Suikoden V
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Released: US 03/21/06
Japan 02/23/06

Graphics: 91%
Sound: 94%
Gameplay: 98%
Control: 95%
Story: 99%
Overall: 97%
Reviews Grading Scale
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The prince of Falena is ready to kick butt.
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Team attacks are back with style!
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One-on-one duels return as well.
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A concerned, yet psychotic mother.
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Suikoden V

Suikoden. To many RPG fans, this name makes them think of epic war battles, hundreds of characters, and some of the best plots we've seen in the video game market. While not as popular or mainstream as Final Fantasy, the Suikoden series leaves its mark on every RPG player who gives it a try. Anyone who plays a Suikoden game will never forget it.

Unfortunately, when Konami took the series onto the PS2, they made some radical changes. Suikoden III introduced 3D graphics, a new battle system, the Trinity Sight System, and even a new skill system. While these weren't bad changes, many fans disliked the new direction Suikoden was going, and preferred the classic feel the first two games had. Suikoden IV, while bringing back many elements from the original games, also oversimplified the story, gameplay, and just about everything imaginable, and was deemed the worst in the series. Many people feared Suikoden V would share a similar fate.

Allow me to bring you the good news that Suikoden has indeed returned to its former greatness! Suikoden V brings back literally everything we loved from each game, plus adds even more. It is undeniably the best game in the series and truly one of the best RPGs to grace the genre.

The Suikoden series is best known for its story. Suikoden II and III had some of the best plots in the genre, but Suikoden V absolutely blows those two out of the water. Suikoden V brings a whole new meaning the word "plot," having dozens of completely unexpected twists and turns throughout the game. Best of all, this game focuses completely on the civil war of the Queendom of Falena, and has nothing to do with saving the world. I wish I could tell the whole story right here; it's so good, but I'll let you enjoy it on your own.

The story itself focuses on the young prince of the Queendom of Falena, a beautiful nation led by a queen instead of king. Since men can't ascend to the throne, it is the hero's younger sister who will be queen. The game starts slowly, introducing you to the land of Falena and the royal family. Fortunately, the plot quickly turns to a fast-paced and action-filled story of politics, betrayal, and death. Politics play an especially large role in this game; more prominent than any of the other Suikoden games. There are over three different nations that play a large role in the game, two main factions of nobility, an independent cavalry of dragonhorse riders, and of course the royal family itself.

Suikoden V also has some of the best character development in the series. Every single member of the 108 Stars of Destiny has a distinct personality and history, and almost half of them play major roles in the plot (although many still require you to recruit them on your own and don't just join automatically). The main characters and antagonists themselves are some of the best characters in the genre, especially the princely hero himself. While he is technically a silent hero, he really isn't silent at all. You have hundreds of dialogue options (many of which affect storyline branches and the ending), and can develop the prince any way you like. His detailed facial expressions make him more expressive than some talking heroes.

Gameplay also comes out on top when compared to the rest of the series. The battle systems, detective work, mini-games, and character quests are all the best the series has to offer. The game also offers dozens of character customization options (including the return of a revamped version of Suikoden III's skill system, similar to that in Suikoden Tactics), making each character completely different from the rest. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

The battle system is your typical Suikoden battle system with an added twist; the formation system. You obtain over 20 different formations to put your characters in. Each one has it's own special stat boosts and Formation Skill, many of which are extremely useful. Suikoden V also boasts a new support-character system, which gives you four extra non-battle slots. Why is this so special? You can also put battle characters in these slots, and switch them with another character during battle (and on the field as well). So now, instead of a party of 6 or 7, you have a party of 10! The only real issue with the battles is the encounter rate. While it really isn't that bad, it can get rather frustrating at times. Fortunately, you can find a particular item that when equipped, repels all battles with weaker monsters.

Perhaps the most exciting gameplay element to Suikoden fans is the return of the world map. Rarely seen in today's RPGs, Suikoden V has a beautiful and large world map. It's relatively easy to navigate, but still has a vast feel to it. This is an especially useful feature with all the towns and dungeons in Suikoden V. Suikoden V has perhaps the most towns in any console RPG I've played. Not only does it have a huge number of towns, cities and villages, but each town is gigantic! In a world where RPG towns are typically small with very few building to explore, the cities and villages in Suikoden V have dozens of shops and homes to explore; and each town consists of several different "areas." And don't worry about getting lost. Lyon (the Prince's bodyguard) follows you around, and you can talk to her for a hint on where to go (other characters will also follow you during specific events or scenes).

