An Open Letter to Suikoden Character Recruitment FAQs, c.2000-c. 2006

Dear Suikoden Character Recruitment FAQs c.2000-c. 2006,

I’m writing this letter to you now, many years after the fact, to express the final, lingering, spark of deep-seated adolescent aggravation. Despite the numerous gaming message boards and Suikoden fansites I frequented as a lad, I never expressed my frustrations. I can’t say why, really. Between the ages of 12 and 20, I wasn’t adverse to expressing my teenage anger over the internet, protected by a wall of impenetrable anonymity. But because this one issue — trivial to many but paramount to my precious (and abundant) youthful free time — slipped by, I feel it needs to be addressed.

Back then, I was one of those stubborn “gamers” who thought of using a walkthrough as admitting defeat. Not to mention the spoilers: what was the point in continuing with a game if I knew what was coming? But despite my misguided elitism, I could still be practical. In that vein, let’s be honest, the Suikoden games are not meant to be played without some sort of walkthrough. Each one features over 108 characters to recruit, numbered according to the stars that marked their births, and listed in-game, according to star, in a database called the Star Tablet. The window to recruit them, for many, is time-sensitive; miss it and they’re gone forever. The solution: frequently scour every inch of the world, talk to everyone and leave no stone unturned.

Such a solution was simply not acceptable. But I couldn’t let the game send me running to a walkthrough with my tail between my legs, could I? Certainly, I couldn’t abide spoilers. As we all know, a game completely loses its value once you know the name of the next boss. My solution: You, the Character Recruitment FAQ. No directions for dungeons, no rare item locations and no boss strategies. Just the limited info I need and no more.

I assumed (incorrectly) that you would arrange characters in the only logical way: by order of recruitment. I would rarely be spoiled, as by the time I checked the FAQ I would have already encountered the character in question, and I could follow it leisurely as I played the game, checking off new recruits in sequential order.

Of course, as you know, Character Recruitment FAQ, I was wrong. For some ungodly reason, you were always nothing more than a copy of the aforementioned Star Tablet. The Star Tablet is flavor and has very little purpose as a utility. Sure, you can see how many characters are missing and look up some info on those you have recruited, but the actual sequence isn’t at all helpful because you don’t recruit characters in the same order. So to even take advantage of you, Character Recruitment FAQ, I need to cross-reference character names and star names between you and the in-game Star Tablet. Aren’t you supposed to make playing the game easier?

Above: the 38th, 93rd and 3rd recruits, respectively, in order of 'star'

You failed at your only task, Character Recruitment FAQ. You didn’t make any of these games easier nor did you protect me from spoilers. At your best, you listed characters alphabetically, which is just as useless. At the end of the day, I’m still inputting a Ctrl+F document search for every new named character I meet. Half of my time spent “playing” the game was wasted scouring FAQs. So many wasted afternoons spent searching, in vain, for a better solution — for the obvious solution: the list of characters by order of recruitment…but it didn’t exist.

I know, I know — eventually you figured out. By the time Suikoden V arrived in my mailbox, I could easily hit you up and find the convenient information I had been searching for all those years. Unfortunately, it was too late. I had left my young wannabe “hardcore” phase. I was a sophomore in college with scarce time to spend playing JRPGs the “right” way.

Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to replay those beloved classic Suikoden games, each with a proper FAQ to guide me through. So I do thank you, Character Recruitment FAQ, for eventually getting your act together and still helping me enjoy many wonderful hours of gaming, free of routine monotony and wasted time. Now that I have that off my chest, I can finally let go of that last remaining flicker of fanboy rage and be the well-adjusted adult Suikoden fan I should be.

I forgive you, Suikoden Character Recruitment FAQ c. 2000-c. 2006.

All the best,

Christian “Higgles” Higley


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Filed under Rant, Retrospective

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