As I searched for reviews on Suikoden Tierkreis for the Nintendo DS, I could surprisingly find next to nothing. IGN reviewed the game, but I've frequently found that they rate games too high for my taste. Nintendo Power gave the game a resounding "Meh." and Hispanic review site "Meristation" had a review that reeked of teh bias. Therefore, I decided to post my own impressions for anyone thinking about purchasing the game that makes the lofty claim of being "The deepest handheld RPG of all time".
First off, let me say that I like the Suikoden games, but haven't been fully exposed to the whole series or story. I played Suikoden 1 when I was younger, but found it much more confusing than the linear Final Fantasy games and quickly lost interest. However, a little over a year ago, I heard that while the first game was decent, the second could have stood toe-to-toe with nearly any other game in the RPG genre. After playing a good chunk of it for myself, I would have to agree. However, I haven't beaten the game and I've never played any of the Playstation 2 Suikodens. All that being said, I feel like I'm the perfect candidate to jump into this newest entry since it pulls so far away from previous Suikoden games, while still holding on to many of the series best gameplay elements.
I've been pumped about this game for about a year. It was something that I knew I was going to buy no matter what, but mixed reviews made me cautious about investing in it, especially when there are so many other great games coming out for the DS. In the end, I decided to take the leap and buy it. When I got back to my car, I plugged my DS into my car stereo (via headphone adapter) and turned it on to listen to what was sure to be the amazingly EPIC intro music. Instead... I got this...
Had a I bought a licensed Naruto game on accident? Why was I watching solemn anime characters? To give you an idea of what I was expecting to hear, watch the epic intro to Suikoden 2 for the Playstation.
See the difference? One makes you want to play the game and one does the exact opposite. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't the anime characters that turned me off. While I'm not a fan of anime themed games, I would have been fine with the anime opening if it was done right, but it was the spirit
of it that irked me. Well... That and the headache-inducing music... However, the nightmarish rape that my ears would experience had only just begun.
When I got home, I began to play the game and was treated to what has to be some of the worst, most over-the-top voice acting I've heard in a while. I frantically searched for a way to turn it off or switch it to Japanese... However, I was disappointed find nothing of the sort. Why? Why Konami? How hard is it to give me an option to turn off the voice acting? Why did we need it in the first place? I would have been fine with none at all, actually, I would have been thoroughly pleased! Within 40 minutes of the playing the game, I was ready to put it for auction on EBay. What had I done!? Why didn't I buy Henry Hatsworth or Valkyrie Profile!?
However, I didn't feel that it would be right to judge a game (especially an RPG) without even knowing what the battle system or story were like. So, I soldiered on, turning the sound off during major cut-scenes. However, one thing I began to notice was that the game's graphics were gorgeous! They featured 3D character models against hand-painted backgrounds. Think a really gorgeous Playstation-era RPG. The battle system really took me by surprise though. It's pretty basic turn-based stuff, but at the same time it feels very fast and fluid. Battles are fun to watch and I didn't mind the fairly high random encounter rate because the auto-battle mode sped things up quite a bit. It seems that this was done pretty strategically too. While you may select commands in a turn based fashion, 2 or 3 characters may start attacking an enemy at the same time as opposed to 1 character attacking, going back, another character attacking, going back, enemy attacking, etc. Like I said, it makes the battles much more cinematic and exciting to watch. Also, when you equip weapons, they show up on you. I love games that have that.
The music in the game is also above average. Some of the earlier tunes could wear on me a bit after a while, but it really is a soundtrack that I wouldn't mind owning. The voice acting continued to take a toll on me though... I continued to turn off the sound during cut scenes, however, the cut scenes with voice acting became less and less frequent. The story also got better and better. Was I actually starting to like this game? A bit later, I looked at my clock and realized that I'd been playing for nearly 6 hours! Not only that, but I was thoroughly enjoying it! Sure, there had definitely been a bit of eye-rolling, but this was shaping up to be a great game. I had also gotten used to the voice acting and stopped turning the volume down at cut scenes.
The game has a very specific PSX-era RPG feel to it and that is exactly what I was hoping for. When I stopped playing, it was at the end of a big battle that resulted in my team owning our own base of operations and being officially recognized as a military company. Sure, it was a bit ridiculous that my character and his rag-tag band of teenagers were now a recognized military force, but like I said, the game has some noticeably anime roots (or flaws, you decide). That being said, the story is good and features some decent twists and turns as well. Suikoden fans may also have realized by now that the whole "You have a huge base, now fill it with people" thing is a staple of the series. Oh, by the way, there are 108 characters to unlock, which should keep you busy for a while.
In closing, Suikoden Tierkreis has some noticeable flaws and will definitely rub long-time Suikoden fans the wrong way at first, but this really is a game that has a significant pay-off for those that stick with it. If you are a Suikoden fan, please don't approach this game expecting the same thing you would from the numbered entries in the series. If you've never played a Suikoden game and like RPGs, this game is certainly a good place to start before moving on to some of the better and more mature entries like Suikoden 2. I really think that's who this game is aimed at, people who haven't played a Suikoden game before. It's apparent that it's attempting to reach a wider audience, but that doesn't change the fact that Suikoden Tierkreis is a great RPG and has something for everyone. Is it a must buy? Probably not, but if you're looking for a good RPG and you've got the cash to drop, I would definitely recommend it.