Suikoden V
PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 05/23/2006

Suikoden is an RPG series that has lasted for 10 years now. It has changed much since the first iterations on the original PlayStation. Suikoden V, however, was an attempt to get back to the roots of the series. In many ways, Konami succeeded in this aspect. Sadly, this victory for old-school fans seems to be more of a step back into the archaic than a grand re-entry into the realms of nostalgia.

Konami certainly managed to create an intriguing RPG. The storyline starts off with an investigation of Lordlake, a town which Queen Arshtat recently levelled in anger over its rebellion. After that, the game seems to dig its heals in, and slowly builds the pace up over the next several hours as the player uncovers very small pieces of plot that lead to further political intrigue. The story certainly does take its precious time getting started; the first eight hours or so are spent walking from one very long cut scene to another, as the story unveils itself slowly. The intensity and pace of the game does pick up later, however, and eventually the highly political plot delves deeply into many layers of the characters and overarching storyline. As with every Suikoden game, players have the ability to recruit 108 characters to join their cause. A huge amount of these characters are actually playable in battle, and allow for some highly interesting set ups and parties. Many of the characters also provide further access to story scenes, making the game more interesting.

Screen Shot
Yes! Another non-skippable, all text cut scene!

After the player manages to dig out of the seemingly bottomless pit of the beginning of the game, the player at last gets opened up to the true potential and fun of the game. The battle system had the potential to be one of the better turn based systems in recent memory, but sadly has some very frustrating elements. A normal battle begins with the option for players to set their characters actions for the turn. Players must attempt to predict the battle, as they select every action at the beginning, and then can only watch it play out. This can lead to some frustrating battles as a character fails to heal another at a crucial moment, or choose the wrong one to set a healer to pre-emptively. The system seems almost archaic at times, as this is very similar to the set up the original Final Fantasy used for its battles. Thankfully, there are some redeeming qualities.

The battle system also allows use of formations. Players can choose an option in the menu that allows them to set up how their characters are arranged. This can have some aesthetic qualities for set up of characters, but far more importantly, it can provide various bonuses during battles. Some formations allow for players to more easily heal their parties, while others increase attack or magic powers. Another unique aspect of the battle system is the very large amount of combination attacks available. Some combinations attacks can even include the entire six-character party in the attacks, providing a large amount of on screen action.

Suikoden V also features duels and army battles. Duels come up at certain points in the story, and are won by following prompts from the enemy character to attack, defend, or special in a sort of rock-paper-scissors variation. Army battles are also set up in rock-paper-scissors with Infantry, Archers, and Cavalry. Both are very simple to master, and only occur at a few points in the story, but the battles provide a nice reprieve from the seemingly constant random battles.

Screen Shot
The duel battle system in action.

Another way Konami attempted to make Suikoden V seem “old school” is the graphics. A static view from a 45-degree angle and restricted camera movement can be extremely frustrating at times as the player loses site of the character or attempts to find objects hidden from view. The graphics themselves seem to hearken back to the original PlayStation era, as a disturbing lack of detail seems to pervade the vast majority of environments. Suikoden III‘s towns and fields seemed lovingly detailed, with shops in town sporting wares hanging on hooks and swinging from ropes, and trees filling the screen as players passed through the forest. Suikoden V‘s towns seem barren and stark, with pale concrete and stores that feature nothing more than a shopkeeper. It is a disheartening step back in graphical prowess, especially now that other games have shown the PlayStation 2’s graphical capabilities.

Suikoden V‘s music, on the other hand, is fantastic. The epic scale of many of the songs brings scenes to life that would otherwise have seemed dull and dead. It is hard to think of any time where the music did not perfectly fit the scene or environment it was set to. The voices are also suitable to their characters, and there is no glaringly bad voice acting.

Konami took the Suikoden series for a new turn in the fifth installment, and in some ways the turn was for the better. Overall the storyline is enjoyable and the battle system average, but the sheer amount of annoyances spread throughout the game seem to weigh it down. The extreme rate of random battles, the dead cities, the stilted dialogue and lackluster graphics all drag down a game that could have been truly great. It is a worthy play for RPG fans who wish to expereince the series for the first time, and long-time series veterans will likely enjoy the nostalgic touches, but for the average RPG player, there are far better choices out there.

-Joseph Wartick

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Good
Story Very Good
Graphics Below Average
Sound/Music Great
Replay Value Below Average
The Verdict: 5