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Psychotic Reviews: Suikoden Tierkreis

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Suikoden Tierkreis was the second game to be made by Konami for a non-Sony system, but it was the first of those games to be released outside of Japan. Suikoden Card Stories is basically a retelling of Suikoden II as a trading card game and was released on the Game Boy Advance exclusively in Japan. I have no idea what I’m doing in that game, but I do know what’s going on in Tierkreis for the Nintendo DS mostly because of the English language. Tierkreis was the first Suikoden game since the release of Suikoden V on the PS2, and was anxiously awaited by fans of the series since there was about a three year gap between releases.

Tierkreis is a complete and total spinoff of the series. It has absolutely nothing to do with the main numbered series. As a result of this it introduces its own world with its own set of rules, all new characters, and new political entities. There are some familiar elements from previous games, such as the headquarters and 108 Stars of Destiny to recruit. This game calls them Starbearers though.

Some of the most loved design choices from the main series are gone for this game. There are no tactical battles, there are no one-on-one duels. Well, technically there are some one-on-one fights, but these take place in the normal party based battle system. The familiar cinematic system of dialogue and counters is nowhere to be seen. The weapon sharpening system has been axed in favor of equippable weapons. What was a nice way for characters to have more defined personalities was replaced by the ultimate ‘throwaway character’ system.

Many of the plot elements are unfolded through the job board. A number of these end up with the recruitment of more Stars, but some are just there for money making purposes. Thankfully, not all recruitments involve this board, so you still have to explore towns and other areas to find out where people are hiding out. You make most of your money in this game by actually moving the plot forward, as you can turn in these missions at the job board to earn a big paycheck.

This game still focuses on political machinations and the various ambitions of the independent rulers of their respective areas. Unlike the main games there are many different nations, kingdoms, tribal areas, and cities all within the game world. There is a religious, militant, zealous imperial styled country, a magical kingdom, a city of porpoise people, a tribe of felines, a kingdom of swordsmen, as well as smaller villages.

Tierkreis’ world is described as being much larger than just the explorable area, as there are many worlds connected by gateways. There is another tribe that specializes in using these gateways to travel between worlds and use items they find to trade in other worlds. This also lets characters from other worlds visit your own, but sadly the reverse is not true. It would be awesome to have small areas to explore in other worlds while keeping the plot focused on the main world.

This is not completely unique to this game though. The idea of other parallel worlds existing has been blatantly mentioned in previous games, including the first two, Suikogaiden II, Suikoden IV and Tactics. Some stars of those games are theorized to be from other worlds, but this idea was never the focus of any of the stories from those games, just one piece of a massive puzzle. Tierkreis is completely focused on not only the fact that these parallel worlds exist, but how they are related to each other.

The lack of tactical battles really hurts the feeling of grandeur that previous games give. Going into a different screen where there are units to maneuver, tactics, and strategy to earn a victory is just much more satisfying. In Tierkreis you usually make one to three parties and each one gets a couple normal battles, maybe a boss battle, and then you’re on your way.

The music is a big step down from the main series. Short loops make their return from the first Suikoden, but each area gets its own unique tracks. The visuals are quite nice for a handheld of the time, and most characters have multiple pieces of art to represent different emotions and facial expressions. The game even has voice acting! I do not care much for the voice acting on the main characters. It sounds like somebody gave the VA for the main character an extra $20 to say all of his lines as fast as possible, so he is hard to understand since words fly out of his mouth. He also has a lame catchphrase: “We don’t know what’s going to happen until we try!” That might make some more sense after you play the game though. The others range from good to mediocre, but with the game’s budget this is probably better than one might expect.

Overall Tierkreis is a fine game for what is offered here. It works well, the story is a bit simpler than the main series entries, but it is worth a look even if you’re not a fan and are looking for a fun RPG to play on the go. If you’ve played the main games before this may feel underwhelming with all the changes and omissions, but the game is fine for what it tries to do and give the player. The story works well, but the localization is quite messy at times with punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes fairly consistent throughout the game.

Top 10 RPG Villains #5-1

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5. Id (Xenogears)

Those that are familiar with Freudian psychology already know what Id is, even if they’ve never played Xenogears. Well, he’s a bit different than the textbook Freudian definition, replacing the libido with say, instinctual bloodlust would make the Id of Xenogears more accurate.

