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Suikoden III was one of the most awaited RPGs to be released in 2002, and if you had played the two earlier games, it wasn't hard to understand why. While both Suikoden and Suikoden II were pure 2D, Suikoden III would be entirely in 3D, giving the series a whole new touch. Not only that, Konami changed lots of other things as well. Unfortunately, few of these changes made things any better. Rather, it went the other way around.
Suikoden III takes place about 50 years after the events in Suikoden II. This time, we follow three different heroes, from three very different countries. All three of them end up searching for a legend called the Flame Champion, a hero said to have the abillity to create peace and order in the world. Since the war 50 years ago, the Flame Champion has not been seen, and many claims that he is indeed dead. Although, there is a lot more to the tale of the flame champion than people think. The plot is told in a fantastic way, since you control three different characters, and they are all very different. One of them is a noble knight, the other is a farmer from the grasslands, and the third is a solider of harmonia. They all live very different lives, but they still have the same goal.
Just like in the earlier Suikoden games, you control up to 6 people in battle. Aside from the newly added 3D, the combat system is almost exactly the same. You can attack, defend, perform a combo with two or more characters (depends on who you have in your party), flee or use the famous auto-command, making all characters attack random enemies. There's nothing here that is particularly new.... each character can have a bunch of runes attached to their equipment in order to perform a few spells. After the battles you earn skill points, that you can later consume in order to develop new spells out of a rune. You also gain experience points as usual. Each character also has a few passive skills that can be customized and improved (such as Attack, Defense, Swing speed etc). In the party setup, there is an extra spot aside from the 6 main characters you have chosen to use in battles. This extra spot is for a guest character, who can perform various actions after battles that affects your party. Preferably, you would place a healer here, so that you don't have to waste so much money on medicine etc. The weapon system is also very similar to what we have already seen in the earlier Suikoden games. Each character has one weapon, which cannot be replaced. Instead you go to a blacksmith in any of the towns, who can upgrade the weapon's level for a certain ammount of money. Another thing that also returns from the older Suikoden games, are the huge field battles. Unfortunately, they aren't as fun as they used to be. This time, you move your character groups around on a map, and each encounter with the enemy works just like any ordinary random encounter, except that each group has a leader unit that normally is a little stronger than the others.
The camera controls in Suikoden III annoyed me quite a bit. Especially while running around in towns or houses, I often lost control over my character when the camera angles changed. The menu system overall was very smooth and understandable though, and I didn't find anything here that annoyed me that much. One of the largest flaws in Suikoden III is probably the music. While Suikoden II had a soundtrack far better than most other psx rpg's ever released on the Playstation, Suikoden III failes to impress. First of all, the very special style that the older soundtracks had no longer exists in this one. There are tons of battle tunes, but none of them impressed me that much, they were all too similar. None of the town themes felt like town themes.. I honestly can't remember the melody in any of them. I was very disappointed about this, as I really enjoyed the music-style the series used to have.
What did impress me though, was the localization. I could always sense what kind of mood the characters were in, and what kind of background they had by looking at the way they talked. The overall translation was good, and I didn't find any serious spelling errors or weird sentences. Another thing that made the dialogue more understandable was the face expressions of the characters.
Overall, the visuals in Suikoden III are good. However, this new style also made it feel like everything but a Suikoden game. This doesn't mean that the game felt ugly or annoying in any way, just that it didn't have the same touch as it used to. This might seem like a small detail for some people, but to me, it was a disappointment. The surroundings and towns in Suikoden III are in fact very pretty, and quite detailed.
Considering that it takes at least 35 hours to finish off Suikoden III, you might want to wait a while before finishing it off once more. There isn't that much to return to, except focusing on another character than you did on your first run, but if I understood things right, the difference wasn't that big. The game doesn't provide any kind of difficulty either, as most bosses and dungeons throughout the entire game are a breeze. Aside from collecting all 108 characters (to get a better, longer ending), there aren't that many sidequests to look out for. There are various optional bosses that you can kill to earn some money and cool items, but nothing more than that.
In one way, Suikoden III isn't like any other RPG for the Playstation 2. No other RPGs has the option to play as 3 totally different characters, collecting 108 characters in total, or building a gigantic castle for all of these people. However, when playing Suikoden III, the special feeling I felt while playing the earlier Suikoden games (especially Suikoden II) wasn't there anymore. I don't know if it's because of the newly added 3D graphics, or if it's because of the music, but the feeling sure isn't there.
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