The fifth core game in Konami's long-running series, Suikoden V was released in 2006 in celebration of the franchise's 10th-year anniversary, and to end the series' run on the PS2 platform.
Suikoden V roundly received praise from critics and fans alike, calling it a great return to form for the franchise, primarily for its complex and engaging storyline, atypical to standard JRPG save-the-world pablum. The game was also credited with having the most competent localization and translation of the franchise to date, and was also lauded for a return to (and innovation upon) to some of the classic mechanics present in Suikoden and Suikoden II such as six-member party combat and the player character as silent protagonist.
Critiques of the game referred mainly to overlarge, maze-like environments, missed opportunities relating to graphics, frequent loading screens, random battles, and the fact that it has one of the longest prologues of any RPG. The time it took for events to build up easily ran the 12-15-hour mark, though supporters asserted that once events escalated, the resulting progression was quick and tense, never letting up or breaking pace. Other complaints centered on the relatively strict prerequisites for recruiting many of the Stars of Destiny, including one star whose recruitment depended on a random event, almost necessitating the use of a guide or walkthrough to gain the optimal endings.
Suikoden V won IGN's 2006 award for "Best Story on the PS2", and Swedish magazine Gamereactor awarded it the "Best Story Overall" honor, also naming it the 9th best game of the year.
Unfortunately, and perhaps due to Suikoden IV's dismal quality and a sub par marketing campaign, the title sold less than 195,000 copies in Japan, less even than the first game's lifetime sales.
Suikoden V's mechanics featured a return to the classic systems of the earlier games, adding minor-yet-significant twists to the old formula. Battles returned to a turn-based system, with six-characters to a party (with one additional "support" character). Members could be arranged in various formations on a 6x4 grid, with different formations focusing on attack, defense, or other qualities. Formations also brought unique maneuvers to battle, in addition to special combination attacks that could be executed with having certain related characters together in a party.
Outside of combat, characters could manage and upgrade skills, which conveyed bonuses in and out of battle. For example a character with a high grade in the "Treasure Hunt" skill increased the chances of encountering rare items or rune pieces after an encounter. Other skills increased combat statistics, elemental affinities, and various other traits.
Other characters could be added to a party in a "support" capacity, not actually participating in a battle but increasing health recovery or cash rewards. Still other characters could be used during the war engagements, and still more could provide services at the party stronghold, such as a smithy to enhance weapons and armor, a runemaster to sell magical runes, or a tradesman to buy and sell commodities for cash and even a sorceress to teleport the main character around the world.
Suikoden V also involved the series' trademark war engagements, with the player commanding a variety of ground and sea units in combat, such as cavalry, archery squads, infantry, and combat ships. Characters could be attached to units, giving the otherwise-generic troops additional capabilities, such as casting rune magic or engaging in special charge attacks. Unlike previous games' turn-based hex and grid war battles, engagements in Suikoden V took place in real time, with free movement about the battlefield. When opposing units contacted each other, a short cutscene would play out, showing the victor of that particular combat.
Setting and Synopsis (Major Spoilers)
The Queendom of Falena in all her glory.
Set six years before the events of Suikoden, the story unfolds in the Queendom of Falena, located on a continent to the south of the previous games' locations. Falena is ruled only by female monarchs, rendering most royal men to relative irrelevance. Even the queen's husband merely given command over the Queen's Knights, the royal bodyguards. Currently, the realm is ruled by queen Arshtat Falenas, elevated to her position 11 years earlier following a bitter war of succession. As the game begins, the realm is in a precarious state of affairs. The two noble houses of Godwin and Barows squabble over power and engineer schemes to marginalize the crown. Furthermore, concerns have arisen over increasingly erratic behavior by the queen, who two years prior wielded the powerful Sun Rune to crush a riot in the town of Lordlake. The Sune Rune is one of the 27 True Runes, artifacts of incredible power, thought to be the source of all magic. Regarded as too much for mortals to bear, the Sun Rune had previously been stored in state, and is suspected of affecting the queen's personality, perhaps even her sanity.
Arshtat has a WMD in her head, which is more than you can say for a lot of people.
