I play old games (Suikoden III) as well as newer ones.

Ah yes. Remember me? Thought not. I used to blog here, once upon a time. But then I went to school and got addicted to League of Legends/procrastination/staying up far too late and the best I could muster was some talk about Deus Ex Invisible War, Dark Souls, and The Witcher in all the time I was in that dorm room. Oh. And I wrote my thoughts about Mass Effect 3 like the week after I got home. And that won't really change, because 32 hours of my week are devoted to my current job at a certain worldwide retail chain that ends in -Mart. I guess I could complain about that, but I'm getting paid and the job itself isn't all that hard so a lot of that is immediately null. So instead, I guess I can talk about the video games that I have been playing since I finished Mass Effect 3. Because I still enjoy doing this, oddly enough.

Games that aren't Suikoden III

You're right. I could have written something on Diablo III. I, like anyone else with a computer, both played and finished Blizzard's loot collecting simulator on Normal difficulty, and in my case I figured that was good enough for now and I could play on Nightmare when I felt up to it. But the thing is, as far as Diablo III is concerned, I really don't need to write about it because everyone already knows what it is and how they feel about it. Diablo III is a game that, much like Starcraft II, takes very few risks in differentiating itself from its 12 year old predecessor. And I'm fine with that because the game is fun. But that's all I have to say about it.

However, if we may, we can talk about some other games that I have been messing with, in case the idea of reading what I have to say about a decade-old niche JRPG doesn't tickle your fancy. Let's start with the games that I bought along with Suikoden, as part of a buy 2 get 1 free sale from my local creepy electronic media pawn shop:

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

Because what a final boss really needs is units that regenerate health

Advance Wars Days of Ruin is already 4 years old. That's insane, because it means that Advance Wars Dual Strike is like 7 years old now and that means that I'm old and I can't asfd;kjhaskdljfhaslkjdf. Ahem. Despite never owning the game in the past, I had played a decent amount of it when it came out and can continue to confirm my claim of “One step forward, two steps back” from the days of yore. Namely, while all the gameplay changes are really smart and make it a much better, more balanced game for the purposes of playing against other people the campaign is much more reliant on trial and error and the change to the “darker” aesthetic falls flat on its face due to everything still being as cartoony as the old games, but without the lightheartedness that made it permissible. Still, I will probably finish it because I love Advance Wars and because you need to beat the campaign if you want to unlock all the other COs. You know. So I can play online with my friends (joke).

Valkyria Chronicles II

Hey guys! Anime WWII Funtime Schooltime Desu Desu Kawaii!

Speaking of turn based strategy games that are on handhelds and are apparently not as good as their forebears, I also played a good amount of Valkyria Chronicles II. Despite the game failing to adequately explain some of its mechanics, I find it pretty enjoyable and would probably have prioritized it over Suikoden... except for the part where the story and characters are a smattering of every anime/JRPG cliché and trope imaginable. Obviously, I've always been a “Gameplay First” kind of fellow and think that if you are looking for good story and characters in a video game you are probably not looking in the right place, but Valkyria Chronicles II is grating to the point where it is actively diminishing my enjoyment of the game. Apparently the first and third games are a lot better, but I don't own a PS3 or live in Japan, so those options are sunk. Once again, you will most likely hear something about this again at some point, but not today. I think I'd actually rather finish Tactics Ogre instead, and that game has some pretty apparent issues despite being pretty cool otherwise.

I was also going to talk about Fire Emblem, but that would require a blog unto itself. So instead I'll just say that I saw Prometheus last night and could not tell you what I actually think of it as a movie, and man I should really watch Alien because apparently that movie is pretty good.

Yo guys, Suikoden III is pretty good.

No, really. You should check it out.

When it comes to JRPGs developed post-SNES era, I'm perhaps not the most knowledgeable. The N64 was my first console and if you know anything about that console's library, it's that the best RPG for it was the original Paper Mario, which while clearly a great game that is one of my childhood favorites, is not exactly indicative of the kinds of things that were coming out on the Playstation around the same time. Same goes for the Gamecube and its abysmal RPG representation (Even after all these years, I'm still not entirely sure what Baten Kaitos actually is) Thus, while some of you can defend Final Fantasy VIII's bizarre and arcane magic system with a straight face, I can defend the fact that Donkey Kong 64 has the Guinness World Record for most collectable objects in a video game with a straight face.

