INSiGHT | Suikoden – The Game That Changed a Life

By Ian Soltes 19.09.2015 2

I don't remember how long ago it was or even how old I was at the time. It was a day like any other - I went to the library and, in an attempt to pass the time while my mother looked up various books, went to the comics section to find stories of superheroes. On that particular day, something ended up going a little bit differently than normal. A new book was on the shelf, one I had never seen before or heard of, and I curiously picked it up to give it a read. It was the manga version of Suikoden III and it was one of the most important books I have ever read.

Image for INSiGHT | Suikoden – The Game That Changed a Life

When thinking of gaming and games, most often think of only those that they have played. If someone were to ask anything about games, the first thoughts would be of the titles personally owned, or those that have at least been played, and little else. After all, having never played those other titles, why would they even spring to mind? However, the truth is something vastly different. Games that have never played can indeed leave a profound impact.

Yes, seriously, because that is the truth. It's not even all that surprising when thinking about it a bit, since few will have played E.T. for the Atari 2600 yet even some non-gamers know full well that it caused the near destruction of the media, only to be saved by Mario Bros. despite a sizable chunk of people also having never played that either. However, it reaches even deeper than that.

When I first opened that manga, I had no idea what Suikoden was or, if I had, it was only on such a basic level that it was as meaningless to me as a toothpaste advert that came on when I was in the room not watching TV at all: heard of it, knew next to nothing about it. When I opened the manga, though, I was soon met with the appearance of Chris Lightfellow. Chris Lightfellow is one of the lead characters - the daughter of a respected general, and a decent warrior to boot. Without knowing all that, however, just the sheer visual design was a drastic change. By looking at her I could tell she was a strong, noble, person who was to be respected. I had never seen that before in a videogame character, especially in a female videogame character. The only ones I knew wore light, relatively skimpy, outfits and only a few in general even wore plate armour. I was intrigued and it had a major impact upon me.

I soon started to look up various pieces of information, trying to uncover whatever I could to see if it would be of interest. Various things were learned about it, such as how it had a huge cast of over 100 characters! Can you imagine how that must have seemed to a person who had only played games with 10, at most, playable characters outside of multiplayer? I learned it was an RPG, a genre I had only lightly dabbled in before and not paid much attention to at all until then. I also learned it was for the PlayStation 2, a console I did not own at the time. Things began to change.

Image for INSiGHT | Suikoden – The Game That Changed a Life

I sought out a PlayStation 2 of my own accord. Beforehand one of my friends had one and, while I had played Dark Cloud and Final Fantasy X on it, I had never really gotten the time to really play it and knew little about its game library. However, I then hit a wall. Of the four game stores around me, none had a copy for sale. At the time I did not think of looking online so, as far as I was concerned, it was a dead end. Then I looked into other releases. I had learned a while back that Fire Emblem also had a huge cast and was also an RPG, so I looked into that. I looked into many other RPGs, especially those available on my new PS2, learning more about a genre I had never even considered before, all because of a game I had never even played before - a genre that soon became my favourite.

It didn't stop there, though. Chris's design, combined with the many strong female characters in Fire Emblem, caused me to seek out other strong female characters, bringing me to many games I didn't even know existed prior. The image of the strong female knight quickly became something to be desired in my eyes. I met many people in my search for information that knew about the game and series and were more than glad to fill me in, some of which I even became friends with for a time, all because of a game I had not even played once.

While I did eventually obtain a copy, it remained stashed away on the back shelf of my library for years, un-played, simply because I was working through other titles that my search had led me to. It wasn't until years later that I even attempted to play it, despite how much it had changed and affected me.

My situation was unique as I can point back to a specific moment in time - to a specific incident - and a specific series of events that led to a specific outcome. That does not mean, however, that this does not hold true for other people. Let's take a look at some situations and see just how much games we have never played affect what you are playing today.

Image for INSiGHT | Suikoden – The Game That Changed a Life

The Obvious

It doesn't take a genius to look at the gaming world today and see how one title affects another. Elder Scrolls Online had to drop its subscription and become free-to-play as it simply couldn't compete with other titles, so even if you had never played them and only played Elder Scrolls Online, the on-goings in World of Warcraft, a title you may not have even cared about, have affected you and your game. After all, even if you didn't care one bit about it, the pressure it placed upon your game had to elicit some sort of response as it was directly competing against it.

