In most RPGs, NPCs would content themselves letting the heroes run off and fix all their problems for them. Not Suikoden. Here we see Zorak and the rest of Warrior's Village gearing up for an assault on Neclord's Castle, apparently sick to hell of waiting for ○∆□☆ and his cronies to finish up their errands. You go on ahead, Jones, I'll be right behind you after I recruit your mime.

Window might not be much of a warrior, but he's a bloodhound when it comes to Window Runes. Sniffing out the one ○∆□☆ is carrying, he all but begs for it. ○∆□☆ has no use for the thing so he does the nice-guy thing and coughs it up.

088/108: Window
Here's a true story: back in high school I had a personal webpage upon which I ranted at length about video games and cartoons. On the index (well, not the index, but the page-after-the-index because all websites had splash pages in those days because obviously the more clicks you had to endure to get to the content the better that content was guaranteed to be) was a list of links to all the various sections, each with its own icon. Like, the "video games" section was a moogle or whatever. The "about Brickroad" section was Window because I very purposely tried to think of the absolute dorkiest character I'd ever seen in any game ever to kind of represent myself. Anyway, Window's job is to fluck around with what my message and menu windows look like; we'll visit him after the world's down one vampire and see how that works.

After sending Window to Eureka's Castle we hoof it on over to Neclord's Castle. Either the vampire's sheer evilness is tangible enough to warp the area around his castle and discolor the grass, or some sprite artist at Konami got lazy and didn't bother to look up how to utilize transparent pixels.

Zorak gives a rousing speech to the eight men he brought with him.

" No, my proud warriors. God damn it, how many times do I have to tell you. Do not scream "yaaaaay" after I point out how strong and brave and manly you all are. We're about to storm a castle crawling with the undead, not blow out the candles on a fucking birthday cake."

Neclord comes out to make it clear that only ○∆□☆ and his party are invited to the "wedding" ceremony. Shortly after his appearance one of Zorak's men attempts to rush the door, only to be electrocuted for his trouble. Oh, it's definitely a trap, but what can we do?

Hix arrives, desperate to help out. Kid's got spunk, god bless him. Zorak tries to disallow it, pointing out that Hix isn't yet a true warrior, and his sword is as yet nameless. After seeing Hix's determination, however, he changes his mind and "promotes" him right there on the spot.

Now Hix is a real warrior with a real named sword! And like it or not, he's in for the long haul through Neclord's castle.

089/108: Hix
Hix is very middle-of-the-road. He's an S-range attacker, which means he's already at a disadvantage considering the shortage of party slots. This actually is true to the game, though; he's got a lot more courage than practical strength. I guess I can respect that, but the thing I've always hated most about him is that his "thwack!" sound effect comes about a second after his sword-swing animation in combat. That drives me absolutely crazy.

Of course we've gotta kick someone out to make room. Ta-ta, Monocle Man! Actually we're not going into the castle yet anyway; I promised I'd change up the party and, besides, Hix is in need of sharpening and gearing up.

Looks like Zorak's warriors aren't going to be doing us much good after all. Nonetheless, I'm sure they have some unique insight on the situation...?

Wait, what? Yuk yuk yuk?


Yuk yuk?

Ra ta... dude you broke it. This must be the Ross of the Warrior's Village Friends.

Quincy is heading up the votes this time, and as we can see he needs some work. (An impartial third party pulled Valeria out of a four-way-tie in second place.)

A couple fights in Qlon brings him up to speed. He looks... remarkably mediocre. He's got one L2 rune charge, and I'm planning to load him up with Mega Medicine and make him my healer in the upcoming Neclord fight, which is why I've given him a Flowing Rune.

Double-beat is Viktor's bread and butter, but we have to give it to Hix for now. The exact why of it will be clear a bit later. Meanwhile, Viktor gets our Holy Rune and Cleo (who has a L4 charge to burn up) will rock the Lightning Rune.

One benefit to Hix is that he is one of the Suikoden shield-using elite. Even though he's kind of a little punk, he's totally survivable on the front line thanks to this fact.

Time to hit the dungeon! You'd better believe I'll be rocking the Soul Eater in here; between ○∆□☆'s L1 and L3 charges, he's got a lot of shots of insta-kill magic to burn through before I'll have to buckle down and actually fight anything in the dungeon.

I had to pay 100 bits for this helpful tip, which turns out to be the solution to a puzzle later on. Zombie-man here actually sells a variety of tips scaling up in price to a whopping 25,000 bits if I so choose, but I can't imagine why anyone would want to waste their money on them. So I didn't.

Here's Hell again. In ten seconds all five of those monsters will be gone.

Each floor of Neclord's castle contains several of these one-screen rooms haphazardly strewn about, each with one treasure box inside. Judging from what looks to be feather mattresses on the ground here, this must be Neclord's love nest. This makes him the second villain we've come across to have one. What this says about villains in the Suikoverse... uh, I'll leave that as an excersize for the reader.

More collectible junk here in Neclord's "Two Statues Just Standin' There" room.

