Is ○∆□☆ a bad enough dude to rescue Viktor and Warren!?
When we left off, ○∆□☆ still hadn't had the chance to rest after his grueling excursion into the Dragon Knight's Domain. With that finally behind him, he heads back up to his room for some much-deserved R&R...

Mathiu, however, has other plans! Can't this "important matter" wait until the morning?

The obvious question here, of course, is why trust Krin with anything. Why not send Kasumi and Kage? At least Kage is loyal so long as we're paying him, and doesn't screw anything up. Hmm... would he still count as a Star of Destiny if we gave him to our fishermen to slice up and use as chum?

Anyway, this is what they turned up: the Imperials have skinny on us they ought not have. In other words, there be a spy in our midst. Mathiu's got an idea up his sleeve to root out the spy (or at least turn the information the Imperials got from him against them), but he refuses to explain it. You know, just in case ○∆□☆ is the spy, I guess.

Hey peanut gallery!
If you've played Suikoden before and know who the spy is, don't blurt it out and ruin it for the people who are in this for the first time. And if you're in it for the first time and think you've figured it out, congratulations, you're very smart, but keep it to yourself for the time being. Thanks, -mgmt

No sooner do we arrive out on the field to begin training(?) our army(?) in military maneuvers(?) does Mathiu order we rush north and attack the sparsely-protected Northern Checkpoint. This is a pretty clever bit of work; plan a full-scale assault against the Empire without anyone in the Liberation finding out about it by dressing it up as Basic Training. Oh Mathiu, you rascal!

Since the Imperial spy reported that we'd be doing training today, and naught else, the Checkpoint is down to a skeleton crew led by some nobody with a hook nose.

The Battle at the Northern Checkpoint! Actually, it's not a battle so much as a massacre...

I like this exchange a lot because, again, it illustrates the fact that the Imperials we're fighting against aren't the cut-and-dry Evil Army they would be in any other RPG where you fight against some nebulous Evil Army. Griffith (that's hook-nose, there) sees the writing on the wall and, in a desperate effort to not die in a horrible blood bath, sends runners off to tattle to Kasim Hazil while he stalls for time. Mathiu sees through the ploy and gives the orders to go ahead and steamroll them. Step back out of this LP for a moment and look at the exchange out of context. Who would you label as the "good guy" and "bad guy" here?

There's no strategy to this fight. It's just a redux of the battle with Teo, except with the tables flipped.

This is the last time Lepant will lead the charge. In our next battle we'll have an even more powerful unit to lean on.

One rush is all it takes; Griffith's men simply do not stand a chance. It's like that movie 300, but instead of a bunch of naked Greek dudes it's these little pixel dudes, and instead of Leonidas it's Griffith, and instead of killing waves and waves of my men they killed just a few.

...and instead of becoming a legend and inspiring the rest of his people to action, he immediately defects to the winning side in order to fill his own belly.

102/108: Griffith
Griffith joins the Liberation Army on the condition that Mathiu spares his men, a condition Mathiu enthusastically agrees to. He's a combat-ready character, but one I've never used... I dunno, at this point in the game I'm pretty much set in my ways, which means Flik/Tengaar/Clive/Rubi at every available opportunity. I assume Mace can sharpen his nose up to L16 so it can deal a reasonable amount of damage, though.

Back at Eureka's Castle Mathiu lays out the plan. We can't take Kasim on in an even match, so we're going to send out a couple of decoys. He'll be forced to respond, which should give us enough time to slip into Moravia Castle and slip back out with Viktor and Warren in tow. I suppose I should point out that Duha and Rakan don't actually exist on the map, but presumably they are Imperial strongholds in the northern region. Actually this whole scenario has a kind of "oh crap six days to the deadline" feel to it, despite it showcasing Mathiu's giant strategically-oriented brain better than most. Speaking of which...

The master plan is for Griffith to show up on Moravia's doorstep with Mathiu in tow, pretending Mathiu is his prisoner. Mathiu points out that, should Griffith betray us and turn him over to Kasim for real that all of his men will be SWORDED or worse. Anyway, while they're busy pulling the wool so far over Kasim Hazil's eyes that it brushes down past his knees, ○∆□☆ will take Kasumi, Krin and three others to the top floor of the castle where Viktor and Warren are locked up. This has to be done quickly and quietly, since Humphrey and Lepant's diversions are exactly that. The forces they have can't face off against the Imperials in a real battle, so they've been ordered to retreat once said reinforcements arrive. Once that falls through Kasim's men will have returned to Moravia and we'll be stuck. Of course, Mathiu has an ace in the hole for just that situation, but I'll let you guys stew on it for a while.

