Suikoden Tierkreis may have already been written off by many fans as not being a true Suikoden game. As revealed earlier, it will differ from the other Suikoden titles in various ways. After playing a good amount of the game, I can say that all of these differences are actual and make Tierkreis feel more like a Suikoden-themed game rather than a true entry in the series itself. However, enough aspects of Suikoden have been imparted into Suikoden Tierkreis so that hardcore fans may want to still pick it up.
"Suikoden Tierkreis could either please or disappoint the Suikoden hardcore depending on what they expect from the title."
Suikoden Tierkreis does take place in a parallel world, though it would be more accurate to say that it takes place in one of many. Players will gain access to a hub of many parallel universes, though I haven't traveled to any yet and these may only be "visited" through the game's Wi-Fi features. The basic story involves a group of characters who witness the world changing before their very eyes after they touch a special object called a False Chronicle. The changed world consists of people who can remember how the world used to be, called Starbearers, and people who think the world was always in its changed state. An organization exists called the Order of the One True Way, whose ideology revolves around the idea that everything is predetermined. The Order has been trying to bring the player's world, and perhaps many others, under its control by force.
Suikoden Tierkreis is definitely not weak on plot. The story has been the most engaging part of the game so far, and enough twists and turns are constantly thrown in to keep the story from being too cut and dry. Anime cutscenes are used to show important parts of the plot, and they look pretty good. The rest of the game's story is told mostly through dialogue, exasperating one of Tierkreis's notable weaknesses. The main character's voice acting is atrocious, though some supporting characters' voices aren't too bad. It is impressive that a ton of voice was fit into the game, but the main character's rushed, contextually improper, and marble-mouthed delivery actually serves to bring the game down. It is so awkward that I wouldn't be surprised if Suikoden Tierkreis was remembered specifically for the main character's terrible voice acting. Though the voice acting is painful, the game's music is brilliant, professionally melding many instruments together and drawing from multiple genres.
Another weak spot in Suikoden Tierkreis's armor is its battle system. Pretty far into the game, it is incredibly average. It has a typical back/front formation system, and does bring short, medium, and long range weapons into the mix, but these don't seem to matter a whole lot. One of the only somewhat interesting parts of the combat system is the use of combination attacks. When certain characters are in the party, they can team up to perform a combination attack that does more damage than all their normal attacks combined. Even with combination attacks, it feels like there isn't a whole lot of strategy needed to win any of the battles; just attack away and click heal when health is low. Strategic battles have not returned from other Suikoden games, so do not expect any of those. The battle graphics look pretty bad too, consisting of a blocky, jaggy 3D models.
One huge part of the Suikoden games has always been recruiting the 108 Stars of Destiny. Players can still recruit these characters in Tierkreis and they aren't just given to the player; sometimes requirements must be met. For example, the mother of one of my characters would randomly show up at my base to test her son in battle. I lost this battle at first and had to wait for her to reappear again. The next time she showed up, I won the battle, and as a result was able to recruit her. Another character joined my cause when I journeyed back to one of the early towns and simply spoke to her. When talking to her at my base, she gave me the ability to view all of the anime cinematics I had already seen. Characters are mostly interesting and have personality quirks, such as a doctor that wants to dissect his patients more than he wants to heal them. The player's base is still an important part of Suikoden Tierkreis, and even is upgraded as the story progresses.
Suikoden Tierkreis uses a new mission system that makes the game less linear. Goals, even those from the main storyline, are given as missions, for which rewards are provided upon completion. These rewards mostly end up being potch, the game's currency, though I have received a few new weapons as well. This system sometimes gives a choice as to where to go and what to complete next, though this pretty much only alters the order that the story is completed in. Side-quests also pop up to give players the opportunity to earn some extra potch or to recruit a new character. I like how potch is earned mostly through these missions, and the returning trade system, rather than through combat. The mission system is also related to the game's Wi-Fi features, which should allow characters to be sent through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to be played by other Suikoden Tierkreis owners, providing bonuses to both sender and receiver.
Even with its chunky battle graphics, average combat system, and bad voice acting, Suikoden Tierkreis has been an interesting game to play. The game's story, decent characters, and high quality music have made up for some of its problems. I am not a hardcore Suikoden fan, so keep in mind that this impression does not come from that angle. I do appreciate the series, though, and can see how Suikoden Tierkreis could either please or disappoint the Suikoden hardcore, and other RPGamers looking for a new portable RPG, depending on what they expect from the title.