Eventually ○∆□☆ runs out of Deadly Fingertips and Hell and I've got to start Free Willing my way through these fights. I grabbed this shot to show you guys how Quincy was stacking up. 182 damage isn't bad for a regular attack (it's about what Cleo's doing now), but Viktor, Valera and ○∆□☆ are hitting for well beyond that, upwards of 600+ on their criticals. Hix is hovering somewhere in the 240 range, but of course he's hitting two enemies per round.

Here's the puzzle I mentioned earlier, and it's clear someone threw this together in about four minutes. When you approach a painting the game identifies its title and asks if you want to view it (I guess ○∆□☆ approaches paintings with his eyes closed). Viewing the right painting gives you a "click" message, and viewing all four paintings in the right order opens the way forward. Obviously the solution was already revealed to us by Zombie Hint Man back at the beginning of the dungeon. "Even in the forest" refers to this painting of a tree.

"Not just at night" = early afternoon.

"During your work" = downtrodden peasant class.

"Praise the King" = picture of Neclord.

...and there we go!

Okay, this puzzle had us stumped for a long time on our first pass through the game. Oh, we bought the clue - all four of them as I recall. We even left the dungeon and talked to Onil who had something to say about it. The reason we were stumped was because the mechanics of the puzzle didn't immediately click. If you "look" at a painting out of order you lose the ability to "look" at that painting until you leave the map and come back. Of course the first thing we did upon entering this room was examine and "look at" all four paintings, leaving us stuck. Then we immediately thought about the clue from earlier and tried the tree/afternoon/girl/king sequence which was now not working. I actually brute forced all twenty-four combinations in one visit, and was convinced the game was broken because I had systematically eliminated every possibility. It was my brother who, after playing with it for a while, discovered that the puzzle didn't reset until you left and came back and, once we got that out of the way, it was trivial to input the proper sequence and move onward.

Hmm... now that I think about it, my childhood is filled with examples of me being stuck and/or frustrated by some stupid fucking goddamn impossible game for way, way too long, and having it solved for my by my brother who was able to look at things with a cooler head. Maybe more of those stories will come up in future LPs.

Eventually everyone is high enough level that most of the fights can be Let Go. This is a no-brainer; I've got infinite bits waiting for me back at Eureka's Castle and EXP is trivially easy to farm, so I might as well save myself the time. Interestingly the only battle in here I can't Let Go from is a single Hell Unicorn (the fiery blue horse thing); I've got to fight it if it pops up alone, but if it shows up with friends I'm free to Let Go my little heart out. This leads me to believe that there isn't an algorithm that checks the enemy's strength to yours, but that each individual enemy group is hard-coded to Let Go at a specific threshhold and some Konami programmer just wasn't paying attention. Another possibility, of course, is that enemies have levels like the heroes, and the game matches your average level against theirs. Hell Unicorn by itself is, say, L50; when it shows up with friends its L50 is dragged down by their L43s (or whatever).

Nerd-speculation aside, all this really means is that I'll be Let Go-ing every possible battle from here to the end of the game.

Like all vampires, Neclord keeps his Earth Boots in the kitchen. A glass of wine, a stalk of brocolli and a single chicken wing sit on the table uneaten. Tempting, but if I remember Grandma's stories correctly, never touch a vampire's cuisine.

Another collectible here in the "Chair and Two Pots" room.

On towards the end of the dungeon we finally find some vampire-ish scenery: a bunch of open coffins. I think they missed the boat here; they should have populated these coffins with some of Neclord's previous victims to really drive home the point of poor Tengaar's fate should we decide to not hurry up and kill him.

Arriving in Neclord's room we find Tengaar already decked out in a wedding dress. He plays us a long, lilting wedding song on his giant pipe organ as the camera pans dramatically around the room, and then...

Yeah, well, don't sound too excited about it or anything.

After Neclord taunts us for a bit, Viktor and Hix run forward and bare steel at him. Also revealed is the name of Hix's sword... a revelation that would be a little more dramatic had I not already been to the blacksmith and seen it on the menu screen. Point being, it's a Warrior's Village tradition to name your sword after your sweetheart. (Remember Flik, who is also from Warrior's Village, calls his sword "Odessa".)

Thus is Neclord's ulterior motive revealed: after all this time he's still getting his marching orders from Windy.

Neclord is still impervious to everything we can throw at him until Viktor gives him a good solid whack with the Star Dragon Sword. Naturally Viktor almost always acts last in the round, meaning the Neclord fight starts with everyone Defending so as not to waste rune charges. Neclord's two main attacks deal lots of damage to the whole party, so the plan is to have Quincy use his Flowing Rune (of which he has only one useful charge) and Mega Medicine to keep my top fighters alive.

Crap Two rounds in and my healer is dead. He was holding the bulk of my Mega Medicine, but everyone else has at least one pack. Cleo blew her one really good rune charge on that high-end Lightning spell; from here on my heavy hitters are going to be Valeria (with her awesome Falcon Rune) and Viktor (since he crits so often).

