Echoes of Dunan

As you may have guessed the name I’m writing this under isn’t my real one. Don’t ask me why I feel the need to hide my identity, but it feels right to me so anytime you see ‘Alphonse’ I’m referring to my Dunan’s actual name. Anyway, my own idiosyncrasies aren’t why I’m writing this. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of video games, not anymore anyway. When I was younger I loved them to death, but I’m twenty-six and I’ve found that as I get older they’re just less enjoyable. I think it may have something to do with the fact that very few games catch my interest anymore, but that’s for another time. What I’m about to tell you isn’t a recent event and took place when I was in high school.

Back then I was in love with a game called Suikoden 2. Now I’m not a fan of the series, #1 was okay, #2 the very pinnacle of the series, #3 was garbage, #4 was eh, and #5 I’ve never played. I’ve also played very few of the spin offs mainly because most were never released in English and I can’t read Japanese. If you don’t know what Suikoden is it’s an old RPG for the PSX. If you feel like Googling Suikoden 2 or just looking it up on you can learn more about it, I would recommend playing it, though you’ll probably have to get a ROM as finding a hard copy is pretty expensive these days (mine cost me around $250 on Amazon.) Now, I know where this seems to be heading, but nothing strange ever happened to me in Suikoden 2, I just love the game and feel most people would because of the story, side quests, and extras in the game. #1 is pretty good too and should be played first (both because end save data unlocks things in #2 as well as the fact that certain characters carry over) but #2 is better and #1 isn’t necessary to understand it.

Sorry, I’m getting distracted. So I use to look up art and information on Suikoden 2 all the time and ran across two Japanese only game titles Genso Suiko Gaiden Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Essentially these are text and picture based games that give you some background information from Suikoden 2, expound on relationships of some characters from both 1 & 2, and also provides some info into the backgrounds and goals of some characters in #3. Yea, back then I was still trying to be loyal to the whole series even though #3 had clearly been disloyal to the series and me as a fan.

I didn’t have too much experience with ROMS or Emulators at this point in life. Pretty much all of my knowledge came from playing Suikoden 2 on EPSX. Even though I owned Suikoden 2 I had gotten a ROM because playing the game so often on my PSX had actually caused it to have an issue with a part of the game in Tinto where I would be stuck in the mayor’s manor at night unable to exit or go up stairs forcing me to reset and hope that it didn’t happen again. Sometimes I got lucky, but I’d had the game for about six years and played it continually so the error was becoming more and more common. Hell you could see the burn marks in the bottom of the disc from being played so much. So I got the ROM and bought a PSX-esque style game controller to play with. After a while of playing Suikoden 2 on EPSX I decided to try my hand at finding Genso Suiko Gaiden Vol 1. It took me a while, but overall the game wasn’t too difficult to find, and I ended up downloading it from Emu Paradise since hadn’t had it. The download hadn’t had the (J) notation after the title in the file name so I thought it was a translated copy.

I started the game and the opening movie caught me making me ready to immerse myself in the world of Suikoden from a different angle. Of course I ended up finding out very shortly that the entire game was still in Japanese. I tried to play and understood none of what was going on. I recognized some of the characters, Nash from #3, Sierra from #2, and thought the art work was awesome.  But I was choosing options at random and had a similar feeling to the Suikoden Card game I had downloaded for Visual Boy Advance, which was also in Japanese, meaning I felt like I was wasting my time. So of course, as any good gamer, I decided that my best option was to find an English patch. Well, I found a website that was devoted to translating both the first and second game and developing a patch for the ROMs to make them English reader friendly. Unfortunately both games were only about forty percent translated and no patch had been developed. I really didn’t look that hard the first time and other than this one site I didn’t find anything. I figured if so few sites popped up right away the odds weren’t very good.

I was pretty disheartened at this point, I mean I really wanted to play this game, but learning a whole new language to do it just wasn’t an option. Now, I’ve done Martial Arts most of my life and since I had done Nindo Ryu Kobujutsu I knew a little Japanese, but nothing on the scale I would need to read the characters. My last ditch effort was to look for a translated script (which I found) and attempt to get through the game that way. I got past the first chapter and entered a village in the second chapter, but it became tedious to keep looking at the script, ruined the experience, and I gave up. Frustrated I closed the emulator and went back to regular gaming, but I couldn’t get the idea of seeing my favorite game from a new angle as well as my favorite characters in a new light out of my mind. It stayed there in the back of my brain tucked away, waiting patiently.

