The End of the Empire

O! BA! MA! O! BA! MA!

Warren decides to get in one last line for himself as though he were at all important anywhere in the game. You guys can go ahead and forget he exists, now.

Before the pep rally has a chance to really get going, though, Leknaat shows up to explain that she has the Back Rune. I'm sure there's a joke here but I'm having a hard time thinking of it. She talks a bit about Windy being a threat and how the 108 Stars have gathered and isn't that wonderful, but then...

...Viktor has to go ahead and ruin her speech by pointing out that we managed to let one slip through the cracks.

Leknaat's not one to be second-guessed by that pesky reality though, so she whips us up some bibbity-bobbity-boo. And lo!

Gremio's back, fussing about laundry and stew!

Now, there's two ways to parse this: either this is what was going through Gremio's head (you know, other than flesh-eating bugs) at the moment of his death, and he's just had a really jarring jump through time... or Gremio is just naturally predisposed to fretting about laundry and stews. Maybe his first words were "bring eight quarts of beef stock to a frothy boil".

Now that we're 108 strong, Leknaat tells us the whole ressurection schtick is only possible this one time. Which, uh, kind of makes me wish we hadn't wasted it on Gremio. Can we get a do-over and bring back Teo or Odessa instead?

In any case, she's not lying here. This kind of revival never occurs again anywhere in the series. Although there are a couple miraculous recoveries that are tentatively linked to the gathering of stars, they're all in a fuzzy grey area. Not like Gremio, who absolutely was eaten by monster algae and was no-kidding brought back to life.

So, yeah, Suikoden doesn't pull punches. Except when it does. Just this once. It goes without saying, I guess, but this is the Point of No Return. If you neglected getting Leon or Mace or Sonya before this moment, you are screwed out of ever seeing Gremio alive and therefore can't complete your stone slab. Sorry about your luck.

I love this choice. It's wonderful. At first glance it looks like a "but thou must!" or worse since there's only one option and not even the pretense of making a worthwhile decision.

But that's not the point. This isn't "nameless, mute hero fills in for the player," this is ○∆□☆ fuckin' McDohl, in all his courage and conviction, leading his people to VICTORY! despite the hardship and tragedy he's endured. The game doesn't give you another false decision because there is no decision to make. Victory is the only option left, ○∆□☆ knows it, the rest of the Liberation knows it, the player sure as hell knows it. They're all on the same page here. The player has to push a button to make the hero do the only thing that's acceptable at this point in the story: go forward and win.

Metal Gear Solid 3 does something similar, albeit in the opposite direction, when it forces you to pull the trigger on The Boss at the end of the game. In that case you're doing something horrible rather than heroic, but the effect is compounded because you had to do it.

We follow this up with some tepid scenes from around Eureka's Castle of everyone getting psyched up for the final battle. Well, tepid except for the delightful kobold battle cry, that is. Arrrhoooooooooo!!

Meanwhile, remember this fucking guy? This weasely little middle-management nobody? Well, he's still a middle-management nobody, but now he's working for Yuber and not Kraze. I have no idea why they bring him back for this scene, of all places. It's not like Yuber couldn't carry it by himself. Yuber would probably chop Kanaan up into tiny pieces just for being annoying, anyway.

Hmm... come to think of it, Kanaan isn't around anymore after the last battle, so maybe that's exactly what happens.

Most of the enemy's numbers at this point are made up of monsters brought into the world by Windy. Apparently Imperial Army recruitment drives haven't been so hot lately, what with news of us Liberation types pretty much wallpapering our castle with their skulls and all their generals defecting.

A few monsters blip out of existence as Leknaat attempts to send them back from whence they came, but most remain. By the way, this is the one and only time in the series Leknaat directly aids the hero and his army. She usually takes a much more reserved, hands-off approach. Of course, this is the only game where she's personally involved in the plot, either, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Fortunately Joshua steps up and, uh, dragonifies Leknaat's rune, pulverizing the rest of the monsters and evening the playing field considerably.

I've never quite understood the point of this whole scene. I'm not sure we needed to see Kanaan again, or that we needed to see what a pussy Leknaat is, or that Joshua stepping up and proving he's a big manly guy with big manly balls really adds anything to the story. Why not just show up and duke it out? Who knows.

The Last Battle! We're back in Gregminster, but now we're on our terms. Let's finish this up, gang. But first, I promised I'd show you the absolute best random-ass minor NPC quote in a major battle. Here it is:

Perfect. No commentary on my part could do this justice. It is pure joy.

