Part 4: A Chance Encounter at Sea (I)
Another day, another title screen.
Welcome to the second chapter of Suikoden Tactics.
Some time has passed since the incident in the back alley, and we draw closer to the events in Suikoden IV. On the menu today, more fanservice, and actual character development! ...after a few more about gameplay.
The second chapter starts us off at the caravan menu, which is where we'll be doing most of our preparations. Here is the music that plays in this scene, a very chill take on the game's main theme.
From the caravan, we can change our gear and learn, level up and equip skills, as well as save and load the game. Speaking of which,
...this is what that looks like.
The fire symbol denotes the day of the week. This is largely cosmetic (though it has a few gameplay effects) and cycles through the five elements. Let's call them... uh, let's see. Firday, Windsday, Earthday,
Let's move on to the skills. The system used in Suikoden Tactics is in many ways similar to the one they used in Suikoden III. Skills go from level E up to level A and then finally S. How high they can go is normally determined by how many recruits you have; at this point we can only legally increase them to D-rank. However, Kyril and his father are too cool for school and both have Parry at level S. These skills are greyed out, and can not be removed or changed - not that we'd want to remove them, mind.
Each character starts with three skill slots. They gain a fourth one at level 10, and then another one every 10 levels thereafter, for a maximum of eight at max level. Skill Points are used to learn and upgrade skills; they are pooled for the entire party, so you never have to grind up a new character's points before they can learn anything, which is nice. How much a skill costs to obtain or level up depends on the skill and character; some have an easier time learning certain abilities than others.
Not every character can learn every skill, but there is a bunch of common ones that a good number of characters will be able to access:
You can still skip the mechanics talk if you want posted:
Battle Lust: I don't know who named this but they should get a kick in the pants because that name tells me nothing. This is more or less Swing from III (a marginally better name), and it increases the number of hits you can land with your regular attack, and thus also your damage. This is probably the most important skill for anyone who relies on physical damage.
Bull's Eye: Increases accuracy.
Counterattack: Enables and increases the odds of countering enemies' attacks (when in range).
Critical Hit: You can still land critical hits without this skill, but the skill increases the chance of it happening.
Dodge: Rather self-explanatory.
Extra Move: Another poorly named skill. For the Fire Emblem veterans in the audience: it's Canto. For everyone else: it's a skill which allows a character to move, take action (such as attacking), and then move again (or simply first act, then move), if they have not already moved their full range. I mentioned before how the game divides units into two categories, fighters and mages. What I didn't mention is that I do the same thing, but in my case the categories are "Units who can learn Extra Move" and "Units who need to get the fuck out". This skill only has one rank and goes directly to S when learned, and we can get it right from the beginning even though we don't officially have access to S rank skills.
Guard: Chance to take half damage from physical attacks.
Godspeed: Grants +1 MOV. Very nice if you can find the room for it. Just like Extra Move, it only has one rank.
Jump: Exactly like Godspeed, except it enhances your jumping ability instead. May be situationally useful, but almost always less so than Godspeed.
Hidden Power: Chance to get back up if reduced to 0 HP... or something. I don't know exactly how this works, because I prefer to stack up on skills that will prevent my units from getting killed in the first place.
Mind's Eye: Normally, you take a -25% penalty to your dodge and counter rates when attacked from the side and a -50% penalty if attacked from behind. Mind's Eye reduces this penalty. Not very worth it at lower levels - at E rank, the penalty is reduced to -22% from the side and -45% from the back; however, at S rank, it's -5% from the side and -10% from behind, which is quite manageable.
As a rule, casters will have access to fewer of the above skills, but they do have a few specialized ones to replace them with:
Concentration: Stronger spells don't go off instantaneously, but require some charging before they can be used. If you're hit while charging, you may lose the spell. This skill reduces the chance of that happening. At S rank, you're pretty much never going to lose a spell.
Element Magic: Each magical element has its own skill which increases efficiency and reduces casting time for associated spells. You can't learn the skill for the element you are weak against, so Andarc can't learn Earth Magic, for instance. Learning the skill that matches the character's native element will cost less than the others.