The player takes the role of Falena's prince (official name Freyjadour Falenas), sent by the crown on a fact-finding mission to investigate Lordlake, accompanied by his Aunt Sialeeds, Georg Prime (a familiar figure from Suikoden II), and lifelong friend/bodyguard Lyon. Following the mission, the party visits several of Falena's key locations, including Lunas, home of the Falenan Oracle, and Raftfleet, an autonomous floating city that travels Falena's waterways.
Later, the royal family travels to the Godwin capital of Stormfist to attend the Sacred Games. The Sacred Games are a gladiatorial competition to decide the fiance' of Lymsleia, the prince's younger sister and future queen. Though contenders can compete in the Games personally, noble houses may choose representative champions. A Godwin champion's victory would see Lymsleia married to the calculating Gizel Godwin, while a Barows win would unite her with the foppish Euram Barows. At the previous Sacred Games Ferid Egan, an outsider, won the championship, marrying Arshtat and commanding the Queen's Knights.
Assassination and Sanctuary
While exploring the city the prince uncovers a Godwin plot to rig the games and allow their champion, Childerich to win. The rigging is successful, and the "dark horse" contender Belcoot is drugged, while House Barows' champion Zegai is disqualified. Zegai is taken into custody by the royal family to be interrogated. Fearing his testimony would reveal their cheating, House Godwin launc hes a brutal coup d'etat during the princess' engagement ceremony. Elite warriors from Nether Gate, an assassin's guild thought disbanded after the war of succession help overwhelm the palace defenses. Arshat and Ferid are killed during the attack. The prince, considered politically inconsequential and thus a low-priority target, is forced to flee the capital with Sialeeds, Lyon, and Georg. The princess is held hostage, to be installed on the throne as a puppet, her fiance' holding the reins of power.
The displaced royals arrive at Rainwall, capital of House Barows' territory. There house patriach Salum Barows pledges to aid the prince, secretly intending to use him in his own plans. Godwin troops arrive, claiming that Georg Prime had murdered the queen and demanding his and the prince's surrender. The prince reluctantly accepts the Barows offer of sanctuary, and leads the local militia to victory over the Godwin troops. Realizing the need to strike back at the Godwins independent of Barows influence, Sialeeds suggests that famed strategist Lucretia Merces be freed from captivity at Agate Prison, a Godwin stronghold. The prince does so, gaining permission from the dwarves of Baska to pass through their mining tunnels to Agate. Breaking into the fortress, the prince meets with Lucretia. Lucretia accepts the invitation, taking with her Lelei and Cius, her prison guards-turned-companions.
Escorting Lucretia to Rainwall, the party arrives at Raftfleet, finding it in a standoff with Godwin ships under the command of admiral Bahram Luger. The Godwins demanded that Raftfleet surrender its autonomy and swear allegiance to the crown on pain of destruction. Seeking to even the odds, the prince took command of Raftfleet, with Lucretia as his tactician. Under her advice, heavy sluice gates upriver were closed, lowering the water level and causing half the Godwin fleet to run aground, caught on the wreckage of Lordlake's destroyed dam. The remaining Godwin forces were quickly routed, and Raftfleet allied with the prince in gratitude.
Returning to Rainwall, the prince meets with Lord Barows. Barows invites the prince to side with him and declare the secession of Barows territory from the queendom, forming a new "East Kingdom" with the prince as its figurehead ruler. The new realm would then exist as a vassal state to the neighboring New Armes Kingdom. The prince rejects, refusing to betray his nation. Incensed by the rejection, Barows secretly allows a contingent of New Armes' Southern Mountain Army Corps to hide in a forest near to where the prince's forces were to battle a Godwin army. The Armes troops were to "miraculously" reinforce the prince's disadvantaged force, projecting the impression that the prince was allied with Armes, forcing the issue and setting the secession in motion. Fortunately, the Armes troops were discovered early by Georg Prime, who had acted on one of Lucretia's hunches. The presence of the "invaders" causes both the Godwin and Loyalist forces to wheel around, temporarily working together to repel their common foe. Godwin forces bear the brunt of the losses, costing them their earlier advantage. Appraising the situation, Godwin general Dilber Novum orders a withdrawal to Sol-Falena.
