We love our communities, and often find ourselves overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, passion and creativity shown off by fans of our many game series.
One such group is the increasingly popular Suikoden Revival Movement that forms a base which fans of the classic Suikoden RPG games can discuss the past, present and future of the series whilst also showing off some truly epic fan-art and cosplay. The main aim of the movement however is to bring Suikoden back into the consciousness of the wider gaming community so that a wider audience can celebrate the game.
Although the last Suikoden game was released in the UK way back in 2006, the group still strives to achieve their goal posting regular articles and holding frequent competitons for members to engage with. As such, we decided to give them the floor to explain why Suikoden is so close to their hearts, why it stands out among other games and why it should be offered to a much wider audience. Below is how they responded.
“At the Suikoden Revival Movement, often the first question we are asked is: “why Suikoden?” implying that out of all the classic RPGs that could be revived, why select Suikoden and only Suikoden as our focus? To answer that question requires length, as we love this series so much that the answers are often fumbled and rambling, as if we were asked to explain why we love our own dog. Moreover, like all great games, Suikoden has many things about it that are deeply personal, and we alone could never know what scene or character touched the hearts of every fan of the series, nor could we ever know what Suikoden means to every member of our movement.
To put it plainly: the Suikoden series are not just great games, but a great Konami games. Konami has made a good habit of releasing titles that work to innovate the genres that they fall into. As far back as the original Metal Gear and Castlevania titles, Konami has always produced games that were more artful, more thoughtful. Metal Gear Solid took the military action genre and stood it on its head, telling not just an emotional and compelling story, but innovating the game play by forcing the player to rely on stealth tactics and their own intelligence. Silent Hill did much the same, as it walked back the metaphors common in many horror games, reminding us that our true fears are our own inner demons.
Suikoden was released almost two full years before MGS, and did that exact thing: it created much more than was there before it. On the surface –and indeed, in the early portion of the game– the story and game play seem to be a re-hashing of a standard fantasy setting, but over time, becomes so much more than that. The characters are a collection of brilliant minds and dubious motivations, that range from the outwardly noble, to the openly greedy, from idealists to realists. We are shown a picture of a corrupt monarchy, that in the end, is the sorrowful result of one man’s dream of creating a better kingdom. Subtly, the game asks questions to the player: Is military power necessary to create positive social change? If so, how do you balance power with the corruption and decadency that power often brings? And the player is left to decide for themselves what the answers to these questions are. In Suikoden, there are no evil plans to destroy the world, no arch-enemies of peace and justice lusting to remake the world in their own image. Just difficult questions and difficult choices. In the end, despite the fantasy setting, I have never played a game that is so simply human.
So, we have established that Suikoden is in line with many of the great Konami games of its era, but there is more to it than just that. I am reminded of the words of the great filmmaker, Terrence Malick: “always respect the audience.” The Suikoden games undeniably respect their audience, and they treat the player like an intelligent human being.
Which brings me to the question I wish I was asked more often. Not just “why Suikoden?” but also “why now?” Why is it so vital that people play these games? The answer to that question is –again– difficult, but it illustrates some of the problems of the wider games industry. To put it bluntly, the games acts as something of a counterpoint to not just the genre of the RPG, but to many modern games.
Often in games, we are given a single hero upon which we focus, and the supporting characters, the storyline, the setting, the music, and the numerous other elements that comprise a game fade into the background. We focus on one single hero that is central to everything, forgetting the passions, philosophies, and ideas of people that are not the character we are invited to project ourselves onto. Often, the fates of the game’s world are left to whim of the player, to be remade entirely in the image of the hero.
In Suikoden, this idea of unity is one of the main narratives that runs throughout the series. In the original Water Margin novel -upon which the games are loosely based- the theme of unity is prevalent, too. In fact, some of the English translations of the novel go by the title: All men are Brothers, and while I cannot agree with arbitrarily changing the name of the book like that, it does illustrate how important that moral narrative is to the core of the novel. All too often, the heroes found in games are simply cynical products of the circumstances that generate them, rather than people actively trying to change the world around them for the better. Suikoden shows us that while the answers to the questions it poses are difficult, the questions can be addressed through unity and cooperation.
The basic difference in design philosophy between Suikoden and many modern games can be simplified to this: modern games encourage the player to indulge, and Suikoden encourages the player to think. While there is nothing inherently wrong with indulging in a game, Suikoden chooses to instead challenge its own players, not just in terms of game play, but in terms of the game’s theme and narrative as well. The games respect their audience first and foremost, and that is reason enough to continue to play and love this series.”
You can join the Suikoden Revival Movement or find out more about them on their Facebook page here. If you are part of a thriving Konami community and would like the opportunity to tell our readers why your cherished game means so much to you then let us know in the comments section and we’ll get back to you.