As the Prince of Falena, you command forces hurtling into combat against the bloodthirsty Godwins. Each strategic decision must be carefully made, otherwise you may lose key points of the battle... but there's always the reset button. Welcome to the world of Suikoden V, Konami's latest role-playing adventure for the PS2.
The Suikoden series has certainly achieved a level of success in the states; this is the third Suikoden release in just over a year, preceded by Suikoden IV and Suikoden Tactics. The game also marks the tenth anniversary for the series. Suikoden V returns to the roots of the first game, and by doing so, it earns its place among the elite.
You play as an innocent unnamed prince descended from royalty; your mother is Queen Arshtat of the Queendom of Falena. Suikoden's trademark has always been its silent but motivated main character who gains prominence through their able decision-making and loyal friends. Throughout the course of the game, your decisions affect your experiences; you learn of the conflicting views around you. It is your duty to bring order and justice to a world bent on corrupt individuals striving for wealth and power. To achieve an order and balance, you must lead armies into battle. The Suikoden series relies less on traditional fantasy elements and more on a sort of realism involving character relations, as there are 108 major players in each game. As a result, the story has always been highly engrossing emotional tale as well as an intellectual one.
Suikoden V is a throwback to more classic elements of the role-playing genre. This is certain not a hindrance, though. The game boasts an ample 60 hours of gameplay. Characters are lively, well-defined, and most importantly three-dimensional. Your bodyguard in the game, Lyon, is a sweet but very strong woman who is your adviser if you happen to run into trouble. Lyon, Lymsleia, your sister to inherit the throne, and your Aunt Sialeeds are also quite entertaining; these strong-willed women display a certain maturity that is often not found in video games. Georg Prime, who made his first appearance in Suikoden II, is also one of the main characters as one of the queen's knights, sworn on protecting the royal family.
The battle system has reverted back to the ways of the first two games in the Suikoden series, with six characters in two attack rows able to enter battle at once. In Suikoden III, characters operated in three pairs of two, relinquishing the ability to choose everyone's actions.
The graphics in Suikoden have never been the most important issue, because it evolved from 2D to 3D during its migration from the PlayStation to the PS2. The game looks crisp and clear, but certainly not matching the technical achievements of a game like Shadow of the Colossus whose graphical feats are some of most realistic on the console. The camera in the game causes the game to look more 2D than 3D; it is certainly a novel approach. Most games apply a cell-shading technique to make the game appear more 2D, while this game's camera appears zoomed out at a high angle. Instead of having 360 camera control, the camera moves according to your position. If you are in a tight corner, the camera will pan for an aerial view. It is somewhat distracting and odd at first, but as you play, it will become a natural part of the game.
Voices in the game are also somewhat lackluster, such as Lyon and other frequently seen minor characters, but I'm sure Konami's budget had an impact on that. However, Sialeeds and Georg's voices are very assuring and appropriate considering their positions in the game. With every installment, the Suikoden universe is accompanied with an amazing musical score. Suikoden V is no exception, with a thrilling soundtrack. The soundtrack shares a lot of similarities with the second game's, utilizing a rich variety of upbeat foreign-sounding tunes (Celtic and Chinese influences, especially).
You can purchase Suikoden at any electronics retailer for $39.99 or less; it is definitely worth it for the lengthy gameplay, its wonderful array of characters, story, and unique contributions to the role-playing genre.