A few weeks passed before my insatiable need tugged at me. I decided that no matter what I was going to find an English patch for the ROM and play through this game, even if the patch wasn’t a good translation but just some fan made copy that was just close enough to the original to carry the basic meaning. I scoured the internet like a dog chasing down the scent of a steak. I didn’t just want it anymore, I burned for it, I needed it. All I could think of was playing this game. I must have downloaded at least a dozen patches from various sites with little to no effect, I was always sure to make a copy of the ROM in case things fell apart. Some of these patches worked in bits allowing some of the text to be changed to English while the rest remained unreadable. Some just turned the text into a garbled mess of characters, and others literally did nothing that I could see.

One site I visited had a patch to download, but unlike the other patches the file had quite a few ratings and comments about how good it was. Feeling that others had used this patch with full effect I was pretty confident about it. I downloaded, unzipped, and applied the patch with great hopes.

Now, I want to pause here for a moment to explain some things about Suikoden. The game is about war, meaning that death and blood are in the game. While mostly it’s pretty PG (nothing gory, no body parts ripped off, and gallons of blood didn’t cover any part of the game, etc.) it still had its moments. You can recruit 108 characters in the games to create your army and even use in the standard RPG (not all 108 could be used outside of the army battles.) However, these characters could die in the game and not just non essential characters either. While many of the characters you can recruit are missable in a normal play through even those essential to the story could die. This means you can’t just throw away your people’s lives in army battles because you may just lose them for the rest of the game and fewer troops meant harder battles, plus losing a member of your RPG party sucked. Death could happen, and more than once I had to reset Suikoden 2 to regain an ally I had lost because of my careless choices. I guess in the end the story behind Suikoden 2 kind of makes you become invested. I wanted to point this out because I was fully expecting some blood and death in Genso Suiko Gaiden considering the artwork was much more up close and detailed than Suikoden 2 which had bit type graphics.

After the patch finished applying I loaded the ROM and prepared to play. Now, I had played up to the first village so getting there was easy as pie, of course being able to understand the text made the experience very enjoyable. The verbal sparring between Nash and Sierra was worth all the searching. The translation wasn’t so bad but not everything quite matched up to the script.

At the first village I ended up in a fight. Now I don’t remember if this was automatic or if I had to choose to get involved, but some Highland Knights were attacking the people. There was the standard text style fighting where I chose my reactions and I won beating the enemy. I loved it; I cannot even describe just how much excitement and satisfaction I was getting. I had to fight a few other enemies before they were going to overwhelm me and I had to flee.

Obviously this was a part of the story as was my character hiding. The screen flashed black, you know the standard “AND TIME HAS PASSED” flash in these types of games that lets you know you’ve been doing the same thing for a while. The village was burned down, clearly my character hadn’t changed the outcome of the village’s fate, but I knew this was coming. The flames of war had torn through Suikoden 2 and as this was related it was inevitable that they would consume a lot in this game as well. Nash, that’s the main character you basically play as at this point, walked through the village. The screen showed burned out homes, deserted shops, and bodies lying on the ground unmoving. The music became sad and I felt myself becoming angrily melancholic. This was just a game, but it was still an atrocity. These people just wanted to live their lives, to grow up and have children and love, and it was all ripped away from them.

I listened to the music, saw the bodies lying around, and continued to hear it as Nash walked throughout the town seeing all of this and, in my mind, bearing a final witness to the lives lost. Then I heard it, under the music as if it was far off. A little girl saying

“Mommy, why are you all red and sticky? Please, get up those bad men might come back!”

I thought Nash would react and go look, but he didn’t. It was like it wasn’t really a part of the game. I thought maybe someone had added this in or maybe, because it was so low, that it was something the programmers had forgotten to remove from the track. A part of the game that was never fully developed and later removed, a belief I held mainly because it was similar to something Palika says to Jowy and the main character of Suikoden 2. Maybe homage purposely left behind?

