Friday, August 10, 2012

AGE: Suikoden III and the Lost Generation

                                                                                                                                          Gamer Limit

When I first began seriously building my video game collection, I was happy if I could keep $1,000 in the bank at any given time. Now I could re-buy my entire collection ten times over and don't have the time to play any of them. So while I had intended to get through my list of Almost Got 'Em titles this summer, I ended up not even making a dent in the last game I was playing, Suikoden III. However, with what I had played and what I remember from my first attempt at scaling its heights (and Ayn's subtle threats of physical violence if I didn't post something while he's on vacation), I've got enough material to tackle one more post about Suikoden III and how it represents a void in the overall Suikoden narrative that may never be filled.

One of the enthralling things about the Suikoden series has been the lore of the world it takes place in. The creator of the series, Yoshitaka Murayama, originally conceived of the second game first. When he was greenlighted by Konami to make a game for them, he decided to put his grand vision on the back burner to test out the waters with a prequel to his concept. So Suikoden, the game so good it was the whole reason I bought a Playstation in the first place, was the game Murayama made because he needed to prepare the world for what he really had in mind.

"4 stars? It's a start."

And what a story he told! In the span of two games Murayama gave us the Toran Republic and the City-State of Jowston. The epic retelling of the classic Chinese tale The Water Margin with its rebel alliance and domineering empire and impenetrable Death Star.

It's a trap!

Through two games, separated by three years of in-game time, a tale was woven of stalwart heroes and tragic villains, of powerful runes and ancient civilizations, of love, sacrifice, triumph, tragedy, all while making a moving statement about the human condition. Suikoden I and II introduced us to the concepts which were at the heart of Murayama's vision; a saga about a world with 27 True Runes as the focal point of not just magic, but the tragic wars and inspiring heroism that envelop their owners, and the power of the hearts of 108 heroes joined together to change the world.

When Suikoden II was released, it thrilled many players almost right off the bat by not only revealing the fates of two heroes from the previous game who had vanished at its conclusion, but then adding them to your party. This set the stage for discovering that the world would be full of previous "Stars of Destiny" still shining 3 years later. Not only that, but people and areas only referenced in the first Suikoden were now revealed in full, building a whole new layer to an already fantastic story. When Suikoden III was released, taking place a full 15 years after the first sequel, it not only followed suit, but introduced more children than either of the two previous games, hinting at another big time jump and a thrilling new adventure in store for all the fans of the series in Suikoden IV.

And then that never happened.