Finally, there are also some skills which are only available for specific weapons or characters.
Parry: This skill takes effect when attacked, and will nullify damage and unbalance the opponent when it activates. It can be learned by Kyril and most, though not all, characters who use one-handed swords (Walter being one of them).
Sniper: For archers; Seneca is the only one we have with this skill right now. It boosts both critical hit rate and accuracy, and doesn't do a bad job at it either.
Andarc is the only character in the group who starts entirely without skills. I give him Lightning Magic D and Extra Move. Seneca gets a rank up in Sniper and Battle Lust, both of which she starts with at level E, plus Critical Hit at E rank (which she didn't start with). Kyril and Walter are sufficiently awesome as it is; they don't need more skills yet.
Here is the equipment screen. It works much the same as the equipment screen in any other game. We've lost the head and leg gear slots, but in return we've gained five extra "other" slots, which can be used for consumables or accessories. We don't have any of the latter, and barely enough consumables as it is, so for now I just distribute the medicines I won in the last fight. Force Beads are terrain manipulation items. They work just the same as the Elemental Force spells (which I talked about in the last update) and apply an elemental terrain effect to a + shaped area.
There is also the Rest command. This passes one day, and may trigger a scene between party members.
Understood. I'll go and hear what the townsfolk have to say.
I hope we get some useful information.
This one isn't so much about the characters as it is about telling the player what to do next in case we're lost and/or stupid, though.
With most of the game mechanics taken care of, it's time to head into Middleport. Towns in Tactics work much like they do in most SRPGs; you navigate by selecting destinations from a menu. Though we can no longer move about and explore the place the way we could in IV, we can at least listen to the familiar old music playing here.
The rune master, blacksmith, and outfitter are much the same as the stores in Suikoden IV. What's new here is that you can try equipping your characters directly from the store - but this does not include any Bargains (Rare Finds) they might have. Items you're trying out are marked in blue and the total cost is shown at the bottom. Cash is in short supply right now, so I can't afford to buy everything I want.
I do, however, buy a Hawk Orb, the archer-specific command rune, for Seneca. It's probably not the best thing to buy because she doesn't really have the MP to use it yet, but I'll want this eventually anyway and I might as well start showing off what it can do early.
Next up is the Gossip section. This is where you can meet NPCs. They tend to have more and more interesting things to say than they did in IV, probably mostly due to the fact that there's only a couple of them in each town. In Middleport right now, we can talk to "Woman", "Old Man", and "Merchant (?)".
He's wasting the most handsome face in Middleport, scowling all the time! I bet it's that cute young man who's been strutting around like he owns the place. Sigurd can't like that much. Mark my words... It won't be long before it all turns a little ugly!
What's wrong with your faaace?
Nameless NPCs are very anonymous and... have no eyes. It's rather creepy.
They say his Rune Cannon is a very special model. If he comes after you, you're history! Your best bet is probably to just stay on dry land.
I'm more worried about you. A man with a face like that can't be up to anything good.
Huh? Rune Cannons? WHy didn't you just say so?? If that's what you're after, you'll have to visit the Lord of Middleport. Whatever kind of ship you have, he's sure to have the right Cannon for you.
Looks like we have a lead! Whether it's very trustworthy, considering the source... oh, well, might as well go over there and have a look. What's the worst he can do, send a fleet after us?
So, Lord Reinbach is selling Rune Cannons, eh?
Maybe we can learn something from him.
Let's head over there as soon as possible.
Yes, sir. I'll start packing immediately.
We're spared the actual packing, though, as the scene shifts...
...directly to Reinbach's mansion.
And look! Another familiar face!
I'm his liaison. Would you care to state your business to me instead?
I dunno, man. You look kind of suspiciously pirate-like.
(Also, the music playing here is a slowed down version of the good old Imminent Threat which doesn't seem to be on the soundtrack.)
I don't care who I talk to, as long as you liste to what I have to say.
Looks like love at first sight. Or disgust. One of those things.
...and what might that be?
