The Suikoden series may not be one of the most popular RPG series of all time, but its previous iterations on the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 certainly made an impact on fans, catapulting this franchise into cult status. Although the main Suikoden series has been exclusively console-focused in the US up until now, Suikoden Tierkreis takes the Suikoden formula and squishes it into a handheld form.
For those unfamiliar with the Suikoden series, each game has several key features in common. Most notable of which is the presence of 108 playable characters, known as the 108 Stars of Destiny. These 108 stars will remain dormant until a great evil brings them together to fight in an immense battle. Though the characters and situations change, the games all feature this same storyline. It may sound redundant, but fans of the series have come to love this formula, and it is an essential part of any Suikoden game.
As you can imagine, squeezing a game with 108 main characters into a handheld game sounds like a daunting task. Although Suikoden Tierkreis keeps most of the core elements the same, series veterans will probably find this title lacking. Conversely, if you are new to Suikoden, Tierkreis provides a very nice entry-level title for the series and works well as a standalone RPG adventure.
You begin the game as a user-named character who is going on an adventure to rid his village’s countryside of nefarious rodents. However, when a forest magically appears and no one seems to notice, the 108 Stars of Destiny start to come together. This is when we learn of an evil plot involving a ruler known as the One King, who wants to take over the world. Although the story and premise is certainly familiar, Suikoden Tierkreis does take place in an alternate universe, so fans of the series will be able to see alternate versions of some of their favorite characters.
But story aside, what really shines in this title is the battle system. While some of the intricacies of the bigger console versions have been lost in Tierkreis, I have to say I was impressed with it overall. True to form, Tierkries has you plan your moves before each turn, which allows you to plan for enemy counterattacks as well as your own special attacks. Once a turn begins, each character acts out your commands and the enemy retaliates. Although this format doesn’t give you a lot of flexibility mid-battle, it does a good job of emphasizing the need for a good defensive strategy.
Attacks come in two varieties: star and physical. There is only one physical attack for you to use, but the strength and scope of this attack is affected by the type of weaponry you have equipped as well as your own personal stats. You learn very early on that equipping different weapons (such as swords, bows, and cudgels) has a direct effect on how effective your physical attack is against certain enemies, so learning about enemy weaknesses early on is definitely a boon when you are trying to master the physical attack.
The other type of attack, the Star attack, is similar to magic attacks you would find in other RPGs. Each character develops an affinity for a certain type of power (which is related to their star mark of destiny) and as your character grows, you will unlock new star powers for your character.
One of the biggest strengths of the battle system in Suikoden Tierkreis is the “auto” function. This allows you to motor through easy battles by letting the game’s A.I. take control of your characters during low-level battles. This is extremely helpful when you are grinding through low-level enemies, as you can skip cumbersome menus and just let the game beat the enemies in a few rounds.
One area where fans of the original Suikoden might find themselves a little bit disappointed may be with the layout of the different regions. While other titles let you have quite a bit of freedom when exploring the world of the game, Tierkreis has a very linear transportation system, which simply presents a menu for each location for basic transportation. To make matters worse, levels themselves are essentially linear, with small arrows indicating the different directions on a path that you can take. While this is great for directionally challenged people such as me, it certainly removes a level of depth from the game, at which many RPG enthusiasts may balk.
Visuals in Suikoden Tierkreis are fairly good, with 3-D characters sporting some sharp but simplistic design. The different environments, however, feature some striking design. As I stated before, the different levels all have a very linear design, but there are plenty of interactive elements that make the environment feel appealing nonetheless. Though there might not be much to explore, at least the view is nice!
Even though most aspects of this title are fairly good, I have to say that the audio is not quite up to par. While the music and sound effects are quite good, the voiceover is enough to make your ears hurt. Yes, it is that serious. The characters all sound like teenagers with attitude problems, and for some reason, all of the lines sound really rushed. The best way to describe how the characters sound is by comparing it to talking to a girl at the mall about her new boyfriend while there is a sale at Macy’s. It’s painful, squeaky, disjointed, and just plain ear-shattering overall.
Although Suikoden Tierkreis may not have been the most deep or immersive RPG to hit the DS in recent months, I have to say that I was impressed with the effort. The fact that the 108 Stars of Destiny all made it into the game was notable. While the compact landscape hinders it from achieving a lot of depth, I still found it very enjoyable. No matter whether you are a Suikoden diehard or someone new to the franchise, this little handheld is definitely worth looking into if you like turn-based RPGs.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
The 3D character models look good but lack detail. Environments, however, are lush and varied. 4.1 Control
Menu-based controls are easy to learn, and the exclusively button-based controls make going through menus a snap. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is nice to listen to, but voiceovers sound wooden and rushed. 3.7
Although this handheld venture loses some of the scope and tactical complexities of bigger Suikoden games, it stands quite well by itself.
3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.