It's hard fought, and Viktor eats dirt before it's over, but eventually Neclord goes down. The Neclord fight sees a humungous increase in difficulty over the previous boss fight which was all the way back in the Great Forest. From here out bosses (and there are a far number of them still to come) have a huge amount of HPs and focus on powerful area attacks. Healing and ressurection are not as practical in Suikoden as in other RPGs since rune charges are scarce and revival only comes in terms of Buddhas or Fukien's rune, so the best strategy becomes piling on as much damage as you can in the shortest possible amount of time.

Neclord delivers his "I can't believe you killed me!" line, like a good card-carrying villain. As it happens the Star Dragon Sword is a True Rune itself. Though it pops up in virtually every game, we actually don't know much about what the Night Rune is outside of "it kills vampires" and "it has quite a lip on it".

Once everyone is sufficiently sick of Neclord's yapping, Viktor steps forward and chops him in half. This is pretty intensely satisfying.

More wooden cue-card delivery from Tengaar. Yay. Thank you so much for saving my life. I couldn't be happier. Please pass the cole slaw.

I didn't include the long-ass exchange between Hix and Tengaar, but here's a summary: Tengaar thanks Hix for saving her, he sheepishly points out that it was Viktor who did all the saving, she won't have any of it and demands that he's her hero anyway. Then they go back and forth for a bit about how Hix is using her name for his sword without permission. Tengaar very much wears the pants in this relationship; she tends to bully Hix and drag him around (she does this literally in Suiko2), so Cleo of course has to get one last good snark in on the subject. She keeps the obvious follow-up observation of "I'm glad my girlfriend isn't that pushy!" to herself, the subtext being "wait am I a lesbian? I'm a lesbian, right?"

Be happy to, Viktor, just one last thing to do here...

Hell yeah! Rage is Fire++, so I'll be able to give this to one of my top-tier rune mages to absolutely wreck all kinds of monsters. Now we can leave!

...and by "leave" I mean "walk all the way the hell back out" because Escape Talismans don't work in here for some stupid reason. No, seriously, there's no story sequences or anything on the way back. The only possible reason for not being able to warp out is because Konami wanted to dick me. So yeah, long walk back out to the front of the castle.

Zorak is so impressed we were able to rescue Tengaar that he throws in with the Liberation Army against the Imperials. This is kind of a Big Deal™ because historically Warrior's Village is not technically part of the Scarlet Moon Empire, but an autonomous state within its borders. I'm not sure if its neutrality is ever mentioned in the game (some nondescript NPC might say something about it), so maybe it's not 100% canon.

Viktor, however, decides to take his leave of us for at least as long as it will take to return home and tell everyone that he finally managed to bag him a Neclord. He announces this suddenly and doesn't give you any time to de-equip his stuff, which is why I didn't give him his Double-beat Rune just yet. I'd like to make use of it over the course of the next two Viktor-free scenarios. (Similarly, make sure Viktor isn't carrying your Blinking Mirror or anything else you want to use. You know, in the off chance you didn't learn that lesson the hard way with the Gremio fiasco.)

Killing zombies and vampires has left Cleo's apparent lust for death and dismemberment sated, as made apparent by this being the first nice thing she says to anyone the entire adventure. And she says it to Viktor. Awesome! That means we can put her on the bench and forget she exists again.

Which is exactly what I like to do at this point, because we get to recruit someone so, so much better!

090/108: Tengaar
Here she is, guys, my wonderful war goddess. The best description I can give of her is "long-range Flik" which is more or less right on the money. We didn't discover Tengaar until our third or fourth playthrough when we decided to develop some of the "joke" characters. We figured that since Hix was pretty blah, his girlfriend must really suck; so we sharpened her weapon on up to L16, leveled her up in the final dungeon and - lo and behold - she blew us away.

Don't let her middling ATK stat fool you; what you want to look at here are MGC and rune charges. Right here, right out of the box, she gets two L4 charges. Two! Do you have any idea what someone can do with two shots of L4 Rage magic? Her MGC, meanwhile, is higher than every other character in the game barring some of the pure dedicated-mage types (and she even beats some of them!).

She's awesome enough in Suiko1, but Suiko2 is where she really attains her war goddess status since she can equip more than one rune at a time, potentially tripling her versatility. Anyway, this is about the point int he game where I like to stop building parties based solely on ATK and start really jamming as many high-end runes as I can into my ranks. Flik and Tengaar have been teaming up for every party I've had the opportunity to build in Suiko1 and Suiko2 for years and years.

Hey pistachio gallery!
We're three scenarios away from the endgame blitz, and closing in on having every Star of Destiny recruited and accounted for. So I need more votes! Please everyone vote for Tengaar lots and lots of times. I've only got two empty slots in the next scenario (Flik and Humphrey are coming along, and we'll be joined by another characters in the course of the plot), so make 'em count.

You might want to hold off on voting, actually, since topping 90 Stars brings Eureka's Castle into its final phase of construction! Now several characters become available to me, and they're all pretty interesting to check out. So next time on Let's Play Suikoden: the final Liberation Army recruitment drive!

(Master list has been updated, as usual.)

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