It's a trade-off, and thus for a JRPG to catch my interest, now that I actually own a PS2, it has to be crazy (Final Fantasy X-2), balls hard (SMT Nocturne) or especially novel (Persona 3). Suikoden III is the third one, because its not hard, nor is it the delicious “stupid to the point of self-parody” styling of X-2. Thus, it is novel for a number of reasons: First, it has a story that doesn't dip into the JRPG cliché well all that often, instead playing itself pretty straight for the most part and managing to handle an ensemble cast surprisingly well. Of course, the main villain still wants to destroy the world and cheats in order to steal the macguffins needed to do so, but up to that point there is a lot of nations at war and a lot of the world's history is introduced in context rather than being forced down the player's throat through unnecessary exposition, not to mention how the story is told from multiple perspectives before everyone teams up to beat the bad guys and stuff. While the localization is perhaps a bit dry at spots, it is similarly very well done. If there is a weak point in the story, it is Thomas' chapters, which are totally optional for a reason. Even moreso than kinda dull young-guy protagonist Hugo, Thomas' story of how he gets the castle that houses the 108 stars working is equal parts boring and cloying, not only because he doesn't get to fight all that much but also because his conflicts are, by comparison to the rest of the story, pretty petty. The main characters themselves are quite good however, with Hugo being less awesome than mercenary captain Geddoe or Knight Commander Chris. I also made the mistake of choosing him as the Flame Champion, which meant that the last two chapters centered around him, but he's not so bad as to make the story unenjoyable.

Wager how long I will last before I get frustrated by this game?

The second trait that makes the Suikoden series novel is the whole 108 Stars of Destiny gimmick, whereupon you can recruit hella dudes to join your cause. While doing that in the first two games supposedly requires a guide, there are only a few in this game that would really require such. I went up and did it, and while the reward for getting all the characters isn't amazing (basically an hour long side story from the perspective of the villain), it's pretty fun in and of itself. While most of the non-main characters are pretty much defined by their quirks, they usually get a decent amount of exposure through incidental dialogue. Where it gets really crazy in that part is when you get the theater director character and decide to put on the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with whomever you please. It's random stuff like that that gives Suikoden III personality. I got myself a copy of Chrono Cross, and that game is ostensibly how not to do a bunch of different characters, so that should be fun to see. Also, much like Deus Ex Invisible War, I have to know for myself how much of a trainwreck that game actually is.

Don't worry. I'm close to finishing another obscure game. But this time it's not even in English!

That being said, the gameplay is pretty standard as far as the genre goes. That's not to say that it isn't well done, with its 6 characters but only 3 commands type thing, but it never gets hard enough for you to really worry about using any advanced tactics, and the only battles that are hard are ones that you are supposed to lose anyway, but can win if you are lucky/grind a bunch. Being that there are a ton of characters, there is also a ton of customization in how to spec them and build your party... but only for the last two chapters and even then there are clearly some characters who are much better than others. Before that point you are pretty much stuck to whomever the story chooses to put in your group. There are also duels, which are glorified Rock/Paper/Scissors type things and strategic battles, which once again are only hard when the game wants them to be. It's a pity, because much like the basic RPG combat, the strategic battles only really get interesting near the end, and at that point the game is almost over anyways.

Ok. well, I think I've written enough. I'm sure some jerk is going to put a tl;dr somewhere in here, but in conclusivity, Suikoden III is very much a game I am in favor of, and I will totally seek out the rest of the series as a result (though I hear that Suikoden IV is kind of a bummer all around). It doesn't have the highest production values (indeed, the graphics aren't great and the soundtrack is pretty forgettable) but it makes up for that with personality and a story that avoids the pitfalls that the genre seems so willing to fall into. And that, my friends, is enough for me. Now, to finish me some Fire Emblem...

