Suikoden Tierkreis - Staff Review  

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by Mike Moehnke

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Very Easy
40-60 Hours
+ Intriguing story
+ Many side-quests and extra content to unearth
+ Excellent music
- Combat is boring
- Managing character inventories is frustrating
- Voice acting not good enough to like and not bad enough to laugh at
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   The Suikoden series has a reputation for charming characters and interesting stories. In my first encounter with the series, Suikoden: Tierkreis proves to possess these elements and to be enjoyable thanks to them. Tierkreis also proves to have serious issues with its combat and character management, which drag it down from the heights it could have scaled. The game is alternately enjoyable and infuriating, with just enough good elements to make it worth playing if one can deal with the combat's problems.

   The story in Tierkreis is an interesting one, though Konami's translation could have been better. It begins with the hero exploring his village's environs with his friends Marica, Jale, Liu and Dirk. Their mission is to deal with some encroaching animals, but it changes significantly when the landscape alters. Only these people (save Dirk), who have touched a seemingly-blank book that gave them new powers along with a cryptic vision, remember the world the way it was prior to the rearranging of the environment. To research this book, the protagonists attempt to learn from the Order of the One True Way, which is possessed of a worldview that the future is determined and wish to forcibly convert others to this viewpoint. The protagonists also begin to encounter persons from other worlds that are similar but slightly different from their own. A lengthy and interesting tale, Suikoden: Tierkreis's story is the game's highlight.

   The presentation of the game is very mixed. Its environments look very nice and show off great effort by the artists. There are a number of FMV clips throughout the game, most are quite short but at least they look good. The music is stellar, with an immense variety of styles and there is not one terrible track among them. Tierkreis is a long game, and new compositions that are quite enjoyable continue to appear throughout.

   Balancing these positive qualities are negative ones. The 3D character and battle graphics are rather variable in appearance, but look less impressive than the models of Square-Enix's Final Fantasy III, which was released in 2006. Tierkreis has a surprising amount of voice acting for a DS title, but its quality is poor. The hero speakslikethisallthetime, and very few characters seem able to express any emotion except blandness. Lovers of so-bad-it's-funny voice acting will be just as displeased as seekers of good quality, because the voice acting is not bad enough to take notice of.

Aside from sharing similar taste in lodging, Valfred and Donald Trump aren Aside from sharing similar taste in lodging, Valfred and Donald Trump aren't that similar.

   Suikoden: Tierkreis's combat does not have many good points. Four characters on the player's team square off against enemies that appear randomly in turn-based battles. There are some interesting ideas on display, with a scaling system for experience that makes the amount gained dependent on the character's level, and several weapon types with different ranges that affect where a character can be positioned. If the right characters enter battle, they can also use Combination attacks that are usually powerful and possess no penalty for abuse. These interesting ideas are unfortunately overwhelmed by the simplicity of skirmishes in a game where an option to have the AI randomly attack everything will work in most situations. Tierkreis also has an obnoxious random turn order generator to deal with, which makes battles more irritating without requiring additional mental energy from the player.

   Managing equipment is somewhat cumbersome, depending upon how many characters one wishes to use actively. Enemies do not give up money upon death, instead they drop items that can be sold, but obtaining enough money to outfit every character with good equipment will take an enormous commitment of time. There are several sequences in the game that require more than one party to be active, so varying character choice is strongly advised and will require plentiful money to outfit them. The castle that serves as a base for all of the characters has the best selection of equipment, but buying anything from its inventory means that every combatant must be sorted through instead of only the four in the active party.

   The Marks of the Stars that serve as magic in Tierkreis possess a glaring flaw in their application. Each character can have four Marks of the Stars at once, with a total of twelve Marks being available at the end of the game. After the game's early stages, characters do not have any Marks automatically assigned, and the player must go through an enormous menu containing every combat character to manually pick Marks for them. With each plot point that grants another Mark, the player must choose either to ignore it, or to go through the mammoth menu and pick through all the available Marks to see if the new one is worth using. This process is similar whenever a new character is recruited, because before using one in battle Marks must be manually assigned.

   The 108 characters in the game are not all automatically recruited. When using only characters who join by default it is easy to complete the game, but a considerably higher number must be recruited via exploration. Finding all of them will add at least ten hours to the playtime, and there are many other quests that add to the atmosphere of the game world. Many of these quests require high character statistics, however, and high character statistics require taking characters out to fight in extraneous battles. The main story lacks any optional content, but this multitude of sidequests does add considerable incentive to replay.

Level 99 is completely unnecessary.  Someone spent far too much time in combat. Level 99 is completely unnecessary. Someone spent far too much time in combat.

   Suikoden: Tierkreis is one of the lengthiest RPGs on DS, and will probably require a touch over 40 hours to complete. Attempting to complete all the aforementioned extra content will add at least another 20 hours to the game. One thing that will not be an issue is restarting because of a Game Over thanks to the low difficulty. Restarting would be an unpleasant proposition in any case when there is a small number of save points and the game has an inability to make a quick save. This, along with the inability to warp out of dungeons, makes playing Tierkreis a bad idea if one is not sure of the battery charge.

   Suikoden: Tierkreis should be avoided by anyone seeking a good combat experience foremost. Its strengths lie in the crafting of a story that sustains interest throughout, and the game world it fleshes out. This is a significant strength, and the mechanics are not terrible enough to make the game completely unpleasant when in combat. I enjoyed it much more often than not, but cannot forget or forgive the many frustrations it possesses.

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