Suikoden III

aka: Gensou Suikoden III
Moby ID: 9045
PlayStation 2 Specs
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Description official description

As the conflict between the mighty nation of Harmonia and the tribal inhabitants of the Grasslands evolved, a man who possessed the True Fire Rune stepped in. Called the Flame Champion, he led the Grasslands against Harmonian invasion, and eventually unleashed the power of his rune in a decisive battle, causing the death of many people on both sides. Harmonia retreated, and the Flame Champion disappeared. An uneasy truce was achieved, but the relationship between the Grasslands and the neighbor merchant nation of Zexen grew steadily worse.

Chris Lightfellow, known as the "Silver Maiden", is the captain of the Zexen Knights, commanding its forces after a truce agreement between Zexen and the Grasslands has been broken. She is increasingly dissatisfied with the Zexen leadership, and is determined to find her missing father. Hugo is the son of Lucia, the chief of the Karaya clan of the Grasslands. When he finds his village in flames, he swears revenge against the nation of Zexen and its knights. Meanwhile, Harmonia's authorities send an enigmatic mercenary leader named Geddoe to investigate rumors concerning the return of the Flame Champion.

The events of Suikoden III take place sixteen years after those described in its predecessor. The game retains many distinguishing gameplay features from the series' previous installments, including equipment of magic runes with limited spell uses instead of the more common magic points system; the possibility to recruit 108 characters (Stars of Destiny), many of which can participate in battles; customization of a castle serving as army headquarters, etc. Tactical army battle mechanics are similar to those employed in the second installment.

The game's most significant new feature is its so-called "Trinity Sight System". Instead of controlling a single main protagonist, the player takes the roles of Chris, Hugo, and Geddoe during the course of nine chapters (three per character). These chapters focus on the conflict between the Grasslands and Zexen, and represent three different points of view on the events. Afterwards the player must select the character he or she considers the principal protagonist of the game. The game also includes two optional chapters told from the point of view of another character.

In addition to leveling up and raising the effectiveness of their weapons and armor, characters can also learn skills - passive abilities that improve the their combat performance, such as parrying, dealing higher damage, acting quicker, etc. Magic spells typically take longer time to cast, which can be remedied by improving a correspondent skill. Some magic spells also have area effects, dealing damage to enemies and allies alike. The player controls six characters in battle, divided into three pairs: the leaders of the pairs are actively controlled, while their companions act according to AI routines.

Spellings

  • 幻想水浒传3 (Huanxiang Shuihuzhuan 3) - Chinese spelling (simplified)
  • 幻想水滸伝III - Japanese spelling

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Screenshots

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Credits (PlayStation 2 version)

33 People (25 developers, 8 thanks) · View all

Developed By
  • Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo Inc.
"AJO KOETE" written by
Published in North America By
  • Konami of America Inc.
VP Marketing
Director of Marketing
Product Manager
Senior Manager, Creative Services
Director of Marketing, Communications
Senior Manager, Public Relations
Customer Services
Product Website
Package Design
  • Department X
Localization Producer
Script Edit
QA Manager
QA Liaison
Lead Tester/Script Edit
Testers/Script Edit
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 87% (based on 28 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 37 ratings with 2 reviews)

Blows "Final Fantasy" out of the water, if you ask me.

The Good
Let me state something that may result in chortling amongst the masses: I really enjoy the opening theme of this game. I really do. See, when you turn on "Suikoden III," you're treated to a little montage of anime clips set to a Japanese song. Quite good. I never really get tired of watching the whole thing, every time I play it.

Besides the opening theme, what's to like about "Suikoden III"? Oh Jesus, another one of those semi-pretentious, very cutesy Japanese console RPGs, right? Like the ones where your character has a lot of "attitude" and funny hair, yes? Like the ones where you have those absolutely ridiculous magical spells like "NUKE" and "BIGBANG" that you can throw around like reality television shows? No to all counts. Let's start at the beginning, then proceed to the ending.

