Suikoden III
Game Info
Playstation 2
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes
The Good

• Trinity Sight System is great way to tell story
• Huge story with lots of characters
• Multiple battle types adds depth to game
• Solid challenge

The Bad

• Battlefield placement could be more strategic
• Certain segments of the story are too slow
• Midi music feels weak


Who's right and wrong in war is a matter of perspective. Suikoden III makes this point well as it tells the story of three major characters involved in the hostilities between the Grasslanders and the Zexen Federation. Hugo is the son of the Karaya Clan Chief who delivers a message of truce to the Zexen Council, only to return to find his home under siege. Chris Lightfellow is the leader of Zexen's knights who is faced with treachery and betrayal as she is ambushed during a meeting with the Grasslanders. Geddoe is the captain of a mercenary team from the Kingdom of Harmonia who is sent to confirm rumors about the return of the mythical Firebringer. Each person's tale becomes entangled in a larger story that involves the conflict, the Firebringer, Flame Champion and the True Runes.

The Trinity Sight System is a nice twist on the average RPG storytelling method. The story is told from the viewpoint of one of the three main characters, which allows for stronger character development as you aren't trying to juggle more than a handful of people at a time in the early stages of the game. At the end of each chapter, you're given the option to go back and play through the previous chapter from a different perspective or to move onto the next chapter with your current character. Also, at certain points in the game, you unlock other characters, like Thomas, the master of the castle, to play with.

The combat involves one of the three systems - standard, group and duel. Most battles will be done with a party of three teams of two characters. Instead of having two sets of combatants standoff against each other round after round, you can select commands (attack, item, rune magic, combination attack) for your three teams. From that point, the teams move around the open field to fight with enemies, where the placement of characters can be vital to the battle. Combat effectiveness can be influenced by your character's speed and ability to cover distance. Different characters have different characteristics, which the player will have to take into effect when teaming your group up. On top of the basic melee combat, the player can use magical runes to cast attack, curative and defensive spells. Instead of using magic points, the player is given a limited number of uses for the rune magic between rest periods. Each character also carries a limited supply of items that the player must maintain from the party's stock when not in combat. And, certain characters, when teamed together, can perform powerful combination attacks.

From time to time, you'll get to do a one-on-one duel in which you can choose to attack, defend or perform a deathblow. This fights are a matter of listening to your opponent's clues as to what they are about to do. Since the duel is a rock-paper-scisors type of gameplay, you can beat them by choosing the correct response. On occasion, you will have to perform in larger group battles in which the player must move forces from location to location and fight opposing troops in fairly straightforward skirmishes. Since this battles consist mostly of attack, defend and retreat, the player will be forced to use strategy in placement and deployment of units.

Along with money and experience, characters will earn skill points, which can be spent at an Education or Training Center to level up their specific skills. This system allows players to have a good degree of character-specific skill customization to go along with Rune Magic, which also can be leveled up for newer spells. Fans of the genre will be happy to know that the random encounter rate is fairly mild in the game, even though you will from time to time, run into a very tough random opponent. And money can be hard to come by as you'll need it to use a smith to level up your weapons and buying better equipment can be pricey. Luckily, players have a lottery they can win and even make use of a trading system between towns to buy items cheap and sell them for profit elsewhere.

Visually, Konami has taken a huge chance by moving the series into full three dimensional from their two dimensional sprite-based roots. The world they've created is huge, with lots of environmental details. Woodland areas are packed with trees and bushes and the cities are teeming with life. While the character models are of the super-deformed anime-influenced style, they do have a good bit of detail and manage to convey the emotion of the story well. Every major character is designed well and you won't mistake anyone for someone else. Konami has done a fine job at giving each of the characters some serious definition to keep from having the large cast boil down into a number of anonymous faces. While they may not be ornately over-detailed like in Final Fantasy X, the graphics are solidly consistent and have a clean, crisp quality to them. Fans of the series should be pleased with the 2D to 3D transition as Suikoden III's world is finely realized.

Out of everything in the game, I would say that the music may be the weakest aspect. While each viewpoint of the game has music that obviously comes from different influences and the variety of music keeps the game from feeling stale, most of it still sounds like it's done in midi format (the music format used in cartridge games). With the game being on a DVD disc, I would have hoped for the music to be less archaic in sound. The song from the opening anime cinema alone shows what Konami was capable of, which leaves the player wanting more throughout the game.

While there is a lot going on in Suikoden III that Konami got right, there are a few things that I think could have been better. Some people may find the "giving one order to two characters" aspect of combat constraining. Also, the player has very little control over where their characters are on the battlefield, and since so many spells are based on area effects, this can basically force you to hit your own team with more powerful spells just to hit the enemy. I really wish players would have been allowed to move their characters to certain locations during battle, allowing for a more strategic element to combat. With so many of the game's chapters being focused on a more action-oriented story, a few of the chapters (like Thomas' first chapter) feel slow and tedious. In fact, I was begging to be done with Thomas so that I could get back to a better paced part of the story.

Even with some minor issues and elements that are can be considered preference-based, Suikoden III is a fine RPG that fans of not only the series but the genre should go out and get. The story is both huge and deep and the game itself will provide you will a serious challenge. In fact, you may find yourself dead a huge number of times as many battles will require strategy and planning just to survive. When you finally get through the game, you'll feel rewarded for the effort.

- - Kinderfeld

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