The Dawn Rune and the Truth Behind Lordlake
In the aftermath of the battle, Euram Barows accidentally reveals that House Barows was in possession of the Dawn Rune, a powerful aspect of the Sun Rune and counterpart to the Twilight Rune. It had been believed stolen and lost during the Lordlake Incident two years earlier.At the time, House Barows had constructed a dam that reduced Lordlake's waterflow, raising the town's ire. Disgruntled citizens marched to the dam in protest. Euram, then captain of the local garrison, panicked, ordering his troops to violently disperse the crowds. The mob overwhelmed the soldiers and destroyed the dam, sending its wreckage all along the Feitas river's lower reaches (which two years later would turn the battle of Raftfleet in the Loyalists' favor).
Salum Barows took advantage of the chaos, ordering agents to loot the royal East Palace and steal the Dawn Rune, blaming the incident on Lordlake's citizens. Meanwhile, House Godwin had also been planning to use the incident to grab the Sun Rune for themselves. Lucretia, then under House Godwin, opposed the plan, choosing to betray her employers. She advised the queen to bring the rune out of state and bear it on her person, preventing the Godwins from taking it.
Unfortunately, the queen soon learned that the Dawn Rune had been stolen and the East Palace ransacked (allegedly by the Lordlake protesters). With her judgement affected by the Sune Rune's influence, Arshtat rashly wielded its power to exact vengeance, evaporating all of Lordlake's water supply, leaving it a scorched wasteland. Failing to extract the its from its ceremonial bust, Salum hid the Dawn Rune in a basement closet, unable to utilize its power.
As the prince opens the closet,, the Dawn Rune melds into the prince's hand. A mysterious figure, Zerase, promptly reveals herself, declaring that the Dawn Rune had willingly "chosen" the prince as its host, granting him its power. The discovery implicates Barows not only in the Lordlake Rebellion but in the theft of the Dawn Rune - both acts of high treason. This turns public opinion against him, and many citizens join the prince's cause. Even Salum Barows' daughter Luserina severed ties with her traitorous father, leaving Rainwall with the prince.
Civil War in Earnest
Though the war had arguably begun with the first battle at Rainwall, it was at this time that the prince had formed a true military force, dedicated to ending Godwin domination over the queendom and restoring power to the throne. Setting up temporary headquarters in Raftfleet, the prince's army moves to bring aid to the long-suffering town of Lordlake. Seeking to rectify queen Arshtat's unjust punishment, the Loyalists lay siege to Hatred Fortress, which functioned as Godwin strongpoint as well as a dam to withold water from the town.
Rather than simply destroying the Godwin barracks and spilling much blood on both sides, the Loyalists instead set fire to the dam, forcing an evacuation and leaving it vulnerable to an action undertaken at nearby Ceras Lake. There, a series of underwater ruins had been discovered by the prince with aid from Falena's Beavers, who resent house Godwin's forci ng them to build the Hatred Fortress dam. Built by the long-dead Sindar civilization, the ruin mechanisms acted as sluice gates for the lake. Using the Dawn Rune to open the gates, the prince drains the lake's water, causing a surge of water downriver that floods the now-evacuated Hatred Fortress, breaking the dam and renewing Lordlake's water supply. Having accomplished the feat, the prince gains the allegiance of a grateful Lordlake and Beaver Lodge. Simultaneously, Ceras Lake's dropping waterline uncovers a Sindar castle, which had been completely submerged before. Claiming the castle for the Loyalist faction, the prince gains a permanent base of operations.
Loyalist forces launch a campaign to liberate the town of Lelcar, which had been occupied by the Queen's Knight Zahhak on suspicion of loyalist sympathies. In reality, Lelcar was a divided city, its three islands split between Godwin sympathizers in the west, Loyalist supporters in the east, and moderates caught between. Battle broke out, and with the tide turning in favor of the prince's forces, Zahhak ordered that the western isle be burned, destroying its bridge and facilitating the Godwin retreat. This washed away any goodwill Lelcar's citizens bore for House Godwin, and the town allied with the Loyalists.
