Malik (4/21/04)

Suikoden III (PS2)


This review originally was presented on lazy.GEEKS (9/19/03)

If I find a game I don't like, I usually try to give it a second chance. That way I can tell if I was just being bitchy when I first tried the game, or if it was actually the festering pile of crap I initially took it to be. That was the case with Suikoden III. I first tried to play it last December. Unfortunately (for Suikoden III), Velveeta had just got me Wild Arms 3 for my B-day, and of those two games, WA3 is the far superior one. So, I, in my temporarily biased mind, took Suikoden III to be nothing more than crap in DVD format. Well, I decided after beating KOTOR that I needed a new RPG thrill...I couldn't bring myself to play Arc the Lad Collection again (Arc 1 was good and all, but I can't bring myself to beat it...yet), and since there are no good new RPGs coming out for a while, I picked up Suikoden III for it's final chance to wow me. 


Suikoden games are always ones that use a good blend of character driven and world driven stories that focus on a civil war of sorts. S3 is no exception. The story this time focuses on three characters (S1 and 2 had only one primary protagonist); Chris the Knight (who is the one part of the S3 plot I could definitely do without...typical knight...honor, integrity, no personality, etc); Geddoe the other knight (non-typical knight with a more special ops type of group than the typical shining knights of yore); and Hugo the little kid (I hate little kids as the primary heroes of RPGs, but at least Hugo knows how to act more mature than the usual lot of brat heroes). All three have their own missions in the world to help protect their kingdoms in one way or another. 

As you play, instead of pulling a SaGa Frontier (playing as only one character each time through the game), you play each chapter of the game as each character. I know...this sounds like a ton of repetition, but surprisingly it is not so bad. Each hero has a unique set of events with some interaction from the other parties. This leads to interesting experiences as you (for example) play through as Geddoe and see the honorable Chris slay the innocent. This will help to entice the player to next play through as Chris to see why she would do such a horrible thing. 

So, long story short, you are given the overall plot of the region you live in going into a state of war, but you also have the character driven events that keep your perspective more down to Earth...all the while a mysterious prophecy of "The Fire Bringer" looms in the background. 


Well, S1 and S2 were both 2D games (as I like them). Usually when a game makes it's first game in 3D after being a 2D series, the visual game will suffer (look at FF7...not saying the graphics sucked, but I could always make out more details in the graphics in FF1-6 than I could in FF7...or look at Zelda: LttP vs. Zelda: OoT). S3 nicely surprised me in this regard. The 3D images are crisp and clean using a nice blend of traditional polygonal characters with a hint of cell-shading. Not only does this appropriately give you a visual sense of the world, but it also sets the mood nicely. 

Another nice innovation is how the magical effects have been tweaked to a state beyond what most RPGs will show. When you cast a spell (which can take some time to do...if you're not too skilled at casting and you cast a high level spell, prepare to sit for a few rounds chanting...), your character will glow in an appropriate color according to the type of spell being prepared (use this to prepare for enemy spells, since they do the same thing). Then when you finally cast the spell, the visuals are stunning and glorious, meeting the standards set by S1 and 2. 

My only issue with the graphics is the 3D dungeons. The dungeons themselves are nice and look wonderful, but you are given a 3D camera with no controls and horrible placement. An easy way to think of this is to think of a RE camera that will slide parallel to you in long hallways. This means you are often walking into the camera with no sense of what's coming up, you are missing sight of treasures or people who are just barely behind a pillar or tree, and you will constantly walk into people in towns when you walk towards the screen and they walk away from it. However, if you can get past this issue, then S3 will please almost any player visually. 


First thing I must say; no voice actors. Sorry, I said that wrong; NO VOICE CATERS!!! I personally am sick of bad voice acting and there is no better solution than to read the text ourselves (even if being an illiterate whore seems so much easier). That said, lets get into what is there in the audio. 

The music is just as any Suikoden fan should expect. A nice blend of folk and traditional sounding music set to a medieval theme. There are a few tracks that lack in the content department, but all in all, the music is quite listenable. 

