Suikoden V - Staff Review  

Bringing the Series Backwards and Forwards at the Same Time
by Jason Schreier

45-60 Hours


Rating definitions 

   Like most long-running series of just about anything, Suikoden, known best for its casting of 108+ characters per game, has had its ups and downs. Suikoden IV, considered by most to be the worst game in the series, was received pretty poorly in the United States, rendering fans quite cautious when, only a few months later, its release was followed by the announcement of Suikoden V. Claimed by Konami to have been worked on since Suikoden III first came out, Suikoden V was under the supervision of an entirely new development team and began to stir up a renewed hype for the series. Press releases and screenshots began to circulate, revealing many series staples that, after having been discarded in recent games, would be brought back: six-person parties, a world map, the formation system, and others. After what seemed like decades, Suikoden V was released and has lived up to the hype in many ways. This latest installation in the series manages to both tell a fantastic story and successfully amalgamate the old and the new, maintaining old school elements without feeling outdated, yet adding new features without feeling like a new game entirely.

   Suikoden Vís battle system is a pretty standard turn-based affair, spiced up by the fact that the player has 108 characters at his or her disposal. Although only a bit more than half of those 108 can join the party as fighters, others can join the entourage and walk around with the character anyway, allowing them to grant special abilities such as being able to find more potch (currency), appraise unknown items on the field, and cast extra magic. Characters can also team up to use Unite abilities in combat and do extra damage or abilities, sharpen their weapons to do more damage, use runes to cast magic in a time-worn magic point system reminiscent of the original Final Fantasy, learn skills using a pool of skill points, and much more. At times it almost feels like there are too many options; the skills system seems to be mostly unnecessary and tacked on, while some formation attacks, commands that can be selected at the beginning of a battle to do set damage based on the party's current formation, are entirely too powerful. However, battling is never dull thanks to the ďautoĒ command, which has all current characters auto-attack in fashion, allowing the player to speed through random and easy encounters.

   Seems cool, right? Thatís not even the half of it; Suikoden V also features two more modes of battle: one-on-one dueling and massive army warfare. Dueling is a timed rock-paper-scissors mind game where the player must read his or her opponentís comments and respond accordingly with his or her own action. Although itís a fun system, itís generally way too easy to predict opponents' moves, and, given that it has been around in more or less the same form since the first Suikoden game, dueling is getting old. Warfare, on the other hand, has been changed in every Suikoden game so far, and Suikoden V is no exception. This incarnation of the army system has the player moving around different units in real time, positioning them to attack each other in what is again a rock-paper-scissor system. The RTS-like moving arrangement adds an element of strategy to warfare that hasnít been seen in any Suikoden, and itís safe to say that this is the best war system yet.

The posse you'll roll with Every prince has his posse

   Suikoden V looks and sounds spectacular, and the aesthetic quality of the game really shows, especially when it comes to the minute details and facial expressions of each character. Unfortunately, the camera is usually pulled back so far that it's difficult to really see and appreciate the amount of effort actually put into the art. Although the camera can zoom in further, that tends to take away from the perspective and prevent players from seeing everything in a given map that needs to be seen. Other than this minor detail, however, the gameís visuals are great, as is the music, which does a perfect job of both reliving nostalgic moments through haunting melodies from previous games and creating new tunes that will resonate with players for months to come.

   Although Suikoden V is by no means a difficult game, the main story is beefy and will likely last around 50 hours; however, to truly experience the game itís essential to go out and recruit all 108 characters. Recruiting some characters requires tedious or complicated methods that it will take most players quite a while to figure out. Others can be missed if not recruited during a given interval of time, giving players an excuse to take advantage of Suikoden Vís New Game + feature, which allows for replaying the game with potch and inventory intact. Sometimes Suikoden V suffers by being too easy when it comes to battle yet too hard when it comes to recruiting characters, but that is a problem the series has always faced. The difficulty can feel rather unbalanced, as several boss battles provide a large increase that changes pace completely.

   Suikoden V has the best translation of any game in the series yet, with witty dialogue and fantastic characterizations. It'd be great if the interface was as polished, but for the most part things are clunky. Menus tend to be hard to see and there tend to be a lot of extra confirm choices for options where theyíre not necessary, like equipping characters. Another problem stems from having to backtrack a lot in order to proceed in the story, especially toward the beginning of the game. However, these hindrances do not take away from the game enough that they are a severe detriment.

Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat

   Recent RPGs have slacked off a bit when it comes to story, which is why Suikoden Vís plot is invigorating in its elegance. Players take the role of the son of Queen Arshtat and Commander Ferid of the island nation Falena, and although only women can rule as Queen, the protagonist has an important role regardless. As is typical of Suikoden games, Suikoden V 's first few hours are spent learning about the main character, who accompanies him regularly, and the environment that the game takes place in. And as is typical of Suikoden games as well, the player then watches as the main character falls from grace and is forced to overcome insurmountable odds in this heavily political, epic storyline. It's hard to go on without spoiling certain elements, but there are tons of surprising moments and extremely emotional parts. Unlike its prequels, Suikoden Vís entire plot wraps up very nicely with very few loose ends.

   This game is an excellent choice for any fans of Suikoden who feel like the series has abandoned them lately. To those who haven't played any Suikoden games, Suikoden V may be the perfect place to start, as it doesn't alienate newbies to the series at all. If you want to immerse yourself in a great political story while also enjoying all sorts of cool features, Suikoden V is a great purchase.

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