○∆□☆ vs. the Hard-to-pronounce Floating Fortress

Mathiu gives us the lowdown on the remaining Imperial holdings: damn near nothing. We've seen a million Imperial faces and rocked them all. At this point all Barbarosa and Windy have left is the Imperial city of Gregminster and its surrounding areas. There are two ways in: through the Fortress of Kwaba (the place we sneaked through really early in the game) held by Ain Gide, or the Floating Fortress Shasarazade held by Sonya Shulen. Now, the Imperials have a navy and we don't, so the choice is pretty clear. Right?

See? Lepant knows what the score is. And here's a man what keeps his sword locked up in a vault guarded by robots and a spinny-wheel contraption. Obviously he would know.

Mathiu's got something up his sleeve though; since it would be impossible for us to attack Shasarazade, and the Imperials would know that, it's exactly what we're going to do. Once again Mathiu keeps the details of his plan secret until the last moment, presumably to foil this spy we've got skulking around.

(Although, surely said spy could just pass along word that we were planning to attack Shasarazade at all and that, hey, Mathiu is a smart guy known for making the impossible possible so maybe he's not bluffing? I dunno, that's just what I'd do were I a spy.)

Now we're getting into what has become a fine Suiko-tradition: the Moonlit Night Montage. On the eve of the Liberation's greatest battle, the game takes some time out to go around and show us how all of our favorite characters are coping with what may well be their last night on Earth. Suiko-earth. Whatever. You know what I mean.

I won't go into detail on all these scenes except to say "hey, they happened" because, honestly, they're not that interesting. Here we see Mathiu and Humphrey discussing the Kalekka incident, which I've already talked about so much the words have lost all meaning, so let's just pretend they're talking about cheese grits instead and move on.

Gen shares a Brokeback moment with Kamandol down in the basement.

Cleo and Pahn have the dumbest discussion ever. It basically boils down to Cleo mentioning how important ○∆□☆ is and how much she misses him, and Pahn going "Yep. Uh-huh. Yeah." The scene is even more ridiculous if you let Teo kill Pahn earlier in the game, because Cleo just jabbers on to herself instead. I guess murdering Neclord helped cure her insatiable bloodlust but didn't do anything for her CRAZY.

Meanwhile, Kimberly apparently isn't as big a whore as we all thought because in this scene she refuses to nail two guys at once.

Hix gets yelled at for offering Tengaar some delicious fish. No, seriously, that's what she's pissed about here.

Sanchez shares a Brokeback moment with Flik in the stairwell.

Krin shares a Brokeback moment with himself while Juppo eavesdrops from another room.

Liukan and Fukien talk about how it's okay when old people die. Presumably once the Empire is out and ○∆□☆ is in charge the new country's standing army will be fielded entirely by geriatrics.

Finally, Viktor shows up and gives ○∆□☆ the hatchet Gremio left behind when he was eaten by bugs.

The next morning we see the fruits of Mathiu's scheming: 500 boats made of ice. Milia complains a little that her dragon's breath was used in this way, but that's only because she's a bitch.

I mean, okay, seriously. That has always rubbed me the wrong way. Here we are about to take the last military stronghold in the Empire, a feat that is only possible by exploiting the element of surprise, and Milia has the gall to complain about being put to work. You joined the army, lady. I don't know, maybe life in the Dragon's Den consists entirely of lounging in couches being fed grapes by scantily-clad serving wenches, but here at Eureka's Castle you're going to be expected to pull your weight from time to time.

Also, not even a little bit of condolence when my best friend died right in front of us? Really? Yeah, that kind of got to me too. You're even more of a cunt than Cleo, Milia.

Enough about Milia, let's get this show on the road.

Battle at the Floating Fortress!

Hey Tai Ho, less flirting with the enemy, more killing them, please.

See? That's the spirit! We need some of that. (And besides I'd say she's more fiesty than cute.)

Off to a good start! If the enemy ever picks Charge or Magic, countering it will let your forces get off unscathed. It's only when the enemy picks Bow and you have to Charge them that you'll lose some of your little pixel guys. I think I've mentioned that Ninjas totally break the war system already, but that doesn't mean I'm going to not use them.

