Mark Marrow
29 Sep, 2006

Suikoden V Review

PS2 Review | Patience is the key for this entry into the Suikoden series.
How do you begin a review for a series that hasn’t been as well received compared to other JRPG giants such as Final Fantasy or Tales - not to mention one that has had an incredibly patchy past in terms of quality releases? Well it’s difficult, to say the least, with the series never been known for its brilliance, a series that has almost always lacked some sort of captivating feature and a series that’ll always be second fiddle to the rest. While the fifth entry into the series offers some incredibly lustrous features of gameplay, it often falls short due to the game’s unfortunate shortcomings.

Suikoden V is a game that’ll really test gamer's patience, with some ill-timed pacing, a slow opening and a game that falls into a few typical role-playing clichés. Thankfully, the game does a decent enough job at directing itself away from the typical stereotyped features of a JRPG storyline. While there is some distress, backstabbing, and a young protagonist that goes against all the odds to save the world, there actually is an intriguing storyline and set of characters that offers a new taste for fans of the genre and is probably the game's strongest asset. Things kick off in a place named Falena, where you play the role of a young prince – the son of Queen Arshtat who’s bent on madness due to consuming one the land’s powerful magical runes – where it’s eventually your job to prevent the land from falling into the wrong hands. The game starts off very slowly, not picking up until reaching at least the seven-hour mark. The lead up to this stage, though, is an interesting one and forms a little introduction for the game’s main, unraveling story. You realise the Queen’s influence on surrounding towns and her bearing on the future of Falena. You also understand how your character’s younger sister is preparing to get married, and the two selfish families who are at each other’s necks to claim the rights to the throne and the power that comes with it. Soon enough, things begin to fall apart and you’ll find yourself traveling across the land seeking allegiances with people to fight against a force that is seeking to claim Falena as their own.

The game’s glaring downfall is that it takes its time to kick things off. Most of the gameplay within the first seven hours consists of you running around towns talking to one or two people, participating in maybe a handful of fights, and activating a heap of cut-scenes. However, there’s a lot to take in, and admittedly Suikoden V does a superb job of introducing an innocent land and its people to, later, a land that has hit rock bottom - even if it is at the cost of several hours worth of gameplay. And when things finally do pick up, it’s just a constantly rolling ball of pure storytelling bliss – forming one of the best stories, featuring an array of interesting characters.

The simple, but usually fun, turn-based combat.

The simple, but usually fun, turn-based combat.
Suikoden V uses a turn-based combat system, much like the majority of the JRPG games ever released. Going back to its roots, Suikoden V allows you to select five other characters to fight alongside you in a fairly in-depth combat system. There are combo attacks, allowing you to team up with another closely affiliated character to unleash some co-op abilities. Alongside this is the ability to equip runes for various magical attacks, learn new/improve on existing attributes, as well as forming your team into battle formations to gain certain bonuses such as increases in defence or healing bonuses. As a result of this depth, there’s an array of attacks to execute during combat. However, Suikoden V never seems to turn off the safety switch, with the game’s battles never feeling at all challenging until you near the final stages of the game.

In addition to turn-based combat, the game also features two other forms of fighting. One, which is spread across the game’s story events, is dueling in which you must fight one-on-one with another character. These duels are executed in a rock-paper-scissors fashion where you’ll be able to choose from three different options – attack, special attack and guard – with each one deflecting another. The second is the game’s attempt of providing epic army battles. Your enemy’s and your own army will be skirmished on the battlefield on either land or sea. At your disposal are differently equipped units, with each having different vulnerabilities depending on whom they fight. To avoid losing too many units, and failing your objectives, it’s usually in your best interest to match your units up with a more vulnerable unit. For instance, the land battles normally consist of archers, cavalry and infantry. Cavalry are strong against infantry, archers strong against cavalry and infantry strong against archers – making things pan out in an elements-wheel affect. The only real downside to these battles, aside from being unbelievably simple, is that it’s a visual mess. But overall, both of these additional modes are great fun and break up the game a bit too.

While your not fighting and running amuck trying to progress through the story, there are other areas to explore too. The game’s obvious appeal lies within the game's '108 stars of destiny', where you must travel around the land and gather as many people as you possibly can to fight for your army. These stars range from everyday life characters you meet throughout the game such as mercenaries, craftsmen, warriors, knights and even a private detective. You’ll need to fulfill certain goals to recruit these units such as fighting them, answering some of their questions or some will just fall in with the game’s story. There’s a nice little incentive in trying to track down as many of these characters too, since, depending on how many you recruit, it’ll have a bearing on the game’s ending.

The towns are usually quite lively.

The towns are usually quite lively.
Unfortunately, Suikoden V is a tad restricted by some very simple and dated graphics and interface. There’s nothing to complain about in the game’s cut-scenes – with a very Kingdom Hearts feel given to the game – but the in-game engine really makes the game feel rather uninspired and lacking. Most characters and areas are quite distinguished and offer a bit of variety in design from area to area, but the overall game lacks a great deal of detail. Everything looks blocky and plain, with a lot of things appearing very basic. It does sort of dishearten you to see such well-presented cut-scenes that are overshadowed by some uninspiring and severely lacking detail. The music does backup the good aspects of the game though, producing a fairly fulfilling and enjoyable soundtrack that offers a lot of variety from place to place – fitting quite promptly with each area. Also, the voice acting is done quite well during cut-scenes, only hurt by a few poorly emoted characters throughout the game.

Suikoden V relies on a great deal of patience from gamers, and probably won’t be a title that newcomers to the genre will enjoy. It has a very slow start, a lot of load times, easy battles and some iffy gameplay decisions that are overshadowed to the likes of Final Fantasy. However, if you consider yourself a JRPG fan that’s looking for something unique, something fun, and doesn’t mind the few minor flaws, then Suikoden V is worth checking out.
The Score
Far from a perfect game, and far from being one that pushes the genre in the right direction. Suikoden V does however showcase some fascinating features and is worth checking out if you can tolerate some of the game’s shortcomings.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
7 years ago
7 hours to get to the main action.
Wow thats a long game, but looking quite good
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