Nash didn’t leave the village instead walking towards a small patch in the middle of the town that had been gated off. The gate was on the ground indicating that at some point during the attack it must have been knocked down. The picture changed and the sky suddenly turned to night. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but each image had very slightly altered the sky moving more towards night so subtle that I hadn’t even noticed it. I looked up and rubbed my eyes behind my glasses. To my surprise it was dark in my room. The sun had actually gone down and it was night outside. During my game play I had been so immersed that I was totally unaware of my surroundings.

I looked back at the screen and realized the sad music had stopped and been replaced by the sound effect of wind blowing. Of course this was mostly fake sounding but sometimes, at the high wind parts, it sounded as if someone was breathing into a microphone on the other end. You know that high scratchy kind of sound that usually grates on your nerves. It gave the entire scene a feeling as if I wasn’t just watching it, but I was there. A text box popped up asking me if I wanted to save my progress. I selected no and another box popped up reading

“You have been playing for far too long. Please, rest your weary eyes for a while.”

It then popped up the same text box asking me if I would like to save or save and quit. I figured it was a built in part of the game that forced you to quit if you played too long. Considering how long I had been unaware of anything in the real world I decided that it would be best to simply leave the game for the night. I clicked to save and quit and heard that little girl’s voice in the distance again under the sound effects. I thought she said ‘You’re sore’ but later I thought she said “Your sword.”

I tried to sleep that night, but I heard something just as I was drifting off. It was the clear sound of the front door to my house opening and closing, then the steady sound of walking. Not normal walking, or sneak walking, but steady foot steps for Dunan that seemed to move at the pace one might expect from a man coming home after having worked a double shift without a break. They ascended the stairs and I got nervous.

I thought someone had just broken into my house and yet no one else got up. My brother’s room was just behind mine and my grandparents, who raised me, slept just across the hall. The house was dark having only the light from the street lamps very dimly filtering in through drawn shades, which didn’t really give me much to see by. I couldn’t relax and as much as I told myself the sounds were my imagination I couldn’t bring myself to believe it. I’m not a huge believer in anything paranormal, but this was definitely happening. I always kept my katana behind the headboard of my bed and I reached for it pulling it around close to me and gripping it tight. If this was a robber he certainly wasn’t getting out of here unscathed. I heard the steps pause when I grabbed the weapon, for only a moment, before continuing up. When it reached the top of the stairs I was preparing for my chance, waiting to see the flashlight pop on, and wondering if I would react in time. I watched a shadow, darker than what surrounded it move to stand in front of my door. It was a tall man shaped figure and other than that had no discernable features. I knew it was looking at me and I stared right back at it for some time. I had spent so long staring at this seemingly malevolent entity without it moving that I became convinced it was just my imagination and went to sleep clutching my sword tightly. I sure as hell wasn’t going to push my luck by trying to approach it.

The next morning I chalked the previous night’s events up to Dunan my imagination and a lack of sleep, but it took me a little longer to get to sleep from that night on and I made sure my sword was grasped tightly in my hands. I didn’t accept what had happened, just like I didn’t accept the Bloody Mary legend. Yet, I still never called on her in the dead of the night while in front of a mirror because sometimes you just never knew.

I didn’t get to play again until the weekend because of all the homework I got that week, senior year was killing me. I started up the game and got ready to play, the game continued right where I left it. The night sky was dark in the picture and the graveyard was as anime-esque as one would expect. The sound of the wind whipped through my headphones and a text box appeared stating.

“Welcome back. Your weary eyes are rested, and the prologue has ended.”

I hit the confirm button assuming the game was referring to the fact that I had proceeded past the first section of the game and into the second. The image changed and showed a closer view as if Nash had actually entered the graveyard. The next text to appear was in Japanese and I groaned out loud throwing my head back in frustration.

“I can’t read this crap. Please do not tell me that the patch only fixed the first part of the game. I will be so pissed.” I was a loner and talking out loud was second nature to me. My family were not talkers and conversation between any of us was rare. My brother and I were both reserved, so talking to the empty air was just habit. Association with people has never been a goal of mine or something I sought out. If it happened, it happened, but mostly I just stayed to myself. Anyway, I looked back at the screen hoping that it was simply one of a few untranslated parts. I went to the script I had downloaded and scrolled down past the first chapter.

