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Suikoden Tactics PlayStation 2

Published by Konami
Developed by Konami
Release Date: 24th February 2006
Price: £39.99

Suikoden Tactics, an introduction.

Last year we had our first taste of Konami's popular Suikoden series with Suikoden IV and all things considered we enjoyed our time with the game. The last title in the series, Suikoden Tactics, is more of an offshoot than a sequel. Nevertheless if you enjoyed Suikoden IV you ought to consider Suikoden Tactics, as it's a game that compliments Suikoden IV rather nicely.

What's the game about?

Suikoden Tactics, as the word 'tactics' implies, is a strategy role-playing game (SRPG). It's a typical grid based SRPG that's very reminiscent of games such as Fire Emblem. As you've probably gathered from our introduction the story is closely related to one found in Suikoden IV and features events from before, during and after the events found in that game. The game opens with a couple of tutorial missions in which you'll control a boy called Snowe and the central character in Suikoden IV (who you name although at the beginning of this game he's simply known as Local Boy and at this point, he and Snowe are younger than at the beginning of Suikoden IV) for a few small scale battles in the back streets of Razril. On the second of these battles you're joined by another gang of characters and it's with these characters that the story continues. The game begins with Kyril (the main character in the game), his father and his gang, searching for Rune Cannons, weapons that turn their users into powerful and aggressive beasts.

What's good about the game?

The game features 20 new characters (for the Suikoden series) and there are around 50 in the game that you'll be able to recruit throughout the game. If you have a save from Suikoden IV on your memory card you can even unlock some extra characters, which is a nice bonus. There are also over 20 missions to undertake here, so it's a game that's going to last a while. Unlike some SRPG games, Suikoden Tactics is very accessible and easy to pick up even if you have never played a game of this type before. With that said though, it's not a game that feels like it's been simplified and it manages to have a nice mix of being accessible and also appealing to those who have played the more elaborate SRPG games such as Disgaea and the other Nippon Ichi titles.

As we said earlier it's a traditional grid based SRPG but it has some interesting elements that make it a little different from other games in the genre. The game has mêlée weapons, range weapons and magic attacks. There is also a big focus on elemental forces, which can help turn a battle in your favour. Almost all of the characters in the game have an innate element which affects a variety of things. The elements in the game are fire, water, lightning, earth and wind. Each element is weak against one other element. Fire is weak against water for instance whilst earth is weak against wind. Certain enemies and items etc. can change the elemental nature of the ground which certainly makes things interesting. If for instance a character is fire elemental based and is standing on a water elemental square of terrain they will suffer damage and their abilities will be weakened. Likewise if that same character is on a fire elemental square of terrain their stats and health will be improved and their attacks will do more damage. This adds a nice twist to the game play and makes things very interesting, particularly in later missions.

There is also a feature that's known as Good Will in Suikoden Tactics. Essentially some characters get along with each other really well, you could say they have a bond of sorts. During a battle it's possible for these characters (when placed next to each other) to talk to each other. Talking improves the relationship between the characters and it also increases the chances of the characters involved learning an attack that they both perform together. Good Will between characters will also see characters automatically assisting each other in battle with an attack and characters will also guard their friend from an attack by an enemy unit. This is actually another good addition to the game and helps to differentiate the game from other SRPG games as well as making the battles more interesting.

What's not so good about the game?

I daresay those looking forward to another Suikoden RPG might be a little disappointed with this slight deviation although with Suikoden V due out this year (at least in Japan and the US) it's fair to say that Konami haven't left out Suikoden fans who don't care for the more strategic flavour of Suikoden Tactics. A real disappointment though is that the characters in the game and the story itself lack that certain sparkle. After spending months playing games such as La Pucelle Tactics, Disgaea, Phantom Brave etc. one of the key reasons I keep going back to them is the personality of the characters and the personality of the story. By comparison the characters in Suikoden Tactics seem to lack that dynamic quality and the story feels like it plods along at times. Whilst these are disappointing elements though, they aren't really as big an issue in a game where the focus is on the battles.

How does it look?

Suikoden Tactics looks good but some aspects of the graphics do look over simplified. The characters in the game have a low detailed cel-shaded look to them. I have nothing against the characters having a cel-shaded look (in fact I quite like that visual style) but the characters here could have done with more detail and they actually look rather chunky too. The various environments you battle in all look pretty good and are pleasing on the eye. Battles are carried out on the map themselves (as in Disgaea and Final Fantasy Tactics) rather than going to a separate battle screen (as in Fire Emblem). There's nothing really flash about the attacks but again it all looks good enough and the battles progress very smoothly (you can alter the speed of them if you want to). Personally what I really liked about Suikoden Tactics was how well it was presented. The icons and layout of the game on the whole, including menus etc., is very easy on the eyes and allows you to play for long durations without becoming tired.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Deaf gamers aren't going to have any problems with Suikoden Tactics. By default the game is subtitled and deaf gamers will be able to fully enjoy the story. Rather than simply using plain subtitles the text is placed in a dialogue box that not only has the name of the character speaking but also a picture of them. This makes it very easy to see who is saying what and is a much better solution. Tutorial messages are all shown in text. As we mentioned earlier characters can talk to each other during battles (in order to develop co-operative attacks) and all of these comments are show in text. A very good use has been made of icons to highlight status conditions and this helps to highlight those characters that need healing and enemies who are near death amongst other things. Pressing the start button during a battle brings up a screen that explains what these icons mean, which is very useful. You can recall your victory and defeat objectives at any time. Between missions you can also access detailed text descriptions of any aspect of the game which is very helpful.

Final thoughts.

Suikoden Tactics succeeds on two fronts. Firstly it's a game that fans of Suikoden IV are going to enjoy because it compliments the story line in Suikoden IV. For fans of SRPG games, Suikoden Tactics is an enjoyable game that may not offer the depth or complexity of other titles in the genre but nevertheless what it does, it does well and the whole elemental aspects of the game and the restrictions and advantages they bring help to keep the game interesting for advanced players. SRPG games have been in plentiful supply and indeed for the last few years it's been Nippon Ichi who has kept the genre alive. Suikoden Tactics may not equal the brilliance of games such as Disgaea but it's an enjoyable SRPG that fans of the genre and the Suikoden series should definitely purchase.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Suikoden Tactics is an enjoyable SRPG for fans of the genre and it's also very accessible to those who haven't played a game of this nature before. The game should also appeal to fans of the Suikoden series who want to flesh out the story in Suikoden IV.