The ladies can’t resist him either.

He pops up seemingly out of nowhere, for no reason. Its unclear when Id first starts showing up which side he is on, but the characters quickly learn that he’s more just out for a nice stroll with a side of wanton destruction. I do not want to spoil the truth behind Id though, but knowing Freudian psychology, or playing Xenogears can let you figure that one out. This ‘twist’ is one of the reasons why Id scores so highly on my list.

“”That was interesting. But dropping a warship on me is cheating. Take it back!” – Id

4. The Godwins (Suikoden V)

Motive. I cannot stress how important it is for a villain to have a good, believable motive. There needs to be purpose behind actions, words are empty, especially in the highly politicized Game of Thrones which happens in every installment of Suikoden.

Unlike most villains the Godwins have a very clear motive for the coup d’état of the Queendom of Falena, personal power, wealth, glory, and the ability to declare war on their neighbors whenever they desire. That said, Marscal and Gizel Godwin are much deeper than their motives. Marscal is the grizzled veteran, no stranger to the game of nobles, I would compare him to Tywin Lannister as he’s not afraid to deeply scold his son in private.

Dress for the job you want they told Lord Marscal.

Gizel however, just seems to shrug everything off of himself. In public he oozes charm and watches his tongue and body language carefully. In private Gizel schemes and hatches various little plots, usually just putting them in motion and watching as the story unfolds before him.

Gizel is just so sneaky and snakelike, an absolute joy to watch scheme. The Godwins, Gizel in particular, are just so interesting. You always want to know what they’re up to and the game indulges your curiosity. This family is the pinnacle of the idea of loving to hate something. I hate them because of their actions, they killed the Prince’s family and took his little sister and her throne and now want you dead. They’re so well written, casual, and laid back that watching them brings a big smile to my face.

But enough talk, have at you!

“When you get involved in intrigue, do it decisively.” – Marscal Godwin

“What if my master plan was murdering you… in front of your beloved brother?” – Gizel Godwin

3. The Transcendant One (Planescape: Torment)

The greatest enemy one can conquer is oneself. The Nameless One is the main character of this cult classic, but that immortal bag of bones is only half the equation. The real power lies with The Transcendant One, the mortality of The Nameless One personified and he fortifies himself in The Fortress of Regrets.  This is one antagonist that makes their appearance known quickly and is just completely imposing.

Imposing might be putting it lightly…

The Transcendant One does not have much screentime. The Nameless One does not even know he exists until you are inside the Fortress, but his sheer force of will is maddening. What makes this villain score so highly for me is the fact that you can just talk him into committing suicide by recombining with The Nameless One and fighting in the eternal battle of the lower planes, finally blessed with the death that breaks The Nameless One’s prison of eternal life.

2. President Dick Richardson (Fallout 2)

Eugenics. How often does this subject come up in gaming? If you ask me, on the whole, whether I prefer Eastern, or Western villains, I’ll usually say Western. Most of the Western ones I’ve experienced have been great villains that were well written, had a clear motive, and were devious enough to really rustle your jimmies.

Its time for my Nintendo Power nap!

President Richardson is one of the few examples of a reluctant villain. He just happens to be the President of the Enclave while all these plans for purification and recolonization of mainland North America are coming to fruition. Their main weapon for ‘purification’ is a modified strain of FEV, Forced Evolution Virus (why Super Mutants exist), which will supposedly eliminate all life on the mainland.

In the end, President Richardson is just another frail politician hiding behind a wall of muscle. Literally.

His name is Frank.

“The only way for true humans, and democracy, to be safe is to cleanse the mutants from the globe. We humans will take back that which is rightfully ours.” – President Richardson

1. Luca Blight (Suikoden II, Genso Suikogaiden Volume 1)

The White Wolf of Highland. Luca Blight!

There have been deep, excellent villains on this list but none of them match the sheer raw ferocity of Luca Blight. Most antagonists usually have some sort of political power and use it to hide in their castle while they bark orders. Well, Luca Blight is a prince, he is known as the Mad Prince and is not afraid to be on the front lines, leading his soldiers during their killing. You see this happen right from the start.