25 Comments
25 Comments
Posted by ArbitraryWater

Ah yes. Remember me? Thought not. I used to blog here, once upon a time. But then I went to school and got addicted to League of Legends/procrastination/staying up far too late and the best I could muster was some talk about Deus Ex Invisible War, Dark Souls, and The Witcher in all the time I was in that dorm room. Oh. And I wrote my thoughts about Mass Effect 3 like the week after I got home. And that won't really change, because 32 hours of my week are devoted to my current job at a certain worldwide retail chain that ends in -Mart. I guess I could complain about that, but I'm getting paid and the job itself isn't all that hard so a lot of that is immediately null. So instead, I guess I can talk about the video games that I have been playing since I finished Mass Effect 3. Because I still enjoy doing this, oddly enough.

Games that aren't Suikoden III

You're right. I could have written something on Diablo III. I, like anyone else with a computer, both played and finished Blizzard's loot collecting simulator on Normal difficulty, and in my case I figured that was good enough for now and I could play on Nightmare when I felt up to it. But the thing is, as far as Diablo III is concerned, I really don't need to write about it because everyone already knows what it is and how they feel about it. Diablo III is a game that, much like Starcraft II, takes very few risks in differentiating itself from its 12 year old predecessor. And I'm fine with that because the game is fun. But that's all I have to say about it.

However, if we may, we can talk about some other games that I have been messing with, in case the idea of reading what I have to say about a decade-old niche JRPG doesn't tickle your fancy. Let's start with the games that I bought along with Suikoden, as part of a buy 2 get 1 free sale from my local creepy electronic media pawn shop:

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

Because what a final boss really needs is units that regenerate health

Advance Wars Days of Ruin is already 4 years old. That's insane, because it means that Advance Wars Dual Strike is like 7 years old now and that means that I'm old and I can't asfd;kjhaskdljfhaslkjdf. Ahem. Despite never owning the game in the past, I had played a decent amount of it when it came out and can continue to confirm my claim of “One step forward, two steps back” from the days of yore. Namely, while all the gameplay changes are really smart and make it a much better, more balanced game for the purposes of playing against other people the campaign is much more reliant on trial and error and the change to the “darker” aesthetic falls flat on its face due to everything still being as cartoony as the old games, but without the lightheartedness that made it permissible. Still, I will probably finish it because I love Advance Wars and because you need to beat the campaign if you want to unlock all the other COs. You know. So I can play online with my friends (joke).

Valkyria Chronicles II

Hey guys! Anime WWII Funtime Schooltime Desu Desu Kawaii!

Speaking of turn based strategy games that are on handhelds and are apparently not as good as their forebears, I also played a good amount of Valkyria Chronicles II. Despite the game failing to adequately explain some of its mechanics, I find it pretty enjoyable and would probably have prioritized it over Suikoden... except for the part where the story and characters are a smattering of every anime/JRPG cliché and trope imaginable. Obviously, I've always been a “Gameplay First” kind of fellow and think that if you are looking for good story and characters in a video game you are probably not looking in the right place, but Valkyria Chronicles II is grating to the point where it is actively diminishing my enjoyment of the game. Apparently the first and third games are a lot better, but I don't own a PS3 or live in Japan, so those options are sunk. Once again, you will most likely hear something about this again at some point, but not today. I think I'd actually rather finish Tactics Ogre instead, and that game has some pretty apparent issues despite being pretty cool otherwise.

I was also going to talk about Fire Emblem, but that would require a blog unto itself. So instead I'll just say that I saw Prometheus last night and could not tell you what I actually think of it as a movie, and man I should really watch Alien because apparently that movie is pretty good.

Yo guys, Suikoden III is pretty good.

No, really. You should check it out.

When it comes to JRPGs developed post-SNES era, I'm perhaps not the most knowledgeable. The N64 was my first console and if you know anything about that console's library, it's that the best RPG for it was the original Paper Mario, which while clearly a great game that is one of my childhood favorites, is not exactly indicative of the kinds of things that were coming out on the Playstation around the same time. Same goes for the Gamecube and its abysmal RPG representation (Even after all these years, I'm still not entirely sure what Baten Kaitos actually is) Thus, while some of you can defend Final Fantasy VIII's bizarre and arcane magic system with a straight face, I can defend the fact that Donkey Kong 64 has the Guinness World Record for most collectable objects in a video game with a straight face.

