MUSIC & SOUND
Suikoden. To many RPG fans, this name makes them think of epic war battles,
hundreds of characters, and some of the best plots we've seen in the video game
market. While not as popular or mainstream as Final Fantasy, the Suikoden
series leaves its mark on every RPG player who gives it a try. Anyone who plays
a Suikoden game will never forget it.
Unfortunately for the series, when Konami took the series onto the PS2, they
made some radical changes. Suikoden III introduced 3D graphics, a new battle
system, the Trinity Sight System, and even a new skill system. While these
weren't bad changes, many fans disliked the new direction Suikoden was going,
and preferred the classic feel the first 2 games had. Suikoden IV, while bringing
back many elements from the original games, also oversimplified the story,
gameplay, and just about everything imaginable, and was deemed the worst in
the series. Many people feared Suikoden V would share a similar fate.
Allow me to bring you the good news that Suikoden has indeed returned to its
former greatness! Suikoden V brings back literally everything we loved from
each game, plus adds even more. It is undeniably the best game in the series, and
truly one of the best RPGs to grace the genre.
Check out those facial expressions!
The Suikoden series is best known for its story. Suikoden II and III had some of
the best plots in the genre. Suikoden V absolutely blows those two out of the
water. SV brings a whole new meaning the word "plot," having dozens of
completely unexpected twists and turns throughout the game. Best of all, this
game focuses completely on the civil war of the Queendom of Falena, and has
nothing to do with saving the world. I wish I could tell the whole story right
here, it's so good, but I'll let you enjoy it on your own.
The story itself focuses on the young prince of the Queendom of Falena, a
beautiful nation led by a Queen instead of King. Since men can't proceed to the
throne, it is the hero's younger sister who will be Queen. The game starts slowly,
introducing you to the land of Falena and the royal family. Fortunately, the plot
quickly turns to a fast-paced and action-filled story of politics, betrayal, and
death. Politics play an especially large role in this game, more prominent than
any of the other Suikoden games. There are over 3 different nations that play a
large role in the game, 2 main factions of nobility, an independent cavalry of
dragonhorse riders, and of course the royal family itself.
Suikoden V also has some of the best character development in the series. Every
single member of the 108 Stars of Destiny has their own personality and history,
and almost half of them play major roles in the plot (although many still require
you to recruit them on your own and don't just join automatically). The main
characters and antagonists themselves are some of the best characters in the
genre. Especially the hero himself. While he is technically a silent hero, he really
isn't silent at all. You have hundreds of dialogue options (many of which affect
where the story will go as well as the ending), and can develop the Prince any
way you like. He also has detailed facial expressions, which make him more
expressive than some talking heroes.
Gameplay also comes out on top when compared to the rest of the series. The
battle systems, detective, mini-games, and character quests are all the best the
series has to offer. The game also offers dozens of character customization
options (including the return of a revamped version of Suikoden III's skill
system, similar to that in Suikoden Tactics), making each character completely
different from the rest. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.
The battle system is your typical Suikoden battle system with an added twist; the
formation system. You obtain over 20 different formations to put your characters
in. Each one has it's own special stat boosts and Formation Skill, many of which
are extremely useful. Suikoden V also boasts a new support-character system,
which gives you 4 extra non-battle slots. Why is this so special? You can also put
battle characters in these slots, and switch them with another character during
battle (and on the field as well, of course). So now, instead of a party of 6 or 7,
you have a party of 10! The only real issue with the battles is the encounter rate.
While it really isn't that bad, it can get rather frustrating at times. Fortunately,
you can find a particular item that when equipped, repels all battles with weaker
Perhaps the most exciting gameplay element to Suikoden fans is the return of the
world map. Rarely seen in today's RPGs, Suikoden V has a beautiful and large
world map. It's relatively easy to navigate, but still has a vast feel to it. This is an
especially useful feature with all the towns and dungeons in Suikoden V.
Suikoden V has perhaps the most towns in any console RPG. Not only does it
have a huge number of towns, cities, and villages, but each town is gigantic! In a
world where RPG towns are typically small and with very few building to
explore, the cities and villages in Suikoden V have dozens of shops and homes to
explore, and consist of several different "areas." And don't worry about getting
lost. Lyon (the Prince's bodyguard) follows you around, and you can talk to her
for a hint on where to go (other characters will also follow you during specific
events or scenes).
