++ Great Intro movie
++ Tri-Protagonist system works remarkably well
++ Involved and interesting plot for the first 25-30 hours or so
++ Moderately Difficult
+ Decent gameplay
+ Last Three bosses are the hardest in the game by far
+ 108 Characters to recruit (well 105 but who's counting)
+ No silent protagonist!
+ Yuber is pretty damn cool
-- Ancient JRPG interface (No voice acting, unskippable blah blah that takes 5 minutes even if you spam X the whole time)
-- Battles take forever due to spells taking forever
-108 characters tends to weaken them due to dilution
- Some battles come down to luck due to high evasion chance
This game starts off very strong but tends to deteriorate as you go on, at the start you get to control one of three main characters who actually have personalities and speak! In every other Suikoden the protagonist is a silent mook (except maybe II?) and while this does little to weaken the game it certainly doesn't help to have a non charismatic blank slate as the main character. This is one of the huge problems with most Bioware/Bethesda games, you personally are not an interesting character more than likely, and having a separate protagonist to view is much better than actually being that protagonist the vast majority of the time. As the game goes on you can switch between the three different protagonists to get different views on the same situation (in Suikoden the situation is always a war between two nations that starts for complicated reasons and generally the main villain is behind it all in some way shape or form). Eventually, meaning 30-35 hours in, you pick a main character out of the three and he starts to become less talkative, but at least he isn't completely silent. The game is very engaging up to that point, afterward it may become less so but it is still fairly interesting even after you know what mysterious force is behind the invading army. Also the intro movie is pretty damn awesome.
Another thing common to Suikoden is the strategic battles to go along with primary battles, somewhat similar to Skies of Arcadia's system. These strategic battles vary tremendously between games while the primary battle system does not. This one's system is okay I suppose but it's still a giant menu wading system that only has a few challenging instances. II and V have very good systems while the others do not. In the case of III it doesn't really improve or degrade the gameplay.
The 108 stars system is also a continuous facet of these games, there are an asston of characters to recruit and while most of the good ones are given to you by default there's still a few particulars that are exceptionally badass while being optional. Unfortunately having so many characters tends to weaken most of them (Suikoden V is the exception here, as the main 10 characters in that are all very strong) and doesn't really add to the gameplay at all. Yay I got 3 more useless idiots, and oh look another useless idiot, what's this a badass?! Hurray! Oh wait gotta find 50 more morons to complete the set.
As the game goes along the primary villains take shape and in this case one of them is pretty badass, and also the hardest hitting single opponent in the game, though he tends to just go after 1 guy at a time so he's not that bad. This is the first of the three last battles. Like other Suikodens this last area requires you to split your party but it implies that you'll have to split it 4 times and still win every fight, unfortunately this is not the case but it does make you play conservatively to have to deal with each boss. Yuber is beatable without a very strong party but the second boss is not. However after that second boss you randomly get your party back without warning.
I replayed this last section of the game and each boss took 3 tries, but this still took around 5 hours due to how pervasively long the battles took due to ridiculously long cast times and discussions prior to fighting. The first boss I just bring a weak party to and hope for the best, due to some randomness it took a few tries. The second boss has a huge amount of potential AoE (area of effect) damage so you have to heal, cast defensive spells, and still kill at least one opponent per turn until you can hit the main boss. In Suikoden hitting someone who's casting a spell often cancels the casting, and that boss had enough damage to take off 50-60% of my maximum HP for each character. Naturally this becomes problematic when that boss dodges 5 attacks in a row and still gets a huge spell off and murders your party even though it looks like the fight is well in hand. I suppose I was fortunate that she didn't dodge 5 more times to spite me on the third try.
The last boss is actually easier than the previous 2 because you bring your primary party. However there is once again a huge amount of AoE going out and you have to kill the enemies in an intelligent order. I miraculously killed it with 2 party members (out of 6) alive and one healing spell left. Suikoden is about as traditional as JRPGs get, and while it looks like the series is more or less dead I imagine if they did ever make a Suikoden VI it would still feel sort of ancient. You do not even have MP persay just an allotment for each of 4 spell levels much like Final Fantasy I. Naturally this is a very limited resource and does help to make battles more strategic. Also reviving abilities are few and far between so keeping most if not all of your party alive is essential. I had a fair amount of fun with this, especially with the 2nd boss, but it still felt weird not being able to skip cutscenes and listening to all the blab that went out (at some point I just spammed X while doing something else). For comparison's sake 9 tries of a boss in Final Fantasy XIII would take about 45 minutes.
Final Grade: 8/10