Suikoden V – PS2 – Review

I must admit, I
am a huge fan of the Suikoden series. With each new Suikoden game though, I find
myself liking the series less. I had the pleasure of reviewing Suikoden Tactics
late last year and let’s put it this way – it was a drag. Now Konami has
released another Suikoden title, Suikoden V, and hopes to jump back on the right
track with the series. Does Konami put forth a great experience in the Suikoden
universe finally? Or will it fall flat on its bottom again? 

Suikoden V is
remarkably a success and great transition from the fourth game. Suikoden III and
IV both suffered from a dull storyline. Have things been corrected with the
story? I’d like to believe so when compared to its predecessors. Suikoden V is a
traditional approach to what was lost when the franchise moved from the PS1 to
the PS2. The 108 Stars of Destiny are back to push the players into recruiting
one of the bigger playable casts in any RPG. The 108 Stars of Destiny, for those
who don’t know, are characters that are all mysteriously connected that you’ll
meet along your way. Whether if you have to traverse the world in search for
them, or if they find you, they’ll join your team in different ways. The
characters have diversity and differ from one another more so than any other
Suikoden game.


The setting of
Suikoden V takes place in Falena. The main character is the prince of Falena,
who must deal with running as a little errand boy for the queen of Falena. Queen
Arshtat is the ruler of the land with her magical rune, the Sun rune. At the
beginning of the game, you can see the extent of the power the Sun rune has.
Arshtat uses the Sun rune to burn a village and its farms to ash. Arshtat may
sound evil, but, at one point in her life she was caring and warmhearted. Now
with the Sun Rune becoming a part of her, seemingly, she has changed
drastically. It’s up to the prince of Falena to figure out what the Sun Rune has
done to the queen, why other nobles are scheming and the magical use of the
nation’s other runes – Dawn & Dusk.

Story driven,
Suikoden V hits a home run when matched up against the other PS2 iterations of
the series. Only problem I came across was that it took a little too long to
capture my attention. After the first few hours, the action will pick up and
you’ll feel compelled to finish the entire journey. Be warned though, if you are
used to other RPGs where it starts out with a bang, Suikoden V is the exact
opposite. It will slowly pick up at a tortoise’s pace, though, the character
development is excellent. 

The battle
system of Suikoden V also is an upgrade. It reverts back to the six-character
party setup that fans loved from the PS1 days of RPGs. You’ll be able to change
the battle formations and arrangements to earn bonuses on the battlefield. An
example would be the default and traditional setup; three in the front and three
in the back. This setup allows you heal your own party once per fight to make
sure none of them go down in combat. As you try out new formations with the wide
arrangements of characters, you’ll gain advantages in attack, accuracy, defense
and several other areas. The bonuses often end up being the factor why you would
win or lose a fight.


The battle
system allows for players to use melee fighting, magic through runes and special
skills for each character. The runes are attached to the character’s hands or
better yet, the forehead (creepy!). The runes give access to offensive magic,
healing spells, and even specific spells per individual rune. Like in Suikoden
IV, you can combine two attacks together from individual characters into one
team attack. The attack is powerful and usually has a clever animation of the
two teammates linking up to fight the enemy in unison. After each battle, you’ll
earn experience along with skill points; this will allow you to increase the
abilities of your characters. The only downside of the battle system is that
later on in the game, after numerous random encounters, (which are extremely
high I must add) you’ll become bored of fighting and just want the story to

Outside of the
six formation battles, Suikoden duels have come back dressed in high fashion.
The duels are all story driven that pits your character in a one-on-one match
against an enemy. Like before, only three options are available to use; attack,
guard and special. Consider this rock-paper-scissors as you’ll have to figure
out what the opponent will use to counter. Here’s a quick rundown:

Special breaks Guard
Attack breaks Special
Guard breaks Attack

Real simple and to the point. If you watch the manner of the opponent and their
battle-cries, you’ll be able to predict their move to select the counter-move.
Duels are still a nice addition and a good break away from the battle system. If
duels aren’t you’re foray, controlling armies on sea and land could be an
attracting offer.

The army battles
are similar to the duel battles, as they are story driven also. The only
possible outcome of these battles is for victory – that means you can’t lose!
Thank goodness the battles are almost as difficult as the duels – easy that is!
The army battles play out exactly like the duel battles too. For the land
battles it’s – archers over cavalry, cavalry over infantry and the infantry are
more powerful than the archers. While on the sea; combat ships will take down
ram units, the ram units will destroy the archers and the archers are at an
advantage over the combat ships. Yes, another rock-paper-scissors system that
seems to work effortlessly due to the simple commands.

The army size will increase when you are able to find new recruits. Of course,
108 recruits wait in the distance for your approach, so Suikoden V has tons of
depth. The interesting point of recruiting is that, every recruit will live in
the castle you inherit upon your quest. Not every recruit will fight for your
victory, but, some will be responsible for other areas of your squad. From
farmers to cooks, there’s a wide variety to choose from.

Moving on to the
visuals, Suikoden has an unique style that stands out. The characters are full
of personality and wild designs. None of them go over the edge and feel as if
they were a spoof of themselves. The environments aren’t up to par with the art
style; they just don’t give enough detail. They are lackluster when put side to
side with the character designs. The town layout is decent with different paths
to give players several options when walking. The paths aren’t overly decorated,
though, they get the job done. While hardly a gripe, the graphics aren’t
fantastic and could have used some environmental touchups.

For the sound,
the team reverted back to old tunes from yesteryear. The music is great for an
RPG and always seems to fit with the themes displayed on the screen. When there
was action, the music picked up tension and the like mirroring twists and turns
in the plot. Voice acting is a hit and a miss. There are the usual suspects of
squeaky characters that become annoying. The dialogue that has been written for
Suikoden V is great, so the voice actors have something to work with.

I may not be the
first to say it, but Suikoden V has returned to its roots. Not only is it a
success, it allows for excitement to return for the next Suikoden game. If this
is your first Suikoden game, be thankful it’s Suikoden V rather than the other
two installments on the PS2. Suikoden V is a great title to start out at for
beginners. With clowns on the left, jokers on the right, Suikoden V is stuck
here in the middle of a next-generation crusade by many developers. That being
said, I am glad to see Konami producing a well thought-out RPG at this current
day and age.

Review Scoring Details for Suikoden V

Gameplay: 8.4
Suikoden finally returned to its roots and shows that
it can still offer new experiences. I felt the franchise was going sour, but
with Suikoden V, it proves me wrong. The game is a cinch to jump into and become
addicted to finding out the next twist in the story.

Graphics: 7.7
The character
art saves the graphics for me. Sure the environment is blotchy at best and towns
are bland; it just doesn’t matter when the artists dish out interesting
characters left and right.

Sound: 7.5
Suikoden V has
the occasional hiccups in the sound (IE-squeaky characters). All around though,
it delivers when it needs to.

The battle
system I feel is user friendly, the duels and army battles are simple enough and
the story isn’t too complicated.

Concept: 8.2
While this isn’t totally brand new, I still love the
concept of filling a huge castle with characters to join my team. Hopefully with
the next Suikoden RPG, they don’t heavily focus on the 108 Stars of Destiny.

Overall: 8.1
While it
certainly isn’t the best RPG to be released this year, it is the best Suikoden
game in a long time. Get it while it’s hot they always say and Konami delivered
it at the right time.