See, I'll lose some guys here even though Max's unit is the strongest in the entire game. This is also one of the rare instances where a character's portrait perfectly matches their dialogue. (In case you're wondering, the third member of Max's unit is Qlon. Qlon. As in, the little kid who stands outside feeling good about welcoming you to Eureka's Castle. Since Qlon and Sancho make up 2/3 of the unit, you can logically deduce that the remaining 1/3 is the most amazing fighter in the world, which is why it's such a damn shame Max can't be assigned to your away team.)

Suikoden is one of the last games my brother Kevin and I played together before he decided games were for nerds and he didn't want to play them anymore. Actually he was transitioning to his new non-gamer state during Suikoden, as can be evidenced by his friend Steve (a non-gamer himself) who was influencing him a great deal at the time. So Steve was watching him play one day, and I managed to overhear this exchange:

Originally posted by: years ago
Steve: So what are you doing now?
Kevin: They're going to charge me so I'm using magic to kill them.
Steve: And your guys have to stand in a circle to do that?
Kevin: Yeah.
Steve: Looks like a titty.

Nicely done, everypeoples! That oughtta do it!

After every major battle, some random-ass character (who usually has NOTHING to do with the current scenario) will pop up with some congratulations. Keep in mind that while Tengaar is my wonderful war goddess she's still an incredibly minor character in the plot, never shares a line of dialogue with Sonya, took absolutely no part in this battle (either in the plot or gameplay), and never gets another line in battle again. You'd think this is an opportunity they could use to develop the entire cast a bit, right? Like, give them all some combat dialogue and just randomly draw a few to show you? Maybe that was the original intention and it got left on the cutting room floor along with ○∆□☆'s dancing animation and half the Moravia scenario. Anyway this isn't even as random-ass as these comments get; they saved the best for last (next upate!).

Oh hell yeah.

Here's the team! Okay, I admit I was a little apprehensive about this. I can dig on Ronnie and Rubi, and Viktor can hold his own, but Stallion is a known suckwhore and Blackman is completely untested. What's worse, the team is really light on rune magic considering Ronnie and Stallion both have glued-on runes and Blackman's charges completely suck. Shasarazade has two bosses, so this team is gonna need a little work before they're ready to go.

Flowing is the only super-rune I'm comfortable using here. Both bosses have powerful attack magic which I can counteract by using the L2 Flowing spell. Rubi is pretty good with magic, but he lacks the spell charges of someone like Tengaar or Crowley. Making him the healer is just good sense.

About now is where you really feel Viktor start dragging the party down. A lot has changed in the two scenarios since we've used him last, not the least of which is that we've picked up three of the super runes. In a normal game my team here would be built around the idea of spamming those high-end magic combos with Viktor relegated to the task of holding onto the Holy Rune. In this game I've assigned Blackman to that task and given Viktor Double-beat in hopes of increasing his damage output a little.

Ronnie, of course, still has her Ha-do-ken Rune, which is powerful but not so much as someone with Rage or Mother Earth would be. Stallion's got the completely useless True Holy Rune, which increases your running speed on the world map but does precisely dick-all in dungeons and combat. Lastly ○∆□☆ has that L4 Soul Eater spell we still haven't seen. We'll fix that soon.

Not only does Blackman attack with a hoe, but he attacks with a misspelled hoe. I'm in for a wild damn ride here.

Naturally outfitting an entire new team (three of them from scratch) means a couple trips to Gaspar. After an incredibly long losing streak I became more convinced than ever that the party's congregate LUK stat plays a role in the outcome of Chinchirorin. This is the luckiest team I've got, which scored me 999,999 bits on my first try. It seems as though we should be able to just cut out the middle-man here since all of Gaspar's money is going to end up in Mace's pockets anyway, but I wasn't asked my opinion.

While we're here, let's run a few more errands in Eureka's Castle!

Ha ha! Brickroad is a moron! See, I found all the paint I could get in treasure boxes (unliked Window and Sound Sets, none of the paint is earned from monster drops), but forgot to buy the ones stocked in Chandler's store. Anyway, returning them to Ivanov allows him to finish this gorgeous mosaic of ○∆□☆ and his friends looking awesome.

Your prize for finishing the mural is the Binoculars, which lets you use the second controller to change the angle of the camera in combat. (Remember, these were the days before Dual Shocks, so no right stick.) Maybe I'll show that off next update.

Ha ha! Brickroad is a moron! The last Old Book I needed was right here on the shelf where Hugo was standing. Now I've got them all.