Of course after that it's business as usual. The first three rounds are guaranteed to go in my favor.

However, even if you Charge the enemy's Bow attack (which is the smart pick) the skirmish leaves you with some losses. This is how strong Yuber is when he's at the largest disadvantage possible. Seriously, that was my strongest Charge unit, utilized under the best possible conditions, with the Mathiu/Apple/Leon attack boost. I still only came out on top by 2500 little pixel guys. You simply do not want to get caught with your pants down while up against Yuber.

Fortunately I only have to worry about that when he decides to Bow. As long as you don't have to Charge, you don't have to put up with strategic casualties like that.

Of course, with my ninjas gone, Krin goes ahead and fucks everything up. GEE THANKS KRIN.

My numbers are extreme by this point, so picking Charge will probably fall in my favor unless Yuber picks magic. Before I send Lepant out, though, I'll introduce you to the GOOD BUDDIES unit, which is made up of my innkeeper, my gossip lady and the guy who couldn't muster more than 3 damage against the robot dolls. Obviously you'd never actually use this team, but what's interesting is...

...their attack power is better than the Kobold Team, which is comprised of three dudes who could each individually murder the Good Buddies unit where they stand. One of these guys even had the balls to get all up in Yuber's face, remember? Wild!

Anyway, let's send Lepant out. Do your thing, daddio!



See, this is what happens when the enemy has your number (as Yuber did here, by countering my Charge with his Magic). If the unit you picked has a character who is flagged to be able to die (such as Eileen here) there's a chance they may do so. Now, Eileen's not a big loss, and technically speaking I've already locked in the best ending, but I'm too proud to finish the game with a grey name on my slab, so what say we reset and try that again?

Yeah, here's about where we left off. Naturally Krin leaves us right back in the same situation we were. I'm curious, though; Yuber picked Magic last time, will he pick it again? I'll try to get in his head and go with a Bow attack.

Success! Clive's unit steps up and the Imperial Army is sufficiently Arrow'd.

Ledon isn't quite as useless as Krin was, so I'm able to counter Yuber's final attack and Jeane's unit wins the war!

You know, Viki is in Jeane's unit. Let's pretend that Jeane doesn't exist and the Viki is the one who defeated Yuber. Yay Viki!

...and then Yuber just walks away. Nobody goes after him because, well, he's an unkillable demon-man and we've got more important shit to do.

Here's Chief Hanzo, leader of the little ninja village Kasumi is from. He has exactly two lines and I cannot for the life of me figure out why he is apparently important enough to have a portrait.

Zorak from Warrior's Village and the Dwarf Village Chief show up too, but Viktor cuts them off before they can toot their own horns too much and demands we charge into Gregminster. Sounds like a good plan to me.

At this point Viktor and Flik shove their way into the party and can never be removed. Since you need four open slots to recruit Mace, and since from now until forever ever ever you can only have three open slots, not only did you miss out on Gremio but you also missed out on ever seeing a L16 weapon. I don't think there are any other "missable forever" characters in the game (outside of the generals the game will let you kill, of course), but Mace is a pretty super-important one.

Anyway, before winning the game, let's take a quick tour of Imperial lands and see what we can see. We didn't have Templeton's map last time we were out here, so I'll refresh your memory. Right now ○∆□☆ is standing outside the Imperial Capital of Gregminster. Northeast of him is Magician's Island, where he went on his very first adventure to see Leknaat back when he was Kraze's go-fer. East is Rockland, and further on from there is Mt. Seika, where the bandits Varkas and Sydonia once made their home. To the southwest is a bridge that leads over to Mt. Tigerwolf, and Sarady is in the tiny valley on the other side of that. South of Gregminster is Lenankamp, home of the Liberation's original sewer base, and south from there is the Fortress of Kwaba, along the wall that separates this region from Seika/Kaku/Kouan on the other side. The dot on the island to the southwest is the Floating Fortress, which we can see but not visit from this region.

Here in Rockland we see the full sum of Clive's character development: some lady is apparently dead and buried here, and Clive is convinced she isn't. That's it. This plot thread is of course continued in Suiko2, and when someone picks that up to LP it I want everyone to inundate them with PMs saying "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO THE CLIVE SUBQUEST! OH PLEASE OH PLEASE!"

Yes. That is exactly what we should do.

