Far from being maligned, the RPG Maker series should be held as a custodian of internet-based creative works.
My first RPG Maker project was a Dragon Ball Z game. It is probably more than fair to say my first five RPG Maker projects were Dragon Ball Z games, really. I was convinced that the statistical nature of the series’ “power levels” could translate to a turn-based RPG like those I enjoyed. Trying to make that happen without any knowledge of game development in any form was my introduction to RPG Maker.
RPG Maker 1995, to be exact. Released only in Japan, the program was cracked and translated by the notorious Russian hacker “Don Miguel” and it, and its equally illicit successor, RPG Maker 2000, spread quickly through the community of English-speaking RPG enthusiasts. A simple tool at its core, the ASCII-developed software allowed users access to a tiled map editor and a bare-bones Dragon Quest-esque battle system. Through the uploading of images, or use of the engine’s preloaded graphics, maps could be created. Events, from NPCs to stores, could be then added through rudimentary menus. RPG Maker 2003, and its successor RPG Maker XP, would be translated and cracked by “RPG Advocate”, at least until RMXP’s official English release in 2005.
By the year 2000, the use of RPG Maker by fans crossed over very nicely with emulation and other forms of game preservation, such as the cataloguing of sprite sheets. The ease of importing graphics into RPG Maker encouraged those without graphical nous of their own to repurpose graphics from their favourite titles. Final Fantasy VI, Lunar, Chrono Trigger, Phantasy Star, Suikoden and many more titles were used as source material for hundreds, if not thousands, of abortive RPG titles.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is a bad idea, on the face of it. It is a crossover of Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series of demon-based, vaguely Jungian RPGs and Nintendo’s altogether more upbeat Fire Emblem series of pseudo-medieval strategy RPGs, interpreted through the lens of 21st century Tokyo and published on Nintendo’s Wii U, guaranteeing it an exceedingly limited potential audience.
The game has a slightly rocky development history, where Atlus’ attempts to create a more “traditional” crossover were rebuffed by Nintendo, who would then give Atlus carte blanche to freely create a world, and a game, that they wanted to show.
I can only speculate if Nintendo’s open slate inspired Atlus to create a game that centers on creativity itself, but it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that this offering of trust and support helped shape a game that in turn revolves around that same type of trust and support.
Let us speak in generalities. What we call role-playing games (RPGs), whether they’re Japanese or western-produced, share two common ancestors. The first is Dungeons & Dragons. Created in 1974, it would gain popularity worldwide, including in Japan by the mid-80s. Dungeons & Dragons ‘gameified’ concepts and creatures from several sources but primarily borrowed heavily from the second RPG common ancestor: Lord of the Rings.
RPGs started off as a vague approximation of Lord of the Rings and its descendants, filtered through the gameplay codification of Dungeons & Dragons, and processed even further through the technical limitations of the platforms these games were designed for. During the 80s and 90s, part of the allure of RPGs were that they were one of the few video game genres that were dedicated to story-telling as more than window dressing facilitating a gameplay experience.
Inspired by both its common ancestors, RPGs have tended to aspire to character-driven storytelling that emulates prose fiction. With all things there are exceptions, but the ideal of emulating the rhythm and cadence of a great novel has long been the aspiration of many RPGs.
Vandal Hearts II, Konami’s 1999 sequel to their 1996 cult hit, Vandal Hearts, is as much inspired by its ancestors as any other RPG but makes some hard pivots when it comes to the layout of its plot and the method it uses to deliver.
Normally I use this blog to talk meta about the Suikoden series as a whole but I’m going to shake things up slightly with a look at the introduction and resolution to a self-inflicted problem: Kooluk.
When Suikoden IV was announced and it was revealed that the antagonist force would be something called the Kooluk Empire, a northern continent nation located to the immediate south of the Scarlet Moon Empire, some lore enthusiast fans had questions. Actually, they really only had one question. Where was Kooluk in the first Suikoden?