The prince and party travel to the border town of Sable to investigate allegations that the prince himself had been raiding the town and stealing from traveling caravans. The investigation reveals that Euram Barows was responsible behind the raids. Humiliated by his family's fall from grace, Euram had been seeking out a w ay to strike back at the prince. He came upon a group of vagrants whose leader Roy bore an uncanny resemblance to the prince. Euram convinced Roy and company to raid the town dressed as the royal party, hoping to tarnish the prince's reputation. His plans made public, Euram is ejected from Sable, and the prince's name is cleared. Roy is recruited into the army, acting at times as the prince's body double.
Victories continue to mount for the Loyalist army, drawing great popular support, and even discreet assistance from agents of the Island Nations Federation (the state founded at the conclusion of Suikoden IV). Soon, less than 1/3rd of Falena's territory remains in Godwin hands. In Sol-Falena, Godwin patriarch Marscal Godwin begins Lymsleia's coronation. Later Marscal brings sages and scholars to Sol-Falena, including the Runemistress Jeane (a recurring figure in all Suikoden titles to date), inviting them to examine the Sun and Twilight Runes and discover ways to wield their power against the advancing Loyalist forces.
The war continues as the Loyalists besiege Doraat, a hardened Godwin citadel. There the Queen's Knight Alenia attempts to use the Twilight Rune, which had been implanted in her hand by Jeane. Unfortunately, the rune proves drastically underpowered, rejecting Alenia as its host. The Loyalist army takes the city, and Miakis, formerly Lymsleia's personal bodyguard joins with the prince. Later, emotions run high as Miakis confronts Georg, accusing him of having killed Queen Arshtat, and confirming the earlier accusations. Georg refuses to speak in his own defense and leaves. The disruption is exacerbated when the prince learns of a massive Godwin army advancing towards Doraat, under the personal command of Queen Lymsleia.
Sialeeds is an aunt. Does that make her an AILF?
The attack, ostensibly to retake the city and vanquish the Loyalists, had been ordered directly by Lymsleia, bypassing her husband husband Gizel. Lymsleia had realized that should she be captured by her brother's arm y, the Godwins' claim to power would collapse. The two armies clash, and in the battle Lymsleia's guards are diverted by a decoy squad led by Roy (disguised as the prince), allowing the prince to reunite with his sister. Events turn suddenly when Sialeeds, who had accompanied the prince, defects to the Godwin side, spiriting Lymsleia away. The prince's pursuit is halted when Dolph, a skilled member of Nether Gate, mortally wounds Lyon. As she is borne away, Lymsleia calls out to Queen's Knight Galleon, ordering him to aid Lyon and the prince. Galleon obeys, and with the Dawn Rune's magic, manages to stabilize Lyon's condition. In spite of the disruption, Loyalist forces hold the city, inflicting heavy losses on the Godwin troops and driving them into retreat.
Lyon is returned to Loyalist headquarters, still on the verge of death. Galleon joins the Loyalists and reveals the truth behind Queen Arshtat's death. Georg had indeed killed the queen, but had done so with her permission. Ferid and Arshtat had earlier made him promise to strike the killing blow should the Sune Rune completely take over Arshtat's mind. During the attack, Arshtat snapped, using the Sun Rune on both her attackers and on Ferid. Georg to runs his sword through Arshtat's chest, killing her and deactivating the rune. Galleon's testimony exonerates Georg, but the shock of Sialeeds' defection remains.
Still reeling from the defeat at Doraat, desperate Godwin forces form a military alliance with the New Armes Kingdom. Armes send contingents of the Southern Mountain Corps (which had been routed early in the conflict), and the Western Naval Corps into Falena. The united Armes and Godwin forces outnumbers and outclasses the Loyalists' army, and prepares to retake the Falenan cities.
However, the divisive nature of Armes politics rears its head, as the navy, commanded by the moderate Shula Valya prefers inaction, taking vacation the port town of Estrise rather than occupying it, causing much consternation among the Godwins. The ground forces deploy as planned and reinforce the decimated Godwin army.
