February 27th, 2003
The third installment in Konami's Suikoden series takes the gameplay to a whole new level, with three playable lead characters, a revamped fighting engine, and the series' first foray into the third dimension. Fortunately, Suikoden 3 doesn't disappoint; in fact, it only raises the bar for the next game in the series.
Graphics - 8
Suikoden's never been known for having really flashy graphics, but they've always been pleasant to look at. This game is no exception. At first I was a bit concerned about them switching from 2D to 3D (as were most fans), but after sitting down and playing it for a while I realized that they were able to retain the same mood from the previous games while taking a step forward graphically. The graphics don't jump out at you as something that makes the game great, but they add to the atmosphere the game creates, and they serve their purpose. My only problem with the graphics is that the camera angles could be a bit awkward at times. It would have been nice to have been able to change the angle at times, but that's only a minor gripe. You get used to it after a while.
Music - 10
Fans have come to expect phenomenal soundtracks from the Suikoden games, and this one doesn't disappoint. Konami has once again supplied a memorable soundtrack that complements the game wonderfully and sets the mood for each and every scene. You'll hear new arrangements of familiar tunes from the first two games, as well as several new ones that are rather catchy and moving (the opening theme, for one, really kicks ass.) The music really comes through once more to create a gaming experience like no other.
Gameplay - 9
The battle engine was redone rather a bit for the third game in the series. You still have six characters in your party at a time, but this time around each column is a pair. You have three pairs of commands to give rather than a separate command to everyone in the party. You can only have one person in a pair cast a spell or use an item at a time (unless it's a combine attack); the other character in the pair will just use a regular attack. This feels a bit awkward at first, but it requires more strategy with how you organize your party initially, and after a while it feels really natural. After your characters move to make an attack, they stay where they end up on the field (ala Lunar and Grandia) rather than return back to the formation. The developers did a good job of keeping the battle system fresh, rather than just recycling the old engine. It was something different, and it was (thankfully) still fun.
The duel battles are still exactly the same as the last two games (Defend/Attack/Deathblow), and your opponents still have certain phrases they say before each command. The full scale war battles are like a combination of the battles from the second game and the regular battles from this game. They also tend to be a lot more difficult than the full scale battles from either of the other games. They require a good deal of strategy, but aren't so difficult that you'll be throwing your controller across the room. Some of them are really fun, especially once you've gotten a lot of characters recruited (Futch and Bright kickass in the big battles.)
Plot - 10
Yet another kick ass plot from the Suikoden series. The use of several main characters is a big plus, because it allows you to see events from different perspectives. There are a lot of little side stories that tie-in to the main plot; pretty much everything happens for a reason. Very little, if any, of the plot seemed horribly contrived. The story behind the Flame Champion was really cool, and had some nice repercussions throughout the game. They did a good job of throwing plot twists in; a few of them were predictable (most RPG plot twists are), but they did manage to pack in more than a few genuine surprises. Also, the little nods to the events and characters from the previous games are just fun to hear. Konami came through with a great storyline that's very fitting for a Suikoden game.
Characters - 10
It's not easy to make a game that has 108 characters, plus a full cast of NPCs. Obviously, not everyone can have a big backstory. Some games have done it well (the other two Suikodens), and some just said screw it and didn't even bother (Chrono Cross.) Suikoden III does a good job of giving backstory to a lot of the characters, through little sidequests, sequences, and the like. The four main characters all have full backstories, developed so there aren't any questions that desperately need answering. All of the other big characters have well developed backgrounds, some fully explored, some not. They did a good job of letting you get to know a lot of the other characters, even if they don't play an integral part in the plot. Obviously, everyone doesn't have a big history (I don't think anyone's going to fault them for not giving us the lifestory of your castle's armorer), but they succeeded in giving us characters we can care about.
The character designs are kickass, as usual. Even with a cast of over 100, they're still able to pull out some of the best character designs from any RPG out there. There aren't as many returning characters as I'd like (no Pesmerga, Clive, Flik, or Viktor!), but hey, maybe we'll see them back in future installments. Besides, Konami gave us plenty of new characters who kick ass. Fred, Percival, Chris, Geddoe, and Jacques are some of the coolest characters from the whole series.
Overall - 9.7
When the original Suikoden came out, it instantly became my favorite RPG. When the second came out, I didn't think it would be as good as the original; it surpassed it. I had the same fears with this game. Fortunately, they were allayed. The Suikoden series is one of the few RPG series out there that has progressively gotten better with each installation, and it's maintained its position at the top of my Favorite RPGs list. It's not necessary to have played the first two Suikodens before playing this one, but the experience is definitely enhanced by doing so; if you can find copies of them, I'd recommend giving them a play.
To put it simply, this game rocks. If you're an RPG fan, you owe it to yourself to add Suikoden 3 to your collection.
Suikoden III Reviews
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