Video games have taught us about army recruiting in a rather skewed way. RPGs and strategic affairs have us pull together a party of people to fight back against otherwise extraordinary odds. The thing is, these people we’re taking into our fights are always soldiers. We’re bringing in extra firepower. In real fights, people who aren’t actively fighting can be as important as those who are. The Suikoden series has always understood this. Every time you go through an installment in the series, you need to recruit both strong soldiers and supporters.
When forming an actual resistance force or army, you need someone to supply the troops. People have to provide you with the resources you need to survive each fight, be these items you’ll use or money. Every Suikoden game has you recruiting merchants who’ll stay at your base of options; it’s often one of the very first things you’ll do. After you take the Toran Lake Fortress in the original Suikoden, you can bring in Chandler to run the item shop. In each game, people come in to get you the things you need. In Suikoden II, a man named Gordon runs a trading company. In Suikoden III, a different Gordon runs your item shop. You’re always bringing in people who can get you things.
Which isn’t to undermine that same note, you need someone to help create and forge weapons and equipment. Again, one of the first things you can do in each Suikoden game after setting down roots is recruit people who’ll keep your fighters armed. Again, after you get the Toran Lake Fortress in Suikoden, Maas the blacksmith joins your forces. In Suikoden II, it’s Tessai that runs North Window Castle’s smithy. Peggi forges your weapons in Suikoden III, Adrienne boards the Dauntless in Suikoden IV, and Suikoden V has Dongo. In each game, you recruit someone to sharpen your swords.
But, just having weapons at the ready isn’t the only sort of strength you need. While most games accept that the people who join you are at their peak, perhaps only in need of some natural leveling, Suikoden has always acknowledged the need for trainers. Suikoden III’s Juan and Suikoden V’s Zegai act as combat instructors. Likewise, III and V both offer magic teachers like Ernie, Iku, Levi and Zerase. The games recognize that, no matter how strong someone is, you can always be even more prepared in wartime.
Preparing information is critical as well. You need someone who can get you information. Each game has gossipers, journalists and librarians who can join your cause. Onil and Taki are always talking in the first two games. Arthur, Perrault and Taylor act as reporters in the final three games. Each game has a library with voracious and intelligent librarian there. It helps promote the idea that knowledge is power, even if we don’t always see it in action.
Finding ways to care for all the people who live there are taken into consideration. Each Suikoden installment has you establishing an inn at your new home. Marie sets one up in Toran Castle, the first of many important people who offers a place to stay. Chefs, like Antonio, appear in every game to feed the masses, with farmers such as Barts providing food and even fighting alongside your heroes. Similarly, an infirmary is opened in each base, where there’s always a doctor and occasionally a nurse helping to heal the wounded.
There’s this additional level of consideration in the Suikoden series. It’s more practical than other games. It can afford to be, what with 108 Stars of Destiny to recruit. But, it also forces you to really think about how an actual resistance movement and army would work. You can’t only rely on the forces who’ll be with you in the field. You have to factor in the people behind the scenes too. The game encourages you to bring these extra people in, then shows how they’ll help you win the war.