Here's the team! Oh god why Krin why.

Obviously this team needs a lot of work before it'll be viable in an endgame dungeon. Which means lots of shopping and at least one trip to Gaspar. Let's see here...

Crowley comes pre-equipped with a Cyclone Rune, which is fine for our purposes, so we'll give our Rage Rune a good home on Tengaar. In a typical game this is where my Rage Rune spends its entire stay in the Liberation Army, and for good reason: there aren't many people who get four shots of L4 magic, and Rage's L4 spell is one of the most powerful ones in the game.

Pesmerga's got nothing going for him but regular attacks, so he can take our Double-beat Rune. I'd actually prefer Kasumi to have this, but he's got a hot-glued ho-hum attack rune called Shrike, so no dice there. In that event Kasumi would get Double-beat and Pesmerga would get Killer. Well, this ain't a perfect world, so I have no choice but to just stuff it and get on with my life.

Krin, as the most useless and underleveled guy on the team, gets stuck with the Holy Rune.

Tengaar does have a pretty serious drawback: the best armor she can equip is the Magic Robe. Remember, I was buying these things way back in the Elf Village before Kwanda torched it. She is on the back line, though, so regular attacks can't hit her, which is a bonus. Plus her high MGC stat (I believe it's MGC anyway) gives her a natural defense against magic attacks, so this "drawback" really isn't one in practice. The most dangerous fights in the game are the ones that spam multi-target magic spells, and Tengaar shrugs those off easier than Pesmerga can even with his heavy-ass armor, shield, and 600+ HPs.

See, I totally agree with Mace here. Like weapons, armies need to be made stronger by hammering off the weak parts. Which is why I advocate hammering Krin until he cries like a little bitch. Then dropping him off a cliff. And then Kimberly. We can make a whole day of it!

Just to sharpen a weapon from L15 to L16 is seventy thousand bits. I'm going to sharpen everyone's weapon but Crowley's, but only for your guys's benefit. See, the next dungeon isn't excrutiatingly long (although Escape Talismans still don't work) and doesn't have a boss. In a standard playthrough I just rush through it spamming ○∆□☆ and Tengaar's runes, not even bothering to outfit Kasumi or Krin since they aren't going to be pulling their weight anyway. But I felt like I should at least make an effort to show you what they're capable of, which means it's another visit to Gaspar's dice table.

With all that silliness out of the way, it's time to head up to the castle. More evidence this section of the game was rushed: look at that big empty overworld area we've got happening, here! Rakan and Duha aren't even shown as blinking dots where they might be located. ○∆□☆ is standing outside of Moravia Castle now, with the Northern Checkpoint to his south. Those are the only locations in this region. Getting our bearings, we can see the Dragon Knight's area to the southwest (specifically the two cave entrances and the Fortress), Anji's ex-stronghold to the southeast, and the towns of Kirov and Kalekka to the east and norheast, respectively.

Here's a screenshot just to show off all Crowley's L4 magic charges. I was going to show off his most powerful Cyclone spell, but forgot to screenshot it, so I'll just get one later inside the dungeon.

Step one of Mathiu's plan goes off without a hitch. This entire regiment of troops just tromps right on by ○∆□☆ as though he weren't even there, more or less emptying Moravia of any major threat.

Step two goes down just as smooth; Griffith plays his part to the aces, informing the guards that he's going to be delivering Mathiu to General Kasim. In fact, it's all just going swimmingly until...

God dammit Krin! There's another guard standing right there in earshot! Shut the feck up!

I'm surprised absolutely nobody in the Liberation Army suspects Krin of being the spy. It certainly seems as though his loyalty is... wanting.

Fortunately it wasn't a real guard, just a lifelike paper mache sculpture, so Krin's off the hook this time. Now that we're in, Griffith informs us of the location of the prison (read: exactly the opposite as every other castle dungeon you've ever heard of ever) and drags Mathiu off to be "captured".

This guy here lets you Rest and Save, making Marovia the perfect place to powerlevel people going into the endgame. Sure there are later dungeons with higher EXP plateaus, but none with this kind of convenience. If one were so inclined one could run circles in the foyer area for a few minutes and build Krin up to a decent fighting level, but nuts to that, I've got nine charges of multi-target L4 magic and three charges of Hell besides. I don't need no stinking Krin.

