Suikoden V PS2 Review

The Suikoden franchise was one of the first Japanese Role Playing Games to hit the ever so popular PlayStation system back in 1996. The series since then has had a well known trademark of having a cast of 108 characters to recruit throughout the entire game. The games are always set in the same world, just at different time periods and regions. The stories usually consist of civil wars and aren’t your typical ‘saving the world’ adventures you generally find in most RPGs out there. Suikoden V has set to return to its roots after some changes in the 4th instalment didn’t meet with expectations with the fans (Four players in a party instead of six, artist style). Fans will be happy to know that Suikoden V is better in pretty much every direction than IV, from storytelling, characters and graphics.

The story takes place 10 years before the events of Suikoden I in a region called the Queendom of Falena. Players are given the role of the Prince of Falena, a 16 year old who is the eldest child of the royal family. The Queendom doesn’t allow the males to take the throne, so his young sister, Lymsleia is the next in line. The Royal family hold a tournament called “The Sacred Games” which the winner will marry into the Royal Family. After one of the nobles’ sons wins, problems start arising for the Prince and a war begins to break out between two of the most powerful nobles in Falena, The Godwin and The Barows.

The beginning of the game has a lot of story telling, it’s basically showing the player the tradition of the country and filling in some back-story events. That would be all fine but the game does it at such a slow pace, you won’t actually fully get into the action and once the story eventually kicks off you’ve probably played around 6-7 hours already, it takes that long before Suikoden V ups the tempo and the story’s twist and turns kick in. It’s worth the persistence of playing through the beginning as once that’s over you are handed a very deep story with a great cast of characters.

Battles are imported in Suikoden V and you’ll be having a lot of them, the encounter rate for the random battles is pretty high. The game brings back the popular six man battle system with some new features thrown in; you now have the ability to select a formation for your group that fights. These are actually more than just trivial things. Formations will add bonuses to the party, may it be added attack power, magic power or extra defensive, each one has its advantages. Another extra is the skill points system, after a battle is over you will gain experience along with some skill points for the characters you are using and also some skill points you can use on any character you desire. The points are used to power up certain abilities like health, attack power etc.

The other features of the battle system are what Suikoden fans will be used to, it plays like the older PSX games. You’ve got your attack, for a simple attack on your opponent. Runes to cast your characters’ magic and if you’ve got a special character that has a relationship to another one, you can set out a powerful co-op attack ability to do extra damage on a foe. The battle system is quick and really easy to navigate, it can be even faster when the enemy is weak and you just click the auto button and everyone will just do a normal attack on the crook, it’s a simple thing that has been in the entire series and speeds up those battles with weedy opponents.

1 on 1 duel makes a return along with the world map army battles. 1 on 1s are still your paper, rock, scissors style of play, but the animations look a lot more natural than before, they make it worth while watching the characters battle it out against each other. Strategic battles on the other hand have had a revamping. They are now no longer the customary turn base the series is known for, but instead are acted out in real time. There is still a paper, rock, scissor style formula in the war battles too, but your troops will be constantly on the move this time around. Real time doesn’t up the pace of the battles as the game freezes the action on the battlefield when you are giving orders to your unit. One annoying thing that does happen in these battles is the way the camera shifts to where the fight is. Often I would be looking for a unit, just about to click on it and then the camera would move to the other side of the map for a fight going on.

The creators at Konami have gone along with a cel-shaded graphical look for the game. The artists are trying to bring back the anime stylization that the first and second games on the PSX presented. Suikoden IV caused a stir with a few hardcore fans who were somewhat unhappy with the realistic look of the characters, Konami have certainly listen to the complaints and displayed us with some interesting character artwork within the game. It has a simplistic clean look to it, but it’s not the graphics that are the most interesting part, the character design ranges from normal to extreme. You’ll be in contact with some unique personalities throughout your journey of Falena, may it be Monsters, Dwarfs or a punk rocking Beaver. Konami have manage to give all the 108 recruited characters enough personality to make them all different, they all have plenty of things to say when you are travelling around your castle as events unfold, you can really get a sense of them. Suikoden is one of those RPGs that actually handles a large cast reasonably well without having some character that is there without any background or story.

Suikoden V includes some spoken dialogue; it’s nothing on the scale of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, as it’s only during the games cut scenes that you get to hear the characters speak. I was reasonably impressed with how well the dialogue was presented. The English dialogue is spoken well and the cast never sound dumb, over exaggerated or just plain monotonous. Music wise the musical score is decent, it still isn’t on par with Suikoden II (Yes that game was fantastic in pretty much everyway!) but still you do get the sense that they have taken the music into consideration; it sets the mood throughout the entire game, especially the emotional scenes.

There’s a fair bit to do in Suikoden V. Collecting the cast of 108 characters and finishing the game will probably last you around 50 hours. There are a few mini games and some side quests to complete that would probably tag another 3-4 hours onto the game. It certainly isn’t a short game and apart from the slow start, the game is interesting the rest of the way through, plus once you’ve finished there is also a New Game+ if you feel like playing through the story again. Items from your first time through (Not key items though) will be kept in your inventory to be used in your second game. Oh and did I mention multiple endings as well?

So how does Suikoden V stack up in the world of Suikoden? The answer is very well to be precise. Konami have done a good job at making what a Suikoden game is all about. They’ve all sat in a room and thought long and hard and come up with a RPG that supplies deep characters, a great complex civil war tale with some appealing twists and does the Suikoden name proud. It does have its nuisances here and there, there are a lot of short loading times between things, you do get use to it but it can be a bit awkward at first.

It’s just a shame that some people might find the slow start a little off putting. If only the guys at Konami could have added some more interesting stuff to the first 6 hours of the game, some more action wouldn’t have hurt. Well I’m sure the next time someone at Konami comes up with that idea, some intellectual soul will push him out of the window for it.

Oh and fans of the series, this game has some returning characters that we are happy to see back.

8.4 out of 10

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