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Suikoden III - Review

Suikoden III - Review
By: Dave Willis

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 8
   Music & Sound 7
   Originality 7
   Story & Plot 9
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Moderate
   Completion Time 60-80 Hours  
Overall
8

Chris flanked by two of the other Six Mighty Knights of Zexen.
Chris flanked by two of the other Six Mighty Knights of Zexen.
Suikoden III

   Well, here we are folks, the third Suikoden. Despite the graphical face-lift and a good deal of other variations, Suikoden III stays true to the formula of the previous two games. Gripping storyline? Check. The 108 Stars of Destiny? Check. The 27 True Runes? Check. You get the picture. But does the overall package stand up to Suikoden I & II? Read on to find out.

   In a novel approach, SIII offers up three main characters (that's right, count 'em, three!). In no particular order, here they are. Hugo is next in line for the leadership of the Karayan Clan out on the green plains of the Grassland. Chris is the big cheese of the band of mighty warriors known as the Six Knights of Zexen. Lastly, Geddoe is the surly commander of a mercenary squad. It doesn't take long for each of them to catch wind of rumors concerning the re-appearance of a certain "Flame Champion". Needless to say, Hugo, Chris, and Geddoe get caught up in the search and certainly get more than they bargained for at the onset.

   SIII's battle system is definitely an efficient and, dare I say…enjoyable method to wade through the hundreds of monster encounters throughout the game. There are some noteworthy changes to system, and unfortunately not all of them are for the better. The biggest gaffe is not being able to individually command each one of the characters. This is somewhat frustrating from the get-go, but the annoyance dissipates in time. Thankfully, the player still has the ability to let the AI control the characters or do it manually (the old fashioned way). This option is nice to use against weaker enemies and it saves a little time to boot. The stable of Suikoden mainstays are present and accounted for. First off, equipping runes give the characters the ability to cast magic, or acquire specific skills. Secondly, there are six characters to a party, with one non-combatant present as support. Lastly, characters that are associated from the story can carry out combo attacks. For example, Geddoe's mercenary team can execute a vicious combo once per battle.

   The menus used in SIII are solid, to say the least. I didn't run into any ugly hiccups or inconvenient pitfalls. This is definitely a good thing, since there is so much micro management of your characters.


Hugo doing his rounds in Duck Village.
Hugo doing his rounds in Duck Village.

   You can tell when an RPG has something going for it when its weakest aspect hardly stands out at all. The game's music falls into that category. While it never stands out as exceptionally good, it very rarely comes across as inferior. That being said, the tune played during the opening animation is decidedly unique, but it will probably wind up being something you love or loath depending on your own perspective. Sound effects on the other hand, are consistently top-notch and surprisingly diverse. The most noteworthy examples would have to be the assorted magic spells (particularly the high end fire magic).

   The most distinct new, original feature offered up by SIII is unquestionably the Trinity Sights system. It enables the player to choose which order Geddoe's, Hugo's and Chris' chapters are played through. The setup works surprisingly well considering how easily it could have spiraled into a mess. It's cool to see the different viewpoints of each character as they work their way through the story. Even though, it's not entirely perfect. It's hard not to feel a sense of repetition as all three characters trudge through the same locales. Also, by visiting any of the numerous training centers, you can spend points accumulated from battles on acquiring new skills. Some characters are more adept at particular skills than others; smart spending is advised.

   The backbone of any RPG is a good story and SIII certainly doesn't disappoint. Although it's not the speediest to get rolling, playing through the slower portions of the plot is worth it at the end. There are some crafty twists and turns along the way, but nothing too far out or unbelievable.

   Despite some typos and a slim few cheesy lines, the translation is solid overall. Considering how much text there is in the average game, a few slipups are forgivable, are they not? Carrying on the tradition of zero voice acting in the Suikoden series, SIII provides a text-only method of character banter.


Those flames are a little too close for comfort.
Those flames are a little too close for comfort.

   The amount of re-playability SIII offers is vast when compared to other RPG's. First off, there are 108 characters to recruit, and chances are pretty good that a couple will slip through your fingers on your first time through the game. Secondly, the Trinity Sights system allows the chapters to be played in a different order, which spices up the variety. Lastly, there are tones of items to be searched out and brought back to the castle. If you're the kind of gamer who has to unlock everything, SIII will keep you busy for quite some time.

   While not out of this world, the graphics get the job done with ease. There's a nice assortment of locales that require visiting during the course of the game. Underground mines, medieval-style castles, and woodlands are just a sample of the places you'll be trekking through. Additionally, character and enemy models animate smoothly during both battles and walking around. Not to forget, the opening animation sequence is very, very slick.

   After it's all said and done, SIII is moderately difficult. Most of the time, it's apparent where you should be headed next. On the other hand, there are times when I had no clue where to go next and went wandering around for a while. Thankfully, those circumstances don't happen too often. The same can also be said about the bosses; there are only a few tough scraps from start to finish.

   So, is Suikoden III as good as the first two games in the series? You bet. I had just as much fun spending 80+ hours with SIII as I did with I and II. I would definitely recommend trying out Suikoden III to any RPGamer, much less a fan of the series

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