It was bound to happen some day. With six Suikoden titles already behind them, Konami's think tank of game designers finally decided that it was time to work outside of the box and take the series in a new direction. The end result of this decision was Suikoden Tactics (also known as Rhapsodia), a strategy-based RPG that acts as a companion piece to the previously released Suikoden IV which hit North American retailers in early January.
The story in Suikoden Tactics takes place before, during, and after the events in Suikoden IV, so players of the previous game my find themselves getting a whole new perspective on mysteries and conflicts that they thought they had already solved. For those who haven't touched Suikoden IV, this latest story can also be viewed as a standalone about a young, swashbuckling hero named Kyril and his own great quest to save the world. As players advance his character through the game, they will find themselves quickly embroiled in two major conflicts. One is that a terrible horde of monsters is attacking the Island Nations, and no one knows why. The other is a group of magically powerful weapons called Rune Cannons that threaten peace and the very existence of life. Just like in all the previous Suikoden games, Kyril's only hope in saving the day lies in calling together a band of fated warriors to aid him in battle, but if players are looking to hook up with the 108 Stars of Destiny, they're going to find themselves being a little bit disappointed.
Stepping out of the traditional RPG realm and into the strategy-based one is not the only new change that Konami introduced to the Suikoden series with Suikoden Tactics. The 108 Stars of Destiny theme has decidedly been left in the dust for a smaller, yet still highly generous cast of 50+ characters, and each will have their own unique personality, background, and way of being recruited. A group of four friends--Andarac, Seneca, Corselia, and Yohn--will act as Kyril's primary allies throughout the game, so if a player finds himself or herself being particularly lousy at finding recruits, solace can be taken in the fact that at least these four will be around to lend a hand.
Combat in Suikoden Tactics plays out across isometric 3D grids utilizing a basic turn-based system. A Balloon Icon system shows players whether or not they are able to attack an enemy within a certain area and likewise shows whether or not they are about to be attacked themselves. The status conditions of all the characters on the field will be viewable at the top of the screen by way of a special icon menu, and when planning out their turns, players are be able to see the exact amount of damage done and status effects inflicted on the enemy for each of their attacks before implementing them.
As they progress through the game, players will encounter more than twenty different battle scenarios spread out across a series of richly detailed environments. Certain squares on the battlefield will also have elemental (fire, wind, earth, etc...) attributes granted to them that can both aid or hamper their occupants, depending upon whether or not their alignment is weakly or strongly balanced with that of the square's. However, regardless of whether a character is on an advantageous square or not, "Combination Attacks" that utitlize the powers of multiple characters all at once will prove a great way to unleash some devastating damage on the enemy.
Aside from the main quest, Suikoden Tactics will also have an array of mini-games, hidden modes, special bosses, rare items, and side quests to keep players entertained. Currently, the game is scheduled for a November 8 release. With a name already familiar to RPG enthusiasts worldwide, Konami's latest addition to the Suikoden Series will definitely turn heads, but will it turn hearts as well?