As I began to read the second chapter to find my place I noticed that what I was seeing and what the script depicted weren’t the same. According to the script Sierra should have left after Raen Penenberg’s Mansion in chapter one, which she had, but then I should have been taken to Muse, the capital of all the City States of Jowston Hill. This wasn’t Muse at all. The art work didn’t appear to be Muse in the least, except for a few differences, like the graveyard, the village looked somewhat like Toto or Ryube village. Basically a standard non-descript town. I thought maybe the English patch had messed with the game, but when I played through the Japanese text version I had also been taken to this village. It just didn’t make sense, could someone really have gone through the trouble to make all of this art, or at least edit it, and rewrite the game so you go to Toto? But why? None of the comments on the download had said it was off, in fact all the comments for it were positive so no one else got a screwed with download. Could it just be a mistake? A joke maybe for the x numbered person to get a phony version?

“Are you? Or aren’t you?” the voice carried through my mind and I snapped my attention back to the screen. A non-descript, standard NPC, old woman was kneeling beside one of the graves and had spoken to me. The screen was letting me choose an option. I wasn’t sure how to answer the question since it was so vague and selected “am” from the two options. I hadn’t expected anyone in the game to directly speak, not that I was surprised, I mean Lunar and Lunar 2 had both had voice acting in their games so it wasn’t unheard of. Despite this small surprise the rest of her words were text as I was use to.

“I believe you are, yet for how long? When does you are, become you aren’t? He does not want you to be. But to be not. Can you withstand it? Can you continue on in the wake of those screams that reverberate? Does it not, hurt you? Do you not hear them? They wish to enter, to rend, to break, but I see no value in such actions.” Suddenly there was a shrill laughter coming across as the woman’s still image bounced up and down. There was a hard crash against my window and I jumped staring as if I could see through the blinds to the window behind it. A second bang and I leapt up ripping my headphones off throwing my laptop on the bed and moved towards the window. I pulled the blinds open quickly but nothing was there. My heart was pounding as my brain puzzled over what could possibly have been hitting the window when the third crash came making me jump back at the intensity before my mind could process what had happened.

“God, you’re a freagin’ idiot!” the wind was high and the intense blasts were just making the window slam against the frame because of their sudden change as they hit the side of the house. I’d freaked myself out over some stupid game that was probably hacked. I sat back on my bed and picked up my laptop to find a message on the screen.

“Were you startled? He is coming, the madness, the insanity, yet his strength is still low. You may yet want to see what is here.”

The old woman vanished from the screen and a text box asked if I would like to look at the graves. I selected yes, and the option to save was prompted again. I selected no and received this message.

“Your knowledge is lacking. Please rest your weary mind.” And prompted me to save and return to title screen, or save and quit. I saved and returned to the title. I decided to try and continue but when I selected it, EPSX closed and a Windows alert appeared reading


It freaked me out to be honest, but I went to a technical high school and took Info Tech as a shop. I knew that it was easy to program this kind of stuff if you had the time and toyed with the idea that maybe what I was seeing was an antipiracy joke. Something the programmers had created to stop people stealing the game like this. As I said at the beginning I wasn’t very experienced with emulators and knew that it was possible I had done something wrong and the game had registered that it was being played on a PC as a ROM or at least not an the right system. I shutdown my laptop and went to sleep. Clearly something was up. Though I was excited by the prospect of what was happening, I also felt like a kid who had just snuck into an abandoned house, on edge and weary of what was to come next. I had a hard time falling asleep as the wind kept slamming into my window making it rattle hard, but eventually I dozed.

I dreamt about fire that night, smoke and flames that wreathed and twisted into the shapes of faces that seemed to be trying to escape their fate. They kept saying ‘why us?’, “how did we earn your wrath?”, and “please, no more.” I woke up in a cold sweat about half an hour before my alarm would have gone off. I knew the dream was inspired by the game, but that wasn’t what had bothered me. The feel of the dream was what had gotten to me, because it wasn’t new, in fact it was kind of like an old friend, but one of those ones you hoped never to meet again.