In Lenankamp we meet Meg's parents, who mistake ○∆□☆ for her husband. Now, you might be thinking, "Meg is far too young for a husband!" The thing about Meg is that she's a total slut. I've actually got canonical evidence to back this up: in Suiko3 we meet Meg's daughter, Belle. We never find out who the father is, but apparently Belle was born pretty much immediately after Suiko2 (so Meg was, I dunno, 16 or 17 maybe). And here's the best part: Meg abandons her to be raised by a barrel with eyes.

I swear I'm not making any part of that up.

Hmm... nobody at the Fortress of Kwaba. Either they pulled out about the time we were burning Shazarazade down, or the place has been empty for a while and we could have just marched our way on up to the capital.

There's nothing new way out here in Sarady, but I have to visit it anyway. Why, you may ask?

So I can add all those locations to the Viki Express Destination Manifest, of course!

Also did you guys notice sometimes the game spells it "Shazarazade" and sometimes "Shasarazade"? I've been trying to alternate as I go myself, but I think I prefer the z spelling, because it makes the Floating Fortress sound like it's on another planet.

Enough lollygagging; it's time to meet our ENDGAME TEAM. Yes, Lorelai's meek but consistent supporters are finally getting their due. There's a slight problem with this team though: no magic. Aaaah!

Lorelai's magic stats suck, but that can be a little misleading seeing as how she's about 8,000 levels below everyone else. I'm hoping she gets at least one charge of L4 magic after I catch her up.

Her stats. Her MGC isn't exactly giving me a great deal of confidence, but THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN.

Next on the agenda, sharpen everyone's weapons.

"Hey look! I got my sword sharpened!"
"Yeah, it's really sharp now!"
"Very neat!"
"I agree! It's a Very Neat Sword!"

You guys are right for loving Gon.

Here's Lorelai all caught up. You guys, she has shit for magic. That Rage Rune is going to waste on her. So...

Hey peanut gallery!
I love you guys, but I'm going to exercise some veto power on this one. I could finish the game with this team, but it wouldn't be flashy or fun. Besides, a few of you (totally awesome) people voted "Brick's choice" anyway, so I feel absolutely fine this decision...

Welcome home, baby. You know daddy loves you.

Okay, rune breakdown: Tengaar's getting the Rage Rune, which is actually a poor choice. I mean, it's not a poor choice, assuming you've got rune-users to spare, which I don't. I'm taking Rage because I want to show off the Rage+Thunder combo, and Flik's got Thunder. If I were interested in being truly optimal I'd give her Mother Earth. Also a pony and an expense account.

Clive gets Double-beat, Gon gets Holy. I'm giving the Flowing Rune to Viktor. This seems like an odd choice since his MGC sucks and he has no L4 spell charges, but with Flowing the L4 charge is pointless anyway. Anyone with a fair amount of L2 and L3 charges can be a great healer with Flowing, and that's what I'm counting on here.

While leveling Lorelai up (which took about two minutes) a couple paintings dropped. No harm in seeing what they are, eh? These particular paintings are pretty valuable, but I'm gonna put them in the bath instead.

"God dammit, Gon peed in the tub again!"

All right, all right, now for real enough lollygagging. We're back in Gregminster, and the place is a ghost town. Completely deserted. Even the music is a shadow of what it was early in the game.

Apparently the forces at Kwaba pulled back and are occupying the Imperial Palace now. At least, that's how I've always took this exchange. Of course our first trick is to try and bring Ain Gide over to our side, but he refuses. No Black Rune at work here either...

...just loyalty. Ain Gide is the perfect model of a Lawful Good villain. I know I've been hammering away at this point the entire LP, but only because I think it's so remarkable. Suikoden is the only series that gets this type of character right. Sure, he's just a bit player, but he doesn't have an evil or villainous pixel on his sprite. He knows ○∆□☆ is doing the right thing, but he's the last Imperial General standing. Remember, Kasim and Milich and Kwanda all joined because, while they remained loyal to Barbarosa, they knew he was not the same man. But none of them were his last loyal man; would any of them be able to have made the decision they did, if forced into Ain Gide's situation?

What it all boils down to, of course, is that we must kill this absolutely blemishless, virtuous man.

Of course I'm opening with my best spells. Here's that Thunder+Rage combo (note fire AND lightning bolts!). This deals pretty extreme damage, but does so to multiple targets. The best way to get maximum damage out of your runs against a single target is actually to straddle the runes in such a way as you're never getting this combo. The L4 Thunder spell, for example, is a single-target attack that trumps the damage done by this combo. But hey, I finally have the ability to show it off, so I'm gonna.

