Part 3: FUCK the ocean
Fun fact: Lazlo can walk and run like most RPG protagonists, but he can also sprint, which makes getting around the place a lot faster and easier...
...but since it uses the same animation as a normal run at double speed, he also looks quite silly while doing so.
I will be seeing a lot of that silly run in the upcoming weeks.
I didn't show this off last time, but we can try to leave without completing our, uh, "training", but they won't let us. This guy is not exactly making me feel inspired, here. This isn't going to be one of those weird initiation rituals where you wake up in a bin somewhere on a different continent, is it...?
But we have no choice, so let's get it over with.
Well then, Lazlo. Let's select our group.
So we do, and as the thread decided, we're bringing the girls.
Next comes a number of fights against "senior" knights. They're actually no pushovers and can quite easily kill our new recruits in one blow. Here I was up against two of them, and even though I had Jewel and Paula defend, Jewel still managed to get herself knocked out before I could finish the battle.
We could actually have picked up two of these people to bring along on the kidnapping sidequest, which would have made them a little sturdier (the difference between Lazlo and Snowe at level 3 and the girls at level 1 is quite significant) but meh.
It's worth noting that Snowe comes with much better gear than the rest of the group, and it may be in your interest to go all Communist Party of Razril on his ass and distribute the stuff among the less fortunate.
We can climb to the top of the hall and get a good look at the endless expanse of repetitive water texture but it's making me want to drink heavily already so let's not do that. We'll head into town instead; there's also a few goodies left to collect, as well as a few faces we haven't seen yet. For one thing,
...the old Suikoden series mainstay, the Hairball, is now a random encounter on the back street. There is no reason anyone would care to find this out, mind - it's just there.
There is also this guy.
He runs a minigame where you have to spin tops. Each player has three of them, and you start by each tossing one onto the table. Then you have to wind up the next top by rotating the left stick/d-pad, and then you can throw the next one, and so on. Once on the table, the tops spin and bounce off each other while gradually losing speed and finally stopping and falling over. The goal is to be the last one with a spinning top left on the table. If you can throw a top right on top of Basil's, you can knock it off the table, but that really isn't going to happen often. Instead, it seems best to just try to let him make the first move and throw yours a second or two later. Still, it's a pain in the ass. He charges 100 potch - the traditional Suikoden currency - per play, and if you win, you can go again. Depending on how many times you win before giving up, you get different prices, but you get nothing if you lose (even after several wins).
I find it somewhat amusing that this street urchin hands out sofas to people who beat him, but this isn't enough. You have to win the game twenty fucking times to get the best price.
First time through, it's this thing. We won't have any use for it for a good while (if ever) but at least it's a thing.
Chiepoo is working in one of the shops.
The shopkeeper here is really strict with the part-time workers... Whew...
Equipment Shopkeeper: Hey, Chiepoo! No idle chatter with the customers!
Equipment Shopkeeper: Answer just once!
Everyone, from apprentices, is working hard at our atelier, but...
The townspeople also have new things to say, but most of it is not very relevant. There is this one guy, however...
Since being picked out of the ocean here... Now, you're a Knight protecting Gaien. Don't ever forget your gratitude to the lord.
...who gives us a little more background on Lazlo.
But we really can't put things off any longer, god damn it all, so it's time to set sail.
Down by the docks, there is a brief scene.
Okay, let's go!
Of course, delivering the document is more troublesome, but... between you and me, you'll make more money that way.
Well, you could also do both... No need to rush into a decision right away.
Just give me the one that pays.
Knight of Gaien: Hey! You're all ready? Okay, hand this document to our friends at the harbor in Middleport.
We obtain "Document".
And then... oh boy, there's this.
You will learn to hate this theme. You will especially learn to hate hearing it in chunks of five seconds, because that's about as long as it takes before the next fucking random encounter interrupts it.
This is what Suikoden IV's world map looks like.
This is what Suikoden IV's entire world map looks like.
IT IS SHIT.
Large chunks of this game consist of sailing in a straight line over an endlessly repetitive fucking ocean full of endless fucking encounters every five fucking seconds.
This world map is the single biggest problem with this game. It is a problem big enough that even if I didn't have any issues with the game's other aspects, I would still be hesitant to recommend anyone to play it, simply because this part of it is so bad. It is by far the worst excuse for a world map I have ever seen. I have been playing RPGs since the 16-bit era, and I have never encountered anything this utterly fucking boring, pointless and repetitive.
