Incase that title makes no sense to you, then read this overview. If you either sort of or fully understand, then feel free to skip along to the next section.
Games comprising the Suikoden series all take place in the same world and fall at different points in that world's timeline (exception, Suikoden Tierkis, sort of....) . They are based loosely on a Chinese novel, and have a somewhat-gritty medieval setting that is rife with war and political intrigue. Magic exists and can be wielded through the use of runes. There are a great variety of runes, and each represents a sort of fundamental force that created and stabilizes the world, even though many are not associated with some traditional elemental alignment. Suikoden is also definitely the Pokemon of JRPGS; there are typically 108 characters which can be recruited to the party either as part of the main storyline, or with a little exploration. On with the review!
For any RPG, the story is king. If the narrative is not compelling, then neither graphical style, nor combat, nor music, nor advanced breast physics can really salvage the experience. The story in Suikoden Tactics is "okay" - it is passable, but does not really live up to the inevitable expectations of any game which is part of an established series. You will play the part of young Kyril, a mere boy traveling with his father and some other companions around the Island Nations in pursuit or weapons known as "Rune Cannons." Tragedy inevitably strikes, and Kyril of course takes up his father's quest as the game begins.
The main issue with the story is that there is never really anything that makes you want to power up the 'ol console and keep the narrative going. Kyril and friends are wandering around in pursuit of rune cannons, with little real purpose in mind. There are a few twists here and there, but most are buried in weird themes that don't really make sense- it's unclear if this is due to strange source material, cultural differences, or just bad translation. In any case, the story gets 2/5.
ST casts off the traditional JRPG six party member combat, the duels, and the scaled warfare of other games in the series in favor of a straight tactical grid-based setup. There are a few quirks thrown in that make combat a bit more interesting, but certainly no real innovators or convention breakers. Most characters have melee or ranged physical attacks, while some wield magic, and yet others still have no combat potential, but instead have unique support skills. Characters move, attack, orient themselves, and level up in typical fashion. All characters and enemies have a certain elemental affiliation, and all tiles on the playing grid can be infused with an affiliation as well- this creates a sort of five way rock-paper-scissors dynamic where a character can experience significant stat changes. Many enemies also level up with the party- so there is never an easy, carefree battle against overpowered foes. The game's difficulty is fairly high; it is never unfair, but keeps a pretty steady challenge coming at the player. While the AI is pretty poor, the combat can be extremely unforgiving, and the game throws a "Fire Emblem" at you in that auxiliary characters can actually be permanently killed.
When not engaged in combat or story-based cutscenes, you'll either be navigating around from point to point on the overworld map, or moving around in towns and doing item shopping using a menu. There are a great many side quests and NPCs with whom you can interact, but none of them are particularly compelling or rewarding. Plus, the voice acting is just a beat-down... And if I hear another drawn out conversation about rune cannons, I'm going to throw up. 3/5
The game graphics are a bad combination of hand drawn watercolor design and cell shading. Cut scenes and combat are invariably badly pixelated, and the camera is functional at best. There are no technical issues, but the graphical presentation overall just looks low effort and uninspired. All NPCs also have no eyes. Yes, it's weird, and does relate somewhat to the plot in a strange way- but every NPC is drawn with cavities where their eyes should be. On the upside, town and character drawings have some decent style to them and provide a nice respite from everything else going wrong. 1/5
Music and Sound:
The music in ST is actually quite good, and offers a decent range of mood setting pieces. It is certainly not in the upper tier of game music, but it accomplishes it's purpose well, and I found myself humming a few of the tunes at work (like a crazy person). Unfortunately, the general lack of impact in the game's story prevents the music from having any lasting impact as well. The sound is passable; there is not required of this genre in the way of sound effects, but magic and various attacks are well done. 3/5.
So there you go- in conclusion, this is a game in the Suikoden Series, and if you're a hardcore enthusiast then you're going to have to tough this one out. Just pop in the disk and get to playing. Don't worry about side quests; just keep your equipment maintained and power through it. If you're not predestined to play this game due to it's title, then you're better off with numbered entries I, II, III, or V. I hear that part I is now available on the Playstation Store... Go get it!