It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well enough that Suikoden might just be my favourite JRPG series of all time. Political plots, fantastically nuanced characters, and addictive game mechanics are just the perfect combination to me, and Suikoden V does not disappoint on that front. Following what I would consider the series’ only weak game in Suikoden IV, Suikoden V is a return to form and then some.
Featuring perhaps my favourite overall cast of the series and a refinement of the various systems that the series in known for, Suikoden V is a contender for my all time favourite Suikoden, with its closest rival being the masterful Suikoden II. In a way, this just makes the series’ abandonment all the more bittersweet.
It was simply a joy to replay this game again, as I found myself just as enamoured with it as I was many years ago. If I had any complaint, it would be the game’s fairly low difficulty, with most bosses dying in just a few turns. However, you might have heard I spent a few days hacking the game to fix that little problem, at least for myself.
As much as I love Suikoden V, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness every time I play it, knowing that this was the final game in the mainline series. I think if the series ended on a low note I could move on easier, but it didn’t end that way. Suikoden V is an amazing game and the series deserves to continue. I suppose if I can’t bet on Konami reviving the series, I just hope there is some Suikoden-loving indie developer out there who wants to make a game inspired by it.
Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of Suikoden II. I often hail it as the best RPG ever made to basically anyone who will listen (sorry podcast listeners!). But I also love the rest of the series, and Suikoden V has always sat near the top of my list for the “next best” whenever anyone asks me where to go after playing the second entry.
Luckily, after returning to the game for the first time since its release, Suikoden V totally holds up, but it’s not without its flaws. The first few hours are a slow burn, slowly laying the groundwork for the rest of the game. The encounter rate is far too high, which is exacerbated by fairly lengthy load times. Inventory management is unintuitive, and just generally a pain to manage with such limited space. Towns are overly convoluted. In other ways, it never lives up to the best the series has to offer, with less compelling villains than the first three entries, and a plot that is perhaps too interested in callbacks to the rest of the series.
But can we talk about the cast? In a series that generally does a solid job of fleshing out its 108 Stars of Destiny, Suikoden V is by far the most consistent. Almost every character you recruit feels pertinent, from the fashionista who is secretly a noble from a neighboring country, or the “detective” who can never stop smiling for reasons that still haunt me today. And that’s not even the main cast! Everyone, from the Queen’s Knights to the Royal Family and even members from neighboring nations have their moments. The always quality localization (now you can’t say that about Suikoden II!) only helps cement this as one of the high points of the series.
Oh, and let’s not forget about Sialeeds. Never forget about Sialeeds.
It took all of two milliseconds for me to decide to temporarily come out of RPGFan “retirement” and participate in the Suikoden V podcast (special thanks to Leona for the nudge). Being reunited with my two favorite Suikoden girls Lun and Sagiri? Falling in love with Sialeeds all over again? And witnessing Richard and Mueller’s uncanny love story unfold yet again? Count me in.
Personally, Suikoden V is the best game in the series. In many ways, this installment feels like a love letter to Suikoden II — of course I had to talk about the second game somewhere in this write-up. You have your carbon copy Luca Blight in the form of Childerich; several characters in Suikoden II are given backstories in V; and arguably, Sialeeds’ betrayal mirrors Jowy’s.
Yet despite their similarities, Suikoden V surpasses Suikoden II in one area: the writing. While it’s far from being close to perfect, V’s central theme around the concept of familial bonds and its different forms feels much more developed. Not only is this theme present between our silent protagonist and the Royal Family, but also in each of the antagonists and supporting characters as well. And speaking of characters, the writers did an excellent job seamlessly weaving a large handful of the cast within the main storyline. Many of them weren’t just fillers and even have truly distinct personalities. I can honestly go on and on about its greatness but I’ll save you the time and trouble by saying this: Suikoden V is an undeniable gem in the PS2 library and a game that RPG lovers should experience at least once in their lifetime.
It’s a shame that this is where the series stops. I still have hope that we will get to see a sixth installment someday. So until then, it’s up to us fans to keep the spirit of the franchise ever burning.
Til next time, you filthy Godwin devils!