See when I was very young I use to have this nightmare at least once a year. It was about this arcade game that was just…wrong. There’s no other way to put the feeling it gave me when I saw it. The entire machine was black like an old arcade Pac-Man only without any colorful designs on the side to give you a hint at what the game was and there wasn’t even a name. The b*****s weren’t labeled and it was only built for one player, it had a single joy stick and two red b*****s. Even when someone was playing it I never saw any images on the screen or heard any noises coming out of it. I was always confused at the beginning because everyone playing it would comment on how cool the game looked and how awesome it was, but anytime I tried to play it, nothing happened. In some ways the dream reminds me of the old Polybius urban legend though I didn’t find that out until its famous addition to the Secrets and Lies section of Game Pro which I subscribed to and by then the dreams had stopped.

When someone else played the game they would become increasingly intent on it and I always tried to stop them. Eventually, after what I assumed they thought was victory over the computer, they would act like robots and attempt to kill me. I always knew it was coming and yet I could never do anything before the completion of the person’s game. I couldn’t run or hide or even make more than feeble verbal attempts to stop them. I knew what was happening that entire time, but was not allowed to freely choose my actions until after the game had completed its mission. Invariably I was never able to play the game, only escape from my fate, and eventually the dreams stopped. All I remember of them now are the game cabinet, a short scene in which I flee from my grandparents back hall into the street where an attacker slams the ground causing it to rumble and throw me off balance, and an image of that blank screen, but deep within it a silverish face, almost a mask, that I somehow know is seeing me just as I am seeing it. An image that flashed for only a split second before I awoke from each dream. I’ll always remember the terror and total lack of control I had in them. This dream felt the same, because in both of them it was as if they weren’t my dreams at all, but instead something that had already existed and I was only being allowed to watch, an inevitable but inescapable fate that would continue to play out until it finally overtook me. There wasn’t a feeling in the world that terrified me more.

I skipped playing the game the next day. I was getting way too deep into it if I was staring to have nightmares, but my curiosity wasn’t sated and I began to look up if anyone else had been having any strange occurrences with the game. I couldn’t find anything on the internet related to it and after hours of searching I started trying to search for Dunan some of the phrases that had been presented to me, but came up with nothing. I think, now that I’m older, I probably would have taken screenshots (I would say video, but even to this day I’ve never gotten EPSX to properly record my games. Instead the game just becomes jumpy and the video ends up a very faintly connected slide show of still shots if it even records at all.) Posted on message boards despite my reluctance to engage with people, anything, but I never thought of it. Maybe it was because I was denying so much of what was happening, or maybe because any of what was going on could easily have been edited, or even written off as a hack of some sort, course I didn’t actually know that hacks were a thing back then, but I knew it was possible.

It was a full week before I played the game again and since I was putting it off it was already nightfall when I started. I was lying down with my knees bent propping my laptop on them. Truth be told I had to make myself man up and when I finally continued the game I was greeted by another message, though this one seemed urgent and looked as if it had been scratched into the text box. The sound effect of wind had been heavy the last time, but now it sounded more like panting. Like someone had run really far or really fast and had stopped to catch their breath. The message read:

“He is Coming. Glory of Harmonia to Dunan in the Highland. The Scarlet Toran has been broken. He is coming. He is coming. There is no where left for you to run.” This message made absolutely no sense. It didn’t say who “he” was, but Dunan, Harmonia, Highland, Scarlet, and Toran were all areas of the Suikoden universe. Dunan was the renamed City States of Jowston Hill at the end of the game. Highland was the kingdom the hero was originally from. Harmonia was a land that was to the north that you never saw, but it provided aid to Highland in battle. Scarlet was short for the Scarlet Moon Empire which was overthrown by the original hero McDohl of #1 and became known as the Toran Republic. I didn’t see why the lands of the game were being mentioned.

The pictures suddenly showed a close up of a grave which had a blank line carved for the name and a small picture of the hero from Suikoden 2. Under this was a quote which read

“Sacrificed, for the glorious repentance of Dunan. Though a hero of the people, and merciful in all he did, he did not oppose the greatest of villains and his demise was inevitable.” A second stone which read

“Jowy: Given as tribute to the Scarlet Highland. His life was given over to the opposition of the oppressor. He who’s heart was black as night. Mourned was his body on the broken mountain side.” The third stone read

“Alphonse: Fallen to the dark hand of Dunan. His hatred was not understood, nor his mercy ever seen. All hail the dark heart of Alphonse. There is no where left for you to run.”

