I'm pretty much the biggest Suikoden fanboy on the planet, so when I found out they were making a new entry for the DS, I was ecstatic. When I found out it was coming to the US, I just about had some kind of attack. When I found out they were removing a lot of the elements that I liked about the series, like unique weapons, runes, and the continuous world story, I was slightly disappointed, but I held fast and kept my hopes strong. The Suikoden team could do no wrong, and I was confident in this assessment.
I was pretty close, anyway.
There are a couple of things I dislike about the game, but for the most part I'm really enjoying it. In the interests of my laziness and the fact that I want to get back to playing ASAP(because srsly this game is just incredible), I'll just toss out some bullet points of things I liked and didn't like.
-The music is amazing. Suikoden has always had great music, and even the relatively "lackluster" soundtrack of S4 was still heads and tails above most other RPG's. And this game does not disappoint. Each town has music appropriate to the area that the town is located in, from jamming salsa music in Salsabil town, to music with a somewhat arabic influence in the Magedom of Janam. A lot of the music will have you bobbing your head along with the tune, because it's just so catchy.
-The voice acting is atrocious. Most of the characters I've encountered speak as though their sound files were sped up to 1.5x or 2x speed to save space on the DS cart. Or at least that's what I thought until I met a character who...spoke...so...slowly...it...ruined...the...emotional...impact...of...his...entire...section. Of course, I've never been a proponent of voices at all, and I usually turn them off in my games because I prefer to come up with my own voices. But of course, Tierkreis doesn't allow you to turn them off. WTF Konami, really.
Luckily, most of the voices are sped up so fast that they're over before they begin. So it's very easy to simply ignore them, and just listen to the great music.
-The characters have beautiful designs. Yet another thing the Suikoden series is known for, the character designs in Tierkries do not fail to disappoint. I have yet to see a character design I didn't like, and I don't really expect to see any in the future that I don't like given the wonderful artstyle being used. The Magedom of Janam in particular has some fantastic costume designs and characters.
-The graphics don't match up. A lot of people I know were really bothered by the designs of the characters in FF4 DS, because the super deformed design didn't match the image of the characters they had in their heads for so many years. But personally, it didn't bother me at all. They used the same models for up-close cutscenes, for the battles, and for the map exploration. You got the same level of detail and the same model in all the areas, so it all flowed together rather nicely. But after playing Suikoden: Tierkreis, I think I get what they were talking about.
Each character in your party has a beautifully drawn character bust that shows up in the status menu and when the characters are talking. However, for map exploration and in combat, Konami decided to use a super deformed polygonal model to represent the characters. And the difference in quality between the two is huge. Now, I'm not saying that the 3D models are bad, far from it. They're very impressive for a DS game; all the characters have a fairly high level of detail and it's easy to clearly distinguish who is who; an enormous feat for a DS game featuring 108 hero characters plus various villains and unique NPC's. However, when you have these absolutely incredible character portraits and then cut away to the significantly less impressive 3D models, the effect is jarring. Personally, I wish they had gone with sprites like the one of the main character that appears when you're saving the game. Even if the quality wasn't as high as what's on the 3D models, the change wouldn't be so completely jarring.
-The story is very much Suikoden. I was worried that with the changing of the worlds and the elimination of so many classic series elements, that Konami would screw up the storyline with some generic animu crap. I now feel bad for doubting them. Without revealing any spoilers, the story seems to be following a very interesting and very -different- take on the original 108 heroes legend that the games were based on, and it's managing to be as fascinating now as Suikoden 1 was back when I first played it. Each time I have to leave my DS to eat or go to work, it's a herculean effort. I've literally stopped playing all other games in my que, I have to know what's going to happen next.
-I still miss my runes and unique weapons. :( One of the things I loved about the older games in the series was the rune system, if only because it worked so differently from the other JRPG's that go around. The older games used a D&D style spell level system, in addition to the ability to freely equip magical "runes" that gave your characters new skills and magic. Through mixing and matching various effect and spell runes, you could give your characters all kinds of extra abilities and uses in combat. It was also a neat way of making the characters different; some character had unique runes that gave them special powers, or certain combinations of rune slots that allowed them to equip some types of runes but not others(For instance, certain runes could only be equipped to the head, or to certain hands). Replacing all of that with a generic MP system and per-character spell lists feels a little empty after so much depth.
And as for the weapons, well, it just strips away a little of what made the old characters so fun. One of the reasons you brought along the crappy non-fighter characters in your party was the watch the funny animations of them using non-weapons in combat. Hai-yo with his Wok and Ladle, Lester and his Pot, Tuta and his handful of River Pebbles that were inexplicably able to be sharpened, or Mel and her chauvinistic hand puppet(Yes! That was a weapon!). The Doctor shouldn't be able to fight with Brass Knuckles and Swords, he should have some kind of weapon suited to his profession, like a bone saw or sharpened tongue depressors or something.
Personally, I've remedied this by only allowing each character to equip whatever type of weapon they came with, but it still feels a little hollow compared to crazy shit like BRANKY WHO LIKES THE LADIES IN THE BATH.
HELL YEAH IT'S BRANKY
Wow, that went on for a lot longer than I wanted it to. But ultimately, while I had a lot of negative things to say about the game, these thing are ultimately minor and only even relevant to a longtime series fan such as myself. The game on it's own merits is a lot of fun and I really enjoy it, I just hope that the next game goes back to the old storyline, or connects the new world to the old one in some significant way. I want to know the rest of the True Runes storyline, you know? It's not like the story doesn't allow for at least one character or concept crossover to show up.