Part 2: Long Ago in Razril (I)Watch the opening!
And welcome to Suikoden Tactics! Also known as Rhapsodia, but we'll stick with the former because is most certainly is a Suikoden game.
As with Suikoden IV, Tactics has an opening movie that plays before you even start the game. As with Suikoden IV, you should watch it or at least listen to the music.
English title aside, you may still be able to make out the word Rhapsodia in the lyrics here. Personally, it's about the only thing I can make out.
The opening is less of a normal opening than it was in IV and more a character introduction. One of these won't show up for some time, though.
Note the elemental rune symbols next to people's names. This will be important later on!
is that a goat
Still, it shows a few glimpses of what's to come. There will be challenging bonus dungeons!
We still won't be able to avoid the Goddamn Ocean!
There will be JRPG characters not knowing what the fuck is going on!
And there will be recurring characters!
The title screen actually has multiple variations, each showing off a location from the game - it's a pretty cool touch, and I'll be showing off more of these as they show up.
But for now, let's get to actually playing the game!
Fuck yeah, endgame Suikoden IV data. This game is just about the best thing about Suikoden IV.
The introduction is not the most exciting thing about the game - just this book with a very old sounding dude reading from it, but it doesn't last very long. Also I had to capture this through alternate methods which is why the first half of the video looks worse than the rest.
Suikoden Tactics posted:
These beings were not of our world, but their bodies were replete with the Rune magic that built it. It is for this reason that they came, at the hand of mankind, to be used as weapons.
The horrible power of these weapons struck terror throughout the land, but finally some rose up to strike down this evil.
My tale begins some seven years before teh Island Nations and the Kooluk Empire went to war... with a minor incident in the back alley of a harbor town.
Back alley? Harbor town? That sounds awfully familiar...
Everyone, act surprised. It's not as if there are a grand total of two back alleys in the entire Island Nations.
Wait, is that...?
I like this place better in the daytime.
Yes! It's an adorable little mini-Lazlo! And he can speak! The flashback takes place before the traumatic experience that made him selectively mute!
...wait, that means we're probably about to witness said traumatic event...
Well, anyway, even if you skipped the book part, you should watch this part of the intro.
No way! D-Don't be silly!
Well, let's get this Furball patrol started. I wanna try out this new sword Father gave me!
He's had that thing for a long time, it seems!
No! I wanna try it out right away!
And Snowe is... Snowe.
Lazlo sounds like he's used to this by now.
C'mon, let's go! Don't worry; we can take care of those Furballs and be back in no time!
All right. But let's not stay out too late...
Bah, we're vaguely protagonistic! What's the worst thing that could happen?
...don't answer that.
So anyway! We're on Furball patrol, and that means...
...it's tutorial time.
This tune plays during the intro to each battle.
This is barely even a battle and it's not very interesting to watch. I have a video of it anyway, but you're free to ignore it; the next one is much more interesting. It has good music, though! And while you're listening to that listen to it damn you I'll go over the Boring But Necessary Game Mechanics.
Suikoden Tactics actually has a pretty good tutorial, which it offers to show you at this point, but since I'm playing and you're watching, I won't be typing up the entire thing.
Instead, let us take a look at the opposition! We're up against two second level furballs. They're both aligned with the earth element, which means nothing in this fight, but as I've said already, it will be important soon enough. You can tell the elements from the little bars on the top, too - the furballs are yellow, which represents earth; Snowe is blue, water; and Lazlo is green, wind.
That bar is also your turn gauge. Suikoden Tactics plays more like Final Fantasy Tactics than Fire Emblem, in that it is not turnbased and characters will act based on their speed. The character on the left is the currently active one; as you select actions, the character will jump to the right so you can see when their next turn is coming up.
The controls are simple and effective. For now, we only have the most basic stuff available, so there's no point in going into the rest.
Here's the customary overview map. You can zoom in and out on this as you like.
More importantly, though, let's check our stats. They will be lower here than they were in IV, but will eventually get higher than they tend to be in, say, Fire Emblem.