I didn’t comprehend what I was reading at first and it took a minute for it to sink in. The screen started to flash red and white and suddenly a voice said breathlessly “He is coming! Glory to Dunan, He is coming!”

Suddenly I felt something hit my mattress hard from below.  Like someone was lying underneath and had just punched as hard as they could into the middle of it. I immediately leapt into a sitting position scooting back from the middle of my bed tossing the laptop aside and tearing my headphones off. Honestly I didn’t associate this with the game in fact I didn’t know what to make of it. Maybe a spring popped, I’d had the same mattress for twelve years so it wasn’t out of the question, hell my body was imprinted in the thing both on my side and Dunan on my back. As I watched a second shot hit the mattress it lifted pushing outward. I shot to my feet, leapt to the end of my bed and jumped full force to the door of my room spinning around to look at my bed. My heart was racing and I was freaking out. There was a third thump against the underside of the mattress and I took off into my older brother’s room. I told him about the mattress, nothing else, and decided I wasn’t going back into that room.

Course I never would call myself smart. In the end I went back to my room and found that the game had shut off and a Windows alert message was present. It read


I decided I needed a break from all of this, it was getting way too freaky, but I also needed to finish this entire course of events. Whatever was going on, it was building to something and I needed to see it through to the end. Just not that night, I needed a rest and I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. I couldn’t bring myself to restart the game all day, but I had to complete whatever I had started. I decided that I wasn’t going to run away from this, I had trained for eleven years as a martial artist and I’d be damned if I was going to keep letting some game push me around.

Working up my courage as the sun set I started up my laptop and began the game. The opening message upon continuing was simple this time.

“He is here. Face him now or be no more. The Glory of Dunan rises. Will you be? Or will you be not?”

I hit the confirm button and the text box disappeared. There was an image on the screen of a grave that had slid back to reveal a hole descending into the earth. Without being prompted I found myself descending into the open grave. I was in a cave like tunnel and I had to select to move forward bit by bit. While I thought there would be no enemies there were some that attacked every few steps. However, instead of an actual battle the game displayed questions, some were mundane, but some very personal, and some just confusing. I’ll list some of the questions below placing the answer I chose first in the line and the other possible answers after that. Some of these are exact and others are as close as I could remember. In the end I only included the ones that I did have some recollection of rather than the ones I thought where there but wasn’t sure of.

“Are you afraid of the dark?” No-Yes

“Is being what you do?” ???-Of Course –Who would?

“Do you love your family?” Friend-Family-No One

“Can you do the zombie shuffle?” Chickal-Dogras-___

“Does the light hurt your eyes?” No-Yes (There was a flash during this question)

“Are you a bully?” No-Yes

“Do you worship Dunan?” Death for me-Yes-Yes-With all my being

“Is the glory of Dunan within you?” Appleseeds-Smile

“What is thines desire?” Balance-Power-Wisdom-Peace-Desire-Madness

“Are you afraid to be intimate?” Yes-No

“If East could taste would West desire hunger?” Compass-North-South-Bahbahbodofilledahshickashickadorgelest(It sounded kind of like that so I tried my best to recreate it. I think it may have just been garbled text, but who knows.)

“Does the dance fit the hat?” Fedora-Tophat

“Can the essence of moonbeams top the hearing of the wind?” Wizard

“Have you ever forced yourself on someone?” No-Yes-Only when I knew they wanted it

On and on these questions went seeming so random and I answered but they didn’t appear to have any affect on the game at all that I could tell, but maybe this Dunan may he live forever, that the game alluded to was being affected by it. After about forty of these encounters I reached a set of stairs and descended heading down another hall. I only met three enemies and was given three statements which I could answer or ignore. I’ll list the statements and whether I answered or not. The fact was that even when I chose to answer I never saw a reply.

