Suikoden Tierkreis - Staff Review  

Reading This Review Is Your Destiny
by Jason Schreier

Very Easy
40-60 Hours
+ Fantastic characters and a strong story.
+ Beautiful DS graphics.
- Way too easy.
- Excessive random battles can be frustrating.
- Bugs and flaws make the game feel unpolished.
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   Suikoden Tierkreis may appear to be a childish RPG on the outside, but once you get past its cartoonish aesthetics and teenage protagonist, you'll find that it's a great game and a worthy addition to the Suikoden series. It might not have some of the elements that us hardcore Suikoden fans have come to expect, like recurring characters or True Runes, but the story and cast are strong enough to make the game well worth playing. And although Tierkreis has quite a few flaws that should have been zapped way before release, it's a very solid portable RPG that will appeal to anybody with a DS.

   Like its predecessors, Suikoden Tierkreis features a heavily political story filled with betrayal, death, and a deliciously entertaining array of characters. The plot may seem to be a black and white adventure story at first, even opening with a cliché "hunt down some monsters" quest, but as you continue to progress, the story gets deeper and deeper. Characters are never as black and white as they appear to be, friends might not be so friendly, and villains aren't always as villainous as they seem. Every important character has his or her own set of motivations, and even the most minor characters have interesting quirks and memorable traits.

   Suikoden's storylines have always heavily hinted at the notion of destiny, and Tierkreis takes the idea to a new level. The nameable main character, an orphan from a small rural village, sets out on an adventure one day and becomes tangled up in the affair of an organization known as The Order of the One True Way. The people of this Order believe that every aspect of life is completely predetermined before it even happens, which naturally runs contrary to the hero's sense of values and free will. He eventually decides to build up an army, form alliances, and take down the Order, along with the help of mysterious magical forces and up to 108 collectible characters, ranging from a gossip queen to a snow fairy to a compulsive crier. The story is definitely the best part of Suikoden Tierkreis, and it definitely has one of the strongest stories of all the RPGs currently on the DS.

Caption Fish are friends, not food!

   Combat in Tierkreis is typical RPG fare. You control a party of up to four characters who perform in turn-based battles using physical strikes, magic, and combination attacks. Suikoden fans will be unhappy to hear that the rune system has been taken out in favor of a similar magic system called Mark of the Stars, and that characters can now change weapons while in previous games they could not. Fans of the series will also be disappointed that one-on-one and mass army combat have both been removed, which is unfortunate because both systems seem like they should have been used at many points in the game, which would have helped soften the monotony of this battle system.

   But the combat wouldn't be so bad if not for the ridiculously high random encounter rate, which is quite frustrating. Random battles happen every few steps, and your character's walking speed is much slower than it should be, even after you find an accessory that doubles it. Dungeons are an exercise in patience, but the story is gripping enough to keep you dredging through the encounters. And it's always a joy to discover a new character; deducing how to recruit all 108 is both fun and rewarding, as the ending changes if you've collected them all.

   Unfortunately, character-finding is just about the only difficult aspect of Suikoden Tierkreis. Enemies are absurdly easy and almost every boss can be defeated without much effort. Most battles can be won simply by hitting auto-attack, and your characters become powerful enough by the end of the game to destroy absolutely everything with ease. A changeable difficulty setting would have been quite nice.

Caption Many of the settings and backgrounds are beautifully captured

   And that's not all; Tierkreis has quite a few other bugs and issues. The menu is very clunky and loadtimes can be a real pain. Icon graphics are occasionally buggy, and at times during combat with particularly big enemies, the camera angle prevents you from seeing how much damage you're dealing. Way too many unwinnable story battles are sprinkled throughout the game with no real indication as to when, and the lack of a Quick Save feature is very jarring. On top of that, there are only two save slots, which is unacceptable for any modern game, especially a portable one.

   At least Suikoden Tierkreis is fun to look at; it's unquestionably gorgeous. Every character model is animated with care and some of the settings are absolutely stunning. Many dungeons and towns take advantage of scale to paint a beautiful picture, and cartoon cutscenes every few hours help tell the story in a unique fashion. The voice acting is rather mediocre, but the music is lively and catchy, with some familiar tunes that will excite most longtime fans of the series.

   Whether you're a fan of the series or not, you will very likely enjoy the story of Suikoden Tierkreis and have a blast playing it, if you can get past its flaws. This is the type of game that could have been so much better had Konami put more effort into it, but that doesn't stop it from being a great DS RPG. Here's hoping that they try harder on the next one.

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