Suikoden V: if I…should stay…I would only…be in…your way

, | Game diaries

The stakes are fairly low in Suikoden V. The whole game is about a botched coup in a single country. Godwin’s forces don’t even look like Death Knights. They look like some third world army with their fruity berets. And like other Suikoden titles and real world wars, it’s clear the Godwins are going to lose near the end. The final battles are more like suicide by protagonist. Though in keeping with JRPG tradition, the final boss always ups the stakes in the last battle by transforming into a monster. Suikoden V is kinda like Hamlet, because you duel the usurper’s son before going on to kill the usurper. If King Claudius turned into a dragon for a final boss fight at the end of Hamlet, they would be even more similar.

After the jump, the prince and Lyon: will they or won’t they?

Suikoden II actually altered the old video game and action movie formula where the bad guy lieutenants are picked off before the final battle. In Suikoden II, the murderous Luca Blight shows every sign of being the bastard whose death the game is building towards, but he’s killed in an ambush around the three quarters mark, and command falls to the protagonist’s former friend Jowy Atriedes (a blatant Dune homage?). Jowy got the job when, in a clever twist, he betrayed the heroes’ faction to get in the good graces of Blight and company. The hero and Jowy started the game in a unit that was a cross between child soldiers and the boy scouts. Then Luca killed all but the two of them in a false flag op, so Jowy is actually planning on betraying Luca, too. He ascends the ranks and helps Luca kill his fadder, da king, by drinking poison and an antidote before a disturbing ritual where the king inducts new knights by drinking their blood (the antidote in Jowy’s blood stream is no help to the king for some reason, though the teenage Jowy does collapse from the poison). Amusingly, the wiki refers to all this as “The Dunan Unification War”, instead of just “the events of Suikoden II”. Ever the ladder climber, like Christian Bale in that movie, The Dark Knight Rises, Jowy goes on to give the heroes intel about Luca’s fateful nighttime raid, then he marries Luca’s sister.

Thanks to a rushed translation or just bad writing it’s not entirely clear why he does this, but the game suggests it’s because he thinks he can only put an end to bloodshed by being in charge himself. However, the sappy music makes it clear the silent hero is supposed to feel ambivalent about fighting a former friend. Whether you kill him or not is one of the few significant choices you get in the series, as the perfunctory final boss battle is actually against the avatar of the Beast Rune (sans any mortal owner), the rune that may have driven Luca crazy. A mano-a-mano duel with Jowy is actually part of an optional denouement.

Tom Chick says this scene was inspired by Triumph of the Will

There’s not much ambivalence in Suikoden V, though it would have been easy to make the Godwins more sympathetic. The prince’s mother was clearly going crazy and was about to magically nuke the country. Offing the erratic ruler and installing yourself would be a rational if self-serving decision. Drama would come from the fact that the prince is still honor-bound to avenge his parents. Marscal Godwin even tells the prince before the last battle that he merely wanted to make the country of Falena strong. Unfortunately, the Godwins live up to their name by pursuing a path of racial purity against non humans, and they throw the beavers and every other race into your camp when they attack beaver village. Presumably the Godwins only have a problem with elves and talking animals, because Suikoden V, like the rest of the series, has towns that look like they’re straight out of Holland alongside traditional Japanese villages, hot springs and all, as well as characters with Asian and European names. The Suikoden countries must have a high immigrant population from Asia.

Why are you looking at the animals like that?

Speaking of the putting the crazy queen out of her misery, it turns out that friend of the family Georg did just that, as he had promised the prince’s father earlier. A flashback shows that the queen went off her meds when she saw assassins enter the throne room, and started vaporizing fools right and left, then killed her husband Ferid after he tries to calm her. She had a brief “what have I done?” moment before Georg impales her, as he had promised Ferid he would when it became clear she had totally lost it.

In the first of several choices you get during the end game, you can choose to forgive Georg after he confesses. Which you should, because you’ll lose a star and one of the best fighters if he leaves. And because the bitch totally deserved it. After that it’s on to the Godwin stronghold of Stormfist, to make sure they’re too weak to hold the capitol. In an inconsequential but neat choice, you can take the gladiator who was drugged before the final match of the big tournament, Belcoot, and have him duel his old opponent Childerich in lieu of the prince. After that it’s on to Sol Falena for the last big army clash, another fairly easy victory. Sialeeds and her newly equipped twilight rune are the only wild card during the end, but in turns out it her true motivation was to incinerate Salum Barrows with her rune and double cross the Godwins, ensuring the royal family would never have to put up with their bullshit again.

Good job Belcoot. You're still not marrying my ten year old sister.