The war and duel systems are also improved. Strategic battles are very similar to
the ones in Suikoden II, but this time units move in real time. You'll have to pay
close attention in order to win. There are also naval battles, using boats instead of
soldiers (and some battles with both at the same time).
The battle system brings together all the best parts of the series
And of course, Suikoden V has the staple Suikoden elements. There are 107
characters who join the Prince in his fight, and you have the ability to recruit
over half of them on your own. Many require more than just talking to them,
which was the case for many in the past Suikoden games. Several characters even
have special sidequests required to recruit them, several of which open up new
dungeons with extra treasures. Runes also play a bigger role than ever. There are
almost 20 different magic runes you can obtain, and dozens of other status and
skill runes as well. The game also introduces Rune Pieces. When you have 4
pieces of a particular rune, you can have a Rune Sage assemble them into a new
rune orb for you. And of course the castle-headquarters makes its return. Shortly
into the game, you discover an abandoned castle and make it your new home
and base of operations. As the story progresses and you gain more recruits, the
castle grows and grows, eventually being one of the biggest HQs in the series.
This castle also reveals some answers to one of the series biggest mysteries...
Just glancing at Suikoden V will give you mixed impressions graphically. The
graphics are clean and detailed, but the camera is zoomed out and often
awkwardly placed. However, if you take a closer look, you can clearly see that
Suikoden V has some beautiful graphics. Character models are detailed, despite
the zoomed out view, and there are even slight animations from the 2D-esque
perspective. The graphics really shine during cutscenes and battle. The character
models here are much better than on the map screen and while exploring. And
the animations are simply stunning. Cutscenes are beautifully directed, and the
voices actually match the mouth movement!
Konami clearly put a lot of effort into graphical details. There are great shadow
effects during cutscenes, and for the Prince and Lyon when they're running
around. There are also excellent reflections in water or on shiny floors, and they
reflect the environment as well (not just the characters). Perhaps the best part of
the graphics is the lighting. When it's sunny, there's a light glare, and everything
looks much brighter. If it's evening, an orange glow can be seen on the screen.
These little details really add a lot to the realism of the game.
Unfortunately, the beauty of the graphics are a bit soured by a few technical
issues. If a lot of characters are in a room, the frame rate slows down
substantially. Fortunately, this rarely happens (and is only during even scenes).
Another minor issue is the loading times. After battle, going into a large
building, and before cutscenes, the ominous "loading" screen will be seen a lot.
Thankfully, this doesn't detract a ton from the game, and there are cute little 2D
character sprites running (or teleporting) around to keep your attention
Musically, Suikoden V is right on par with the other Suikoden games. It has a
large soundtrack, with dozens of battle songs, town themes, and even music. The
music of the intro movie isn't close to the juggernaut of Suikoden III's Exceeding
Love, but Wind of Phantom is still a beautiful theme. The game's sad themes are
especially beautiful. They will send shivers down your spine and bring tears to
your eyes alone.
The voice acting in the game is also well done. While there are a few iffy
performances from minor characters and townspeople, the main cast is done
especially well. The actress of Queen Arshtat does one of the best voices I've
heard in any video game.
I've already stated how the game did in the major categories. For the most part,
you should be getting sort of an "average" vibe from the game right now. It has a
great story and fun gameplay, but several technical issues. Where the game
really shines is in little details. When you add a character to your party, and
someone they know/have a particular relationship is in your party, they will
change what they normally say. The comments characters leave in your
Comment Box at the HQ change depend on your own actions. It's small details
like these that really breathe life into Suikoden V, and really help you appreciate
how much effort Konami put into it.
The bottom line is that Suikoden has made a gallant return with the fifth entry.
Suikoden V marks a rebirth for the series, and also manages to be one of the best
RPGs we've seen in a while. While it will surely be overshadowed by
mainstream RPGs, any RPG fan should give Suikoden V a try; if for no other
reason than to experience the incredible story. Just to further vouch for it, this is
the only RPG to truly make me cry (I mean streaming tears and sobbing), and it
did this several times.