It's a trade-off, and thus for a JRPG to catch my interest, now that I actually own a PS2, it has to be crazy (Final Fantasy X-2), balls hard (SMT Nocturne) or especially novel (Persona 3). Suikoden III is the third one, because its not hard, nor is it the delicious “stupid to the point of self-parody” styling of X-2. Thus, it is novel for a number of reasons: First, it has a story that doesn't dip into the JRPG cliché well all that often, instead playing itself pretty straight for the most part and managing to handle an ensemble cast surprisingly well. Of course, the main villain still wants to destroy the world and cheats in order to steal the macguffins needed to do so, but up to that point there is a lot of nations at war and a lot of the world's history is introduced in context rather than being forced down the player's throat through unnecessary exposition, not to mention how the story is told from multiple perspectives before everyone teams up to beat the bad guys and stuff. While the localization is perhaps a bit dry at spots, it is similarly very well done. If there is a weak point in the story, it is Thomas' chapters, which are totally optional for a reason. Even moreso than kinda dull young-guy protagonist Hugo, Thomas' story of how he gets the castle that houses the 108 stars working is equal parts boring and cloying, not only because he doesn't get to fight all that much but also because his conflicts are, by comparison to the rest of the story, pretty petty. The main characters themselves are quite good however, with Hugo being less awesome than mercenary captain Geddoe or Knight Commander Chris. I also made the mistake of choosing him as the Flame Champion, which meant that the last two chapters centered around him, but he's not so bad as to make the story unenjoyable.

Wager how long I will last before I get frustrated by this game?

The second trait that makes the Suikoden series novel is the whole 108 Stars of Destiny gimmick, whereupon you can recruit hella dudes to join your cause. While doing that in the first two games supposedly requires a guide, there are only a few in this game that would really require such. I went up and did it, and while the reward for getting all the characters isn't amazing (basically an hour long side story from the perspective of the villain), it's pretty fun in and of itself. While most of the non-main characters are pretty much defined by their quirks, they usually get a decent amount of exposure through incidental dialogue. Where it gets really crazy in that part is when you get the theater director character and decide to put on the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with whomever you please. It's random stuff like that that gives Suikoden III personality. I got myself a copy of Chrono Cross, and that game is ostensibly how not to do a bunch of different characters, so that should be fun to see. Also, much like Deus Ex Invisible War, I have to know for myself how much of a trainwreck that game actually is.

Don't worry. I'm close to finishing another obscure game. But this time it's not even in English!

That being said, the gameplay is pretty standard as far as the genre goes. That's not to say that it isn't well done, with its 6 characters but only 3 commands type thing, but it never gets hard enough for you to really worry about using any advanced tactics, and the only battles that are hard are ones that you are supposed to lose anyway, but can win if you are lucky/grind a bunch. Being that there are a ton of characters, there is also a ton of customization in how to spec them and build your party... but only for the last two chapters and even then there are clearly some characters who are much better than others. Before that point you are pretty much stuck to whomever the story chooses to put in your group. There are also duels, which are glorified Rock/Paper/Scissors type things and strategic battles, which once again are only hard when the game wants them to be. It's a pity, because much like the basic RPG combat, the strategic battles only really get interesting near the end, and at that point the game is almost over anyways.

Ok. well, I think I've written enough. I'm sure some jerk is going to put a tl;dr somewhere in here, but in conclusivity, Suikoden III is very much a game I am in favor of, and I will totally seek out the rest of the series as a result (though I hear that Suikoden IV is kind of a bummer all around). It doesn't have the highest production values (indeed, the graphics aren't great and the soundtrack is pretty forgettable) but it makes up for that with personality and a story that avoids the pitfalls that the genre seems so willing to fall into. And that, my friends, is enough for me. Now, to finish me some Fire Emblem...

Posted by Mento

So jealous you got to play Suikoden III; it remains the only Suikoden game unavailable in Europe. I could easily recommend V or the first two if they're still on the US PSN service.