Even in a broader sense, it's easy to point out what, exactly, has affected one game even without any knowledge of the industry in general. It's easy to point out, for instance, how Call of Duty has resulted in fewer RPGs, or how releases like Plants vs. Zombies and Farmville resulted in the 'casual' genre soaring from a relatively niche status into the limelight.

The History

Walk into any Internet forum and ask what the best RPG of all time is and almost instantly there will be a flurry of answers of which Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII will be among the most numerous, yet, until recently, for a modern gamer to get their hands on one of these titles was near-impossible. After all, to play Chrono Trigger someone had to either have a SNES and be lucky enough to find a copy of the original cartridge online or be willing to download a ROM of it to play on their PC. It wasn't until the game was re-released on the DS that many people would have even had the chance to play it. Likewise, Final Fantasy VII was confined to the PlayStation until it's release on Steam. There are soon-to-be young adults who weren't even alive when it came out, yet people still consider it to be among the best games of all-time.
Image for INSiGHT | Suikoden – The Game That Changed a Life

Likewise, if it wasn't for titles such as Super Mario Bros., the industry wouldn't exist. If it wasn't for Sonic and the Nintendo vs. SEGA rivalry that dominated the third and fourth generation of systems, the modern consoles would likely not exist and the market would be vastly different. How many people have played the original Quake? Many people wouldn't even know what that series is, yet from it Half Life spawned, followed by the Quake 3 engine from which Call of Duty eventually spawned, and so on, and so forth.

The Culture

The cake is a lie. Without even playing Portal, many gamers know this reference and what, exactly, it pertains to. This is far from the only example of how one game can bring something to the culture of gaming without other people having played it. How many people know what game the now-famous 'all your base are belong to us' line even came from? Let alone played? Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start. How many people remember the infamous 'Hot Coffee' mod and how much debate it sparked?

Many other things have come to affect the gaming culture that has sprung up, yet from games that simply have not been played by many of today's gamers. That's not a mark against them but rather an example of just how much one game can affect another and another and another. Load up Final Fantasy XIV today and you can find a child dancing out the code, a code from a game that came out in 1987, yet is still engrained in the mindset of the gaming culture to this day.

Image for INSiGHT | Suikoden – The Game That Changed a Life

Conclusion

Chris Lightfellow and Suikoden III are among the most important characters in my history and experience as a gamer, right up there with Yuna, Samus, Tara Grimface (I'll be shocked if you know her), and many more. However, it wasn't until recently that I even played her game. Gaming, as we know it today, has been shaped by a vast variety of games and characters that many people may not even know exist, yet have their distinct mark on many other things once you know what to look for. Maybe you don't know who Luca Blight is but someone else does and they will take their view of him and bring it into another game that, maybe, you will someday play. Would your gaming friends all still be there as they are if it was not for some game you had never played yourself? Would your games be the same if it wasn't for others shaping them, forging new paths, abandoning old ones?

We will likely never see Chris Lightfellow, or Suikoden as a series, ever again. We will likely never see Wild Arms again, another Perfect Dark, or many other games that have affected the industry again. We will likely never play every game that will hold an impact upon gaming as a whole. Some of us can point to that specific moment in time where everything changed. Maybe it was the first moment you got to play a game online in Halo, or your friend finally bugged you enough to try out Minecraft, but that moment when your perspective of gaming changed can be pointed to right then and there. Maybe it was something subtle like slowly being drawn into one genre because of one game you played and sort of liked, yet almost everyone has, in some way, been affected by a game that they have never played. Keep that in mind next time you go out shopping for games and, maybe for fun, just see what connections you can spot amongst the many titles.

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Comments

Honestly, its quite amazing how often games you haven't played can end up affecting you. If it hadn't been for this game I probably would have been a FPS/multiplayer junkie who would have left gaming before long. Yet that changed when I got to play this game. If I hadn't played it no Tales, no Fire Emblem, not much of anything else. Would have been a dead end for me. Anyone else have a similar experience?

It is indeed a very intriguing topic, and very well put together - thanks! There must have been numerous occasions where this happened with me, but I can't quite put my finger on something at the moment.

Suikoden I and II are amazing...SIII is good...but nowhere near as good, and I think I didn't get far with SIV. It's due for a revival, surely?!

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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