The war and duel systems are also improved. Strategic battles are very similar to the ones in Suikoden II, but this time units move in real time. You'll have to pay close attention in order to win. There are also naval battles, using boats instead of soldiers (and some battles with both simultaneously).

And of course, Suikoden V has the staple Suikoden elements. There are 107 characters who join the Prince in his fight, and you have the ability to recruit over half of them on your own. Many require more than just talking to them, as with past Suikoden games. Several characters even have special sidequests required to recruit them, several of which open up new dungeons with extra treasures. Runes also play a bigger role than ever. There are almost 20 different magic runes you can obtain, and dozens of other status and skill runes as well. The game also introduces Rune Pieces. When you have 4 pieces of a particular rune, you can have a Rune Sage assemble them into a new rune orb for you. And of course the castle-headquarters makes its return. Shortly into the game, you discover an abandoned castle and make it your new home and base of operations. As the story progresses and you gain more recruits, the castle grows and grows, eventually being one of the biggest HQs in the series. This castle also reveals some answers to one of the series biggest mysteries...

Just glancing at Suikoden V will give you mixed impressions graphically. The graphics are clean and detailed, but the camera is zoomed out and often awkwardly placed. However, if you take a closer look, you can clearly see that Suikoden V has some beautiful graphics. Character models are detailed, despite the zoomed out view, and there are even slight animations from the 2D-esque perspective. The graphics really shine during cutscenes and battles. The character models here are much better than on the map screen and while exploring. And the animations are simply stunning. Cutscenes are beautifully directed, and the voices actually match the mouth movement!

Konami clearly put a lot of effort into graphical details. There are great shadow effects during cutscenes, and for the Prince and Lyon when they're running around. There are also excellent reflections in water or on shiny floors, and they reflect the environment as well (not just the characters). Perhaps the best part of the graphics is the lighting. When it's sunny, there's a light glare, and everything looks much brighter. If it's evening, an orange glow can be seen on the screen. These little details really add a lot to the realism of the game.

Unfortunately, the beauty of the graphics are a bit soured by a few technical issues. If a lot of characters are in a room, the frame rate slows down substantially. Fortunately, this rarely happens (and is only during event scenes). Another minor issue is the loading times. After battle, going into a large building, and before cutscenes, the ominous "loading" screen will be seen a lot. Thankfully, this doesn't detract a ton from the game, and there are cute little 2D character sprites running (or teleporting) around to keep your attention occupied.

Musically, Suikoden V is right on par with the other Suikoden games. It has a large soundtrack with dozens of battle songs, town themes, and event music. The music of the intro movie isn't close to the juggernaut of Suikoden III's "Exceeding Love," but "Wind of Phantom" is still a beautiful theme. The game's sad themes are especially beautiful. They will send shivers down your spine and bring tears to your eyes.

The voice acting in the game is also well done. While there are a few iffy performances from minor characters and townspeople, the main cast is done especially well. The actress for Queen Arshtat does one of the best voices I've heard in any video game.

I've already stated how the game did in the major categories. For the most part, you should be getting sort of an "average" vibe from the game right now. It has a great story and fun gameplay, but several technical issues. Where the game really shines is in little details. When you add a character to your party, and someone they know/have a particular relationship is in your party, they will change what they normally say. The comments characters leave in your Comment Box at the HQ change depending on your own actions. It's small details like these that really breathe life into Suikoden V, and really help you appreciate how much effort Konami put into it.

The bottom line is that Suikoden has made a gallant return with the fifth entry. Suikoden V marks a rebirth for the series, and also manages to be one of the best RPGs I've seen in a while. While it will surely be overshadowed by mainstream RPGs, any RPG fan should give Suikoden V a try, if for no other reason than to experience the incredible story. Just to further vouch for it, this is the only RPG to truly make me cry (I mean streaming tears and sobbing), and it did this several times.


© 2006 Konami. All Rights Reserved.

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