Suikoden 1 and 2 are two of my favorite RPGs. I, as any other Suikoden-fan, looked forward to Suikoden 3 and 4 – but those games I only played a few hours each. The third game lacked our one hero whose journey you follow throughout the game and the fourth installment was just annoying. Trying to cross that sea, from one port to another turned out to be more difficult than it should be, and all the while out on the sea there were random enemy encounters with – seaweed. Not to mention the strange feature of first person view. Disappointed and angry over the fact that one of the best RPG series of all time had been reduced to practically nothing – all because the game industry sees 2D as “old” graphics, claiming that games don’t sell if they are not in 3D – I was ready to give up on the series. I’m almost afraid of what Suikoden 5 will be like, hopefully it will not fail the fans, or it will be the end of Suikoden. But it’s not time to throw in the towel just yet, there is still hope for the series so many of us love.

Plattform: Playstation 2
Utvecklare: Konami
Utgivare: Konami
Släppdatum: 8 november 2005 (US)
Köp här: eBay

Called Rhapsodia in Japan, Suikoden Tactics is exactly what the Suikoden series needed. First you get the option to use saved data from Suikoden 4 and then you’re ready to start on a journey where you follow Kyril and his friends Andarc and Seneca to unveil the secrets of Rune Cannons. I’ve always felt that the Suikoden games for the Playstation have been more tactical than anything else and this time around it’s time to take the tactical parts to their peak. Unlike Final Fantasy Tactics and Stella Deus, ST is not in full 3D. The battle fields are isometric and you can only change the camera a few degrees to the sides and slightly up and down, but it works well enough. Instead of blocky 3D environments with no backgrounds Konami has created beautiful landscapes and towns with a high level of detail.

The characters on the other hand are not as detailed. They have been simply cel-shaded, you can’t even see their faces properly, mostly because facial features are pretty much grayed out. The characters really stand out from the background since their cel-shaded bodies are marked with a thick black outline. They are not overly detailed in any way, but they are certainly blocky. Hands are just sharpened squares and legs and feet are oversized compared to bodies. During cut scenes, because there is no possibility to use facial expressions, people tend to bob their heads a lot, while arguing, talking, making a point, agreeing – well, let’s just say that I got tired real soon of all these bobbing heads. Of course there’s the occasional arm movement and so on, but there’s no escaping the exaggerated bobbing. However, in battles, characters move very smoothly, they all have different attack movements and patterns which make fights fun to watch.

The battles start off simple enough, but as your party gain levels, so do your enemies. Your characters all have skills that can be equipped once they learn them and these are very helpful. In battle, elements are of special importance. Everyone has their own element; wind, earth, lightning, fire or water and the same goes for the enemies. The battlegrounds themselves can be given a certain elemental feature, using items or magic. This plays a crucial part when you set up your tactics. Kyril for example has the element fire. If you have him standing on a piece of land that carries this element too, and attack a fiend of the element water, the attack is sure to be devastating. This works both ways of course and since there is no chance of reviving fallen characters in battle it’s very important to keep your eyes open.

There are characters in ST that have larger key roles than others, they are of importance to the plot and will be seen in cut scenes. If a character of this sort falls in battle it simply says for example “Seneca has withdrawn”. This means that she will still be available to fight when the next battle comes. Then there are those who simply die, meaning they will be gone forever. I have restarted my game so many times out of pure frustration because a character that I really liked was a goner. And this has always been the thing with the Suikoden games; there are so many people that you want to have in your party. And like so many other RPGs nowadays, you can switch characters during fights. Remember in FFT when you could have Chocobos join your party? In ST you have owls or Kangacorns that you can mount and by doing so you raise some stats and lower others. Not all characters can do this though.

ST has a solid soundtrack composed by Norikazu Miura, who doesn’t stray too much from Miki Higashino’s well known Suikoden-tunes. Voices are overall well made although our hero Kyril sometimes sounds too young for his age. Other than that, there are hardly any flaws to this game’s sound. However, what did bother me was how short the game actually is! I was so surprised when I found myself at what I soon came to realize was the final battle. There are things you can do to make ST last longer. In the town of Middleport there is a Quest Guild where you can dispatch characters to do quests for you, or take them on as a group. This will generate treasures, skill points, money and new playable characters. There is also the Ruins of Obel which bring the catacombs of Stella Deus to mind. So there is a lot that can be done, but if you just follow the plot, I’d say this game takes about 20 hours to complete. But it is a challenge and the battles are amazingly fun. This was just the game I needed to keep me from losing all hope for Suikoden.

Skriven: 2005-12-09