An unexpected side effect of the alliance is the involvement of Falena's renowned Dragon Horse cavalry, an amphibious military unit dedicated to maintaining Falenan sovereignity. The interference of Armes forces begins shifting its leaders intentions, and they consider joining with the Loyalists to repel the foreigners.
Miakis is bright, cheery, and has a lot of fanart. She's like the anti-Jeane.
Meanwhile, the prince rescues Oracle Haswar from Godwin-occupied Lunas. Haswar, cousin to Arshtat and Sialeeds, is a prominent religious figure, and her rescue raises the prince's popularity. Zerase informs the prince that to date he has only used half of the Dawn Rune's potential. Sindar archeologists Lorelai (another character from Suikoden I and II) and Zweig locate Sindar ruin in the Deep Twilight Forest that could unlock the Dawn Rune's power, enabling it to fully heal Lyon's wounds. The prince and party travel to the ruin, successfully empowering the rune and healing Lyon enough to make a normal recovery. Exiting the forest, Killey (another returnee) joins the party, interested by the prince's constant encounters with Sindar artifacts.
The once-again confident Godwin leadership acts on its more fascist, xenophobic tendencies, ordering Nether Gate to exterminate of the Beaver and Dwarf populations, as punishment for their assistance to the Loyalists and to "purify" Falena of nonhumans. Both attempts are thwarted by timely intervention by the prince, further cementing Loyalist relations with the Dwarves and Beavers.
Armes and Godwin troops launch a multi-pronged assault on all Loyalist-held territories, including cities of Sable, Doraat, Lelcar, Lordlake, and the Loyalist headquarters at Ceras, Rainwall having already been subjugated. Loyalist garrisons manage to hold out long enough to fully evacuate Lelcar and Lordlake and engage a fighting retreat, ceding the cities to the Armes-Godwin armies. Godwin supporters in Lelcar choose to remain in the city, only to be massacred by the psychotic, bloodthirsty Childerich.
Further orders are given to Nether Gate, tasking them with destroying the Dragon Horse lairs and preventing them from joining the conflict. Again, the prince intervenes and successfully protects the lairs. The attempted atrocities finally convince the Dragon Horse riders to join with the Loyalists. The defection greatly boosts morale, and the prince's troops retake their headquarters in a bold surgical strike, emerging from hidden Dwarf mining tunnels and driving across the lake with Dragon Horse and Beaver units.
The Loyalists regroup and prepare a counteroffensive to liberate Sable and Doraat, then moving on to capture the Godwin seat of Stormfist. Loyalist forces successfully drive out Doraat's Godwin defenders and eject Armes occupiers from Sable, opening the path to Stormfist. Upon learning that the Armes Mountain Corps had been annihilated, Navy Corps commander Shula Valya ends his force's "vacation", having them sail back to Armes. Shula stays behind with his entourage, traveling inland to Yashuna village, wishing to enjoy its famous hot spring bathhouse. Meeting with the prince, Shula decides to "vacation" further at Loyalist headquarters.
Before besieging Stormfist, the Loyalists learn that the Twilight Rune is among the city's defenders, this time willfully bonded to a host who can wield its full power. Left with little choice in the matter, the prince lays siege to the city anyway. In a tense battle, the Twilight Rune is used on the Loyalist army, inflicting significant losses.
Lyon's weapon is basically a giant flip-knife.
In an unexpected twist, the Twilight Rune turns its power on the Godwin army, incinerating hidden troops that were to ambush the prince's unit. Loyalists break into Godwin castle, and Childerich is killed in a duel with the prince. Pushing further inside, the prince learns that it is Sialeeds who was wielding the Twilight Rune. The prince and party battle Sialeeds, managing to fend off the Twilight Rune's considerable power. Sialeeds withdraws to Sol-Falena, inviting the Loyalists to follow her there for a final showdown.
As Loyalist forces regroup at headquarters for the final push into Sol-Falena, Sialeeds delivers a notice to Lord Barows, who has been held under house arrest by Godwin troops occupying Rainwall. After informing Salum and Euram that Godwin forces would be withdrawing, Sialeeds murders Salum Barows in cold blood. Leaving Euram shaking on the floor, Sialeeds remarks that House Barows was sure to fall in his incompetent hands.