Actually, I was hoping to ask a question... about Rune Cannons.
(Dramatic thunder in the background)
Sigurd's sunny demeanour clouds over real quick at the mention of cannons.
You don't appear to even have a ship. What possible use could a Rune Cannon be to you?
There are rumors that Rune Cannons have some sort of effect on the human body...
"Yes, they are very good at blowing them up. We call that 'working as intended'. Now was there anything else?"
I know nothing at all about that.
Someone give the man an Oscar for his natural and believable acting.
And I'm afraid that concludes our conversation. Good day.
"Also I am most certainly not hiding anything at all of any interest whatsoever."
Walter doesn't buy it and gets in his face.
I said, "Good day."
It is a good day indeed.
A good day for you to spill the beans, old chum!
I'm going to have to ask you to leave.
Fun fact: the Cult of Sigurd is a small but devoted group of customer service people who get together on saturday nights and talk about the prophesized day when they, too, shall be able to deal with problematic visitors the way he does.
Sir, maybe we should back off for now.
You know more than you're letting on. I can see it in your eyes.
Sounding kinda obsessed there, Walter.
Fine. If that's the way it's gonna be, we'll find the answers for ourselves.
As you please.
We'll be on our way, then.
So all the guys leave.
That oughtta teach him.
However, we don't follow the group out.
Reinbach II has been a proud douchebag for longer than you've been alive, my boy!
Yes, m'Lord. I have.
Good. Bah! They have all the looks of a self-righteous band of heroes. They'll have to be silenced. Wait until they're well out to sea and deal with them in the usual manner. The cargo is yours.
I understand, m'Lord.
Such, such a douchebag.
You could say that.
There's got to be another way we can get to Steele. If only we could--
Man: Hey! Why ya standin' around like a bunch of land-lovers?
I thought it was pronounced "land-lubbers". I better watch out before someone makes me walk the plank.
Ah, sorry. Couldn't help but overhear. So you guys wanna meet Steele, huh?
Are you saying you know him?
Well, 'course I do. I mean, there's not a seaman alive who doesn't know of Steele! He's famous! ...Or should I say, infamous.
Then, could you introduce us to him?
I don't think that's how it works, Walter...
I got nothing. Let's just continue here.
Sorry, pal, but I've never heard that name before.
Oh, I see, so when they call you Mr. Smooth, it's one of those sarcastic nick names.
Heh... Guess I still have a ways to go.
I hope I haven't offended you.
Eh, forget about it. Now, about Steele... Wanna make a date with the devil?
Eh, you've got me. Something wrong with that? Besides, I'm your only option.
I have to post these dialogue boxes so you'll know I'm not making some of these lines up.
But I figure someone needs to do somethin' about him sooner or later. And who better than yours truly?!
I could think of a few, but none of them seem to be available right now, so I suppose we'll just have to take what we can get.
So I'm sayin', if you've got the money, I've got the time. Capisce?
Hervey looks over the group a little more closely.
Heh, I bet you guys can really tear it up, just from the looks of ya.
Oh, so you want us to fight your battles for you?
With me, buddy, with me! So, whaddaya say?
Hm. It seems like our only choice, at the moment. Lead the way.
All right! Now you're talking!
And with that, we have access to the world map.
We barely have time to set foot on it, however...
Ugh, it's that snake, Sigurd... Just what we need right now, ugh...
...before Lord Reinbach does, in fact, send a fleet after us. I shouldn't have said that, should I.
It's Lord Reinbach's fleet. They're even worse than us pirates!
Well, to be fair, it's not hard to be worse than most Suikoden pirates. They seem very... PG-rated.
Hm, well, I'm sure Walter won't mind a chance to kick this guy where it hurts.
Actually, I don't think anyone in the party likes him!
Which means they must be after us.
Makes no difference to me either way!
Is it just me, or had Hervey chilled out quite a bit by the time we met him in IV? The way he's going on right now, I kind of half expect to turn around and find him punching a jukebox or something.
Next up: This boat is getting crazy!
Andarc and Seneca artwork.