The biggest change from the previous titles in the series (apart from the whole "being a different genre" thing) is something that will likely come across as a big and disappointing step back at first glance. The game divides units cleanly into casters and fighters; both our current characters belong in the second category. Unlike previous games, where anyone could bear a water rune and do some backup healing on the side, fighters in Suikoden Tactics plain can not equip magic runes.
However, this leads into one of the other big changes. Command runes, such as Shrike and Falcon, now run on MP as well, and each rune provides several different abilities. This is obviously a nerf for attackers, who could previously spam their runes at will, but previous games were heavily biased in favour of physical damage. This evens the playing field considerably, makes most characters quite useable, and it's really a great way to handle physical attack runes.
The stats are quite familiar and do mostly what they've always done. Nevertheless, here's a rundown:
Feel free to skip this if you already know/don't care to know posted:
Level (LVL): General measurement of power. Goes from 1 (pretty much terrible at everything) to 50 (you could probably get away with declaring yourself the god-emperor of fucking everything).
Experience Points (EXP, or XP) - Gain more of these by doing stuff like hitting people. Collecting 1000 points increases your level by one. Level ups increase your stats. You probably know how this works already.
HP (heart symbol) - Whether you call them Hit Points or Health Points, these show how good you are at not being dead. Getting hit by enemies lowers this. If it runs out, it means you have failed at not being dead.
MP (star symbol) - Magic Points. Charges for magic and other special abilities. Suikoden subscribes to the Vancian (or D&D) system and divides skills into four separate levels; using any special ability consumes a single MP of the appropriate level.
ATK and DEF - Total physical offensive and defensive power, respectively. This includes the effects of weapons and armour, stats and equipment.
MOV - How many steps the character can take during a single turn. You can take other action after moving, but can not move after taking non-movement action... normally.
JMP - How high the character can jump. Most maps don't feature too much jumping.
STR - Strength combines with the power of your weapon and to make up your total Attack Power.
MAG - Magic influences the effect of most spells the character casts. It also affects the number of Rune slots and magic points gained by casters. All characters start with the right hand rune slot open; the left hand slot unlocks at 30 MAG and the forehead slot at 60 MAG. For fighters, this stat really only has one use, but we'll talk about that when it's relevant.
SKL - Skill affects you accuracy and, together with Luck, determines your critical hit rate. Critical hits in Suikoden Tactics deal double damage. Skill also, much like MAG for casters, affects rune slots and magic points for fighters. The slots unlock at 30 and 60 SKL, just as with magic. However, fighters will always have slightly less MP than casters, and only get points up to level 3.
MDF, PDF - Magical and Physical Defence, respectively. I'll not insult anyone's intelligence by going into detail.
EVA - Evade, likewise. However, I should add that getting attacked from the side lowers evasion by 25% and attacks from behind lower it by 50%, which is pretty much a guaranteed hit. Always stab people in the back if you have the opportunity to do so.
SPD - Speed influences how soon your next turn is coming around.
LUC - Luck is the second half of the critical hit equation, as well as being a deciding factor in whether a character dies when they are killed.
Most characters have a chance to die if reduced to zero HP, but the luckier they are, the more likely it is that they will simply retreat instead. This works much the same as deaths in large scale battles in the previous games: death is permanent, while retreat has no consequences other than the character not being available for the rest of that fight. Plot relevant characters always retreat, so you won't get a game over if the protagonist bites it - unless the defeat condition is "withdraw with the main character", so watch out for that the two or three times it happens.
Lazlo and Snowe have nothing special going for them right now, so let's get on with the Furball Patrol. We have the initiative, but we can't reach them from here and if we move up, they can reach us. I'll be sitting back and letting them move forward; then we can swoop in and hopefully finish one of them without taking damage. Not that they'd be able to hurt us much, but it's a matter of principles, damn it.
One round later, they're perfectly positioned. Since we only need to kill one, we'll have both our characters attack the one in the front. The sweatdrop icon means this enemy is within your attack range from the selected location.
Selecting an attack shows you this window with all the information you need easily accessible. Lazlo is attacking from the side, so his accuracy is nice and high, but the furballs don't have great dodge anyway and when I targeted the other one, it just had a 3% chance to evade when attacked from the front.