I keep saying I'm JRPG-ed out this year, but I recently started and beat FFXIII-2 so I don't even know. It's not like there's much else going on this year, so I suppose I can afford to catch up to some of these 60 hour plus wonders. Talking of which, I'm still going strong with Avadon. I've yet to narrow down precisely what it is about that game that makes it enjoyable. I guess it's just been too long since I played anything like Baldur's Gate.

Moderator Online
Posted by ervonymous

What were your problems with Tactics Ogre? I finished it not long ago, having never played FF Tactics and coming from the FFTAdvance line of games it really struck my fancy.

I would love another Advance Wars, but I think that ship has sailed... I don't want to think about how many times I played through the hard campaign in Dual Strike.

Edited by pyromagnestir

What a coinkydink. I was just this morning thinking of Suikoden III, which I've never played, for dumb reasons I may reveal at some later time and now here you are telling me I should try it.

Well if you insist I check it out, I guess the only question left is do I buy it off Amazon for 20-24 bucks or drive a half hour to the only local Gamestop that has it and buy it for 13? Goodwill, of all things, is selling it on Amazon, so maybe I should buy it from them and also consider it a good deed for the day.

edit: Goodwill it is. Time is money people. I'm not making an hours round trip to pick up some old playstation 2 I don't even intend to play anytime soon.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Mento: I stared at Chrono Cross for a bit before deciding "Maybe later". I don't think I could take another 30+ hour JRPG in a row, so of course I'm finishing up Fire Emblem instead. Ironically, I have bought most of the stuff that Spiderweb has put on steam and haven't played more than 30 minutes of any of them. Maybe I'm spoiled, but the lack of any sort of production values is something of a turn-off. Maybe one of these days I'll try Avadon or one of the 5 Geneforge games or perhaps one of the 3 Avernum games. Because holy shit did those guys make a lot of games using very similar tech, and considering that they were around $30 a pop on the actual website, I can't imagine what the profit margins would be.

@ervonymous: My problem with Tactics Ogre basically revolve around how long it takes to kill anything as well as a lack of transparency in the mechanics. I'm very much a Fire Emblem/X-COM kinda guy when it comes to SRPGs, which is to say games where it doesn't take 30 minutes for even the small scale stuff to finish and you can kill something in one turn. I appreciate the fact that the law route clearly makes you a murderous bastard (whereas the chaos route makes you a traitorous bastard) and I think the localization is top-notch, but none of it screams for me to finish it now. Same goes for Final Fantasy Tactics, unsurprisingly enough, though that apparently gets far less grindy later on in the game.

@pyromagnestir: $20 is how much I paid for it. Considering that it's not an especially common game, I'm fine with paying that price.

Posted by Mento

@ArbitraryWater: I hear that. I've let my Steam collection idly grow and stagnate because there's always some shiny AAA console game in my backlog I feel like I ought to be dedicating time to instead. Then I see how many people complain about all the shooters at E3 and think, "Well, I have an entire library of ready-to-play games right here that aren't shooters. Sure, a third of them are tower defense, which is worse, but there's no lack of imagination or variety in gaming if you're keeping an eye on releases up and down the production value ladder." It's why I embarked on that May Madness campaign after all.

If you're not a fan of the horribly in-depth tactical RPG, I'd suggest the Vandal Hearts games since you have the same team for each mission and they level automatically. The second one moves at a clip because each side takes turns concurrently, which takes a while to get used to.

But yeah, these JRPGs are starting to enervate a little. Xenoblade, Vesperia and FFXIII-2 all took way longer than I thought they would. I am secretly hoping Persona 5 doesn't make its debut until next year, even though there's way too much happening in 2013 already.

Moderator Online
Posted by ervonymous

@ArbitraryWater: Got to agree on that. Dragons and golems were especially a serious bore to gnaw through, and nothing's more annoying than a knight prolonging the fight even further by using a skill that nullifies 90% of all incoming damage. It's a huge time sink in the wrong way, a shame when the rest of the game is so easy to like.

Posted by StarvingGamer

Suikoden III is a pretty good JRPG and a terrible Suikoden game.

That is all.

