|Suikoden Tactics (2005)
Available for: PlayStation 2
Oh, Kyril! Why must your father have been so damned impatient to fight the pirate Steele to discover the secrets of his Rune Cannon and in turn have it used against him, turning him into a walking fish, only to be killed by one from his own party? Damn those Rune Cannons! Revenge shall be sweet and justice and liberty shall prevail for all! Don’t you worry, little Kyril, for the world’s fish-people must be freed from their peril.
So goes “Suikoden Tactics,” the latest in Konami’s long-running “Suikoden” RPG line. This little number is a side note to “Suikoden IV,” and having never played any of the previous titles in this franchise, I can safely say that “Suikoden Tactics” isn’t quite up to snuff when it comes to an RPG with a gripping storyline and lots of good battle sequences. But then again, the genre is one that is as flooded with titles as the fighting games were not so long ago, as was the extreme sports line of games when the Tony Hawk franchise went crazy.
Be that as it may, “Suikoden Tactics” is apparently geared to be an easier than usual experience for those perhaps new to the whole idea of RPG gaming. Still, that doesn’t mean it has to be as bland a product as this. For those who are old hat at this sort of thing, there are times when you’ll undoubtedly feel like you’re playing a “Final Fantasy” game, as the turn-based move and attack system and magical runes have that sort of feel to them. Plus, there’s the whole gang of oddball characters in your party that range from annoying to just plain weird. But “Suikoden Tactics” doesn’t even hold a candle to even the dullest “Final Fantasy” entry.
A lot of the problem lies within the action, or lack thereof. A lot of the time, you’ll spend just as many minutes pressing a button through boring dialogue screens as you will hacking and slashing monsters. This was fine back in the old days of the PSX where the games didn’t have a lot, if any, voice acting to go with the dialogue, and reading the storyline was an equally integral part to the game. But here, it just seems to go on and on. Lines of dialogue are chopped up where they could have easily been jammed together. Did I really need to read and see Steele go “Bwahahaha hahaha har!” twice in a row with button breaks in between? Plus, the camera does this odd pulling out and zooming in thing during dialogue breaks, making the gamer think something is going to happen, when all it really is is a pause.
The voice acting isn’t great, either. It’s your typical, run of the mill over the top RPG fare, sounding too much like “Speed Racer” at times. But the voices are only just as bad as the sloppy cel-shaded graphics that do nothing for the eyes at all. Couldn’t Konami just have taken a little more time and made better player models? Cel shading was only ever cool in “Viewtiful Joe,” and here it looks like a complete shortcut to get an already sloppy job done faster.
The battle gameplay itself is all right. You’ll be taking the usual turns either moving, attacking, casting spells with runes that can have either positive or negative effects on not only the enemies, but your party as well, or teaming up with other characters and raising “good will” to make the battles even more successful. It’s a tried and true formula, and Konami has decided to play it safe, but all too often the attack grids can become confusing due to graphical mapping, leading the player to cast spells or attack on spots he didn’t mean to. Aside from that, the battles just seem to rage on for longer than necessary.
“Suikoden Tactics” might very well charm the beginner RPGer, but the seasoned vets will do better to look elsewhere. The gameplay just isn’t that challenging, and the dialogue scenes just too slow for anyone’s pace. Still, Konami decided to throw in a bonus extra disc of the game’s soundtrack. It’s a nice gesture and all, but there wasn’t anything I heard while playing the game itself that made me want to hear it outside of that context. In other words, this isn’t a “PaRappa The Rappa” type of excursion. Come to think of it, even Atari’s old “Adventure” cartridge packed more punch than “Suikoden Tactics.”