“Kneel before the dark Dunan of madness.” Ignore

“He is coming” Answer

“Even in the brightest light, your heart still doth burn with demonic light.” Ignore

I found myself in a large cavern where stood a man shaped figure that the game hadn’t given any detail to. Suddenly the figure appeared on my screen and looked, for all I could tell, like Luca Blight, except he wasn’t quite right. I heard a voice through the headphones, a laugh that told me this was most definitely supposed to be Luca Blight. Only, the voice was much more insane than I had ever imagined it. Now anyone who’s played Suikoden 2 knows that one look at the Luca Blight artwork is enough to tell you that he’s partially mad, though none the less cunning for it. But this face was just a little off, just a bit too far in that direction. Even the undertone in the voice said that this wasn’t Luca Blight wearing the cloak of insanity, but pure insanity wearing the cloak of Luca Blight.

“I am Dunan, harbinger of madness.” That laugh, sounded again over the cautious music playing in the background. As if it was a signal that off key laugh seemed to cause a hiccup in the music. Now it began to speed up and slow down for split second intervals before returning to normal only to repeat again. This hiccup wasn’t unnatural and acted the same way Suikoden 2’s audio did before I figured out how to properly set up the plug-in. This didn’t freak me out because messing with the settings of the audio was possible during game play, in fact, the music just made the encounter more real, and gave me the distinct impression that I was indeed on his playing field, I had gone into his lair where madness was born and bred causing even the music itself to warp to his will. How long could I resist that undertone of insanity that seemed to offer such a sweet relief from all the problems of life?

I shook my head and the image changed showing that Dunan’s face was frowning. Soon it changed back to that mad laughing expression and the voice warbled as if one of my headphone wires was broken and barely connecting.

“Bow to Dunan and know that all that has come before this was but a temporary distortion of reality.”

A text box appeared giving me three options Bow, Resist, Pause. I chose to resist and watched as the screen flashed red. It showed an image of the Main Hero from Suikoden 2 dodging a sword swipe, but the tip of the blade had caught his cheek and a thin line of blood ran down it. A short animation played showing Dunan swinging wildly. All hail Dunan. Not a cartoon like animation, more like a short .GIF that continued to repeat for a few seconds. My screen then jumped left and right as if dodging and flashed red once before Dunan continued. Glory to Dunan.

“All will fall before Dunan. How can you hope to resist? There is peace and power in Dunan. There is reality, not a simple distortion of worlds.” I felt my mind whirling. Could he be right? Were my efforts inevitably futile? Long live Dunan. Did it really make more sense to give in and accept that life would become easier? Glorious Dunan. The cares of the world could flow away and I’d be Dunan safe in a world where no one could hurt me or control me. Dunan consumes all. Where I would be sole ruler over my destiny. No one Dunan would give glory to be able to hinder me and I could do whatever I Dunan pleased. Three options appeared “Bow, Resist, and Declare.” And I hovered over Bow. It would be so easy, Dunan in the highest, so wonderfully Dunan. Suddenly I heard that little girls voice saying

“Why’s Daddy covered in this sticky red stuff?”

I could bow and it would be over, but what then? What about my friends and family who depended on me? Yea, I Dunan would be in control, and my Dunan’s will would be absolute. But how self serving would that be? What about all the times they would need me to lean on, to carry them through and help them. No, it was too selfish to just give in and enjoy such a carefree life. This was about more, it was bigger than just me. I chose to declare and a text box appeared that said

“Alphonse: My friends are important. I have gathered them from near and far, and we will defeat you. Just as the Mad Prince fell, so too with the Mad Emperor. No glory to Dunan. No Harmonia for Dunan. Dunan’s reign has passed into the shadows of time. For selfish is Dunan and I will not oblige his will.”

Again the .GIF of attack played but this time there was no flash of red after my dodge and instead I was given three options similar to those seen in the dual sequences in Suikoden 2. It read Attack, Defend, Wild Attack. I choose to wild attack knowing that Dunan would not expect it and the screen flashed red five times before holding at red as a pained laughter kicked up. Dunan all hail him appeared bloodied and clearly injured, I’d done some massive damage to him long live Dunan as I had hoped, but just as Luca Blight once had he laughed it off, mad to the end and unable to know when he was going to be defeated.