Oh, but boring, pointless and repetitive is only the beginning. How do you prevent the player from sequence breaking all over the place when the entire map is one giant blue blanket with no convenient rivers and broken bridges to impede their progress? Why, with invisible walls, of course! Sail too far in any direction the game doesn't want you to, and you'll suddenly find your ship turning around for no apparent reason! There is, of course, no way of knowing where and when this will occur.
And when it does, you have to sail all the way back again. While fighting random encounters.
I really hope you appreciate not having to deal with this shit.
The sad part is that the game really does look nice when it's actually trying, but don't let this shot fool you. This kind of scene makes up maybe one percent of the scenery at sea.
The enemies around here are fish...
Sadly enough, the seaweed is by far the toughest thing we've fought so far. They don't do much damage, but they have a lot of health for a third level party with default weapons.
We can also anchor anywhere and talk to some pointless NPCs around the ship who will tell you fascinating things like "I hope I'm not getting seasick!" and "Come talk to us if you need help" which is of course one big fat lie since they won't move a damn finger to help us.
There is, however, a chest with five medicines (basic healing item) in the cabin, which may be worth getting, as well as a save spot, mostly for show since we can also save directly from the menu on the world map.
(Oh, and a knight who tells us the supplies in the chest are for emergencies. Fuck you, you're not the boss of me.)
This is Middleport.
This is the Middleport town theme.
This guy is waiting just where we get off the ship. He's also the one we need to talk to in order to get back on the ship, so it's impossible to leave without finishing the quest.
The reward is money. Not much, but it's a start.
Apparently Middleport is some kind of tourist trap or something.
I'm telling you, I'm not making this up. Someone I know said he saw it, and my gut instinct believes him.
I believe you. You wanna know why? Because it's a rumour.
Though I don't know what kind of talks went on among the higher-ups for that to end up happening...
Well, I'm sure it was because it would be beneficial to both sides.
Reminder: Kooluk are our enemies. Grr and stuff.
The trading post makes a return in Suikoden IV. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, they buy and sell a bunch of useless crap and the goal is to find the place that sells it cheap and sell it somewhere you get more money out of it. In this game, there are, however, some additional items that we can actually use among the trade goods, but it's far too early to bother with it. Instead, I eye the rum because I know I'm going to have to get back on the ocean eventually and I'd rather not remember any of it by the time it's over, but something tells me I'd never live it down if I crashed the ship into a lighthouse on my very first mission.
This place also has a back street, but thankfully there are no enemies inside. There is, however, this curious sign... and a room with nothing in it on the other side of the door. Curious indeed.
Maybe I'll play a little...
This is the single most important man in Middleport. Why? Because he plays Chinchirorin.
He doesn't call it that, mind, but I know my Chinchirorin by now, and Triple Toss is exactly that.
What, the other one? It's not Chinchirorin, so I don't care.
This track plays while talking to Gunter, and this one while actually playing. They're both kind of annoying, but it's worth tuning it out, because due to to the Power of Savestates, I'm going to rob this fucker blind.
We go in with 1150 potch.
We go out with enough to cover all our needs for the immediate future.
Chinchirorin is only a shadow of its former glory. You can only wager 3000 potch at a time, and you don't get to double-or-nothing when you win. 3k is a pittance once we start really wanting to spend money, but this early in the game, five minutes spent robbing Gunter is well worth the effort.
So let's put that money to work. Snowe's old gear is still better than what we can get here, but with everyone else outfitted with the best Middleport has to offer, we're pretty beefy for the time being.
Spending enough money at a store will cause them to give you lottery tickets, which unsurprisingly allow you to play the lottery.
Alternately, they can be worn on your head for a small boost to luck.
Exactly how this works, the game does not tell.
Right next to the armoury, there's a smithy. Anyone guessing that Adrienne here will eventually be our private blacksmith wins a big fat nothing, because come on, you all know how this works by now.
Upgrading weapons tends to be the single biggest money sink in a Suikoden game. It's reasonable enough now, but later in the game, all those Chinchirorin winnings won't even pay for a single upgrade.
Now, however, it is quite sufficient. Note that Snowe not only gets fancier armour than we do; he has a different weapon as well.
More eventual recruits?
Deborah: Today's tea is especially flavorful, isn't it, my dear Oskar?
More eventual recruits.
Would like to try a spin?
Here's where we put those tickets to use.
Sure, I'll spin.
The lottery is simple enough. You spin the right stick, and the wheel spins. When you stop, it spits out a different coloured marble, and you win something depending on which one you get.
