PS2 REVIEW: SUIKODEN V

You have to pay your dues before you can truly experience the essence of Suikoden V. by Cass Andrusiak

March 28, 2006 - No, that doesn't mean you have to play the first four games in the series. What I mean by "paying your dues" is that you have to suffer through hours and hours of incredible tedium before you really get down to business in the game. It's like an archeological dig in the desert. You have to clear away a lot of sand before you get to the treasure. Some gamers may feel that the preamble is not worth the payoff but for those that stick it out, they will be rewarded with deep gameplay and a complex but dynamic storyline.

The beginning of the game is used to "set up" the storyline and get you involved with the characters which have genuine personalities. These are not your typical RPG stereotypes. They have emotions, problems and agendas of their own. They are noble and brutal; strong and weak. The plot twists are well executed. You can't even see them coming.

Going back to its roots, Suikoden V, now features a six-character party instead of three. You add your characters one at a time so that you have plenty of time to acquaint yourself with their stories, powers and personalities. The main character is a prince (that you get to name yourself), whose kingdom is in danger of being taken over, (what else is new?).

There is lots of exploring in this game. The areas are too big in some places. There are towns and castles that can take up to an hour to fully explore - and you may not even manage to find anything interesting. It's not until a good 10 hours or so into the game before you get into your first lucrative dungeon crawl.

You can expect to feel a lot of anxiety as you attempt to lead your party, because you don't really know where you're going. Fortunately some of the characters do have an idea where they're going and you can ask them to give you some assistance. It doesn't help the slow pace of the game that there are load times for just about every move you make. They range from a couple of seconds to a damn eternity - especially when you get into a fight.

Random battles are more of a nuisance than anything else at the outset of the game. You can just set the interface on auto-pilot and not worry. But later on these battles can really inflict some serious damage on you and your party. The six-person party gives you more options during combat. You can group the members into different formations and combine formerly incompatible classes for superior strength and flexibility. You can unleash special cooperative attacks that have some really cool animations. They do tend to get repetitive since there is a lot of random fighting so you'll always want to be on the lookout for new techniques to acquire.

You have to conserve some of your energy when fighting the bigger monsters since you can't always go back to the town to replenish your monster-killing powers. The enemies include monsters, dragons, man-eating plants, wolves and bandits. Killing them results in receiving money and experience and skill points, which are used to keep your party members alive and prepared for the next encounter as you feed them and upgrade their weapons, skills, armor and magic.

All of the dialog spoken by the prince is controlled by you, based on the selections that you make. One really becomes immersed in the character. When preparing for war you consult with your party members and advisors. You will assign them various military positions as commanders. In the relative safety of your war room located deep inside abandoned and captured castles, a strategist will consult with you on which military strategies to employ. These battles are epic in the true sense of the word, engaging thousands on the battlefield in real-time.

The wars play out on land and on sea in a rock/paper/scissors fashion. For example infantry is stronger than archers, archers are stronger than cavalry, and cavalry are stronger than infantry. Choose your units, assign your orders as to where to move and what to attack, and watch the fireworks.

Occasionally the prince will be forced into some one-on-one battles to prove his worthiness and a leader and warrior. It's plays out virtually the same as the army battles. You only have three choices: Attack; guard, and Special Attack. Some hints will be given by the enemy as to what they are likely to employ in battle so pay attention and you'll likely clean up. You need to defeat these key enemies in order to progress. The combat animation is exciting to watch as the prince displays extraordinary marital arts moves aided by his trusty tri-staff.

While the gameplay is slow to get up to speed, we mustn't overlook the cast of characters that are given so much time to develop. There are hundreds of them out there. Some are likeable and some are annoying, while others are actually useful for your cause due to their powers or affiliation with other characters. It's these relationships that allow you to combine powers for cooperative attacks. It's really something to see how some of these characters vie for your attention, such as the gals that are obviously smitten with you. It's also very interesting to see how the characters fill up the environments such as the castles and villages that you inhabit along your journey. It seems very organic the way they flock to your presence and slowly become a society.

Suikoden V is not an amazing looking game. It has a simple anime-style to it that suggests that less is more. That's a good philosophy - to explain away the lack of detail. The characters tend to look cliché whereas their personalities are anything but. The voiceovers are decent but they don't venture into the Oscar-caliber neighborhood.

With multiple endings, different paths to choose, hundreds of characters and lots of environments to explore, Suikoden V, can take its place at the top shelf among classic PS2 RPGs.

Features:

  • Longest Suikoden storyline ever with fully voiced-over cut scenes, multiple endings, storyline branches and unimaginable plot twists
  • Uncover the 108 Stars of Destiny to build up and customize a home base
  • Tactical Formation System allows for more than 20 strategic formations in battle
  • Take 6 member parties into battle with over 60 playable characters for millions of party combinations
  • Strategic map battles with hundreds of troops in huge army skirmishes
  • Completely customize your characters with a new skill system, weapon enhancement system and hundreds of unique equipment items

By Cass Andrusiak
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Suikoden V (PS2)
4.1
Graphics
The environments are low res and the anime style seems a little more like an excuse for average looking graphics than an art statement.
4.5

Control
There is a lot of flexibility and depth with the various attributes of the party members that can be combined. The interfaces and menus are easy to navigate.

4.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voiceovers are a mixed bag, but the characters do come alive by avoiding clichés with fully developed personalities.
4.4
Play Value
It's a long game and there are plenty of reasons to play it over and over again.
4.2
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PS2
Dev: Konami
Pub: Konami
Release: Mar 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cass

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best