Suikoden V (PlayStation 2) review
"Suikoden V takes place in the Queendom of Falena, a magical land where bunnies with knives attack innocent travelers and giant, marauding werewolves drop 200 skill points when they die. Itís called a Queendom because the Queen rules just like a king would, the king is just the commander of the army, and the Prince has no real power or anything because the king is always decided by a tournament he canít even participate in. So, basically, Prince [Insert Your Name Here], is the equivalent of a Princess. Which explains why he looks like a girl. I guess. "
A life of silence doesn't have to be a bad life. I'm sure many fine people have lived remarkable lives without the use of their voices. It's a handicap, yes, but like any handicap, there are ways to compensate. I have nothing against mute people.
I'm just not all that interested in playing as one. At least, as far as RPGs go.
The main character in Suikoden V, Prince [Insert Your Name Here], isn't actually a mute, but he might as well be. Most of the time people are talking for him, putting words in his mouth, and the few times he does actually get to say somethingÖhe doesn't. The game, instead, gives you two choices on what to say, like one of those Create Your Own Story books, only suckier and with less covert sexual overtones.
~How do you segue from talking about the boring hero to talking about the boring story?~
-The boring main hero is only the start of many more boring things to come. Namely the story.
-The hero's boring, true, but he's only a prelude to the furious boredom the story brings.
I'll choose the second option, but it wouldn't make much of a difference. The review'll go in the same direction, regardless. Suikoden V has the same problem. Onward.
Suikoden V takes place in the Queendom of Falena, a magical land where bunnies with knives attack innocent travelers and giant, marauding werewolves drop 200 skill points when they die. Itís called a Queendom because the Queen rules just like a king would, the king is just the commander of the army, and the Prince has no real power or anything because the king is always decided by a tournament he canít even participate in. So, basically, Prince [Insert Your Name Here], is the equivalent of a Princess. Which explains why he looks like a girl. I guess.
Falena has a few problems, though, the biggest two being 1) the Queenís a crazy bitch and 2) the Queenís a crazy bitch with a magic rune that lets her sun blast anybody who gets on her bad side. I canít reveal much of what happens since the game is so madly in love with generic plot twists and ho-hum surprises, but the overall layout of Suikoden V can basically be summed up as thus:
Step 1~Something involving politics happens.
Step 2~Walk around aimlessly looking for somebody or something.
Step 3~Some bad political stuff happens.
Step 4~The heroes ramble on about how twisted politics are. The Prince just stands there.
Step 5~Back to Step 1 again.
~But a lot of RPGs are like that. What makes Suikoden V so bad?~
-Sadly, as boring as Step 2 is, itís what youíll spend 90% of the game doing.
Iím going with option 1, but note how the second option is to just say nothing. Suikoden V will do that: You choose between saying what youíre supposed to say for the storyline or you say nothing like a little punk. Moving on.
Like most RPGs, progress in Suikoden V is achieved when the game gives you a task and you go out and do said task. Go where youíre supposed to go, do what youíre supposed to do, come back to the home base and get new instructions. Itís a simple formula, a boring formula, a formula made worse when the game refuses to let you progress until you run into someone or talk to someone or doing something with someone...but you have no idea who that someone is.
Does systematically talking to every damn pissant peasant in the kingdom sound like fun?
It wouldnít be so much of a pain if the game had, say, an interesting, vibrant world for you to walk around endlessly in, but thereís really nothing much to the world of Falena. The dirt paths, the woods, the rivers, the mines, the rat-infested badlands that your crazy bitch of a mother cursed because the people there pissed her off, your corrupt cities with corrupt politicians doing corrupt things. Maybe itís the gameís camera; eternally fixed over the princeís head. Maybe it just the way thereís no real reason to go looking around any place, no secrets to find, no objects to examine. Maybe itís the way youíll be doing good to see an honest, ten-second long, fully-voiced cutscene every three hours. Whatever the case, you never really get a feel for the world youíre playing in. Itís just there.
~Bah, so the world is boring. RPGs are all about characters, really.~
- The boring milieu wouldnít be such a loss if the characters were interesting. Theyíre not.
-Yeah, but the characters suck, too. Dumbass.
Iíll pick option 2 just to point out that, while the occasionally ability to choose what you say rarely affects anything, it does give you the chance to treat everyone like the morons they are. So itís not all bad.
Now, every once in a short while, you come across some characters who are genuinely interesting: the people you meet on the floating city of Raftfleet are a particularly charming bunch, always fishing and beating each other up and yelling and generally not caring what the rest of the word does. But, on the whole, the Suikoden Vís cast is filled with a bunch of cookie-cutter Record of Lodoss War rejects, not fit to bear the title Ď108 Star of Destinyí.
Lyon! Annoying and annoyingly cute bodyguard who follows you everywhere and occasionally hits on you!
Lymsleia! Even more annoying and annoyingly cute sister whoís a total brat and will probably end up being more of a bitch than her mother was!
Kyle! Panty-chasing knight who is so pervy he tried to catch a glimpse of your ten-year-old sister taking a bath!
Lucretia! Master strategist, lover of cats, andÖsomething of a traitorous bitch. Suikoden V has an abundance of bitchy women, now that I think about it.
Some of them are mildly amusing the first time you meet them, but theyíre mostly one-note, and when that one note is over they get damn tiring.
~Okay. Screw the story. Screw the setting. Screw the characters. Iím in this for gameplay.~
-Then youíre not in this at all.
-You are about to be screwed up and down.
Option 1, all the way.
The problem with the battle system is just an extension of every other problem this game has: Thereís nothing to it. Yeah, you can have six characters and, yeah, you can put them in formations for bonuses and benefits. But, beyond that, thereís zilch that hasnít been done better and bigger and brighter.
Magic attacks consist of a few wimpy special effects. Summon the generic, ten-foot-tall tornado of fire. Summon the generic, green wisps of wind. Summon the generic water droplets to heal up.
Team-up attacks consist of one character running up to the enemy and hitting him a lot, then the other character running up to the enemy and hitting a lot, thenÖthe end.
None of your attacks are worth mentioning; theyíre unimpressive strikes used to kill unimpressive foes. True, every now and then, youíll be forced to fight soldiers or assassins for story purposes, but youíre going to be spending the bulk of your time running around in an overworld thatís filled with such destructive denizens as bunnies with giant switchblades, malevolent pixies, and what appears to be leaves with funny faces painted on them. Thrilling.
Mild enjoyment can be found when the game reverts to duel mode; a minigame that sets you up for one-on-one rumble. Guessing attacks, knowing when to block, judging the enemies movements from his dialogue, and picking just the right time to lower the boom in a hard-hitting, cinematic fashion can be fun. It would be a good deal more fun if it actually happened with real frequency instead of once every ten or so hours.
Now, Iíll be honest, my contact with the Suikoden series is limited. I played III and Tactics. Loved III, and Iíll admit that I probably liked Tactics a lot more than I should have. But, for the life of me, I can not get down with the fifth iteration. It is almost completely devoid of any and all interesting content. There is no light here. No saving grace.
-Suikoden V might just be the most boring game I have ever played.
-Surely, there are game more boring than Suikoden V. But I havenít played them.
So hard to choose, so hard to chooseÖ.
Staff review by Zack Little (June 23, 2006)
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