Marscal Godwin has hacked the Sun Rune so he can use it somehow, and Sialeeds dies after she and the prince use their runes to counter its power, both resisting the temptation to say “Royal Family Aunt/Nephew powers activate!”. Gizel Godwin is killed in another duel, and with the capitol retaken everything would be just fine except the elder Godwin has fled with the sun rune into the snowy mountains. Like a fantasy version of the rogue Russian general who initiates a ballistic missile launch countdown after his operation’s been rolled up, Marscal appears to be using the Sun Rune to melt the glaciers so Sol Falena will be deluged.

You head up to stop him in the game’s final dungeon, some snowy ruins where the first queen of Falena mysteriously appeared. Unfortunately, the game forces you to form three separate parties of six members, meaning I have to use other members from a roster I’ve been ignoring as much as possible. I could just grind some other stars (Suikoden is designed so that under-leveled stars will quickly catch up) into shape, but hell with that. I’m close to the end. I scan the roster looking for recently recruited high level fighters with good strength, and I try to use some of the beast characters who don’t need armor or sharper weapons (you only upgrade or “sharpen” your weapons in Suikoden). Lyon and George are required to be in the other two parties, but that’s okay. I’ve been leveling them all along and I need them to anchor the other groups. I also loan out magician Zerase to Lyon’s group, since Jeanne should be enough magic for the prince’s brigade. All goes well except for Georg’s party. The beast party members I enlisted aren’t as good as I hoped, hitting the boss monsters for negligible damage, and I either forgot to give Georg a good magic user, the magic user gets killed and I don’t have any revive items equipped, or I just didn’t equip any good runes. Georg is the last member left standing in his group’s boss battle. He only has a few heal items left, so it’s a close call. But his high damage pulls through in the nick of time.

The final battles are an anti-climax, since I now have my dream team back, consisting of the prince, the barely post-pubescent body guards Lyon and Miakis, the more mature magic users Jeanne and Zerase, and heavy-hitter Georg (when I played Suikoden II, Georg and other endgame recruits joined as level 99 for some reason, making for a very uneventful final boss battle). There’s one final duel with mysterious assassin-in-chief Dolph, and once again the prince can opt out, letting Lyon duel for him in a not so manly show of discretion. But it’s personal for Lyon, because the assassins were molding her into a killer at a young age before the prince’s father rescued her. Dolph is like the T-1000 due to all the evil drugs he’s been using. He gets right back up after being defeated, Lyon takes another blow for the manly prince, then the prince vaporizes Dolph with a convenient surge of power from his rune.

The group then confronts papa Godwin, who claims he had no intention of flooding Falena, he just wanted to bring the prince to him, so he could make sure the boy was of sufficient mettle to protect the country. Godwin turns into a giant glowing butterfly (Falena is Italian for ‘moth’. Get it?) and I curb stomp him even more thoroughly than I did 30-50 hours ago.

This is where you can actually affect the plot. Lyon collapses from poison Dolph wounded her with, and dies unless you collected all 108 stars. There are several endings based on your star total. I have to use Youtube to see the bad endings, such as one where the prince wanders off into the snow, distraught. Since I got all the stars, I get what Wayne’s World would call the mega-happy ending. The dawn and twilight runes glow (Lyon inherited the twilight rune from Sialeeds for some reason), and Lyon opens her eyes. Series Obi Wan Leknaat shows up in spectral form (I don’t think she’s dead though) to tell the prince that the runes have the power to create as well as destroy.

Mama, take this badge off of me... I can't use it.... anymore

Lyon’s death is a downer in the bad endings because she’s one of the prince’s closest companions, though how “close” is vague, despite what the wiki says. She’s been his bodyguard since they were ten, so like Kevin Costner in The Postman, she might have gotten too close to her charge. It’s said at one point that they’re like brother and sister. But there are JRPGs where the hero hooks up in the end with his surrogate sister (see the Lunar: Silver Star series). There is a dialog choice where one option implies the prince might not mind seeing Lyon bathe nude during Lym’s purification rite. Whatever the case, they remain inseparable in both ‘good’ endings.

Miss Sialeeds, are you trying to seduce me?

You get one final choice, as you speak to Georg outside the decommissioned and re-inundated Sodom n Gomorrah Castle, nee Ceras Lake Castle. The prince can either remain in the country and become the new commander of the army beside his sister, the new queen, or he can travel the world by ship with Georg, to return at a later date. They’re both presented as upbeat and the wiki says the former is the canonical ending. How the hell would they know, since there have been no more sequels in the same world? But an ending where the hero has to be a lapdog to his ten year old sister doesn’t feel like a way to do him justice, and sailing the world with a wandering samurai sounds a lot more exciting. His sister will probably end up marrying him off to his cousin in an arranged wedding anyway. The ending where the prince sails away certainly feels more like the proper ending, seeing as it runs longer and has the prince and Lyon waving goodbye to the entire cast as they go their separate ways on different ships. Pre-credit roll splash screens tell you what happened to the various characters (none of the names have been changed, because they’re not real people), before which the prince, Lyon, and Georg sail into the sunset, along with the Suikoden series as a whole, as far as installments on home consoles go.

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.