A healthy dose of information on Konami's upcoming Suikoden III has come to light recently, including a batch of new characters and some news on the gameplay itself. Fans of the series will remember the one-on-one fights, as well as the strategic battles that occurred throughout the first games; these two systems, now dubbed the Duel-Gauge and War Combat systems, will return for the third entry in the series.
In an effort to decrease what was a rather high degree of arbitrariness the Duel-Gauge system possessed, some new elements have been added to improve the system. Rather than effectively offering a rock-paper-scissors style of fight, the conflict will now play out more realistically. Speed will determine initiative in the duels, and when a fighter is on his heels, a "tug-of-war" element moves towards him, making it more difficult to hit enemies or dodge attacks. If things become critical, a "!!" icon appears near the character's portrait to warn of the impending disaster.
The War Combat system will also get a facelift; rather than the antlike masses that characterized fights in the first two games, units will be limited to the main characters in a group. Of these, a maximum of four can be placed in each unit. Combat involving this group plays out more like the regular fights in the game, but with fewer options; the game's AI picks up a lot of the slack, using a character's affinities to determine his or her actions. For example, if a character is strong physically, it is likely a conventional attack will be used, whereas magic users are more likely to use runes. Additionally, commands can be given to the main group; the emphasis, however, is on the unit of four.
Movement before battles has also changed; territory is now a more important factor. Units in friendly territory will be able to move up to three spaces, whereas those in enemy ground can move only one space, limiting their options severely and potentially leading to immediate attack. Players not up to this strategizing need not fear; the AI can be used to run the battles entirely. For those who like to take a hand in their own destiny, however, a number of usable skills have been revealed:
- Fire Magic - Attacks enemies within one space of the unit.
- Wind Magic - Attacks enemies within two spaces of the unit.
- Water Magic - Restores all HP to one unit within range.
- Lightning Magic - Attacks one group of enemies within one space of the unit.
- Encourage - Allows a unit in the same area to move again.
- Heal - Heals one unit in the same area.
- Tactical Skills IV to VII - Allows for several actions in one turn.
- Tactical Skills I to III - Increases attack powers of units in the area.
- Combat Skills I to III - A unit receives an attack bonus.
- Ambush - Increases attack power when moving from forest to non-forested area.
- Cavalary - Allows units to move up to three spaces while in friendly territory.
One of the biggest parts of the Suikoden series has always been bringing together a large group of characters, and Suikoden III is no exception. Several new characters have been introduced:
- Alanis - One of three "Holy Knights of Loa," children posing as warriors.
- Caesar - Travels the Grasslands with Apple.
- "Coat-Wearing Man" - An enigma. He travels with Sarah and the "Hat-Wearing Man."
- Elliot - One of the "Holy Knights of Loa." He dreams of becoming a treasure hunter.
- Guillome - An appraiser living in Bine Del Zexse.
- Melville - One of the "Holy Knights of Loa." He dreams of becoming a treasure hunter like his father.
- Rhett - Member of the Duck Clan. Friend and younger-brother figure to Wilder.
- Wilder - Member of the Duck Clan. He's very intelligent.
- Yun - She possesses the ability to speak with nature.
There will also be a few characters returning from previous titles:
- Apple - Currently travelling the Grasslands while instructing Caesar.
- Nash Latkje - The hero of the Suikogaiden games, he is sent from the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia to investigate the unrest in the Grasslands.
With the usual cast of 108 characters and another story of war and strife, Suikoden III is bound to please fans of the series, as well as newcomers who have never experienced the series before. The game is set for Japanese release on July 11th, and should be making its way to North American shores in November.