty.

So why am I telling this story now though? What do you get from reading this? Well hopefully I have piqued your interest enough to look up the game for yourself. If you own a PS3 or PS Vita you can now purchase the Suikoden games on PSN. This is due to the hard work of the Suikoden Revival Movement.  With almost 27,000 people in the group that remember the series as fondly as I do, they have successfully brought the games back into relevance and even have helped the PAL region to finally get access to the third (out of five) games in the series! You can join the movement here: Suikoden Revival Movement

Summon the bone dragon

Summon the bone dragon

There is so much more to say about the games (didn’t even mention the army battles!) but I think it’s best you find all those things out for yourself. If you do decide to buy the games, make sure you play through them in order as you can import your save from the previous game to get some nice little references.

My brother and I look forward to playing together again when he gets back from Japan and maybe this time around I’ll do some of the character voices!

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