The moment that really solidifies Luca Blight as a more sinister villain than the others on this list is that he is the only one that actually raises his sword and slashes it downwards towards a defenseless little girl. A small child! Pilika is like 5 years old! Even then, it takes four people to save little Pilika from her early death. Even before all this there’s the systematic slaughter of the Unicorn Brigade, which is where Highland’s young, up and coming recruits train during their teenage years until they’re ready to wield a sword, all just so he will have the support of the Highland population to go to war.

Viktor you magnificent bastard, never stop drinking!

Every time Luca is on screen the entire tone of the game shifts, even though he only speaks in text boxes the man is so charismatic that he commands the attention of the room he’s in, even if he’s not talking! The fear that others feel when they are around him is quite evident as even his own generals start plotting a way to kill him.

Also, since when does an incredibly powerful madman become challenged by a small handful of teenagers? No, Luca’s better than that and you better have three full parties of six decked out characters when it comes down to the final rumble. He even takes a dozen or so arrows to the chest by the time the final duel happens between the deadly White Wolf Luca Blight and Little Riou.

Great villains are always shown being rather villainous.

Remember when I said that Kefka is the best uber super destruction wanton killinator? Yeah, totally taking it back now. Well, Luca Blight has some reasons for his mental state, but that would ruin the experience of playing this masterpiece would it not?

“It took hundreds to kill me but I killed humans by the thousands. I am sublime!!! I am the true face of evil!!!!” – Luca Blight’s dying words

Composer Compendium: Miki Higashino

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Compendium Entry: Miki Higashino

When you ask an old school or enthusiast gamer what some excellent companies were in the 8 bit era for music and sound effects they will toss out a few names, Nintendo, Capcom, Tecmo, Square, Rare, Sega but I’m going to look at a composer from my personal favorite 8 bit soundtrack powerhouse, Konami.

Miki Higashino is another female composer with her background in piano compositions as was Yoko Shimomura. In her early video game career she got the chance to collaborate with the Konami Kukeiha Club, which is the awesome name of Konami’s sound team. Basically she started straight at the top for classic arcade games.

The first game that Miki Higashino worked on is a wonderful and classic horizontal shooter known as Gradius from 1985.

The same year saw the release of Yie Ar Kung-Fu to the arcades and more Miki music. Higashino got the chance to continue her influence on the Gradius series a year later with the release of Salamander in the arcade.

She also got the chance to make her first non-arcade soundtrack, doing the music for Knightmare for the MSX home computer. She used this experience in the next year helping with the port of Salamander to the MSX.

Higashino and the Konami Kukeiha club just could not be stopped, but they did take two years separated after the MSX port of Salamander before they all met back up and decided to make some music for the original arcade release of Gradius III.

Miki Higashino and Mutsuhiko Izumi worked on both Gradius III (as well as others) and the arcade release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the year of 1989. The arcade release of TMNT remember, not the original NES game.

Izumi went on to do the soundtrack for Konami’s arcade TMNT follow up, the amazing Turtles in Time, by himself.

Miki started the 1990s by being on the music team for the interesting arcade game Surprise Attack. In 1992 she came back to work on the team for Contra III: Alien Wars. This was her first foray outside of the arcade since the MSX ports.

1993 saw another busy year for Miki. She did the limited soundtrack for the arcade game Premier Soccer, lead the composing team for manga licensed RPG Moryo Senki MADARA 2 for the Super Famicom (same team as Contra III). Finally, she also lead the team for the Mega Drive/Genesis port of TMNT: Tournament Fighters.

The following year sees her branching out even more as she composes the music for another sports game, Double Dribble: The Playoff Edition for the MD/Genesis by herself and works on the team that creates the soundtrack for the PC Engine dating sim Tokimeki Memorial.

The very middle of the 1990s, 1995 that is, was filled with only one soundtrack with work by Miki. Konami wanted a team to make a soundtrack for their take on the classic console based RPG. So Miki, along with a team of others composed the music for Suikoden.

She also took on the mighty role of the soundtrack for Suikoden’s sequel largely on her own, only 8 of the 105 songs on Suikoden II’s massive sequel were not completely made by her alone or at all.

Between the Suikodens she was a member of the teams behind the music for Vandal Hearts and her first work outside Konami, Moon: Remix RPG Adventure.

The 21st century began with Miki and Keiko Fukami continuing their work after Suikoden II and releasing the soundtracks for the visual novels Genso Suikogaiden Vol. 1 and 2 in and 2000 and 2001 respectively.