With his dual weapons (which, at this point, are just pieces of wood), Lazlo hits twice, just as he did in IV. The most interesting thing about this is that we actually did one point less than predicted. The damage is somewhat random, and you may do slightly more or less than you think you'll do, which can be annoying, but you can also get lucky with it.
Now it's Snowe's turn! The halo means he can attack and probably kill this enemy from the selected position. The single sword in the other bubble means he is stepping inside this enemy's attack range.
He'll finish what Lazlo started (and steal the glory of the kill for himself, naturally).
This time the expected damage is right on the money. The furball disintegrates and we pick up a Medicine - the basic healing item - from the suddenly non-existent corpse.
And Snowe gains EXP. You gain experience for pretty much everything, but kills get you a lot more than just poking them. For comparison, Lazlo got 90-odd points from his initial attack.
Watch the scene!
We get a shot of Snowe finishing off a furball (even if Lazlo killed the one in the actual battle), and this happens as the screen fades in so it's not me fucking up the shot here.
Furballs are tougher than I thought.
A lot tougher.
They're just so precious.
Aha-ha-ha! Just kidding.
You were totally serious. I know how your mind works.
You look more tired than I do. Let's call it a night.
And that would be the end of it, but...
*Metal Gear noise*
Lazlo sees something curious.
Someone or something rushes past. Normally you wouldn't get much of a look at this... uh...
I don't know, but we better make sure it ends
Wh-Wh-What should we do?? Follow it? Or maybe we should--
'scuse me! Real protagonists coming through!
And what the heck is that? It's just as freaky as that fish thing!
Oh, sorry about that. Didn't mean to frighten you.
Oh, you're human! You sure gave me a shock.
"Well, apart from goat girl there. What the fuck am I looking at."
"We're all goat people, from the goat dimension! Bring us to your leader."
Ummm... never mind. My mistake!
Oh, I'm sorry. My name's Snowe Vingerhut.
This should not surprise any of our viewers, but the newcomers didn't know that.
Kyril: Nice to meet you.
Since this takes place several years before the rest of the game, Kyril looks a bit different from how he looked in the opening movie.
Andarc: Hello, I'm Andarc.
Seneca: And I'm Seneca.
Lazlo doesn't introduce himself. And here I thought he was a polite young man!
Oh, she's my partner. Don't worry about her.
Snowe isn't worried for his own sake, but he's wondering if he should go hide his bottle cap collection before she eats it.
I've got a question, Snowe...
Just before, you said, "You're human," right?
Huh? Yeah, but...
Why was that surprising to you? Did you see something...?
It's surprising because you're standing next to a chick who looks like a goat. Why is this surprising to you?
Oh, that. Umm, yeah, we saw it.
Will you tell me exactly what you saw?
I see. And then it ran off that way, hmm?
Yep. Straight down that way. But it couldn't have gotten very far. There's a dead end up ahead.
I see. Thank you for the information. Well, we're going after it. You two had better head on home. This is dangerous work.
Calculating probability of Snowe actually doing the sensible thing here...
But we can help you! I know the streets here!
Error! Error! Multiplication by division. Please rotate universe 45 degrees and try again.
Poor Lazlo. You'll be putting up with this for another several years. No wonder you're about to go mute.
You're up for it, right?
Snowe. This isn't a game.
Every time a video game character says something like that, MY IMMERSION is shot.
Maybe we should listen to him...
Maybe. But, well, where's the fun in that? Charge straight ahead! It can't possibly go wrong!
Come on... Don't chicken out. We'll be fine!
Actually he's not so far off. Most of these dudes are pretty low level, too, so the kids aren't too horribly outclassed.
All right, but stay close. We don't have much time. Ready?
Yeah! Let's go!
Relax. He gave me the sword to use, right? Stick with me and you'll be fine.
Lazlo isn't buying it.
If something comes after you, whack it with that stick of yours!
I like the repeated usage of the word "stick".
Walter and I will take care of the rest, okay?
Snowe Vingerhut: big damn hero.
Don't worry, it's a flashback. It can't kill you.
Full body art for Mini-Lazlo and Mini-Snowe.