There's not much point in spinning, though; just nudge it and the wheel moves just enough to give you a marble. Again, due to the Power of Savestates, I can get whatever I want from this, but most of the prizes aren't anything to write home about.
This is the second prize; not really useful considering each character only has room for one rune at this point. I decided to go keep it anyway, because the first price is just 10000 potch, and we can get that just as easily from Gunter.
The last area in Middleport is the lord's mansion, but it's empty right now and we can't do much here.
Looks quite nice, though.
There's nothing left to do here. I'll spare you the goddamn ocean, so here's what happens when we return to Razril.
Oh yeah, there's another mission I'd like you to take on when you've become stronger. So, good luck for now.
We're strong enough already, but first, shopping spree!
Remember how we talked about how bringing Keneth for his lightning rune would be a good idea?
This orb is a "rare find" in the equipment store. Rare finds are annoying. They're usually better stuff than what the store normally sells, but whether they show up or not is random. You can game this system by saving before talking to the clerk and resetting if you don't like what you see, but it's rather a pain. Savestates make it easier, of course, but I didn't need to use any to get this.
I'm putting this on Paula, who will be the best caster in the party. Lazlo gets a water orb. Snowe and Jewel already come with those, so we now have way more healing that we should reasonably need.
Since we're looking at it, this seems like a good place to talk about the magic system. Like I said before, our magic stat determines how much MP you have, as well as how many runes you can equip. There are three slots - right hand, left hand and forehead; each character comes with the right hand slot, the left hand slot becomes available when their Magic reaches 60, and the forehead slot when it reaches 120. (There may be some exceptions to the order, but this is how it normally works.)
Normal magical runes like the ones we've got here give you one spell each of levels 1, 2, 3 and 4. Others have specific effects, like the sunbeam rune which slowly heals you .
The lightning rune contains offensive magic. Most of it is big single target damage, which makes it probably the best rune for boss fights and such.
The water rune grants mainly healing magic.
Paula originally comes with a wind rune, which has mixed effects, but is generally bad.
There are also fire - generally multi-target damaging magic - and earth - generally defensive - runes, as well as others, but we'll get into those when we find some.
I've actually got a bit of a job that came in. Would you like to give it a try?
Our friends at Middleport have the details on it.
Yes! Then I will head to Middleport.
Knight of Gaien: Okay, I'm counting on you.
The map screen is pretty empty; we've only been to two places yet, but it'll fill in the blank areas as we explore them. (Doesn't that sound fun?)
"Island Shift" lets you jump the cursor to specific locations once you've visited them by holding square and pressing the directional buttons. "Change Course" points your ship in the direction of the cursor. The blue arrow means it's our destination.
A lot of swearing later...
Man: A-Actually... I was fishing around here when I happened to run into a strange creature...
It looks like a black, furry thing, sort of... In fact, it's kind of cute-looking. But it's terribly strong! Or rather, it's really pesky! I have no clue at all why that thing took a liking to me... Please get rid of it for me!
Knight of Gaien: I'm counting on you. This man always sells fish to Gaien. There are a lot of people who swear by his selection. They'll refuse to buy form anyone else!
...I've had to deal with this fucking ocean way too much today. If they won't buy from anyone else, they can fucking well starve.
This next section requires us to sail around like idiots until we run into this specific random encounter: the Damp Hairball.
If anyone really cares, I've uploaded a video of the fight. The audio got a bit de-synced but I don't care enough to fix it, it's just four characters in identical outfits beating on a small black fuzzy thing.
Paula puts her new rune to use. It's not a terribly high number but...
...it certainly is a hell of a lot more than Jewel can manage.
Nowhere near worth it.
This is my thanks. Thank you very much!
Still nowhere near worth it, and now we have to sail back to Razril again.
There were no serious problems. Some creatures attacked us, but it was fairly peaceful, as expected.
Understood. Recently, there have been rumors of the Pirate Brandeau expanding his area of influence. Be sure to remain vigilant.
OH SHIT PANIC
By the way, Snowe and Lazlo, there is a separate mission for you two. Please visit the Commander later.
What? A separate mission?
Yes, you will receive detailed instructions from the Commander.
I will be returning to the Hall now, so you two should hurry along as well.
I don't like the sound of this...
...but this guy swiftly blocks Lazlo's attempt to steal a boat and sail off to some place that does not have the Pirate Brandeau, so I guess we'll just have to deal with it.
Next up: things go horribly wrong!