Suikoden 3 came out on PSN last night (PS2 classic – unfortunately, only playable on PS3 so far). It’s $10, which is a steal – not quite as good a one as its predecessors, since they actually printed enough copies of 3 the first time around. This is probably a ramp-up to finishing out the series on PSN.
I haven’t written much about Suikoden 3 specifically here or on videolamer – the reason being that I only came around to appreciate what it does well on replays.
First off – just in case you haven’t heard much about the series – here are a few major hallmarks:
- It’s a fantasy world with Chinese influences (though 3 eschews the latter somewhat).
- Conflicts are regional, not global. By that I mean – when you finally face the final antagonist, by and large, what you’re staving off is a regional tyrant and not a global disaster.
- People are people. There are a few who are extraordinary in some ways, but there is no classic shonen hero who saves the world through the power of the heart. When you win, it’s not because you’re more determined than the opponent or because of the power of your friendships. It’s because you rallied the people to join your cause.
- Themes tend to focus on interpersonal relationships, intrigue, and state-building.
Though Suikoden 3 does veer slightly into traditional-JRPG territory later in the game, there are a few things special about it in the Suikoden landscape:
- Three primary protagonists and one optional set of chapters allow you to see events from multiple points of view and to pursue each one in the order you prefer. This allows the game to develop 20-30 characters focused around each “team”.
- Only one protagonist, Hugo, is classic-JRPG fare. Chris is a female knight already in command of a sizeable force, while Geddoe is a veteran mercenary captain who is suspicious even of his own team at first.
- Many story battles you are “intended” to lose can be won with a small reward if they are beaten. No change occurs in the story, though.
- Mechanics such as treasure bosses in certain areas complement the strategy battle system to encourage exploration and experimentation with multiple types of parties.
Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly downsides to the game. There isn’t a world map and exploration can be slow. Battles in early areas especially feature a downright baffling choice of music, especially considering the rest of the game has a good soundtrack. Combat can be strange at first, with characters “leashed” and only one available for a specific command each turn, and the skill system can be overwhelming.
Give it a chance, though, and you’ll find a really good JRPG with relatable characters, a solid plot, and hints of where the series was going until it was derailed.