The Last Steps
The Loyalists advance on Sol-Falena, pushing past the last line of defense. Sighting Sialeeds at the city entrance, the prince and party move to meet her. Sialeeds congratulates the prince, engaging him in a final battle, which the prince wins. Learning of Sialeeds' defeat, a desperate Gizel activates the Sun Rune, unleashing a blast of energy which breaks a dam, nearly capsizing the Loyalist fleet. Gizel then unleashes a second blast which threatens to level the city, but the prince and Sialeeds combine their respective runes' power to hold and neutralize the conflagration.
Sialeeds, fully drained from the exertion, dies, passing the Twilight Rune to Lyon. The prince penetrates further into the Sun Palace, defeating Alenia and Zahhak, and mortally wounding Gizel in a duel. Dying, Gizel reveals the reasoning behind Sialeeds' defection. She had defected in order to prolong the conflict. An earlier conversation with Dolph had convinced her that senatorial powerplays would remain to haunt the realm even in the event of the prince's victory, which she was confident would occur. A prolonged war would eventually drive both House Godwin and Barows to ruin, leaving the queendom in the capable hands of her niece and nephew. Bearing the Twilight Rune, she chose to accelerate her plan, using it to destroy House Barows and damage Godwin forces. Gizel concludes that in the end, Sialeeds was the only true winner among all players involved.
The prince then finds that Marscal Godwin has taken the Sun Rune, retreating to the icy mountains north of Lunas. Fearing that Marscal aims to melt the mountain glaciers and flood Falena, the Loyalists pursue, coming upon a massive Sindar complex. The prince's best companions enter the ruins, defeating its ancient defenders and passing through its twisting corridors. Close to the end, Lyon and the Prince encounter Dolph, who requests a duel with Lyon, whom he addresses as "Mismar". It had been revealed that Lyon was once a member of Nether Gate herself, and after the guild's dissolution was taken in by Ferid to become a Knight-Apprentice. Lyon defeats Dolph in the duel, then uses the Twilight Rune to disintegrate his body, which due to constant alchemical experimentation was nearly impossible to kill.
The prince and company finally confront Marscal. Marscal declares that the Sun Rune is an evil influence, corrupting and toppling the ancient kingdom that once stood where Falena now was, and was destined to corrupt and topple Falena itself. The Sun Rune's power would drive the prince to abuse it, just as it had Gizel and himself. Then drawing on the Sun Rune's energy, he merges with it completely, becoming the rune incarnate. The prince, Lyon and party battle and eventually defeat the rune incarnation.
Drained from the ordeal, Lyon collapses, dying as Sialeeds did. However, all three runes suddenly react, combining their energies and reviving Lyon. Leknaat (holder of the Gate Rune and a critical figure in every Suikoden title) manifests, congratulating the prince on uniting all the Stars of Destiny and reverting the Sun Rune to its true purpose and form.
Alone, the Sun Rune is naught but a destructive force, blazing hot and burning all under it. However,the Sun Rune's two aspects, Dawn and Twilight, act as checks on the its unbridled power, turning it into a positive, nurturing force, proved by Lyon's revival.
The party returns to Sol-Falena, where Lymsleia takes her place as queen. She then dissolves the senate, replacing it with a parliament that represented all the citizens of Falena rather than just its elite nobility, including the Beavers and Dwarves. She also abolishes the Sacred Games, leaving herself free to choose a husband on her own terms in the future. The prince is appointed captain of the Queen's Knights, showing that the position would be earned on merit rather than marriage. Lyon remains at his side as vice-captain.
Georg goes into exile, remarking that as he had truly committed regicide, and that his crimes would prevent him from ever returning to Falena. He travels north, later to participate in the events of Suikoden.
The 108 Stars of Destiny
The following is a complete account of all the characters that will join your quest.
1. Freyjadour Falenas (Main Character)
3. Lucretia Merces
5. Craig Laden
7. Boz Wilde
11. Eresh/ Euram Barrows
21. Georg Prime
24. Shula Vayla
26. Bernadette Egan
53. Luserina Barows
92. Shun Min
94. Egbert Aethlebald