Posted by Hailinel

Oh man, I love Suikoden III. I got it as a Christmas gift during winter break from college and played the shit out of it. I actually beat it the day before classes started back up. I just could not put it down. And then I started over from the beginning and did my first 108 Stars run and had even more fun with it. Such a great game, which made Suikoden IV all the more disappointing.

Also, Viki is the best. The best! There will be no arguments.

Posted by Jesna

@Hailinel said:

Also, Viki is the best. The best! There will be no arguments.

But which one?

Posted by Turambar

Any post dedicated to Geneology of the Holy War is okay with me.  Hyped for your next one.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@StarvingGamer: I want you to elaborate on this claim.

@Hailinel: Yes. Viki is the best, as putting her in any given role on stage will show. Sure, teleportation magic kinda sucks, but she was the first character I encountered who could use Pale Gate magic, which makes what is already a pretty easy game even more easy.

Posted by StarvingGamer

@ArbitraryWater: Off the top of my head, and it's been almost 10 years (holy shit) since I played it, these are a few things that made the game decidedly un-Suikoden for me.

  • No voiceless protagonist to name after myself
  • No powerful arc for the MC to rise-to-power, as the presence of three MC's and too many True Runes diluted the overall narrative
  • Too much focus on the end-of-the-world hoodoo nonsense, in the first two games that shit barely received a nod at the very end of the final stage of the final boss encounter
  • The scale of war was completely lost with the new board-game system making what should have been epic battles feel more like a series of tiny skirmishes
  • No BOOYAH moment where the strategist earns his fucking Silverberg name with some crazy secret plan that gets revealed to the player at the last possible second
  • Why the fuck is Yuber in this game and not Pesmerga?
Posted by ahoodedfigure

I remember seeing a lot of attention given to Sui III when it came out, but it seemed to have been people who were already familiar with the series. Being a bit hinky about coming into a series in the middle, and not even having the machine to run it, I just noted it and moved on. I liked that the gal in armor didn't seem like those bright-eyed woman-children you often find in games and I respected where they seemed to be going with that, just like Agrias' useful but minor character in FFT.
 
Battles are weird to get right, but as long as you don't groan when you get stuck in one I guess something is going right. I wonder if there are any games out there that focus on battles only when something really dire is at stake, rather than having it be one of the major focal points of gameplay itself... I seem to be leaning toward meaningful battles more and more, rather than plowing through the countryside. Anyway, back to my search for Xenoblade.

Posted by Hailinel

@StarvingGamer said:

@ArbitraryWater: Off the top of my head, and it's been almost 10 years (holy shit) since I played it, these are a few things that made the game decidedly un-Suikoden for me.

  • No voiceless protagonist to name after myself
  • No powerful arc for the MC to rise-to-power, as the presence of three MC's and too many True Runes diluted the overall narrative
  • Too much focus on the end-of-the-world hoodoo nonsense, in the first two games that shit barely received a nod at the very end of the final stage of the final boss encounter
  • The scale of war was completely lost with the new board-game system making what should have been epic battles feel more like a series of tiny skirmishes
  • No BOOYAH moment where the strategist earns his fucking Silverberg name with some crazy secret plan that gets revealed to the player at the last possible second
  • Why the fuck is Yuber in this game and not Pesmerga?

The name you enter at the start is given to the original Flame Champion.

Posted by StarvingGamer

@Hailinel: Yeah, but not as a character that acts as an avatar for me.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I'm an admitted Suikoden nutjob. I've played all the main games, the DS release, and the tepid strategy spin-off all practically to death, and plan to do so again for my retrospective series. Of the main Suikoden games, III is probably my least favorite, as it sacrifices some of the political intrigue and great characters of the prior two games for more of a generic end-of-the-world plot and some dreadful side-characters. That being said, it's still a pretty great RPG in my book. Maybe not perfect, but I like the three protagonists and the ability to choose which one becomes the real hero, and I admire the game for taking such stylistic risks. I might not like all those design choices (again, the ducks!), but bless 'em anyways for trying something new in the series.

What's funny is how each Suikoden game really tries to be a great sequel. The developers and publishers really knew their target demographic. By keeping the core mechanics essentially unchanged but by experimenting with the game styles in the first four and returning to a classic form in the fifth for one hell of a send-off to the series, it really felt like they were love letters to the series' fans. I sorta miss that about RPGs nowadays outside of Bethesda.

