It wasn’t long ago that I played Suikoden Tactics, a game I enjoyed. But truth be told – Suikoden 5 is the game that will either make or break Konami’s famous RPG series. After the wonderful games Suikoden 1 and 2 and the equally disappointing Suikoden 3 and 4, millions of fans have been holding their breaths. ST was just a small breather before the finale. Would Konami prove that their renowned RPG saga was still to be held in high esteem? After more than 40 hours played I can, with relief, say – bravo Konami. Bravo.

Plattform: Playstation 2
Utvecklare: Konami, Hudson Soft
Utgivare: Konami
Släppdatum: 21 mars 2006 (US)
Köp här: VideoGamesPlus

At long last, Suikoden feels like home again. All those experimental things that Konami did with S3 and 4 I will never understand, I mean, why fix what’s not broken? S5 is the game that S3 should’ve been, no doubt about that.

We enter the Queendom of Falena, where queen Arshtat and her husband, Commander of the Queen’s Knights Ferid, rule supreme. It is their only son the Prince that will become the hero of the game, the person who will unite all the people of Falena, when the world is starting to fall apart at the seams. Collecting the 108 stars of destiny is really the most fun and seeing your castle developing into this huge home for people from every corner of the world is pure joy. It does take quite some time before you get your own place, about 20 hours for me, but it’s worth the wait.

It was such a relief to see that Konami has returned to what makes Suikoden so great. S1 and 2 are marvelous games (especially the latter in the mind of this reviewer) and I’m pleased to say that S5 not only fights with S2, over which game will be my Suikoden-favorite, but it is such a strong, solid experience that the wrongs of S3 and 4 are forgiven. S5 is not only playable, it is 100% enjoyable.

As usual, battles are fought with six party members, but a new feature is the different battle formations that you require over the course of the game. These can provide extra attack power, added defense etc. In Suikoden Tactics you could use Skill Points to learn skills and raise the ranks of them, with S being the highest. S5 has the same system, only you don’t really learn skills, but you raise your stats, for example stamina, attack or defense. You can only choose to equip two (say stamina for extra HP and attack to be able to hit harder) stats, which can feel a little cheap. Some characters have special skills/stats that can’t be unequipped so for those, only one changeable slot is left. Something I really like about the battles is the option “auto”, which is something you’d use for most enemies except bosses, as your team will simply attack the enemies for that round, without you having to go through any unnecessary menus. Of course, Suikoden’s large scale strategic battles are back – to be fought both on land and at sea in fact. The runes work like they always have. You can have runes attached to a character’s head and both hands. They offer offensive and defensive magic and some runes just result in heavier attacks when used.

Aesthetically S5 isn’t firing any big guns, but that’s alright because the graphics are charming, although sometimes a little bare. You’d think that people would live in houses that have at least some decoration. Sure there is furniture and perhaps a sorry little plant, but in some cases it all seems to be crammed in a corner and there is too much empty space. Even so, the graphics are very much glitch-free, apart from some lagging, and the fixed camera is flawlessly following your every move.

However, there’s a bit too much loading time; after every fight, change of scenery (even in the same town) and before and after cut scenes. No, it doesn’t take forever to load, but it does become annoying at some point. Konami has decided to have characters (sometimes the hero, sometimes others) made up of sprites run at the bottom right corner during these loading times. Maybe they were hoping that we’d forgive and forget about the load time with something cute to watch. Well, I’m sorry but it doesn’t quite work that way. Try to design your game better next time. Games on CDs or DVDs will never be free from loading time, but the transitions I’m sure could be made smoother. Another tiny downside is when you discover that you have missed a recruitable character and there is nothing you can do to fix it. Stuff like that makes me so frustrated; I’ll just sit and curse for hours. If you want to have all the 108 characters, keep your eyes and ears open.

I actually don’t think that the story line has ever been as good as this. There were scenes that brought tears to my eyes and I didn’t want to move or anything – in fear of ruining the moments I was witnessing. Our hero is (as always) silent. But since S5 is more graphically advanced than S1 and 2 the Prince can show a lot of expressions, which makes him more real, even though he lacks a voice.

Musically, S5 sounds like Suikoden should. Lush yet simple songs accompany you all the way. Some you’ve heard before, while others are brand new. The battle themes, I admit, are a bit dull, but never in Suikoden’s history have the battle themes been the most important pieces. It’s the sounds of the world that matters; the dungeons, the towns. And not to mention your own castle, with a tune that grows stronger and more powerful the more people you recruit. Sadly, there’s the “mandatory” horrible tune, in S5 represented by Haud Village. I’ve always wondered why this is. Why do all RPGs have at least one weird song, that you don’t even like to listen to? Cut it out already! Well, at least the voices are good and that’s a relief.

Frankly, I had my doubts about Suikoden 5. I was so deeply disappointed with S3 and 4 that I was actually nervous to buy it. But Konami has found its way home again, back to the roots of Suikoden – one of the best RPG-series of all time, with a great formula that should never have been changed in the first place. With this little masterpiece added to the Suikoden family, I can honestly say that I look forward to Suikoden 6.

Skriven: 2006-04-14