I like this shot of Clive shooting Ain Gide in the face.

Ain Gide does return fire a bit, but nothing major. Here Tengaar finishes him off with one of her Rage spells.

This is a great line, and it acknowledges exactly the sentiment I'm talking about. This is a response to Flik's comment, "No. This is wrong." Perhaps Ain Gide was wrong, but his death wasn't in vain. He made a last stand for the Emperor he loved. Can the Liberation Army, which is comprised of cowards, criminals and turncoats, really claim to possess a similar level of honor?

The final dungeon is extremely long and the party is constantly bombarded by unskippable battles like this one. I've got five shots of Hell, but that'll only get me partway. Eventually I'll have to Free Will, which will soften me up quite a bit. These guys hit hard and they counterattack often. Everyone's got a pretty full stock of Mega Medicine to help counteract that. I want to arrive at the final boss with full spell charges; in fact, I Mirrored back to Eureka's Castle one last time to hit the inn and replenish the ones I used against Ain Gide.

Hey, this looks familiar...

Originally posted by: very first update

Yep, this is where all this mess started, way back when ○∆□☆ first got drafted. A great deal has happened since then. This is kind of a cool effect, ending the game where it started, because the player kind of flashes everything back when they see this scene again.

I took a bunch of screenshots of this very, VERY long dungeon, but I threw them all out. It's all identical yellow corridors and fights against 5-6 Imperial soldiers, anyway. No treasure worth speaking of. It's just a straight shot.

So here's the last save point. This playthrough took me a LOT longer than a typical one would. There were a few times I had to just let the game sit (this happens), but mostly it's because going through the process of outfitting a new team can easily take 30-40 minutes. Assigning the team, remembering the rune you need is on Jones upstairs, re-assigning the old team, taking their runes, re-re-assigning the new team, buying all new armor, sharpening what you can, saving, playing Gaspar, cursing and resetting, playing Gaspar again, sharpening again, attaching runes... you get the picture. I've never had to build this many teams before!

If this were Suiko2, that time would have been cut drastically because you can outfit your entire army from the relevant store. Jeane is able to access anyone's rune, in-party or no. The armor guy can sell armor to and buy armor from anyone in the castle. You can sell items directly from the vault. Everything is streamlined to make it feel like you're actually managing an army and not just a huge amount of individuals.

This is it, Barbarosa's garden.

Yeah, thanks, I just pointed that out.

Here we go...

I don't know where the giant rainbow sigil on the ground comes from, but it might have something to do with Barbarosa's uber-magic. Check this out:

GIANT THREE-HEADED DRAGON. Barbarosa does NOT screw around.

There's not a lot to know about this fight. The three heads get one attack per round between them, and they almost always act last. The one on the left will revive the other two, so we'll be killing that one first. Of the remaining two one is immune to fire and one immune to lightning. This is why Mother Earth is the rune to have here. Its L3 spell, Earthquake, does a lot of damage to all three heads. I was going to swap Tengaar's Rage out for Mother Earth, but I forgot and didn't realize it until I was most of the way through the last dungeon, at which time I was all like "meh, fuck it."

Partway in Clive scores this sweet double-crit. estragon is nutso, Clive is the mack daddy.

Viktor makes with the Flowing Rune anytime I get raped too hard by Barbarosa's powerful lightning or fire attacks. His other attacks are single-hit jobbies which Gon or Viktor can take care of with Mega Medicines.

I should have gotten an animation of this bizarre attack. Barbarosa lifts one of your guys into the air and encases them with stones which then constrict around him a few times before finally exploding. Wild.

Gon's best attack in the fight, which finishes off the middle head. That leaves just the one on the right, which is immune to fire, and thus Tengaar's usefulness has ended long before her spell charges run out.

Fittingly enough it's ○∆□☆ who deals the finishing blow, and Barbarosa's horrifying dragon form explodes spectacularly.

Of course, because non-attack actions resolve even if no monsters are left, Viktor's final healing spell comes out after the last boss is destroyed.

Duuuuuuuuude! No way!

Barbarosa's remaning living generals show up to scold him.

"But Brick, what happens if those generals are in your team?"

Good question! They stay there. Typically I put Sonya in my endgame party, so she doesn't appear along with the others. Apparently the game doesn't look at your party when it's cutscene time.