Moderator
Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Hah! I knew there would be someone else who actually knew stuff about these games. I'd like to hear your opinion on them, if only because implicitly you rank Suikoden IV higher than III and everyone I know who is a fan of that series considers IV to be something of a bummer. Of course, IV is also the most easily obtainable, perhaps for that reason. The real difficult one to get is of course II, but I will deal with that problem if I get that far.

Posted by Hailinel

@ArbitraryWater said:

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Hah! I knew there would be someone else who actually knew stuff about these games. I'd like to hear your opinion on them, if only because implicitly you rank Suikoden IV higher than III and everyone I know who is a fan of that series considers IV to be something of a bummer. Of course, IV is also the most easily obtainable, perhaps for that reason. The real difficult one to get is of course II, but I will deal with that problem if I get that far.

The main problem that Suikoden IV has is that its world-navigation-by-ship is slow and tedious, made worse by a painful random encounter rate. Not necessarily Skies of Arcadia bad in terms of frequency, but it's definitely a major drag. And while the eventual ability to teleport is a blessing, it doesn't really help that fact.

Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@ArbitraryWater: Oh yeah, I've been a fan since the first one was released. I bought it and Wild ARMs with no prior knowledge about them, but I'd just finished up Final Fantasy VII and I was hungry for anything to do with RPGs. Come to think of it, I bought them when I was over 1200 miles away from home, and must've read and reread their manuals at least a dozen times.

Here are some quick thoughts on each of the games (save for III, obviously):

Suikoden I hasn't aged particularly well, mostly due to the slow move speed of the hero. The plot doesn't seem like much today, but I think it holds up surprisingly well, as do the characters (minus Gremio, who I never liked anyways). Having the choice to kill or save a few of the game's side-characters was really novel, and the light political intrigue was utterly fascinating at the time. Of course, that was later surpassed by II (and even more so by V), but it's still sort of neat. A lot of this is nostalgic and not at all technical, but honestly, I miss the kind of grand scale of this game and its sequels.

Suikoden II is everyone's favorite save mine, but it comes very, very close to V. The antagonists are fantastic, through and through. The plot is rich, dense, and full of spectacular moments. The characters are second to none - not even IV and V hold a candle, and those games had some spectacular characters. The second game really nailed the base-building aspect, making it fun and rewarding to find as many of the 108 as you can - and it really does require a guide more than likely if you plan on getting all of them. There's one immensely tricky character in particular, but I won't spoil anything out of hopes that the game eventually sees a PSN release. Honestly, I can fault very little in the game, and calling V my favorite of the series should not be taken as a knock against it.

Suikoden IV is the ugly bastard child of series, the one people don't like to invite to family gatherings for fear he'll sit there and ruin their good cheer. That's actually quite an apt description of the game itself - it's much darker than III and easily as dark as the first II, if not more so. It had a laundry list of issues. The random encounters were far too frequent at first, which only changed with the acquisition of a certain rune late into the game. The game was flat-out ugly and had terrible perspective issues with the camera. The towns felt lifeless and a little flat. There really aren't a lot of memorable characters. But one thing it didn't lack was gravitas - this was a game firmly in command of its story and main characters. Its "true" ending is one of the best I've seen, and the core struggle between the protagonist and the antagonist is my favorite of the series. Yes, even more so than II, which is practically blasphemy among Suikoden fans.

To be honest, I'm hard-pressed to explain why I loved this one more than III. It's certainly not any better technically - III looks better, plays better, and doesn't feel like it was kicked out of development a year early. But on a very Sparky-fundamental level, this game spoke to me. I have a certain fondness for the three-legged mutts of the gaming world, and this was definitely one of those. The plot was unmistakeably Suikoden-ish, but it was all its own, too. III was too technically sound and played it too safe. IV wasn't and didn't, for good and bad. You might not be able to ignore the technical issues (and I certainly couldn't blame you, as many other Suikoden fans would agree), but I'd be damned curious to see what you think.