The idea that there was this large, militaristic nation, one stated to have an antagonistic relationship with its northern neighbour, that was not even mentioned in the first game seemed ludicrous to some fans. It would appear that at least some people involved in the creative end of the series agreed as Suikoden Tactics (Rhapsodia in Japan) would be dedicated to tying up the Kooluk loose-end.
This interview was originally published in Genso Shinsho Volume 5, Summer 2001 edition, published on July 26, 2001. My Japanese is not great and I pretty much speed translated this so there will be errors and parts that probably don’t seem to make much sense. But, hey, if you want a professional translation, pay me professional translator money.
September sees the release of Gensosuikoden Card Stories. The editorial department has attempted to reach out to Konami TYO for more information. To answer these Genso questions, your intrepid interviewer, Juan, had the noted Murayama-san and Ota-san answer our questions. With the inside story on the development history, there was a lot to talk about.
Murayama and Ota flank a small poster for Gensosuikogaiden Vol.2. Ota is business casual, Murayama is Storm from X-Men awesome.
Gensosuikoden Card Stories was a TCG (trading card game) designed and published by Konami between 2001 and 2004. Although a fundamentally sound TCG, its niche appeal as a piece of spin-off media, needless rule complications in later editions and the contraction of the Suikoden series’ media reach post-Suikoden III saw the game’s last additions (a kind of crummy Suikoden IV expansion) released in September 2004.
Over the past several weeks, I have been delving into translating and localising the cards for theoretical use by an English-reading audience. This is merely a hobby as there are many reasons why this game will not be played in English, modern Suikoden fandom size chief among them.
Still, as disparate efforts have been made on forums and social media over the use to communicate what Card Stories is, I thought I’d try and explain it as best I can here. That way, should I publish my localised cards you could, theoretically, use these blog posts and those cards to play this game.
June 23, 2015 saw the release of Suikoden III as a PS2 Classic in North America and Europe. For European Suikoden fans, it marks the end of a near-13 year wait for the title since its original 2002 release.
Infamously, the game never came out in PAL territories ostensibly due to quality control rules regarding localisation languages in Europe. While European fans are understandably excited about this first chance to play the game without resorting to emulation, importing or console modding, fans in North America may be forgiven for being more muted about the prospect. Especially when you consider Suikoden III’s role in the collective narrative of the series.
Now the story of a wealthy series who lost everything, and the one game who had no choice but to keep them all together.
The announcement of Suikoden II’s imminent PlayStation Network release for PS3 and Vita has excited fans old and new. As the series comes into focus once again, it’s perhaps appropriate that the attention centers on Suikoden II, seeing as it has never really not been the center of attention as far as the Suikoden fandom goes.
Suikoden II, within the Suikoden fan base, is Suikoden. Everything revolves around the title, everything else is “before” Suikoden II or “after” Suikoden II. It is the template for what Suikoden is with future games being judged to a large extent based on how “Suikoden II-y” a new title is. But what has caused this situation and where does it leave the game itself?
In August of 2004, Gensosuikoden IV was released in Japan. Since that day, it has been held up as the Anti-Christ of the series, the game that shattered the ethos of the Suikoden series and left fans and Konami alike to try and pick up the pieces. It has also been championed by a minority who feel it is a hidden gem; a game that wasn’t exactly what people imagined it would be and was damned regardless of its positive features. Whatever opinion you hold, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that for the series as a whole, Suikoden IV was one of the most important titles.
It came out in a time of, what could be retrospectively be called, naive optimism for the fandom. With the success and high critical regard given to Suikoden III, it would appear that Suikoden IV would continue to lead the charge for the series as it approached its tenth year.
Luc, Flik and Viktor feature prominently on the introduction to the We Love Konami! retrospective.
Recently, Dengeki PlayStation in Japan released their 573rd issue of their illustrious magazine. As Konami is frequently represented by the number 573, Dengeki PlayStation gave the middle of the magazine over to a celebration of Konami’s long history in the video game industry.
As somewhat of a retrospective of Konami’s past (with a lot of hype for Metal Gear Solid V and Silent Hills, it must be said), the Suikoden series was always going to earn a mention but the force with which it dominated the insert was surprising even to optimistic Japanese fans.