Suikoden V: the bathhouse at Sodom n Gomorrah Castle

, | Game diaries

Getting a headquarters for your army is a Suikoden series tradition. The HQ is where all the recruits hang out, each with his own one or two line spiel that reflects his personality/backstory and changes in the plot. As you see your army grow, the HQ always goes from an empty warehouse to a bustling town, with new sections added in stages. All the non-combat recruits earn their keep here, even if their only job is to be an inn keeper. Each game has a recruit whose only function is to — no joke — install an elevator.

After the jump, what Suikoden characters do in their downtime

What a wondrous age we live in

At the one-fourth mark the loyalist army needs to attack a Godwin dam on the river, called Hatred Fortress in a refreshing display of candor by the Godwins. Hatred Fortress is preventing water from reaching Lord Lake, the town whose eponymous lake was vaporized by the prince’s bitch mother before the game started. The beavers were dragooned into building the fort, thanks to their dam building expertise. The prince and co. are trying to do Lord Lake a solid and bring back the water to win hearts and minds. Nearby there’s an ancient ruin from the long gone ancient race all fantasy worlds must have by law. Lucretia wants the prince to go there and trip some mechanism that will open a sluice gate and flood the river with the water from Ceras Lake, destroying the fort. If the heroes are capable of dropping an entire lake on a fort, I don’t know why they don’t just lure the Godwins into a huge Gettysburg-like engagement and then drown the bastards en masse. But Lucretia’s the master strategist, not me.

After the lake is drained, the army conveniently finds an ancient Sindar castle, the phallic looking Ceras Lake castle. You get to name your HQ too, so I call it Sodom n Gomorrah castle, since it will house Lord Lucifer-s Army. If they called it Castle Blank instead of Blank Castle I could call it Castle Vania, or if they omitted the “Castle” part I could call it Outer Heaven or Shadow Moses, after another Konami series. But I settle on my first choice.

There’s not much to do around the castle though, except decorate with vases and paintings, play stupid mini games, and talk to the recruits. Since I’m going for all 108 stars (kinda like a modern Mario game), I have to play a fishing game to get the fishing gal. Crap! Actually, the competitive fishing in Ceras Lake turns out to be pretty fun. You have to race around in a tiny boat and get the most fish. It’s too bad the rest of the stars are a chore to get, because gathering them is the only source of side quests in these games. A few are proper side stories about your new characters. A handful come with their own dungeon and/or boss fight. Some stars can be grabbed by just talking to the person. Too many have you do some annoying but minor task.

Worst of all, most stars have a specific window for recruitment. I have to play the whole game with a FAQ to make sure I don’t miss anyone. If I had one of those iPad things I could just read the FAQ from my lap, but instead I have to race back and forth between the desktop and the TV to see what I need to do. For example, one recruit is an angry beaver with sunglasses, a mohawk, and a guitar (I am not making this shit up). I can only get him after several beavers have joined. The FAQ tells me to go talk to him at some point with all these beavers in my party, who then cajole him into joining.

Another beaver recruit is the Chiretsu Star, the Inferior Star, though it should mean “Jacuzzi Star”, because he’s always the one who builds your HQ’s bathhouse. The bathhouse in Suikoden serves absolutely no purpose other than to give the game some Japanese flavor and let you think lusty thoughts as you stare at the prince’s bare shoulders. Or those of other characters, depending on your preference. You can also put in stupid knick knacks like rubber ducks, rose petals, or trays of food, and watch hidden dialog exchanges if certain characters are in your party. For example, if I have Lyon and Sialeeds in my party, I’ll get a scene of them talking in the women’s bath..No co-ed baths in the Suiko-verse, except for giant outdoor ones you can get towards the end in II and V. Not that the lack of co-ed facilities is a problem at Sodom ‘n Gomorrah castle! Lyon asks Sialeeds about the sacred purification ritual earlier in the game where the princess and her aunt and bodyguard had to bathe nude. Sialeeds demonstrates said ritual to Lyon offscreen, who starts moaning in her dialog box. We then learn Sialeeds is pouring cold water on Lyon. I imagine the Suikoden writers giggling like Japanese school girls when they write this stuff. If there’s no hidden dialog to watch, your characters just sit there motionless. You don’t even get to watch a splash fight in the girls’ bath.

Ever seen Coming to America?

Another series tradition besides the bathhouse is the attack on your HQ. This time around Lucretia offers you the choice of evacuating, which you had better take if you don’t want to lose a star character to a scripted cutscene. The cunning broad actually does use a flood as part of her ruse this time, when you go back to the ruins and hit the switch on the sluice gate again, flooding the occupied castle and sending the Godwins and their allied foreign army into pell mell chaos before your counterattack. The writers don’t have the heart to drown the enemy army. Don’t ask me why. It’s not like there’s any plankton to clean up when the castle is reoccupied. The burial of all the bloated corpses could also happen offscreen.

The attack on HQ is usually where the villains suffer a major reversal and the end game draws close. Part V will be no different.

Up next: if I…should stay…I would only…be in…your way
Click here for the previous Suikoden V entry.

Sapper Gopher is a private pilot, he operates out of the Gemini Sector. He flies a heavily modified Tauras.