Ah, Suikoden V. Some days I call it the pinnacle of JRPGs, for good reason. It did nearly everything right. It looked and played like a throwback to Suikoden I and II, but with a bunch of smart upgrades. Stylistically, I like it more than III, but I understand some people like II and III's graphics more for various reasons, and I can understand that. But for me, this was where it was at. It looked like a true sequel to II, in that it returned to that classic perspective with an updated art style. The story was and is a joy, one of the best in JRPG history. It wasn't as full-on grim as II and IV could be, but it weaved its tapestry of political intrigue, magical going-ons, and its bloody plot with a deftness not even II could match. I still argue it's THE best example of how games can be aimed at intelligent people and still be immensely fun, too - it's not light stuff but it never sacrifices the fun gameplay for story elements, either.

I say it nearly did everything right for a reason - it had one big fault. While the game was massive in scope, it had one major flaw - it wasn't great about rewarding exploration. There was one major side-dungeon that could be explored in a matter of minutes, and you could revisit towns to do the usual recruiting, but it never really felt like it was as rewarding as the prior games. If I had to nitpick too, the non-essential characters weren't all that spectacular either - certainly not as good as II. That said, I think the game is one of the finest of its genre. If they're really not going to make a Suikoden VI (and I'd be surprised if they did), then this was as ideal a swan song as a fan could hope for.

Now, Suikoden Tactics and Suikoden Teirkreis - avoid 'em. Suikoden Tactics is a poor man's Final Fantasy Tactics based on the events of the fourth game, I believe. It's been a few years since I've played it. It's just too wooden, through and through. Teirkreis dumbs down everything about the series in an attempt to reach a larger number of fans, and never quite feels like a true Suikoden game except in terms of collecting the 108 Stars. The game's mechanics are bland, as are the characters and plot. The dumbest mistake though is in the game's humdrum leveling and sameness of the runes. Oh, and the castle-building? All gone. You still get a castle that expands, but it does so automatically without any side games or input. It's boring and overly too stupid.

EDIT: I realize there are some inconsistencies in my thoughts on the characters of each game, but I'd rate the overall characters as follows: II>V>IV>I>III. The main characters and antagonists are a slightly different story, but I think you can glean my somewhat exhausted and scattered feelings from that mess.

Moderator
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Hailinel: Absolutely. Those were definitely the worst problems with the game. I remember some complaints about the side characters too, but never had an issue with them. Same as the rest of the games, I can take some, leave some, and hope for an eventual return for some of 'em.

Moderator
Posted by Jesna

I'd just like to throw out there that all of the main games are pretty good in their own way, and Suikoden IV is the only one with any sort of severe issues (Personally I still enjoyed it, but the majority of the fanbase seems to disagree) so you will probably be good to go picking up any of them. Most people tend to gravitate towards II being the best, but @Sparky_Buzzsaw makes a pretty good case for V and I personally find III to be the most enjoyable, so it seems to be more a matter of taste on which is the pinnacle of the series.

Posted by Raven10

I've never played a Suikoden game but I've heard good things about them. I had a chance to buy the second game for not a huge amount of money but ended up not getting it. I sort of regret it. I probably would have never played it, but I would have been proud to own it. JRPGs have never been my thing as I hate random encounters and turn based battles.

Posted by Genkkaku

First things first, I love the Suikoden series (If you couldn't tell by my avatar and username).. Randomly some small video store in Australia had both the first 2 and, I hired Suikoden II and it stands as my favourite game of all time (which I wish I still lived near it when it must of sold off it's PS1 games and I could have picked it up as a steal, as it being the only one I don't have a copy off)..

That said III is the one I have had the least time playing, I always chose Hugo as my first segment but for some reason never played beyond that first bit (which I am thankful of the Manga for, so I could absorb the story) and i've always meant to dive back into it but have never got round to it..

Also after hearing about all the shit the IV gets I was worried to play it, only 4 party members (Which is annoying for a game with 108 characters, you get to use less at a time), the ship movement, annoying random encounters.. But I oddly love that game, I like the differences it tries to achieve

Posted by PixelPrinny

Glad to hear you enjoyed Suikoden 3 (though I already knew you did kekeke)