Wednesday, January 26, 2011
++ Excellent Strategic Battles
++ True Runes actually seem absurdly destructive in this
++ Best storyline in the series
++ Best voice acting in the series
++ Great Soundtrack
+ Solid Combat System
+ Good Graphics
-- Random Battles are a pain once again
- No more First Person camera
- Retarded amount of fanservice
This game is the saving grace of a relatively dead series. Konami, much like Square and many other one massive franchise companies is extremely reliant on Metal Gear releases to be successful and this series really took a hit after Suikoden IV, but it's nice to see they put a lot of effort into making this into a solid game. Unfathomably I did not have a last boss/last area save game for this Suikoden so I just played a section in the middle for a couple hours, killing one boss and one strategic battle. This game has quite a bit of choice on paths to take for strategic battles, so there's somewhere around 20 total in the game.
Those Strategic battles occur in a real time setup with a rock paper scissors scheme between troops (i.e. Cavalry > Infantry, Archers > Cavalry, Infantry > Archers). In addition to having to coordinate on the fly sometimes you'll have a naval fleet to fight with alongside your regular troops so it can get difficult to manage everything, but I think that positioning is much more realistic than the turn based and utterly trivial strategic battles in the previous 2 games. Setting up your troops in just the right way is often the best way to win a battle. Early on you don't have all that many Stars of Destiny (Characters) so you can't just brute force your way through battles and manage to get a "Victory+" which nets a bonus item and an inch of epeen.
Eventually you will recruit more characters and get used to the system which makes it somewhat easier but these battles are overall still a lot more fun and moderate challenge than in either of the previous 2 PS2 games. As a bonus certain units are amphibious, like the Dragon Cavalry and Beavers. That might not sound like much but Beavers annihilate every ship type by "Gnawing" on the boatsides in a hilariously awesome animation, and once you're done with the fleet you can come on land and help win that battle. Prior to figuring out that beavers were godlike the Naval portion of battles gave me much more trouble than land based fights, but afterward it was sort of a romp.
The other major positive of this game is that around 30-35 characters in this game are both competent in battle and interesting characters in their own right, in the previous two games maybe 10 at best could claim that distinction. While you only have 6 in your party the game does give you 4 reserve slots and stick you with a variety of different characters for short periods of time as required party members, and the final area splits your group in 3, but unlike Suikoden 3 all 3 of your groups can be competent and efficient so there's no need to worry about managing your top 6 or 7 characters or anything. Several characters in this game are also in Suikoden II and I'm pretty sure this was intended to be a throwback to that game, which was vastly superior to Suikoden IV, and pretty much every one is interesting even in bit parts.
The storyline of this game is also much improved. The true rune of this game (each game is centered around 1 or more true runes) is called the Sun Rune, and much like it's nuclear nomenclature it can completely annihilate the entire planet at will as well as vaporize people instantly. Unfortunately this game doesn't have quite as solid of a scene structure as Xenosaga so the only good scenes are very spoiler heavy (but there's still quite a few of them), but I'll grant a summary. You are a prince of a kingdom built on what looks like a Dam whose ruler (always a Queen I believe?) keeps the Sun Rune. Unfortunately this Sun Rune has made your mother into at least half a lunatic and she annihilated some poor shlub town that decided to resist Sol-Falena's dominance.
That town is where you start the game, investigating what happens alongside the Queen's sister and Georg, the ultimate badass. Eventually the Queen and her husband (Captain of the Guard) die under mysterious circumstances and the murder is blamed on one of your companions. For most of the game your goal is to figure out what happened and then take back the kingdom with a variety of betrayals and intrigue along the way, but suffice to say the Sun Rune having nuclear powers as opposed to some vague destructive force makes the whole thing the game is centered around that much more interesting. This extraordinarily spoiler heavy scene shows what actually happened and is pretty dramatic if you understand the context. It's not up to Xenosaga standards by any means but it's still probably the best scene in any Suikoden game.
Overall this game is outstanding compared to its peers and one of the better JRPGs on a system with an assload of them. Fortunately I was able to get Georg back into my party just to witness him brutally murder a few monsters, but he's sort of sprinkled in through the game so you get a taste of his awesomeness without having an overpowered character for most of the game. I may one day return to the game and finish my second playthrough (around 2/3rds of the way through), at which point I might post another shorter review of it.
Final Score: 9/10