This should be the last paint we need! So, uh, you've got that to look forward to, I guess.

Here's the outcome of Kasumi's Shrike Rune. He jumps forward, grabs the enemy, launches into the air and crashes down to the ground with it. And then shows you the majority of his perfect supple preteen butt.

The reason you're looking at Kasumi's perfect supple preteen butt is he is fast. So fast, in fact, that his attacks come out even before ○∆□☆'s, which is pretty impressive. Unless, of course, you're just looking to Hell your way through a dungeon, because then you have to sit through Kasumi's attack animation before you can win the fight.

This is why we need Gaspar. Earning our bits the hard way is time-consuming and boring. We'd have to grind out about seven fights just for one L15->L16 sharpening, not counting armor or Mega Medicines or anything else. You could equip a Prosperity Rune to double your gains, but even that's a drop in the bucket compared to winning a few rounds of dice.

Here's a typical room in Moravia: big, open, and empty. There aren't even a lot of treasures here... there's that paint I grabbed, I think a Medicine somewhere, and a Needle towards the end. It's just a linear stretch of hallways and balconies leading directly to the prison. No side paths, no secret tunnels, no boss fight. Heck, it even lacks the... uh... imaginative rooms of Lepant's mansion or Neclord's castle.

Here's Kasumi's regular hit. You might think the Shrike Rune is quite a bit more powerful, but it's really not, since Kasumi tends to crit a lot. This 161-damage hit is the opposite end from the 600-damage criticals he's capable of. Also you can see why I was confused earlier as to the range of his weapon. Despite the fact that he jumps forward and gets right in the enemy's face, it is a long-range attack, which makes so much sense my brain might grow teeth and eat itself.

Now, usually when I get a blurry picture like this when trying to show what someone's worth in battle is, I try to get a second one that I can actually use. Since this is Krin, though, I figured one screenshot was enough. If suffering a blurry screenshot is the worst thing I can inflict upon him, well, so be it. And no, I don't want to hear any of that "But Brick! He was like fifty levels lower than everyone!" Nope, this is after he caught up. 84 damage is all the twerp is capable of.

Krin manages to eke out a bit of usefulness in this short, unnecessary cutscene where he bridges a tiny gap with some rope. What is it with Krin and rope? Anyway, I don't quite get Kasumi's defeatist attitude here... didn't he leap over a wall a few scenarios ago? Also, what is the other half of that rope tied to, and how did Krin get it to stick? And why does he have to come along? Wasn't his job to gather information in the first place? And who the hell invited Krin into the army anyway?

Here's that shot of Crowley rocking the Cyclone Rune. It deals huge damage to all the bad guys and gives the good guys a full heal. Now, this might sound like the best spell in any game ever, but it's really not and I'll explain why. Crowley gets a lot of damage out of this spell, sure, but he's Crowley. His MGC stat is a Busy Beaver number. Most characters will want a Rage Rune instead for increased damage against multiple targets. Of course, the single-target spells are more powerful than the multi-target ones, and most of the tough bosses are single targets, giving the edge to the L4 spells on the Soul Eater and Thunder Runes instead. The healing aspect isn't even that great since a "full heal" in Suikoden typically means something like 300 points, which can be easily covered by the L2 Flowing spell. You're going to get a lot more mileage out of a L2 spell than a L4, since most everyone gets at least a couple L2 charges whereas only a few people have any real amount of L4 charges. To put that into perspective a bit: Crowley has five, Tengaar has four, and ○∆□☆ will probably have three by the endgame. Flik, who is far better with runes than just about everyone else in his class, will have two, and it scales down from there. You just don't want your healer to be able to only use his or her "heal everyone" spell twice when you're staring down the last boss.

Infuriating: we can see here that in addition to Viktor and Warren (by the way nice to see you Vik how's life) Vincent de Boule is locked up in the dungeon. More importantly, there's a treasure box we can't get because the game hijacked control and railroaded us into this cutscene. Vincent's annoying but he was at least helpful to us, and nobody even thinks to ask if maybe he would like to be rescued. And absolutely no one decides to take a peek in that box. It's "Yo Viktor, yo Warren, let's bounce," and then we're removed from the dungeon entirely.

Anyway, we got half of what we came here for: Viktor's back and Warren joins up with us.