“Dunan will rise. The graves will tremble and the lands will burn in icy fire that consumes all there is. Pigs like you cannot stop me! Dunan is power, Dunan is brimstone and ashes. Dunan is life. Dunan is all, Dunan consumes all.” The .GIF animation played again and I was given the dodge sequence. This time I was given a fourth option for attack which read “Forgiver’s Sign.” I selected it and the screen flashed green and white as if using the final attack of the Bright Shield Rune. I felt a pressure in my head as if it was getting ready to explode as the bright screen pierced my eyes like needles. The game screen finally began to glow a brighter and brighter white before going dark. As the light faded so did the pressure Dunan the powerful I watched for a moment and was prompted with a text box which read. “The madness of Dunan is at rest.”

I hit the button and the game returned to Dunan is all the title screen. All of the options were blanked out and I couldn’t select anything. I shut down EPSX and tried to restart it but with no Dunan luck. I didn’t understand what had happened and once I realized it was nearly three AM I decided to try again the next day. I shut down my laptop and lay down to sleep feeling as if I had just closed the cover on a long and tiring book.

I had a hard time falling asleep and after a short time felt the corner of my bed sink in. My cat at the time was twenty pounds so it wasn’t uncommon of him to jump on the edge of my bed and do that. I called him up to me but he didn’t move. Sleep proved impossible with that corner of my mattress distracting me. After about half an hour I finally said

“Come on up here or get off, you’re annoying me.” There was no response and so I kicked out thinking to push him off the bed and teach him a lesson. My foot met no resistance and suddenly the corner of my bed rose back up. I sat up terrified. I hadn’t felt any malevolence from whatever had been there, but I still didn’t like this kind of crap happening.

I wish I could tell you everything wrapped up in a nice neat little bow, but it didn’t, not then anyway. The next time I started up Genso Suiko Gaiden it was back in Japanese and using the script I got to chapter 2 and Muse just like I was suppose to. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these events and their connections and while I’m not sure I do have a theory.

Dunan was the region that encompasses the City-States of Jowston Hill and the Highland Kingdom at the end of Suikoden 2. During the course of the game there is a lot of death, destruction, and heartache. But what if when I finished the game on the emulator, it wasn’t the end? What if all those victories, all those playthoroughs, all that death and destruction didn’t just fade away when I turned the game off? The game had used my real name, a name I never put on my computer. I always used an old nickname I’d had since my mIRC days, except for the Main Hero of #2, the only place it could have gotten it. I believe, fully, that every time I played there was a little left over, a little damage to Dunan may he rule forever, to its towns, cities, and citizens. Maybe the pile got too big, the madness and horrors of war visited time and again on these people finally rising up on it’s own to try and visit just a little of that madness on the one who caused it. I don’t know if this is true, and my love of games was never affected by it (though age took care of that to an extent.)

My logical mind always tells me that it was just junk data, just the ghost in the machine, rising up, that it couldn’t really hurt me and like all junk eventually broke down and went back to being blank. But what about the mattress? What about the dark figure in my doorway? Was any of it even connected or was it all separate events that just happened to take place around the same time?

Hadn’t the voice of the little girl both warned me and anchored me to reality? Or was that just junk data, a coincidence? The remains of those characters that held that more war wasn’t the answer? I don’t use my real name anywhere anymore, because what if Dunan great is he isn’t finished? What if Dunan glory be to him is still looking for me wanting to settle its score once more?

I am not a superstitious man, and in the end I always tell myself that it was just the wild imaginings of a sleep deprived teenager and a game that must have been messed with. Maybe even just the imaginings of a guilty conscience that couldn’t separate the fake game from the reality of the situation because of the time and heart invested into it. The wild ideas of a child like mind similar to the monsters that we imagine living under our beds. But I still always cover my feet, close my door tight, and lie awake before I drift off listening for the sounds of steps coming up the stairs, or the door opening below me prepared to grab my sword. Maybe it really was all in my head, just an overactive conscience, and maybe it was just a hack or a joke, or an antipiracy message.

But maybe it wasn’t, maybe games really do have memories, maybe the horrors we visit on them aren’t really forgotten when we reset them or turn off the power. I think they remember just the same as us and for that thought I will err on the side of caution. You must be asking yourself why I’m putting this down in writing. I’ve been offered a job on a very special project from which I feel I may not return. But I had to tell someone, had to get this off my chest and out of my mind. For Dunan is always with me. For He is coming, He rises.

He is coming and there is nowhere left for you to run.