What I haven't tried is finishing the game in a position where no generals can come forward. You could do this by killing Kwanda and then putting the other three into your endgame party (although that party would be pretty S-heavy and you'd have trouble getting through the dungeon, Milich and Sonya could make with the runes from the back row and you'd never notice against the actual boss).

As if he's not having a bad enough day, now Barbarosa's girlfriend is picking on him.

Looks like she was using him all the time to get at ○∆□☆'s rune, anyway. Shock! Amaze! We all know what's coming next...

Poor Windy... every time she tries to get the Soul Eater, whatever punk is carrying it at the time unleashes it against her. This time ○∆□☆ goes all out though. I mean, we're talking full hog Soul Eater action. Check this shizzle out!

That's right, ○∆□☆ reaches deep and pulls out the four souls inside his rune to, uh, I dunno, guilt trip Windy or something.

"But Brick, didn't Gremio come back to life?"

Another good question! Yes, he did. But apparently the carcass that walks about and pleases to call itself Gremio is a mere husk, a shell of flesh and bone, and no soul resides within. If that's too bleak to think about, I'll lighten the mood a little: GREMIO/ODESSA CROTCH-DIAMOND GO!

Well, that's because you're ugly and mean.

After all that, the war, all his generals turning on him, thousands of lives and his entire Empire... Barbarosa finally decides to reel Windy in.

In the end, Barbarosa too was motivated purely by noble forces. Sure, it's standard "power of love" hocus pocus, but it's a lot better than the "nebulous world-destroying evil" you get in a lot of RPGs.

At least he's not a sore loser.

With that, Barbarosa grabs his evil witch girlfriend and leaps off the balcony of his palace. So ends the Scarlet Moon Empire. (Bonus: Windy's look of wide-eyed terror here.)

No, you never get to fight Windy, even though she's the true villain of the game. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, it would have been satisfying to lay some smack down. On the other, though, it wouldn't have really fit. Suikoden is a story about war, it makes since that all the major conflicts follow that vein. The Soul Eater plotline comes in underneath that, supporting the main plot but never supplanting it.

By the way, there's no resolution to that plotline. ○∆□☆ is stuck with the cursed rune forever. Leknaat doesn't show up to take it away and give ○∆□☆ his "normal" life back, he doesn't wake up and realize it was all a dream. He really is destined to feed off of those he loves for as long as he lives.

"Uh oh! That was a load-bearing boss!"

"We're going to pick some strawberries first and maybe some tai bo."

On the way out of the palace we are of course accosted by regular ol' random battles. These can all be Let Go, though, and even if they couldn't I'd just Bribe them with my hundreds of thousands of bits that will never have any other use.

Apparently Viktor doesn't think ○∆□☆ can handle a few of the guards he's been killing by the truckload, and opts to stay behind to slow them down. He even gives himself a new nickname in the process.

Then, uh, wouldn't that imply that you feel like dying? Just trying to keep up here, Vik.

Flik's doubled over in pain in this shot (though admittedly it's hard to see) because he just stepped forward and took an arrow for ○∆□☆. Looks as though he's gotten over that whole inferiority complex thing!

Flik doesn't want to die yet so he also decides to stay behind in the crumbling monster-and-crazed-solider-filled castle. With an arrow in his gut.

He's quickly joined by Viktor, who apparently only took as long to kill those guards upstairs as it would have taken for all six of us to kill them and then walk to this point anyway.

This plan is kind of crazy and stupid, considering they could just escape with ○∆□☆, but it's Star Dragon Sword approved so who am I to complain.

Outside the palace, all of ○∆□☆'s friends are celebrating. Including Tai Ho! Remember, he only joined up for fun... he must be havin' some fun now!

Hix yanks on Tengaar's arm and gets bitched out. "Dammit, Hix, I know we won! I just ran out of a crumbling castle after burning a six-story-tall dragon to death with fire magic!"

Futch does drugs and doesn't know where he is.

I really love how Gen and Kamandol are in every "major characters doin' stuff" scene in the game, as though they actually are major characters. They're the Beaky Buzzard of Suikoden.

And lastly, we see the final moments of Mathiu's life. He hears the cries of victory, laments about the lives he caused to end, second-guesses everything he's done and then dies amidst a crushing torrent of self-doubt without ever having seen the fruits of his labor.

I didn't say Suikoden ends on a bright note.

Still to come: Where Are They Now? A 108 Stars of Destiny Retrospective.

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