She left Konami and the industry completely for maternity leave after being a major force in the first four released games in Konami’s Suikoden world, building the musical love from Gradius, having a major hand in the TMNT arcade experiences, among many other influences. Many of Konami’s biggest arcade successes and cult console classics have seen Miki Higashino working some musical magic up behind the scenes along with a team just as dedicated as her.

Since returning from her maternity leave Miki has only been able to collaborate with Yasunori Mitsuda on the soundtrack for 10,000 Bullets, and on Pop’n Music: Adventure in 2007.

Psycho’s Gaming History: Top 10 Important Games from my Childhood 5-1

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Welcome to part 2 of my countdown of the most important games that shaped young Psycho!

5 Spyro The Dragon

A dragon voiced by the Taco Bell dog.

A purple dragon with a mean charge, fiery breath, and could glide through the air. This was my first 3D platformer, and my oldest sister and I would play it whenever she was over on weekends. It was because of our team effort with this game, and its two sequels, that helped us beat everything 100% or more. This game blew my mind when I first played it and the original trilogy is still enjoyed every summer for a quick playthrough on those scorching hot days.

4 Super Mario All-Stars

Ah, another good wholesome SNES classic. Sadly during my childhood my experience with SNES games didn’t reach much further than the Mario series. I wouldn’t really begin learning of non-Mario adventures on the Super until the years of the supreme Playstation overlord phase of my childhood. I also would not get the chance to explore many of them until my high school years and current collecting days. But, all that said, when compiling a list of very important SNES games I decided that I would not want to read one, think about my own life, and not have All-Stars be of the utmost significance. Everything, Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, AND 3? And go ahead and toss in the real Japanese SMB2 for good measure? And to think if I would have recieved my SNES much later then Super Mario All-Stars+World could have been the pack-in. Oh gracious me.

3 Gothic II

I bought this game randomly a few months before I bought the video card upgrade to my old PC. This RPG introduced me to the idea of open worlds in a deeper way than GTA2 and GTA3 did. Gothic II also got me interested in the larger world of PC RPGs in general, leading directly to Morrowind and KOTOR leading forward, and back in time to Fallout and even further backwards. Unfortunately, like Final Fantasy I can’t stand the newer releases of this series, but in my mind the first two games are prime examples of how to do open world exploration right and despite being 10 years old, still has more NPC behaviors than Skyrim.

2 Suikoden III

All 3 colored characters are the main protagonists, letting the player see the events of 2/3s of the game from multiple angles.

This game is one of the most important discoveries of my life, and it barely squeaks onto this list. I discovered my favorite console RPG series on a random rental, much like the same day that I randomly rented FF8 and for some reason discovered a lifelong love of the RPG genre period. I rented this game when I was 12, just a few months before becoming a teenager and marking my endpoint of thought for this list. The anime styled intro cinematic had my jaw on the floor and the Trinity Sight System had me hooked as soon as I understood it. Since then I’ve discovered an obsession, and have strong feelings as a fan of this series. This will not be the last time I mention this game or series.

1 Super Mario World & Super Mario Kart

What else should really go here? These two games were the first games that were mine. For a few months they were the only games outside of rentals that I could play. As the first two games for the first system that is mine (and I still own and use nearly daily) this one holds a lot of nostalgic value and just keeps trucking. That SNES has been through many years, and I only hope that it lives alongside me for many more. This well built, rugged Super Nintendo has outlived my first dog, these two carts always nearby for a quick play. Some random days I’ll just pop in Super Mario World and do a quick Star Road speedrun to kill some time. For a bit more of a touching story Super Mario Kart is still the only game I’ve really gotten my dad to play with me, it was never for very long, a race or two on that Christmas day and a couple other times. But, those memories and that bonding will stick with me forever, giving me a good idea of how to be a father to my own children when that chapter of my life unfolds.

PSP Farewell Part 1 of 2

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With the recent release of Sony’s new Vita there are many out there who are ditching their PSP and the many games and UMDs available for the once lukewarm selling system. So while many are saying farewell to their PSP and personal library I am saying ‘Hello!’ to the world of Sony handhelds. Why is that? I only recently picked up a PSP and a handful of cheap games the same night, only about a month ago. So here are some reasons why another collector should be saying ‘Hello’ to this system as well!