103/108: Warren
Warren, Taggart and Griffith all suffer from something I'm going to call Penultimate Scenario Ignorance. PSI is a condition that plagues characters in every Suikoden game. See, pretty much every recruit gets at least the opportunity to take their moment in the sun, since there's always another scenario for them to get a few lines in or the chance to go into your party and show you what they're made of. This is of course true for every group of recruits except the very last one, because by that time the gloves come off and you want to stick to your A-list going into the endgame.

Compounding the issue is that, since there's only a couple hours left, there's no time for these guys to really make an impression on your memory. As an example, even if a player never once assigns, say, Yam Koo to his team, he still sees Yam Koo's name in the list every time he goes to build a party. So Yam Koo ends up in his head. Not so with these three. They're just faces the game throws at you to pad out the numbers, and then the game ends and you're like "wait who were those guys?"

I always forget that Warren is a combat character, but honestly, it doesn't matter; the first two or three times I replayed the game I forgot Warren existed altogether. That's PSI at work. Enjoy the bench, you nobody.

Meanwhile, Kasim enjoys gloating a little bit over his new plaything... until he realizes that Mathiu isn't quite the idiot he would have to be in order for Griffith to capture him in the first place. All Kasim has to do is call the reinforcements back, and the Liberation Army is finished. Right? Right?

Jowston(e), you'll recall, is the country to the north of the Scarlet Moon Empire. They're the reason the Empire has fortifications in this area at all. Now that they're in play, and Kasim realizes he's lost, he resorts to good old-fashioned yelling.

He calls Mathiu all sorts of names, including "duplicitous turncout." Mathiu remains calm and collected througout the verbal barrage:

History lesson time! Mathiu didn't sign an alliance with Jowston(e) or even write them for help. What he did was slip them information that Kasim Hazil was planning to attack them, causing them to lash out with a pre-emptive strike. Mathiu says he'll let them occupy this region for a while, but then the Liberation Army will take it back... once they've dealt with Barbarosa, that is.

This sounds like just some quickie throwaway plot to make the scenario work, but it actually becomes important in Suiko2. That game takes place in Jowston(e), and some of your recruits (and other non-recruit-but-nonetheless-important-NPCs) are still really sour over being played so hard by Mathiu. After we win, the Liberation Army does indeed come back up here and kick them out of the region, which causes the Jowstonian leader responsible for the attack to lose some political standing, and makes him extremely skittish about offering any military support to Suiko2's hero in his time of need. Another character's humiliation at the hands of the Liberation Army causes him to oppose a plan that would create diplomatic ties with them.

This is just one of dozens of examples about how a pebble thrown into one scene in one game causes ripples you can see throughout the series. You don't get that kind of continuity from Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest.

Before long Humphrey and Lepant show up. Hello to you too, Humphrey!

A few moments later ○∆□☆ arrives from upstairs, Viktor and Warren along with. Mathiu gives Kasim the same option he gave Kwanda and Milich before him: join with us. (Oddly enough, this offer was never extended to Teo. No doubt Teo would have slapped it aside, but still.)

Also note: no mention of a Black Rune. I believe what's happening here is that Kwanda and Milich were kind of the low men on the totem pole, or their loyalty was otherwise in dispute, so Windy felt she had to control them. Teo and Kasim, on the other hand, heroes dozens of times over in their own right, were unwaveringly loyal and thus not only were they not controlled, but they were tasked with guarding the northern land border, probably the highest military priority in the days before the Liberation Army came around.

Kasim begins to resist, but Milich shows up and lectures him on all the same points as before: the Emperor is a different man now, blah blah blah. I don't know how this scene goes if you kill Milich (which is why I suspect the game won't actually let you); maybe Kwanda shows up instead or, failing that, one of the lesser Imperials you've recruited (like Griffith or Valeria).

Unlike Teo, Kasim is a smart man capable of listening to reason.

104/108: Kasim Hazil
Kasim suffers from PSI along with Warren and his gang. I have no doubt he's awesome (he's an Imperial general after all), I've just never given him any time in the party.

And that's that! End of scenario. We do have some unfinished business in the castle, though...

First, ○∆□☆ restocks all the magic he used going up. This time we have to go up and then come back down; no storyline warp dragging us where we want to go.

Just for kicks, here's what Suckboy looks like all "powered up". Stunningly mediocre! He's got better-than-average SKL I guess, but not the ATK to back it up with, and not even a decent amount of rune charges to use.

