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Suikoden V PlayStation 2

Published by Konami
Developed by Konami
Release Date: 22nd September 2006
Price: £24.99

Suikoden V, an introduction.

Suikoden IV was our first taste of the much loved Suikoden series and whilst we enjoyed the game we couldn't help but feel it hadn't lived up to the reputation of the earlier games in the series. Suikoden Tactics, released earlier this year, made a much more favorable impression and was a game we thoroughly enjoyed. Naturally then we had high hopes for Suikoden V. After playing Suikoden V almost non-stop since it arrived, I can safely say those high hopes have been realized and at last we've enjoyed a top notch Suikoden RPG.

What's the game about?

Suikoden V is set in the Queendom of Falena. In Suikoden V you'll play as a Prince (whom you can name yourself), son of Queen Arshtat. The game begins with everything seemingly tickety-boo in Falena but trouble is brewing and it’s not long before it all hits the fan for the royal family. In Falena there are two rival noble families, the Barow and Godwin families, who both have designs on the throne. To make this situation worse there is an event known as The Sacred Games. The winner of these games will become engaged to young Princess Lymsleia who is next in line for the thrown. The Sacred Games are to be held in Stormfist, a domain of the Godwin family. Naturally a fair competition is out of the question and the whole thing is rigged. Far worse things happen after the games have taken place though when the Queen and her husband are killed and Falena is seized by the Godwin family.  Lymsleia becomes a prisoner and it’s up to the prince and his allies to take revenge.  Part of the reason for Arshtat being killed was to obtain the powerful Sun Rune so that the Godwins could use it for their own evil purposes. Arshtat had used the Sun Rune to decimate the town of Lordlake to quash an uprising.

What's good about the game?

RPGs need a quality story to hold your interest and Suikoden V certainly has a plot that will keep you interested. The twists and turns in the story certainly help to prevent boredom from creeping in after extended play. Along with a quality story you also need an enjoyable battle system and once again Suikoden V does not disappoint. As in previous games, numerous runes can be purchased and equipped to your characters to give them special abilities. Certain characters can carry out powerful co-op attacks.  Many other items can be found and purchased to improve the abilities of your characters. Weapons can be improved by a blacksmith too. Certain characters (such as Georg) can train other characters to improve their abilities. The game allows you to battle with six characters at a time and you can set formations for them. There are 20 different formations that you can collect throughout the game. As with other Suikoden games there's a rather large cast with the famous 108 characters all available to enter your party at some stage of the game. Aside from the normal battles there are also large scale real time battles (on land and sea) at specific points in the game where you'll control small armies on a battlefield or ocean. There are some duels to take part in too. Both the army battles and the duels are absolutely fine. They aren't particularly impressive in any way but they add variation to the game play.

When the Prince (the game's central character) talks you'll get to choose his dialogue. Needless to say your conversation choices can affect which characters you can recruit as well as certain events in the game (although not all of the choices do). The more characters you can recruit in the game, the bigger your forces will be. Each of the many characters in the game manage to have their own personality which certainly helps to keep things interesting. Naturally there are going to be characters that you'll dislike but there's such a variety on offer here that it's certain you'll find many characters who you'll want to recruit.  As a result of the dialogue choices you'll make in the game, there are multiple endings for Suikoden V which means it's a game you're going to want to play over and over again.

What's not so good about the game?

If I have one complaint with Suikoden V it’s that it takes a while for the story to warm up. Initially you seem to be going through the motions without anything really interesting to do. It’s possible to get a little bored with the game in the early stages, particularly as the early battles seem a little too easy, and that’s a shame because when it does get going it really is a very enjoyable RPG. With quite a few RPG games of late, random encounters have been done away with. With games such as Tales of Symphonia you can see enemies on the map and you can choose to avoid them if you wish (although you miss out on the gained experience you get from battling). Unfortunately, Suikoden V has kept to the random encounter system and at times the frequency of these encounters is annoying (although it doesn't seem as bad as in Suikoden IV). Sometimes you'll find yourself a little unsure of where you need to be going. Talking to Lyon (your faithful female bodyguard) will usually help to make matters clear although there are times when her comments provide no clues at all.  

How does it look?

The graphics in Suikoden V are a mix of classic and modern. The default view in Suikoden V is very reminiscent of earlier console RPGs. You'll play the game from an isometric viewpoint that's zoomed out enough to give you a generous view of your immediate surroundings. You can choose to zoom in closer if you wish but most will prefer the default view. Although the game is in full 3D, you can't rotate the camera. For the most part this is fine and it's great not having to worry about manipulating the camera but there are times when treasure chests are obscured by trees and walls etc. and it would have been handy to have been able to rotate your view. The characters have a kind of cel-shaded appearance to them and they look very good. Walking around in one of the game's towns you'll notice that many of the buildings are rather bland and a little too angular (the exception being Haud Village which looks like a level from Katamari Damacy). Inside the buildings everything is more detailed and easier on the eyes. On the whole the game, whilst not being particularly visually impressive, is very pleasant looking and a marked improvement from the look of Suikoden IV.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

The game is subtitled and you'll be able to follow the story without any problems. All conversations have the character's names placed above the dialogue so you'll know who is saying what. Important characters also have their portraits placed alongside their dialogue. In cutscenes the dialogue flows without the need to press a button but otherwise you'll need to press the X button to progress meaning that for the most part you can read at your own pace. The game makes good use of icons to show the various status effects during battles. Tutorial messages are shown in text. In fact the only omissions are the various unsubtitled comments that your characters make during the standard battles and this doesn't cause any problems.

Final thoughts.

Suikoden V is probably the final Suikoden game to arrive on the PlayStation 2 and the series is definitely going out in style on the console. Although there are a few months left of 2006 I think it's safe to say it's one of the best RPG's we've seen this year and at the bargain price of just £24.99 it's just too good to miss, whether you're a fan of the Suikoden series or not.  There's much we haven't mentioned such as the ability to conduct some trading, in order to bring in some extra potch (the game's currency), having your very own base of operations and the interesting interaction between the game's many characters. In fact Suikoden V is just an all round impressive RPG that simply shouldn't be missed.

Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Suikoden V is definitely one of the best RPG's that we've seen this year and represents a return to form for the much loved series that is now 10 years old.