The Suikoden Series is based on a Chinese story of the 108 stars of destiny, whose lives are interconnected through fate. Each game has a character who gathers together all 108 stars to combat some evil empire or person. Suikoden III is no exception, only using more main characters to get all 108 stars. Each story is also based around ?runes’, which is what the magic is based on. There are 27 true runes in the Suikoden World, and each game is based on one or more of them.
Suikoden III is very much like Final Fantasy VIII. Sure, there are people who will say that Final Fantasy VIII was better than Final Fantasy VII, but the majority, especially the hard core gamers, say that Final Fantasy VII the best. By no means is this a knock on Final Fantasy VIII, but the truth is, it is not as good of a game. Suikoden III falls under this exact same category. It’s a good RPG, and could even stand against some of the heaviest hitters on the playstation 2, but calling it a better game than its predecessor (The vastly underrated Suikoden II ) is a complete fabrication.
The graphics are clean with relatively few jaggies, but heavy on the clipping. This is especially true on stairs. Watch Chris’s first in game movie, and watch her go down the stairs, and wonder “Why didn’t she fall through?”, or “Where did her feet go?” That being said, the animation itself is stilted. The characters don’t move in a realistic manner, almost like it’s missing the key frames and has all the between frames.
The beginning animation is beautiful, and the character portraits are like works of art. However, the beginning animation suffers from what looks like a diffuse lens over the animation, making everything fuzzy. Another thing is, the extensive use of the same models for unimportant characters. There’s what, five to six different models for townspeople. Was it that hard to create more?
The sound is wild. Not that good, party wild, but wild in what-were-the-music-directors-thinking wild. Some sounds, like cities and villages are done very well (Especially the Great Hollow), but most battle music makes you wonder. I have to also note the lack of voice acting. Not that it’s bad (note Drake of the 99 Dragons for reasons NOT to do voice acting), but it is behind the times in RPG’s. The best part of sound is the armor noise when Chris moves. It is very satisfying to hear that.
The storyline is a bit difficult to explain, and might result in spoilers, but I’ll take a stab at it anyways. Suikoden III shows three (or more) different points of view, called the Trinity Sight System, on an upcoming war between two different countries, called Zexen and the Grasslands. Both countries and an outside country get a character to represent their points of view on how the war came about, and what is happening during the war. The game is based on the flame champion and his true fire rune.
The Trinity Sight System is a unique and fresh way to view a story, and a very welcome change. When the grassland character, Hugo, ventures into Zexen, the populace and soldiers treat him with curiosity and disdain. The same goes when the Zexen character, Chris, goes into the Grasslands. The third POV, Geddoe, is a mixture of both. Each scenario is seen from three different eyes. Sometimes this gets tedious, having to travel to the same places over and over again, but it breed familiarity, which helps when you have to go somewhere specific.
When you do travel, it’s not a free roaming map, which irks me because the first two had free roaming maps. Instead, you pick which point you want to travel, and go there. There are no random battles while traveling to the spot, rather there are waypoints blocking the spot. Best explained like this: There is a point A, and you want to go to point B, but between point A and B is Aa. Aa is a forest where the random battles will occur.
Funnily enough, the random battles were few and far between when I was weaker than my enemies, but when I was stronger, my feet didn’t tread soil; I had to step on dead foes because there were so many of them. You can not get away from them. Leveling up to meet your opponent’s levels is very easy, making it completely useless time consuming to fight enemies who are lower than you.
Suikoden III‘s turn based combat is more advanced than the other two games, and in some cases, needlessly so. Why Suikoden III went with a buddy system is beyond me. It makes the game complex for all the worse reasons. There’s no extra strategy involved in placing pairs, and no modifiers that I know of when you pair two people together. Sure there’s the combination attacks, but that was doing very well on a regular six person line up in the previous games, thank you very much.
Some additions are the support characters, which is a good idea, as opposed to pairing characters. Support characters do small things, like make enemies more likely to drop items, or give more potch (money) when defeated. Picking the right support character is always a difficult task, especially going into an area boss or dungeon boss fight.
Skill is probably the most innovative idea in the new combat system. There are several different types of skill areas, each will its own skill list. After combat, you are awarded skill points, and they are necessary for your characters to be successful later in the game. They can result in more damage, avoiding damage, casting spells faster ( complex spells take longer if the character is not skilled in magic), absorbing magic easier, etc, etc. This is so important for those characters who can’t take damage well.
Oh, and another bit about combat is that certain bosses will regenerate given time. What is that all about? It’s cool when you’re trying to level up, but using an area boss to block a mountain path to a city is frustrating and time consuming. It doesn’t seem to take long for the monster to regenerate either, another boo. The first time with Mr. Twin Snake Head was a rough go about, and I was happy and elated to win, but the second was me swearing and muttering. What!? Again? Cross that place off my map.
Gathering people and playing mini games are diversions to the story, but that’s what makes the Suikoden series so much fun. The problem is, the mini games here are not that fun. Mini games important to the series, and a major disappointment in Suikoden III. Nothing helps break up monotony in an RPG like a time-absorbing mini game.
Gathering people has always been easy because the people who can be gained will usually have character portraits when you talk to them, unless they’re a crucial part of the storyline. Even then, most characters will join you. This is helpful when finding the 108 stars.
The storyline is exciting, and interesting to see from different points of view, but the game drags itself out with these long in-game cut scenes. The storyline is what drives people to play the game, but for some reason, I couldn’t get into the story at all until late into each character’s first chapter. This is what kept me from adoring the game. I just couldn’t get into the story early on, and the combat hampered my experience later in the game.
There’s virtually no humor in Suikoden III, either. A sad surprise, considering all the small bits in the previous series. So many small elements are combining together to keep me from really immersing myself, which is a shame.
I wanted to love Suikoden III, and hoped dearly it would be better, but it’s not. It’s different, and is still a good RPG, but it’s not even as good as the first Suikoden . The magic and wonderment is just not there. Instead I felt bored several times, and just wanted to finish the game quickly. With such a strong legacy, I suppose it’s hard to live up and beat each one. Here’s to hoping that Suikoden IV won’t be as much of a disappointment.
With all that said and done, it’s still worth the money. It may not live up to Hard core fans’ expectations, but by no means is it a weak RPG. Suikoden has a rabid fan following for a reason, because they are good, fundamental RPG’s. If you are in need of an RPG, pick up this series.