Speaking of no rune charges, this is what Pesmerga brings to the table. That's not bad for a non-crit, and it's even better with his Double-beat Rune... but strong though he may be Pesmerga is just not what I like in an endgame character. Having one super-strong front-line character in the team is fine, since someone's gotta rock that Holy Rune anyway, but more than that is just holding yourself back. Considering I'm gonna be forced to use a super-strong front-line character in the final scenario and in the last dungeon anyway, I've never seen any real point in actually using Pesmerga.

Just because she can, Tengaar deep-fat-fries a group of monsters with her Rage Rune. Each of these guys is about to take 1000 damage.

Finally back on the top floor, and here's the prize: Mother Earth Rune! This is Earth++. It takes the powerful L4 Earth spell, Earthquake, and moves it down to L3 where many characters have a good amount of slots. This makes it great to pair with a Rage Rune in the last dungeon to clear out lots of monsters pretty quickly. Plus, it pairs up with Rage for a rune combo. If you can manage to swing it so you're packing Mother Earth, Rage, Flowing and Lightning going into the last battle this gives you two uberattacks per round, plus lots of powerful L3 spells and all the healing you could want. And that's not even counting ○∆□☆'s Soul Eater.

Yeah, okay, great. Why didn't you speak up when we were here a few hours ago? And why don't you know your own name? Nerd.

105/108: Vincent de Boule
Vincent is another do-nothing character. He just lounges around with Milich up in FAG TOWER declaring everyone to be his "dear friend". Which is a shame, because no doubt assigning him to the group (possible in Suiko2) would be good for some lulz.

Last on the agenda is to head south to the Northern Checkpoint for last-minute recruiting and treasure-getting.

The Don Quixote parody here is Maximilian, leader of the Maximilian Knights. Actually, if you let the game's intro run you get to see the Maximilian Knights in action, fighting some random war for the Empire in ages long since past. (There are a couple of other neat scenes too, such as Odessa and the other original members of the Liberation fighting some monsters.)

The Maximilian Knights are a force dedicated to hunting out and destroying evil and injustice in the world. Naturally, this means Windy had to have them disbanded since they posed such a threat to Barbarosa's power should they discover how corrupt the Empire was. His glory days behind him, Max charges forth to give the Liberation Army the aid they need to take Marovia. Well, so he's a little late. Oh well!

106/108: Maximilian
I would like to go on record with this: IT IS ABSOLUTELY CRIMINAL THEY DON'T LET YOU ASSIGN MAX TO THE PARTY. He leads the most powerful charge unit in the game, outclassing even Lepant on the battlefield. The guy is as strong as he is old and out of his gourd. Okay, Viki and Jeane I can understand. Konami didn't know they were going to be Suikoden icons just yet. But Max? A guy whose claim to fame is that he's a legendary soldier and leader of free knights? Come on!

107/108: Sancho
As a testament to how just and kindhearted Max is, he took as his manservant a poor poncho-wearing man born with no eyes. They drew some on with magic marker to make him look less like a horrible mutant freak, though.

Suiko3 and Suiko5 introduce us to other members of the Maximilian Knights, all of whom are just as crazy and eccentric as the man himself. Oh, if only he weren't stricken with PSI and we could enjoy his ludicrousness for the whole game.

Hmm... this should be the last Old Book, but I think I'm still missing one. Guess I'll have to hit GameFAQs after all.

Hey peanut gallery!
One scenario to go, and then it's on to the endgame. If there's anyone -- absolutely anyone -- you wanted to see in action, now's the time to get those votes in. Here's where we stand right now:

Blackman, Stallion, Sylvina and GIANT WOMAN are currently tied for first with three votes apiece.

Rocking two votes, some of which from towards the very beginning of the game, are Lepant, Pahn, Sydonia, Fu Su Lu, Kasumi, Lorelai, Flik and Clive. (But don't bother voting for Flik, the game doesn't let me use him in the next dungeon anyway.)

The big long list of people exactly one voter liked but nobody backed up is: Futch, Milich, Alen, Grenseal, Mose, Lester, Gon, Krin, Cleo, Maas, Juppo, Kwanda, Kai, Meg, Kuromimi, Gon, Eileen, Kimberly, Rubi and Hellion.

Everyone else is sittin' on zero. Here's the Master List if you need it to help you decide!

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