The story is one of the big things I pay attention to in a game. I think about why are we here, how did we get here, and what does it mean? If you know me you know about my love of JRPGs and more specifically the Suikoden series. The stories in these games have everything you could want. There is camaraderie, betrayal, war, and much more to make you fall in love with this series. So for my 108th article, I had to do something Suikoden related of course. I decided to tell you about the 5 main game’s True Runes. **Warning – Contains Potential Spoilers**
What are True Runes?
True Runes represent a certain aspect of existence. This includes Punishment, Beginning, or even the basic elements like Fire, Wind, or Water. Essentially, True Runes are tied to the foundations of the universe, bringing both benefits and curses to its bearer. This includes agelessness, immunity to disease, incredible magical powers, and most notably, the ability to control the destinies of entire nations. Most of them are imbued into a bearer’s hands or forehead. There are also normal runes that are minor versions of the more powerful True Runes. Both the True and normal runes provide you with “magic.” Magical spells that aid you in and sometimes outside battles, and usually consist of 4 spells on each rune.
Kicking off the series with Suikoden 1 we have one of the more tragic True Runes. The “Rune of Life and Death” is known as the Soul Eater. One of the cursed True Runes, the Soul Eater like other True Runes grants the bearer immortality. This rune provides the bearer powers of Life and Death essentially. That might not seem like a curse, but it also seeks people closer to the wielder to kind of “eat their souls” essentially. There are many deaths in Suikoden 1 of people that are close to Tir Mcdohl. Odessa dies protecting a child. Gremio dies of flesh-eating spores. Your dad Teo dies after dueling you. There is even a short scene later where Ted, Odessa, Gremio, and your dad’s souls are seen at a point where you are essentially saved.
All this is why it’s believed that the Rune manipulates fate to create lethal situations for the people close to its bearer. As such, the life of the bearer of the Soul Eater is very solitary, riddled with paranoia and fear, with its bearer trying to avoid creating any kind of link with any other individual. Ted the bearer before he gives it to Tir at the beginning of the game had been traveling and living in solidarity for over 300 years. Even with all this, the Soul Eater tends to be a fan favorite of many. It has been noted that this True Rune is Yoshitaka Murayam’s favorite of all the True Runes in the entire Suikoden series.
Suikoden 2 is highly regarded as the best in the series and has the True Rune, the Rune of Beginning. The Rune of Beginning is One of the 27 True Runes, which represents the chaos of creation. It is, also, said this True Rune has the power to judge war as it possesses cold, uncompromising power. The Rune of Beginning normally exists as two separate runes: the Bright Shield Rune and the Black Sword Rune. The hero known as Riou gets the Bright Shield Rune. Then your childhood best friend gets the Black Sword Rune. It is said that the bearers of these two True Runes are destined to fight against each other. Even in flashbacks, you see this with the duel between Genkaku and Han Cunningham years prior.
Even these 2 were friends, just on opposing sides. Both Riou and Jowy want to save the world from Luca Blight. Although each has their ideals and ways they believe that goal can be obtained. This does lead them down kind of opposing sides. Bright Shield magic features were healing and support-style spells. On the other hand, the Black Sword features damage spells, which is kind of what you would think when it comes to a sword and shield. There is a chance you might even see Tir from the previous Suikoden game. If you get the “best ending” Riou and Jowy do reunite with Nanami (Riou’s step-sister) and go off together.
Suikoden 3 is one of the more unique in the series. You play through the point of view of multiple characters and see how they interact with each other. This particular game in the series involves the True Elemental runes. You learn Luc who was a 108 Star of Destiny in the previous two games is the antagonist. Luc aimed to destroy his own True Rune, and himself with it, not caring about the consequences as ultimately it would mean the freedom of the human race. To do this, he would need the power of the other Elemental True Runes. So he brings about war through lies and deception of multiple sides.
The heroes Hugo, Chris, and Geddoe each wind up with either the True Fire, Lightning, or Water Runes. As you learn the Flame Champion, Geddoe, and Chris’s dad Jimba (Wyatt Lightfellow) had in the past war. So with that knowledge, it is assumed Hugo should have the True Fire Rune. Geddoe should have the True Lightning since he’s had it this whole time. Then Chris should have the True Water Rune as it was held by her father. If you recruit all 108 Stars of Destiny you get to play through Luc’s point of view as well. There are also appearances of the True Wind and Earth Runes of course. This was also Murayama’s last work on the Suikoden series.
Suikoden 4 like the first game involves another essentially cursed rune. The Rune of Punishment governs Atonement and Forgiveness. This True Rune is considered to be the most cursed of them all. It feeds off of its own host’s life each time they use its awesome power. As such, the Rune of Punishment goes through bearers rather quickly. When this rune is used to its full extent, the owner turns to ash and their memories are locked away in the Rune. When one user dies it jumps to the next closest host. You might wonder, but what about the immortality factor of the True Runes? No bearer lives long enough for that to come into play. When its magic is used it’s usually at the cost of some of the hero’s (Lazlo) health.
If you recruit the 108 Stars of Destiny through the Rune of Punishment will move into the “forgiveness phase.” This means that the rune will no longer drain the life of Lazlo. It is said that the bearer vanished from the pages of history, knowing full well that his death would see the cycle of death and destruction start over again. Would like to mention a lot of this game takes place on a boat. Suikoden 4 is the first game in chronological order and you have a chance to see Ted. Which is you know the first game his Soul Eater is the premise for.
Suikoden 5 has another unique aspect as it’s based around the Queendom of Falena and the Sun Rune. This curse rune, Sun Rune, is one of the 27 True Runes that governs over the great power of the sun. The Sun Rune can be a destructive weapon or a nurturing restorative force. Guardians usually get the Dawn and Twilight runes to help guide and direct the Sun Rune. The hero (Freyjadour Falenas) ends up with the Dawn Rune in the story. Unless the bearer possesses both twin solar runes in their body, the Sun Rune’s curse of insanity will overtake the host’s mind driving them mad. Just like when Queen Arshtat went mad and killed her husband and leader of the Queen’s knights Ferid.
We find out that George Prime had made a promise to Ferid that if this came to pass, he would have to deal her a death blow which would save her and the people from the Sun Rune. The curse is negated by bearing all three of these runes. Best of all, the possessor can use its great power however they see fit. Which would be to destroy or nurture the world. You never actually use the Sun Rune, but you see the destruction it causes. Bearing the Dawn Rune and Lyon bearing the Twilight Rune attempts to thwart multiple political plots and save your sister. All the while calming the Sun Rune and saving the world. Suikoden 5 is the only main game where you don’t get to use the main True Rune.
We only know about around 18 of the 27 True Runes. There are plenty of ways that future Suikoden entries can utilize them to create a unique and amazing story. This is an amazing series that people and returning fans alike will get to experience when Suikoden I & II HD Remaster: Gate Rune and Dunan Unification Wars soon. We also have the “spiritual successor” Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes when it releases next year. A game where you can recruit 108 different characters and the majority are playable makes for many plenty of replayability. Not only that each character in the Suikoden series is unique and has their reasons for what they are doing and why they are there. You can expect plenty more Suikoden pieces from me in the future.