Sound effects are also pleasant to hear. They are what anyone would expect from a typical PS2 game. Nothing too exciting, but sometimes you should just appreciate quality over innovation. The only noteworthy part of the sound effects is the sound of fire (and you hear that plenty in this game). Often times people will use fire as a marker for how well defined the visuals are in a game; I on the other hand think fire is a good standard for the sounds of a game. The fire crackles, pops, and sizzles with a good amount of audible (and visual) realism. 

Long story short; take out a few of the music tracks that were sub par, and this could be one of the nicest sounding games I've ever heard. 

Game Play 

Now this is where S3 starts to stand out...and fall down. Unfortunately, Suikoden 3 uses a few too many innovations and dumps off on what was so perfect about it's predecessors. 

The Battles; The original S1 and also S2 had a great battle system. You had 6 people in your party (3 in front, 3 in back) and each one could do whatever they wanted, provided you keep the range of their weapons in mind; a short blade could obviously do no good in the back row. Besides that, you had total freedom. That is now a thing of the past. Each person in the party has a partner (so you have 3 in front and one in back). During a combat round, you give an order to one person in each pair while the other person does whatever they feel like (and often times they will feel like getting themselves killed). This is especially bad if you have a magic paired up with a fighter. As the mage is casting, the fighter will not only fail to defend the mage, but he/she will often times drag the mage to the front lines (or bring the front lines to the mage). This is bad enough, but sometimes this will cause the mage to cast a spell that will hit himself/herself...yes, magic that has an area affect can and will hurt friendly targets (I learned that the hard a boss fight when I had not saved for a good hour...sigh). So that's how they used innovations to mess up combat on a small scale. 

Suikoden games have always had army based battles. In these fights, you would control a good amount of your 108 stars of destiny (ok...quick explanation of Suikoden have to find 108 people called the Stars of Destiny to join you in returning peace to the world...thus you will use around 108 characters throughout the entire game...and it's not as bad as it sounds) and use them to fight you opponent's army. In S1, this was done in a paper-rock-scissors type of format (cavalry beats archery beats magic beats cavalry...). S2 used a more Shining Force style of combat in which you used some more strategy (a more involved method that S1, but not as fun). Well, S3 is just plain weird. I think the best representation of this method is seem in Ogre Battle. You move on a rather crappy map (that's not from OB) and then have a RPG style fight with limited control like seen in OB. This new battle method is weird and a bitch to understand (and even harder to explain), so I'll put this bluntly. Not nearly as fun as S2 and just plain crappy compared to S1. 

Magic and skills; Now we have to chant to get magic to be cast. The higher the level of spell, the longer the chanting is done. However, we now have skills that let us specialize our characters to being either better in physical combat and/or better in spell casting of certain schools of magic. These skills are acquired with SP (for the idiots out there...that would be "skill points") and are purchased from tutors like how you would purchase items. Each skill can be leveled up a few times (depending on how well suited said character is to using said skill...let's see a barbarian become a master at magical skills). This means that will some SPs you can make your mages quicker and more proficient. At first, I found this system to be a time consuming waste of programming, however, with time this system has grown on me and I must say that this type of development meets the needs of Suikoden perfectly. 


Besides those few aspects, this is deep down the same old Suikoden that we all know and love from the PSX. It will take a hardcore Suikoden fan a few days to get into the 3D format and to accept the battle changes. However, when it's all said and done, S3 is just what the RPG fans have been needing. I wholeheartedly recommend giving S3 a try if you're a fan of the series or if you just like RPGs. However, if you're not into RPGs, this battle system will only drive you to madness. So, I have to give Suikoden III a 8.25/10 (it would get a 9.5 if not for the "innovative" battle mechanics). The only final thought I can throw in is this; Why did they make a race of half ducks half people? Now that was a little too silly (the game lost 0.25 for these annoying characters).

TC out.

UPDATE! (10/16/03)

After finishing this game, I have seen the light.  I was not only happy with S3, but I was even happier with it that I was with S2 and even put in over 80hours of playing without taking more than 36 hours off at a time.  For this and because the story gets...put simply...hella sweet, I give Suikoden III, in retrospect, a 9.75/10!