Suikoden III (PlayStation 2) Review

By Athanasios 26.07.2015

Review for Suikoden III on PlayStation 2

Amongst the many eastern role-playing games that had to remain in the shadow of the Final Fantasy franchise, two of the least popular were Suikoden and Suikoden II - previously reviewed on Cubed3 - which left a good impression, although never really left their cult status. After being only available for Japanese and American PS2 owners, Suikoden III, which is Konami's third attempt at joining the RPG crème de la crème, finally managed to reach Europe via the PS3 PlayStation Network, and, judging from how successful it was, this should be regarded as great news; is the third time a charm, though?

From a small niche genre, to the money-makers of today, eastern tactical role-playing games haven't changed much. Each separate series, however, had its own special "sauce" that made it unique, and, thankfully, Suikoden fans will feel right at home with the third one, since the dressing used here is made up of the usual ingredients of the franchise; the theme of war, the powerful Rune artefacts, and the gathering of numerous heroes, known as the 108 Stars of Destiny. The newest addition to this recipe is the Trinity Sight System, which, quite honestly, is just a fancy name for a rather simple, yet intriguing concept. Instead of just one, the plot revolves around three protagonists, and through this system players can choose when, but, most importantly, from whom to view everything from.

Some may think that creating an interesting, multi-layered character, let alone three, is very hard, yet Suikoden III's cast, along with their individual viewpoints, don't let down. Hugo, the young son of one of the leaders of the six Grassland clans, Chris Lightfellow, the captain of the knights of the merchant nation of Zexen, and the mysterious Geddoe of Harmonia's boarder guard, get entangled in the political machinations that throw their factions into war, and while they are not the best RPG heroes ever made, it's hard not to get attached to them, especially while observing them change, suffer, have fun, and question their motives, their view of the world, or the very nature of their enemies.

Screenshot for Suikoden III on PlayStation 2

Unfortunately, the quality of storytelling isn't always up to par. The abundance of cut-scenes provides well-written character interactions and emotional events, but these tend to have a very slow pace, and drag on way too long at times - and no, they can't be skipped. Furthermore, the Trinity Sight System is great and all, but it has one major flaw: it forces players to revisit the same very few areas, or relive the same events more than once, which also means fighting the same enemies over, and over again - which isn't exactly an encouraging thought, since, even after 30 whole hours, these are usually just a bunch of unimpressive critters, insects, small animals, and… leaves.

Trudging through the same locales leads to another problem, though; Suikoden was never about extravagant level, character, or enemy design, but the series' first leap into 3D is quite disappointing, with lots of unimaginative landscapes that lack detail, have washed-out colours, and, because of zero lighting effects, have some sort of a cardboard look, as if they could fall down at any minute - and all this served alongside a subpar soundtrack, full of stereotypical tunes of the circus-esque, pan-flute, medieval festival kind. At least the characters are much better, despite their paste-on faces, and stiff animation. Strangely enough, the mediocre audio-visuals come in stark contrast with the title screen's fantastic anime trailer, and the emotional theme that plays along with it. Why isn't there more of this awesomeness? Who knows…?

Screenshot for Suikoden III on PlayStation 2

Enough about the titbits, though; what about the main dish? What about the gameplay? First of all, those in need of an open-world experience should better look elsewhere, because this is an awfully linear experience; not just because of the A-to-B structure of the overworld map, and of the dungeons, but, mainly, due to the fact that even when there actually is an alternative path available, there is rarely anything of worth there. Surprisingly, the overall linearity comes as a blessing, since the heroes are frequently left without a single clue as to where to go next; one example being an occasion where, in order to proceed the party must go to bed in order to start a cut-scene, then exit the building, talk with some people, and finally repeat the process two more times; all this without a single hint.

Unfortunately, all previous flaws are nothing more than slightly annoying nit-picks, because one of SIII's worst aspects are its battles. Apart from an encounter rate that is either too high or too low, the battle mechanics are somewhat problematic. Once again, there are six-person parties, with fighters divided between three pairs, and it's possible to attack, defend, use an item or an equipped rune's magic, run away, or even pull off a combo move on the occasion that two characters or more can do so when put together. Unlike previous entries, though, it's now only possible to command one fighter per team, which means that if one is ordered to cast a spell, the other will automatically attack a random foe, and since AoE spells can also harm teammates, it's very common to have someone obliterate an ally with a nice, colourful explosion.

Screenshot for Suikoden III on PlayStation 2

Two more of Suikoden's traditional features are Duels and Strategic Battles. Duels are one-on-one battles that can be described as a somewhat advanced version of rock-paper-scissors, which, unfortunately, are not that exciting - not to mention that there are way too many instances where they are scripted, and can't be won. The Strategic Battles are something like a simplistic turn-based strategy mini-game, where individual units (each unit being a party), can move in a grid-like map to fight each other. Once again, though, apart from breaking the monotony of the standard, randomly generated battles, they aren't something special. What else can be done here, besides talking with people and fighting, then? To tell the truth, not much. This quest is just a series of cut-scenes, with the occasional pause for some action thrown into the mix.

The title's completionist-friendly design could make amends for the previously mentioned problems (especially for the plodding storytelling), since there are gobs of items to find, like books of lore, decorative objects for a castle that serves as the base of operations, and so on. However, besides a hilarious mini-game where the many available characters can perform in various theatrical plays, most collectibles are neither good, nor bad, just… there. The best "collectible" in the Suikoden universe, though, has always been the chase for the so-called 108 Stars of Destiny; the various characters that can join the adventure, either as warriors, or as residents/merchants for the "headquarters." While that has some sort of Pokémon-esque "Gotta catch them all!"-charm, acquiring those "Stars" is neither rewarding nor fun, because they lack an adequate backstory that could make them more interesting, and, most of all, because recruiting them translates to an awful amount of backtracking - which is basically the main flaw of this RPG.

Screenshot for Suikoden III on PlayStation 2

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

The battles feel repetitive, non-challenging, and all around flawed, the adventure as a whole stretches a bit too much for what it has to offer, and the plot, while without a single doubt the only reason to try this out, suffers from a painfully slow pace, a mediocre direction, and an annoying amount of repetition, since many events have to be viewed over and over again due to the Trinity Sight System. Suikoden III is far from the worst game of the series (that would be the fourth), yet it's not a must-have, either, because not only can it not compete with the undisputed champions of the genre, but it can't even compete with its predecessors.

Developer

Konami

Publisher

Konami

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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