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Suikoden III - PS2 - Review

There are times when fantasy elements line up so successfully that the resulting game is an absolute joy to play. And then there are moments when what should have worked doesn’t quite, and the game becomes a labor through the potential of what might have been.

Suikoden III, a PlayStation2 release from Konami, is a game that has a great premise, wonderful graphics, compelling characters and yet stumbles along the way in presentation. The writing weighs down the gameplay, too many cutscenes slow the course through it, and a linear path will drive some gameplayers right up a wall.

But get past all that and you will be treated to a game that does have some wonderful ideas. Suikoden is based on a 14th-century Chinese book about 108 Stars of Destiny who battled a corrupt kingdom. In Suikoden III, the battle continues, and does a unique job of integrating the viewpoints of three major characters into the one game vision.

As the story goes, an unknown force is searching for the True Runes with plans to destroy the world. In the way stand three diverse characters, all on opposing sides of the Grassland War. Hugo is the son of the Karaya Clan leader from the Grassland; Chris (a female) is the leader of the Knights of Zexen; and Geddoe is Commander of the 12th unit from Harmonia. These three must find the True Runes, discover the secrets of the Flame Champion and fulfill their destiny to save the world.

Along the way, the team combat system will help defeat foes, and unique characters not only add some wonderful elements to the game, but can help in combat. Take Sergeant Joe, for example. For a duck, the sergeant is reasonably level-headed, indignant when the need arises, and he wields a wicked halberd. Fubars (one of the worst names in the game) is a griffin that not only looks very good, but also can fight well.

The game employs the Trinity Sight System, which lets players experience events from the perspective of each of the three heroes. These storylines do overlap in interesting places. Hugo may run into Chris while the latter is on a mission. Few words are exchanged at this time.

You begin the game by selecting a character and then tracing their route. Hugo is tasked with acting as an emissary to the Zexen council, taking a letter from his mother, the Clan chief. The road leads east and Hugo, with Sgt. Joe, Fubars and Lulu (the young son of a Karaya knight) set out. The game alternates between a side-scroll to a three-dimensional journey. Each map point is filled with land that must be traversed, often with pockets of combat awaiting the party.

The combat is set up much like some of the GameBoy RPG combats. You select a team, then target which of the attackers you want to battle. Once all is selected, you press commence and the combat is engaged. Some of the creatures encountered have interesting attacks, and will actually minimize, swallow damage and regurgitate your heroes.

Once Hugo and party make their way to Zexen capitol, they are given a runaround at the door of the high council. They will have to wait three days for a meeting. You can spend the time exploring the city (who knows when a quest may pop up) or just go to the nearest hotel and spend three days in your room (a click passes the time quicker). When the appointed time comes, the trio (Fubars has had to wait outside the city) are met by a "representative" of the council who takes Hugo’s letter.

Every instinct will tell the gameplayer that the letter will never reach the council if you give it to the representative, and therein lies part of the fault with the game. No matter what path you take in the conversational choices, Hugo eventually hands over the letter. Well, it’s back to the hotel to spend one more night before the journey home. Ah, but that night is interrupted by Zexen soldiers who storm the hotel, looking for the Karayan troupe. Hugo, Sgt. Joe and Lulu have made their escape, and know they must get to the city gates in order to escape the city. There are two paths to the gates, but guess what, if you try to take one of them, you are treated to the same cutscene over and over with Sgt. Joe telling you that you can’t go back that way. The only way out leads through Zexen knights, who outclass Hugo and company in terms of weapons and armor.

The game’s control elements are simple and easy to use, and the game interface is well designed. The sound elements are below average. There is no need for the typed interface so show that Fubars says "Kuiee," while hearing a sound that doesn’t come close to that.

Graphically, though, this game is rich and lush. The Japanese animé is extremely well done and the environments are a visual treat. The animation can be a little clunky at times.

Suikoden III will also allow players to import characters from the game’s previous PS2 incarnation.

This is a game has some very good elements as well as some aspects where it clearly could have been better. The linear nature is somewhat discouraging. But the game does bring some very interesting ideas and game structure into the genre.

This game is rated Teen for mild violence and suggestive themes.

 

Gameplay: 7
Too many cutscenes slow down the game, and the linear structure does not allow for creative game play.

Graphics: 8.8
The animé graphical elements are superb, and the environments are richly textured. The animation can be a little clunky at times, and ­ at times ­ the game steers away from three-dimensional play with a side-scroll.

Sound: 6.5
The game relies mostly on sound effects and music, both of which are repetitive. The typed conversations are repeated and overly dramatic ­ which may have been intentional. Some of the attempts at humor in the dialogue falls flat.

Difficulty: Medium
The game is well designed with a simple control system and easy-to-use interface. Skill customization and team combat help give the game depth and bring challenge into play.

Concept: 8.4
The Trinity Sight System is a wonderful concept that really gives this game depth. This is a game that will challenge and has solid AI.

Overall: 7.8
The linear nature of the route through the game is discouraging, and while the story itself is overwritten, the plot is solid. Graphically this game is very good. The sound elements could have been much better and the cutscenes could have been trimmed to allow for more fluid gameplay.

Good

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