Suikoden III excels in its great story and deep combat.
Having never played Suikoden or Suikoden II, I had no idea what to expect from this game. I expected the standard Final Fantasy-style RPG, which Suikoden III is at its core. However, Suikoden III separates itself from other similar games by adding a lot of features that add up to create a very unique game.
Suikoden III uses the "Trinity Sight System" to tell its story. The story is told through the different viewpoints of three main characters. This includes an imperial knight, a young boy from the nomadic tribes, and the leader of a mercenary band. The tribes and imperials are on the verge of peace, when intrigue rears its ugly head. Each character has a unique viewpoint, and will intersect with the other characters over the course of the game. The interesting thing about this system is that you can go all the way to the end of the story with one character before switching to the others, or you can switch out mid-story to another character, progress their story, and come back. The plot unfolds the same way regardless, but how you experience it is up to you. The plot eventually falls into the "save the planet from the big nasty guy" cliche, but it's told uniquely enough to keep it interesting.
The combat system in Suikoden works much differently than other games of this type. You pick six characters for your party, and put them into three pairs of two. You pick one action for each pair. The front character will do what you tell him or her, while the rear character will act on his own. Depending on whom you pair up, you'll get a variety of different actions. It's a very complicated system that takes some time to get used to. However, once you understand what teams work well, and what characters are better in the back row, you can start to beat down your enemies. Overall, I found that battles were a little on the harder side, but never so bad that it was cheap or frustrating. As your characters level up, the enemies you face will become tougher as well, even if you're on the same map. Level 1 characters will face little weak enemies while upper level characters will face larger creatures.
One gameplay aspect carried over from the earlier Suikoden games is the "108 Stars." At one point in the game, you can select a fourth character's point-of-view in the Trinity system. He inherits an empty castle and sets about the task of building up shops, training grounds, and repairing the castle. Doing this means going out into the game world and gathering up people to come to your castle. This includes most of the characters that you've already been playing as, but also shop owners, random NPCs, and some of your enemies throughout the game world. Getting all of them is very difficult but also very rewarding. As your castle fills up, you get a sense of accomplishment as well as a base for your other characters to use later. Also, a lot of the characters that you gather can become fighters in your party. By the end of the game, you'll have dozens of people to make up your roster. Some aren't that useful in a fight, but many of them have very quirky and funny personalities that make them fun to use. The variety of fighters is absolutely astounding; collecting them was one of my favorite parts of the game.
Suikoden III was a nice surprise. It's a great game to play, it has an engaging story from beginning to end, and a wide variety of sidequests and minigames to keep you entertained. If you like RPGs, Suikoden III is a definite recommendation. It stands as one of the best RPGs on the PS2.