Genso Suikoden Card Stories (幻想水滸伝カードストーリーズ, Gensōsuikoden Kādosutōrīzu) is the fifth game of the Suikoden series and the third side-game to be released between Suikoden II and Suikoden III. It was designed and released for the Game Boy Advance.
The game retells the story of Suikoden II, with significant simplification of the plot, with battles replaced with card duels using the rules of the Genso Suikoden Card Stories TCG.
On the night before their return to their hometown of Kyaro Town, the Unicorn Brigade, to which the hero and Jowy belong, are suddenly attacked by the enemy. However, it was the commander, Rowd, who ordered the attack. In the confusion, they fend off Rowd's pursuit and escape from the garrison in desperation.
After escaping into a cave, the hero and Jowy are led by a mysterious voice to an altar at the end of the cave. The sorceress Leknaat, who calls herself the Keeper of Balance, appears. Together, the two seek the power that will shape their destiny and each receive one half of the Rune of Beginning.
With the Rune of Beginning split between them, the hero and Jowy leave the cave, only to be pursued once more by the Highland Army, led by Rowd, and driven to the cliffs. Jowy decides to stay behind and hold off the enemy while the hero jumps into the waterfall. If they both survive and are separated, they agree to reunite here and carve a mark on a nearby rock with their weapons as a sign of that promise. Then the hero plunges into the waterfall.
After leaping into the waterfall, the hero survives and is recovered and brought to a Mercenary Fortress in the City-State of Jowston. There, the leader of the fort, Viktor, hears his situation and offers him a job as a cleaner. The hero accepts the offer and stays at the fort.
When the hero goes to the Toto Village, he finds his sister, Nanami. Worried that the hero was branded a traitor in Kyaro Town, she has come to find him. Nanami is very happy to see him again and says that she will always be with him.
Meanwhile, in the Highland Kingdom imperial capital, L'Renouille, Seed and Culgan come to see Jowy. They ask him why he has decided to join the Highlanders, who have treated his friend like a traitor. But Jowy evades the question and leaves.
After introducing Nanami to Viktor and Flik, a bloodied soldier comes to the fort. According to the soldier's report, the Highland Army led by Luca Blight has crossed the border and invaded. When Viktor hears this, he tells the hero to flee, but the hero won't listen. So Flik decides to test the hero's skill. After delivering a blow to Flik, the hero is recognized for his skill and joins the fight.
The Highland Army is led by Solon Jhee. The hero returns to the fort after a desperate fight and a successful victory to catch their breath and prepare for the next battle, when a new message arrives; the Highland forces have already begun their next raid. While fleeing from the fort, the hero and Nanami encounter Luca. Luca swings his sword mercilessly at the two, trying to take their lives. At the same moment, the hero's Bright Shield Rune glows with light. The two are healed and, with Viktor's help, they succeed in escaping the fortress.
Arriving in Muse City, Nanami spots Viktor entering a tavern. Entering, everyone is happy to see each other again, and Viktor tells the two that there is someone he wants them to meet. This person is Anabelle, the mayor of Muse, who is an old friend of Viktor. Viktor plans to ask Anabelle to take the two in. When Anabelle hears the names of the hero and Nanami, she mentions the name of their foster father, Genkaku. Nanami and the hero are confused and Anabelle tells them that she will talk to them when she has time. Afterwards, the hero and Nanami leave the city hall, leaving Viktor to look around the city.
At the tavern, a messenger from Anabelle arrives, and the hero and Nanami are to go to the town hall tomorrow morning. All around them, mercenaries are moving about in a hurry as Viktor's mercenaries have been asked to risk their lives to stop the Highland Army. The next day, the hero and Nanami go to the town hall to meet Anabelle. On the way, Nanami sees someone who looks exactly like Jowy. They follow, but lose sight of him.
Arriving in the town hall, they find Anabelle dying, having been stabbed by Jowy. Anabelle realizes that she has very little time left to live and makes her last wish. She asks for forgiveness for what her father did to Genkaku, and she wants them to live. They run out of the room and try to escape as the Highland Army enter Muse City. But before they can do so, they are confronted by soldiers. Fighting their way out, the two journey to South Window City.
Plot differences from Suikoden II
- In Suikoden II, the hero and Jowy see Rowd talking to Luca Blight and learn that the attack is a plot by Luca to spark a war. In Card Stories, Rowd is the one who leads the attack on the Unicorn Brigade.
- In Suikoden II, the Rune of Beginning is not found in a cave in Tenzan Pass, but in a shrine in Toto Village.
- In Card Stories, Jowy covers the hero's escape and is captured by the Highland Army. In Suikoden II, this occured when the two infiltrated the Highland garrison outside of Muse City. In Card Stories, this results in Jowy joining the Highlanders earlier than in the original game.
- In Card Stories, Viktor is said to have caught the hero while fishing. In Suikoden II, the hero was merely spotted by Viktor, Flik, and his men near Toto Village.
- In Card Stories, Jowy has joined the Highland forces long before the assassination of Anabelle in Muse City.
- In Card Stories, the hero does not escape back to Kyaro Town nor meets Nanami there. Nanami leaves Kyaro instead, reuniting with the hero in Toto Village. This resembles an alternative recruitment path for Nanami in Suikoden II where, if you don't go to rescue her in Kyaro, she escapes by herself and reunites with the party at the Mercenary Fortress.
- In Card Stories, if the player choose to flee the Mercenary Fortress under Viktor's orders, they will encounter Rowd in Toto Village and fight him before deciding to return to the fort in time for the second Highland attack.
- Card Stories completely eschews elements of the Suikoden II plot regarding Tsai, Pilika, Fire Spears, and Apple. After returning to the Mercenary Fortress with Nanami, the Highland Army simply attacks twice in quick succession without warning to raze the fort.
Previously when concept work began on Genso Suikogaiden Vol.1, the idea of a card game was first mooted. When a game was to be developed for the Game Boy Advance, the concept was returned to, partly because of the perceived difficulty of creating a full adventure game with the required depth on the handheld device.
As the player demographic for the Suikoden series to this point skewed older than average, part of the reason behind the development of the title was also to expand the player base. The story of Suikoden II was taken and edited to fit the gameplay of the title as well as the technical restraints of the hardware.
Reception and legacy
Genso Suikoden Card Stories would earn a 25/40 score from Weekly Famitsu on its release, marking it as the lowest rated game in the Suikoden series, tied with the Sega Saturn version of the original Suikoden, as well as Genso Suikogaiden Vol.2.
- Genso Suikoden Genso Shinsho Vol.5 Summer 2001, (ISBN 4-88317-884-6), pages 31-7
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