It's all in the stars
I hate level-crunching. There, I said it.
For those of you who don't know what that is, it's when you are forced to break off from the normal storyline and go fight little monsters so that you can 'level-up' your characters enough to fight a mandatory boss or to get through a mandatory dungeon, ruin or other monster-infested area.
It's one of the main reasons that I could never finish a Final Fantasy
game. I'd always breeze through the storyline only to find that I'm 10 levels below that which is recommended for what is normally a very easy boss, who then wipes the floor with me. I'd then give it another go, only to find that I've saved it in such a position that level-crunching to get to the required level is now impossible without a full storyline restart. It happened in FFVIII, it happened in FFX and it happened in FFX-2.
It's also one of the main reasons that I love Suikoden V
. From the vibrant and colourful characters, to the intrigue that surrounds the storyline, to the great graphics and the faultless gameplay mechanics, this game shows that Square-Enix
is not the only ones who can hammer together a great RPG.
The story revolves around the kingdom of Falena. For many generations, Falena has been ruled over by the women of the Falenan royal family. You play as the Prince [insert user-generated name here], the often overlooked royal family member. At the beginning of the game, you play through a flashback to an inspection you did of Lordlake, a town that two years ago was crippled in an uncharacteristic attack by your mother the Queen Arshtat, using the Sun Rune, the symbol of the Falenan royal family.
From this base, the game builds a story based on plots and schemes made behind closed doors that threaten the peaceful existence of the entire of Falena. Needless to say, when the bad guys seize power it's up to our silent Prince to set off and collate the 108 Stars of Destiny, rescue your sister Lymsleia and save the kingdom. Pretty standard stuff for a Suikoden game, actually.
The same can be said of the fighting systems. I say 'systems' as there are three different types of battles. There are the standard battles, where your party of up to 6 (plus up to 4 people in your entourage, who you can swap in and out for your combatants) meets a bunch of enemies and they fight. Expect the standard Suikoden stuff here, like the Runes system, and the ability to use co-op attacks if you've got the right people on the 'field' and all that.
There's also the 1-on-1 duels. These play out as a sort of Adv. Rock-Paper-Scissors. You get three actions. Guarding means you're prepared for a Special, but not so much for a regular Attack. An Attack will hit a Guard, but you'll get hit first if they use a Special. And, obviously a Special move will get the drop on an Attack, but a Guard will be able to block and counter-attack. Where this differs from a standard Rock-Paper-Scissors game is that if you both Attack, it goes into a stalemate situation similar to that of the Dynasty Warriors
ones. By repeatedly hitting one of the three buttons (X, Square or Circle), you can force the attack onto your opponent. If you both Special, then you both take damage. If you both Guard, then I guess you're in for a boring match. You can get some idea of what they will do from what they say before hand, but you do have a time limit to decide what to do.
Then there's the Wars. It's sort of a cross between the battles of Suikoden
(another variant of RPS, with special moves added in) and Suikoden 2
(similar to games such as Suikoden Tactics
and Fire Emblem
). You get to assign commanders and vice commanders to your units before the battle from the list of people you have recruited into the [insert player-generated army name here] army. Who you choose determines what that unit will be on the battlefield. Units can be a variant of the three basic types; Infantry, Archers and Cavalry. Infantry can combat Archers with ease, Archers have little trouble with Cavalry and Cavalry can go through Infantry easily. A similar thing happens with your naval units; Archer ships beat Combat ships, Combat ships beat Rams, Rams beat Archer ships. Once you've chosen your units, you go to the battlefield. There, you can order your units to move to certain locations, to pursue and engage enemy units or to use special abilities. It differs from the first game in that you can move and fight with one unit at a time, instead of having to fight all-on-all. It also differs from the second one as you're given a much more vast field of movement, and that units that lose confrontations will suffer a 'withdraw', where they will move uncontrollably to a new location a small distance from where they fought. It's small enough to not be a pain most of the time, but large enough to be of some use, especially when combined with some special moves, that prevent casualties on your forces.
Speaking of forces, you'll be happy to know that many familiar faces pop up in Suikoden V
. From the wise and mysterious Leknaat to the perpetually clueless Viki, you'll be amongst some old friends in this game. Not only that, but there are some references to the other games. Seeing the newcomer Nikea equipped with Pahn's Boar rune fills me with grand memories of past conquests. Ah, I can still hear the battle music from the original ringing in my ears.
That is, when I'm not listening to the grand soundtrack of Suikoden V
. The sound is befitting of the series, being perfectly orchestral and well-timed as always, reflecting the mood and situation effectively and wonderfully. Although I am getting sick of the speechless hero idea, all the rest of the cast have wonderful voices. You may only hear them in cutscenes, but they are still well-voiced.
They look good too. This is one of the best looking PS2 games I have played in a long time. All the characters look animated, but in a well done manner, not the semi-cell shaded style of the Simpsons
PS2 games. The environments are also well drawn as well, from the underground area of Baska mine, to the pale corridors of [insert player-generated castle name here] Castle.
Unfortunately, this game is not without its flaws. For one, you somewhat miss the dialogue between cutscenes, which does get a little annoying. For another, there doesn't seem to be much of a connection between this game and the first two, aside from the runes and some characters. The random encounters are still a pain in the ass, and having to go from dungeon to town to re-fill your runes does annoy somewhat.
Still, this game is spectacular, and well worth it if you can find a copy. Heck, just for the lack of level-crunching alone I'd suggest it to anybody.