For the record, I had originally planned to just zip over to GameFAQs to see what I was missing, but it turns out I didn't have to. I just tapped into the great well of Suikoden knowledge within me. We'll just call my earlier lapse in memory a blond moment and move on.

This is the finished bathhouse. I love that Blackman wears his fedora in the tub.

Hmm... I guess I ended up not doing much with the antiques. I didn't really find many this playthrough; pretty much all of them are here, except for two Grafittis (worthless paintings) I found in Kamandol's inventory of all places.

Every Suikoden game has a decorative aspect to it, but I've never really bothered with any of them. Suiko5's is the best, with pedistals around your entire castle you can fill up, and Suiko4's is the worst with nothing but a single room in the bowels of your ship that exists only for the sole purpose of allowing you to decorate it.

Enough of that, let's get this dungeon done. Only two treasures here of note, one of which is this armor for ○∆□☆. Or anyone, really, but I always give it to ○∆□☆ on account of he is the hero and being the hero comes with certain perks.

Also you'd better believe I'm Hell-ing the hell out of everything in here. With no offensive rune magic to fall back on and several severely underleveled characters tagging along, I don't see any reason to play fair. By the time I reach the first boss everyone'll be about on par, though.

First boss: shellfish!

What you're seeing here is the full extent of Stallion's capabilities. This is it. His weapon is L16, and this is all he can muster. I suppose it's possible he could get a crit, but he didn't and even if he did it couldn't be for more than a couple hundred damage. Don't hold me to this, but if you made a spreadsheet of the potential peak damage of every Suikocharacter Stallion would be at or near the very bottom.

Here's a really poor screenshot of Judgment, the L4 Soul Eater spell. This is a boss-killer that is guaranteed to hit for 1000+ damage. Unfortunately ○∆□☆ only has two L4 charges at the moment, so I'll use one here and save the other for Boss #2.

These multi-target attack spells hurt and a couple would totally wipe me out if Rubi weren't stepping up with the Flowing Rune. By the way, Rubi's attack leaves Stallion's in the dust.

HOLY SHIT! 1100-damage crits are unheard of in Suikoden, and this guy managed it with a farming implement! Seriously, even Viktor and Flik don't clear 1000 on their crits. And this is without a Killer Rune!

I had the same reaction to this that I had when I discovered Tengaar was a war goddess back in the day. I'll admit that my mind is ever-so-slightly blown.

Ronnie's ha-do-ken damage isn't incredible, but it's consistent.

Blackman finishes it off in the next round with a regular hit. A 400-damage hit is pretty terrific, and as a rule only the absolute top-tier attackers are capable of it. All this with an M-range weapon. The only other back-line character I can think of with this kind of potential is Clive.

Someone upthread compared Blackman to Kwanda, I recall, and the comparison seems to be apt. I've never used Kwanda past the mid-game, but I'm betting if I trained and sharpened him up now he'd look something like this.

After the clambake Viktor hops up onto the sluice and closes it off. Escape talismans don't work in here, so now it's time to hike back.

First, though: our last super-rune. Thunder is easily the best of them all as it's the perfect boss-killer; its L4 spell is about even with ○∆□☆'s in terms of raw damage dealt. This has Flik's name all over it.

Actually, that brings up an interesting point. In Suiko3 and going forward different characters had aptitude levels for different kinds of magic. One guy might have an A+ with Lightning magic, for example, but a C with Fire magic, meaning he'd kick ass with a Lightning Rune but not so much with Fire. I've often suspected Suiko1 and 2 had these same aptitudes, albeit as hidden stats. Even long before Suiko3 came along I didn't think twice about Flik getting this Thunder Rune. Whether or not it's mathematically his best fit it just feels right. The guy's name is Blue Lightning, after all.

Sonya stops us just as we're about to leave and light the place up, and reveals that her beef with us doesn't have so much to do with her loyalty to the Emperor as it does to her crush on Teo.

We don't have much time to argue about it before some klutz on the outside lights the oil, setting the entire fortress ablaze ahead of schedule and potentially frying us all inside.

Two things:

1) ○∆□☆ doesn't use a sword. He uses a stick. And anyway, we raised our fire spears against Teo.

2) He started it!

Sonya is a super-strong magician. Where the giant clam wasn't as powerful but had a lot of life, Sonya only has a small amount of health but amazing attack spells. Obviously some clever designer set it up so players would spend all their resources fighting the clam and then get caught off guard by Sonya while they were limping out. I certainly didn't survive my first encounter with her.

