Suikoden III

 Suikoden III
Pale horse

   Konami's Suikoden series is a rarity: an RPG series that manages to carry on a series of stories in a consistent world without resorting to parallel dimensions or alternate histories. Instead of the usual "small, determined group against single world-threatening foe" paradigm of traditional RPGs, each game in the Suikoden series depicts a politically motivated war and presents both the epic sweep of army-to-army confrontations as well as the subtler intrigue of army headquarters. From a story point of view, the series has grown more and more sophisticated: the first game was a fairly simple good-versus-evil affair, the second game introduced more ambiguity and shades of gray, and now Suikoden III depicts a three-way war from each side's point of view.

   The settings this time around are the Grasslands and Harmonia, two locations mentioned but never shown in Suikoden II. A war is brewing between the two regions, and the three major players are Hugo, the Karayan son of Lucia and a Grasslands representative; Chris, a female calvalry soldier of the Zexen Federation; and Geddoe, a Harmonian reconnaisance squad leader. The same events will unfold from each of their perspectives, presenting the reasons each of the three has for fighting. In the middle of all of them is the unnamed Hero character, who looks for a way to end the war and stop the suffering.

Suikoden III
Pale fire

   This being a Suikoden game, he won't have to do it alone: as in the other games in the series, Suikoden III will feature a total of 108 characters who can join your party. Not all of them can actively participate in battle; some of their talents only come into play in the army's headquarters where they'll serve as shopkeepers or provide other services.

   In terms of gameplay, Suikoden III looks to be very much like the other games. The active party still holds six characters with three in front and three in back. Battles are turn-based with an element of real-time strategy in them: you can choose your party members' actions at your leisure, but once the turn begins, each combatant will execute their commands according to their speed statistic. Combo attacks are again present, where two related characters can team up to perform a single action, but now characters can team up simply by virtue of relative position in the formation. Each front row member and the member directly behind him form units under the "Buddy System," reducing the number of commands needed to initiate a turn to merely three instead of six. The team-up attacks change depending on which character class in front is aligned with the one in back, allowing for more flexibility in formation planning.

 Suikoden III
Beyond the pale

   Another twist on the system is that characters will stay wherever they end up on the battlefield after attacking. This new wrinkle, combined with the specific short, medium, and long-range attacks innate to the party members, should require more tactical thinking than in previous games. Suikoden I and II also featured different battle engines for one-on-one duels and large-scale army engagements, but it's not yet known whether those types of battles will be present in Suikoden III.

   As befits the series' move to the PlayStation 2, the previously 2D graphics are now entirely in 3D. This will allow for more dynamic camera angles in battle, so that the camera can move from one party member to the next after the initial formation breaks up. Series artist Fumi Ishikawa has returned to create the characters, and the polygonal models seen so far are good translations of her designs.

   Suikoden III will be out this summer in Japan after a short delay to improve the game mechanics. A U.S. release has been announced, but no official date has been given.

Preview by Nich Maragos, GIA.
Suikoden III
Developer Konami TYO
Publisher Konami
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium DVD-ROM
Platform Sony PlayStation 2
Release Date  Summer 2002
First look at Suikoden III
14 tiny screenshots
8 character designs