It Was Okay…Maybe?
I’ve never spent so much time playing a game that I would never recommend.
IGN’s Ranking: #39/100
There is a mystery I cannot figure out: 60 Hours.
That’s how long I spent playing Suikoden III, and I’m not sure why. The game is full of wasted time, back-tracking, quality of life issues, and lacks the pizazz of the earlier games.
Somehow, I kept going.
The game’s narration from triple perspectives is a mess and the main characters lack meaningful exposition.
However, I kept going.
The main reason to play Suikoden is to recruit characters as you rebuild a dilapidated castle. The game makes you wait an obscene amount of time (40 or even 50 hours) before your can fully realize seeking out the canonical 108 Stars of Destiny, which is THE reason to play this series.
And yes, I kept going!
In the face of all that, why did I keep pushing play? There is some undeniable charm. While the main characters are duds, the supporting cast is full of hidden gems. The music has a few bangers. The battle system grew on me and was challenging enough, but damn did everything else disappoint me.
108 Stars of Destiny.
With 108 characters, it would be easy to think that many of them don’t matter (this is looking at you Chrono Cross).
The characterizations are a delight and have some neat cross-over onto gameplay.
Koroku is a dog you find lost in the mountains. He sets up shop outside of the cafe where you can replace his standard kennel with something more upscale, such as a Taj Mahal replica. Talking to him allows you to explore the castle as a dog and get unique dialogue of how people talk to him.
Juan is someone you inherit with the castle. He is the resident bujutsu master where you can upgrade skills at your homebase. Oddly enough for a skill trainer, he is also extremely lazy, so much he starts battle asleep. When awoken, however, he is put into berserk mode and pummels people for extreme damage.
Thomas, who really should have been the main and only protagonist, inherits the run-down castle because his political father wants to send his bastard son as far away as possible. Meek and humble, he has a strong sense of his personal values standing up for the oddball crew at the castle.
Piccolo’s fortunes are often times worthless. That makes him fun. He also only says “ho ho ho ho ho” in dialogue which made him an instant winner with me.
And here comes my list of grievances.
Missing the Point.
My number one problem is that Suikoden is really about ONE thing: recruiting characters to build a robust/thriving community. You are willing to revisit the mountain from three missions ago for the sparse chance of recruiting someone.
You never know what the next person will bring: an amazing fighter? a shopkeeper? a screw up teleport magician?
It takes ten hours before you even get a hint of recruiting people. The game takes until hour 50 before you really start being able to recruit people and make your own party. FIFTY HOURS.
THIS IS THE WHOLE POINT OF SUIKODEN.
The Trinity Narrative Device.
You play Suikoden III from three perspectives: Hugo, Chris, and Geddoe. Each character has several chapters and you have the choice to switch between perspectives are finishing out one person’s story.
It’s ostensible purpose is to give you a unique perspective on events since each of them come from a different “faction.” However, this criss-crossing doesn’t actually serve any purpose. Often times the “other perspective” is just hearing the same dialogue AGAIN but only from a different camera angle.
I felt like this would add a “choose your own” adventure feel. Instead, you abandon the idea of whose chapter to explore fairly early because IT DOESN’T MATTER.
The anime opening sets the bar too high.
Hugo shows more expression in each of these shots than anything happens in the game. The 3D models do not have enough animations to convey any immense emotion. The dialogue isn’t poignant. There are no additional anime cutscenes or CGI to carry through big moments.
Everything is immensely flat.
Quality of Life.
You would think Suikoden I, made in 1996, would be the problem child. Its inventory system is a mess and should be the entry in the series most apt to make people’s life hell with things we take for granted.
NOPE. Suikoden III is truly awful. Look no further than the world map.
You do not get the teleporter or blinking mirror, vital items to cut down on travel time, unless you figure out how to recruit Vicki (and oddly enough, Vicki again). Until this happens, you have to walk the entire world map if you want to get anywhere (and remember you don’t recruit people until hour 40 or 50!).
The trails you automatically traverse until you hit a circle or a square. A circle is an entire environment, like fields, mountains, or forrest. Even if you have gone through that area before, you have to do so EACH time you want to go to a different trail. Many cities are between two trails. You have to walk through the ENTIRE CITY, to get to the other side.
It is a complete nightmare.
Yes I played this game 60 hours, and no I don’t think you should play it.
Other People’s Takes:
- CGLF Gamerz Reviews: “Even though its the first title on the PS2, the creative storytelling that made me fall in love with the previous titles feels like its somewhat missing. Such a shame.“
- My Brain on Games: “I didn’t have any impact on the events of the game, I merely controlled the order I wanted to experience them. In practice, this turned out to be a glorified chapter select menu.“
- My Boxed Universe: “On its own Suikoden III would stand up as a great game, but as the closing chapter in a trilogy it’s a profound work of art.“