Suikoden Tierkreis DS Review

May 30, 2010 by Simon Wigham  
Filed under Nintendo DS, Reviews

The Suikoden series has always took place within the confines of the same universe, though each new game has been set within a different chunk of that world, allowing for a degree of freedom for Konami but also the chance for some familiarity and welcome nods to previous games. Fans have grown to love this universe (If you’re sad it might even be like a second home) and have enjoyed exploring new lands of the world, and, at the same time, meeting some familiar faces and races along the way.

With the first DS instalment Suikoden Tierkreis, Konami have chosen to not further expand this universe, but instead have opted to throw ten years worth of work out of the window. It remains to be seen whether the world will return for the mainline series, but either way there’s no getting away from the fact that, even though the new universe is another fascinating creation inhabited by some memorable new races and tribes, it’s still heartbreaking to say the least.

There’s further disappointment for fans to put up with, as the universe is not the only thing that’s missing in action for this Suikoden game. The mass RTS like strategy battles, that did such a wonderful job of conveying a sense of scale and grandeur to the wars, have been ditched, as have the paper-scissors-and-stones like duels. Thankfully the game hasn’t completely shed the beloved Suikoden identity, though it’s not only the good things that have been retained either.

A major attraction of the series for many a fan is the gathering of the 108 stars of destiny, one aspect which is still present in Suikoden Tierkreis. As always, some of these optional characters (which consists not only of warriors, but also blacksmiths and innkeepers, amongst other contrasting roles) are hard to find and once you do it’s not always clear as to how you recruit them, with some degree of luck also involved in this process. It’s always flawed, but witnessing your castle changing and becoming more populated remains as a large part of the appeal. For those who’re finding the combat to be too much of a breeze and desire something more to test their skills, it grants some welcome challenge to the game too.

Another strength that Suikoden has become renowned for are its well crafted stories of war, consisting of some of the most well drawn and memorable characters that the genre has to offer. Suikoden Tierkreis doesn’t disappoint in this regard, even though it’s a bit of a departure, being less realistic and more inclined towards the anime insanity end of the spectrum.

You again take charge of an unnamed hero (it’s your job to moniker the poor lad) but in a first for the series, he’s not mute. This turns out not to be a good thing, as the hero isn’t very likeable and his catchphrase “We’ll never know until we try!” quickly begins to grate. It’s a shame as elsewhere with the characterization it’s largely on top form.

As detestable as the lead character is, the story itself whilst different to previous games is, as with Suikoden tradition, a major strength of the series. Thematically, it’s still about war, just as every Suikoden game should be, but throws in parallel dimensions and an intriguing enemy that is seeking a future where everything is predetermined.

For many of the defining moments, there are some beautiful anime sequences as well as the occasional use of spoken dialogue, which varies in quality (but makes me hate the protagonist all the more, as he often speaks in a rapid manner, to the point that he’s almost incomprehensible) which, with the impressive visuals and reasonable soundtrack, makes for a game with a relatively high standard of production values.

One thing that has never been a highlight of the series are its combat mechanics. It’s not like they’ve ever been close to awful, they’re simply just not terribly interesting and are lacking in creativity compared to the best RPG battle systems in existence. Suikoden Tierkreis has done nothing to rectify this.

Battles are challenge free and can be won through liberal use of the Auto command, which works for and against the game. Fighting is a random occurrence and the encounter rate is relatively high, so the command coupled with the short battles prevents fighting from becoming too much of an annoyance. Obviously, though, such potentially automated combat means that Suikoden Tierkries is challenge free, with even bosses offering little in the way of resistance.

Parties are now limited to four, which severely limits your options when it comes to constructing your team, though there are many moments where for story reasons certain characters must tag along, which happens much more than I recall it happening in previous games. Along with the smaller party, it makes a bit of a mockery of the 108 stars facet of the game.

Suikoden Tierkreis retains enough heart and features to still have that distinct Suikoden feel, but there‘s no getting away from the fact that many long-time fans are not only going to be left disappointed at its omissions, but also at Konami’s refusal to once again iron out the recurring problems that have been present since the series’ inception.

6/10

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