First point: Timing

There is no better time to set your sights on a new system than shortly after it is deemed obsolete and the general public has a shiny new toy that is trending to talk about. Because everybody is offloading their PSP and games in lieu of the Vita’s ability to download some games then it means the market is being flooded with fresh, new titles that will hopefully soon make it to everybody’s favorite haunts. This means prices are dropping for all but the most coveted and sought after titles. From here on out, we will be talking about some of the big marks for a collector of physical media and why the PSP should not be ignored.

Second Point: Imports

The PSP is region free, just like its brothers the PS3 and Vita, so there are many reasons an importer will find this system friendly. I am just entering the realm of importing, and I am also a fan of the Suikoden series, so the system already offers me at least one personal title to pursue as I fill in the rest of the small holes in my own personal collection of that series.

Genso Suikoden I & II

Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki

There are a few other reasons for the import friendly RPG fan to be excited about the PSP library. For example a remake of Breath of Fire III was released in Japan and the EU, so it is perfectly friendly for any BoF fan that only speaks English to go after the EU version of the game. Other options include Sega’s Shining Hearts, Valkyria Chronicles III, Falcom’s Zwei!, Namco’s Tales of Eternia and the quirky Nendoroid Generation. If you know what a Nendoroid is then you should have an idea of what to expect. There are also quite a few options for the fan of the good old Shoot ’em Up, with Taito’s Dariusburst topping my list of desires. A remake of R-Type is available from Japan and Europe’s PSN to add to the list,

A vast majority of import options are based on the most popular anime in the Land of the Rising Sun, and as such can be just what you expect, or maybe even worse than that.

Valkyria Chronicles 3

 

Third Point: Remakes/Re-releases

Right here is where the PSP library will shine for any fan of Japanese developed, console RPGs, and where I will have a hard time even starting the list!

Atlus starts with an A so I might as well mention that Personas 1-2 were completely remade, graphics and sound were upgraded to make use of the PSP’s superior capabilities. Persona 2: Innocent Sin was also released for the very first time in English on this system! I’m proud to say the collector’s edition of that game was one of the first ones I grabbed. Eternal Punishment is currently in the works from Atlus, no word yet on if it will come across the Pacific. Both 1 and Innocent Sin had soundtrack’s released in a collector’s edition for North America. Persona 3 was also ported, however it is more recent and the upgrades were given to the combat system to make it function like Persona 4’s, but story was cut out that was in the PS2’s FES edition. Where’s Persona 4 you ask? Well its being re-released on the Vita, so this trend looks like it will continue, at least from Atlus. Outside of Persona the great Atlus also re-released the cult-favorite Game Boy Advance title Riviera: The Promised Land.

Capcom has the aforementioned Breath of Fire III re-release to check out if you wish to import a copy from Europe.

Falcom remade and re-released Ys 1 and 2 in a collection called Ys I and II Chronicles. I can say with experience that these are some fun games to play if you just want to run around and grind mindlessly. Button free combat, Peter Molyneux must be completely jealous that Falcom did that in 1987! The collector’s edition came with a soundtrack and this is one series that certainly deserves it! More Falcom re-releases include entries in The Legend of Heroes series. I personally have not grabbed any of these yet, but Trails in the Sky has been tempting me.

Game Arts also threw their hat into the RPG remake ring by releasing Lunar: Silver Star Harmony. If you have been wanting to experience the first Lunar but do not want to shell out a pretty penny for either the Sega CD or PS1 release then I would go for this one!

And last but not least (maybe for their newer games) for the RPG side Square Enix. As you can expect I am going to be mentioning a series that has Final and/or Fantasy in its title. Sure enough Square re-released Final Fantasy 1, 2, and 4! Their release of 4 for PSP also includes the various spin offs that have been increasing in number for the past few years.

Before I lose all of your attention I will mention some re-released arcade games that came to the system. SNK’s Metal Slug Anthology piles 7 classic run and gun games onto a single UMD. And Konami’s Gradius Collection crams 5 classic shmups onto one UMD as well. Natsume brought Harvest Moon to the system with a re-release of the PS1 classic Back to Nature. On this system it is known as Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl.

Next Week I will return with a focus on titles built specifically for the PSP. No remakes, imports, or remade imports in Part 2!

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