@Suikorune: I agree that there were many parallels between the order and Christianity. I was reminded of "His Dark Materials," another story in which someone with no understanding of the actual principles of Christianity tried to vilianize the entire religion because they didn't like it. I'm not trying to start a religious debate here, what I'm saying is that I felt like that part of the story (a big part) was an ignorant person's agenda of trying to shove their beliefs down our throat by hitting us over the head with a misguided metaphor. I did not enjoy being preached to. Suikoden for me has always been an escape from reality, a break from all the stupid political drama and everything else that's wrong with the world. It saddened me to see this series used to deliver a disguised political/religious/who cares message. That is not what the series is about. I thought "genso" meant "fantasy," not "NPR."
Other than that, I mostly enjoyed the game. I really liked the weapon system, actually better than the upgrade system. The Marks of the Stars were fun and I enjoyed using something other than rune magic, but I must say that I enjoy rune magic more. Besides, too much of the main series revolves around the True Runes, and that's what made finding and using different runes, rather unique or mass-produced, so rewarding. The Marks of the Stars was like "here's twelve powers, pick four."
I really didn't like that, other than the final boss, there was no boss fight that was more than a little harder than normal random battles. I enjoyed the random battles, as they offered a challenge, if only because they were piled up at you. But the incredibly easy boss fights felt like an attempt to bring over ten-year-old runescape fans over to the series. Suikoden really needs to be rated "T," I think, if it is to maintain the rewarding and involved feel it has always had. I really hope that they don't keep trying to target children. Besides, I was nine when I first played Suikoden 2, and I enjoyed thoroughly. They don't need to water it down to draw all kinds of fans. Really, I would rather Suikoden remain a niche series than sell out and try to win over Hot Topic frequenters. The way the characters talked like they lived somewhere in Connecticut was cute and somewhat amusing, but it really took a way from the depth of the game.
Did anyone else feel like the game switched producers halfway-through? The beginning was really good, and it seemed to be promising to be more of the political drama (the good kind of political drama, not the petty kind that was referenced before) that the other games were. It started out looking as if we were going to establish an army to overthrow a tyrannical, powerful country while at the same time having to deal with other countries trying to use us for their own agenda. The Magedom of Janam had a rich political story to it. A cold but effective ruler was doing his best to set his subordanites against each other to compete both for their own improvement and for his own entertainment. Meanwhile his son is biding his time and trying to stay above the mess until he can take command and set things right, all the while thinking of his younger sister, who is being used as a pawn for science. Enter our hero, someone the prince can confide in and trust while he tends to his own complicated affairs. Then we have Chrodechild and her overtaken country. She is being used as a pawn along with our hero and countless others by the nation we thought to be the good guys. Among these are a number of smaller tribes facing the possibility of invasion and possible enslavement. Towering over it all is a huge superpower trying to take over the world, under the guise of trying to improve it. Finally we have our company, the neutral voice and rallying point against the superpower, the biggest hope for independence. It was all building up to be an emotional and epic power struggle to take down a tyrant. And then...
*Woosh* Bye bye magedom. All of a sudden the politics are gone, no more war between nations, no more gray areas between expansion and terrorism, liberation and tyranny. Suddenly it's a cosmic struggle between good and evil, between humans and gods, a battle for the very right to exist. It was cool in it's own way, but it's been done so many times, and with a war like that there's only one outcome: Good guys win, simple as that. Happily ever after. No sacrifice, not bittersweet end, no winning but still somehow feeling like you lost something inside you. Not to belittle Dirk's sacrifice, but it was predictable and barely dwelled upon. Our hero had a solid day of "putting on a brave face" before it was back to saving the world because nothing else mattered to him. Ironically, even though the hero had a voice and a personality, I found him much more two-dimensional than previous Tenkais. He was your basic hero. Upbeat, optimistic, got really upset when ever injust things happen. But beyond stopping the order he had no motivation. No inner conflict that defines a good hero. He was the cut and dry good guy, no darker side, no moments of desperation. I almost think that the fact that previous Tenkais couldn't talk gave them their depth, because it allowed us to not only give him a name, but give him his entire personality. When someone he loved died, when he one a battle, when he lost a friend; how we felt was how he felt. Other than his facial expression and a limited choice of dialogue options, we were given no insight into how he felt about it, and so our imagination took over, and he felt exactly how we felt about it. It's for this reason that, in previous games, I always named the hero after myself, but this time I gave him a fictional name. He wasn't me, he was his own character, entertaining but shallow. He had one driving motivation and that was it.
All of this led to a rather underwhelming end. I don't know what I was expecting. Perhaps for the One King to take out a city before he died, or maybe someone had to die to kill him. But after he was defeated in battle there was no final act of desperation, no haunting remarks to make the hero second-guess himself. He pretty much said "thanks for freeing me, I was a slave, kthanxbye," *poof.* The world is saved. Everyone go about there merry way, hurrah hurray. In Suikoden 1, the at the end of it all Tir was left without a father and his best friend and feeling out of place in the country he saved. In 2, after the war Riou and Jowey, their friendship hanging by a thread, shed the pretext and and put the past behind them in what, to me, was the single most touching moment in Suikoden History. They went on to live a quite life with Nanami, having grown and changed after a desperate struggle against each other, now free to live a normal life, which was all the sweeter because of how hard the worked to achieve it. In 3, while it did boil down to "Save the Universe" rather than "Free our Country," we had three deep characters, none of which were the same after the battle, all of whom felt pity for the one they were forced to slay, and we were given an insight into the man behind the villain, his motivation, his feelings, his humanity. In 4 we had Lazlo, who could never see the world the same way after his struggle. He nearly died to save the world, and his reward was to live forever as a True Rune Bearer in order to keep it from passing on to someone else. He bore the Rune of Punishment, which of all the runes took the biggest tole on its bearers, save perhaps the Sun Rune. In 5 the Prince lost his mother and father to politics and power struggles, he was betrayed by his aunt, and while he freed his country, he lost his family, save his sister and his bodyguard. All too young the were stripped of their parents, for Ferrid was as much a father to Lyon as to his own children. They now have nothing but each other and a few close friends, orphans in a country that they barely new what to do with. I never finished Tactics, but Kyril lost his father, and they had to live with the fact that they dismantled a country to save the world from rune cannons, as Kuuluk was never quite able to recover.
In Teirkries, the hero is exactly the same as when he started, and while he lost his mentor, he's barely affected by it, and he goes on to live a happy life among friends without a care in the world. Good for him, but what about us? Where's the satisfaction? In previous games, because the heroes grew, we grew, but in Teirkries, after I was finished, all I had to show for it was fifty hours of good music, fun gameplay, and slight desire to watch an independent film to wash of the cheese of the game. I learned nothing, I didn't shed a single tear, and I feel no lingering attachment.
To sum up, Teirkries was fun, I'm glad I played, but it was not nearly as satisfying as previous installments. I sincerely hope they drop this spin off series and focus on making the main games as amazing as ever.
Everyone loves Dragons. Cause If they don't.... >;(