Here ○∆□☆ is using up his last charge of Judgment.

The other attack spell on the Soul Eater is Black Shadow, which is good for maybe 300-ish damage. Once ○∆□☆ is out of Judgment, then, his regular attack is his best asset. He crits and counterattacks often, which is good, but even he is a mere shadow of the high-end rune mages in the endgame.

Say, have I mentioned counterattacks before? They do occur, more frequently with some characters than others. What happens is, a bad guy will try to attack you, but you'll dodge out of the way and get a free hit on them. Enemies can do this too, and Sonya happens to be the Goddess of Counterattacking, so just using regular hits on her can be deadly. Twice in this fight Viktor triggered his Double-beat Rune only to have Sonya smack him out of both hits. Would have killed him had Stallion not been on the ball with some Mega Medicine.

What? That's it? Sonya went down without ever once putting her magic to use against me, meaning that (outside of Viktor) everyone came out unscathed. Whatever, I'll take it!

In this screenshot Sonya talks about how she won't let us rape her.

This is sexism at work. Let's look at the scorecard:

Viktor vs. Kraze: Off with his head!
Viktor vs. Kwanda: Off with his head!
Viktor vs. Milich: Off with his head!
Viktor vs. Neclord: Off with his head!
Viktor vs. Sonya: Let's take her alive!

Emerging from Shasarazade with Sonya as our prisoner, we find Flik screaming at Sanchez.

DUN DUN DUUUUUNNN! And the spy is revealed.

By the way, you guys may or may not have noticed that Sanchez is not a Star of Destiny. It's pretty hard to keep track of who is and who isn't on the stone slab, especially for people unfamiliar with the game. We never suspected Sanchez on our initial play, and in fact just assumed he was a Star because, dude, he's Sanchez.

Suiko5 pulls this same stunt with a couple of important characters whose Star-status stays suspect until the very end. Other Suiko games put betrayers and bad guys on the slab anyway. Destiny is a funny thing.

Flik prepares to send Sanchez's head into the drink, and his defense is "But I like you!"

Ha ha ha Sanchez Palin amirite?

Oh yeah, by the way, Mathiu is laying over there with a mortal wound. They never really explain what happened, but I assume Sanchez had to attack him in order to pour the oil early, or he got caught in a backdraft, or something similar. In any case Mathiu refuses to punish Sanchez since that would have a negative effect on troop morale at this crucial moment in the Liberation's life.

Good idea. Milia! Get down here and make us an ice stretcher!

I mentioned three, count 'em three Stars of Destiny that screw people out of their perfect games. The first was Leon, whose window of opportunity is so miniscule that even veteran players routinely miss him. The second was Mace, who not only has a tiny window but is also missable entirely if you wait too long and lose your ability to assign all four blacksmiths to your group at once. The last is Sonya, and here's why: every bit of gamer instinct tells you to go back up to the War Room and issue the orders to attack Gregminster. But if you do that it triggers the "point of no return" cutscene, after which recruiting more characters won't unlock the ending you want. You have to go downstairs first and see Sonya, or you lose.

Sonya doesn't much want to join anyway, but ○∆□☆ is a cool customer about it.

That's... that's mean. Wow. She gets over it pretty quick, though; if you visit her in the Imperial Wing (where she hangs out with Kwanda, Leon and Kasim) she just comments on how much ○∆□☆ looks like Teo.

108/108: Sonya Shulen
Sonya is fantastic. Her front-row attack is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but her real strength is magic. It's so powerful that she goes into archer unit she joins (called "Soldier Beauties" and currently consisting of Cleo and Camille) and turns it into a magic unit instead. She usually carries my Rage Rune into the final dungeon.


Hey peanut gallery!
Don't screw this one up, kids. This is crunch time. All or nothing time. One more update, one more war, one more dungeon. The endgame is upon us. Here's how it works: the game is going to force Viktor and Flik into my team, so I'll only have one free S-range slot. Aside from that, though, everyone is fair game. Should I just go ahead and presume that GIANT WOMAN will be present to share the victory?

The completed master list is here. Pick anyone you want! You hear me? Absolutely anyone! Even if they happened to get eaten by magic bugs or whatever wink wink nudge nudge!

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