"Suikoden III" is, essentially, NOT a character study. This immediately separates it from the "Final Fantasy" games that have preceeded it on PS1 and PS2. Those games introduced you to one, maybe two or three main protagonists, who become your sole avatars in the digital fantasy world played out on your television screen. Well and good, except the characters in these "Final Fantasy" games haven't really been worth exploring. Who really cares about them? Case in point: Irritating main character in "FFX." God damn, is that guy annoying. I gave up on "FFX" because I could not imagine myself investing 30+ hours in a character who annoys me almost as badly as President W. Seriously now, if I wanted to step inside the shoes of whiny, self-indulgent ex-sports stars, I'll just watch Court TV.

"Suikoden III" does give you protagonists that you come to identify with. Geddoe, the one-eyed mercenary...Chris, the stoic Zexen knight...Hugo, the son of the chief of the Karayan clan...Thomas, the affable young master of Lake Castle. Yet these people, along with over a hundred other characters, are not our sole concern. Rather, and this is the crowning achievement of this game, we are more interested in the burgeoning political and social conflicts plagueing the nations in this game. To my knowledge, this is the only RPG (surely the only CONSOLE RPG) that even attempts to draw you into a vast socio-political struggle, let alone succeed as well as this game does. Throughout my time with "Suikoden III," I was intrigued by the political maneuvering and skillful portrayal of discrimination and prejudice. I fervently wish that more RPGs would adopt this kind of global perspective. Characterization is wonderful, but when combined with a political, social, economic and / or ecological references, the experience can become profound (see Frank Herbert's "Dune" series).

Furthermore, the dialog is mostly crackerjack. The characters in "Suikoden III," though not so skillfully animated as in that 100-pound gorilla, "FFX," come alive through the words they speak (and through some nice facial animations). You can expect the highly refined Zexen characters to speak carefully, choosing their words for precision and sophistication, while Geddoe's ragtag mercenary band enjoy bantering back and forth. I was particularly fond of the character Ace, the administrative assistant for Geddoe's group. His personality type rang completely true to me, an experience I had never really had with an RPG before.

Yes, some of the characters have funny hair. But it never reaches "Final Fantasy" levels of ludicrousness.

Combat is different. Of all the divergent elements to this game, combat took the longest to get ahold of. Rather than issue commands to single characters, you are given control of three pairs (for a total of...um...six). So, in a given pair, you may want to tell one character to heal himself while another character casts a spell. Sorry, not gonna happen. If you tell a pair to cast magic, only one character will do so. The other will do whatever his character type dictates he does (which mostly boils down to attacking, by the way). While put off at first by this system, I grew to like it. It simplifies combat immensely, and since you can tell a pair of characters to share a healing item, you aren't really hampered tactically. Combat is also helped out by a de-emphasis on magic. Your characters will only master a few spells, and unless their magic skills are very high, you will find actually casting a magic spell a difficult prospect since the powerful ones can take multiple turns to complete (during which time you're vulnerable to losing your concentration due to enemy attack). This makes for more tactical gameplay, which I greatly enjoyed.

There's lots more to like about the game. The skill system is cool, and allows you to customize your characters as you see fit without bogging you down in too much complexity. The Trinity Sight System, whereby you play the same story through the eyes of three different people, offers an admirable amount of depth in storytelling. Finally, I enjoyed the experience of developing Lake Castle (or Budehuc Castle, whatever you want to call it). Seeing all my characters setting up shop was pretty neat.

However, not everything is completely rosy...

The Bad
First of all, this game wins the "Worst Manual" award. So many things are left unexplained that should probably have been covered. For example, I spent a long time looking at the stat screen wondering what the hell "REP" meant. Reputation? Only after finding a game FAQ online did I discover that that score meant "repel." Oh. How hard would it have been to provide a cursory overview of these abbreviations in the manual?

The music pretty much sucks in this game, once you get past the excellent opening theme.

There are far too many times where you don't know what you're supposed to be doing. This is especially apparent in Thomas' chapters. I'm all in favor of nonlinearity in my RPGs, but don't make it overly difficult for me to advance the main story. That spoils some of the fun by reminding you that, yes, this is just a game after all.

Why can't I skip through cutscenes? There were a couple of times where I died. There, I admitted it. There's no shame in saving and restarting, after all, but why then do I need to watch the same five-minute movie over and over again? That just pisses me off!

The Bottom Line
This is a console RPG you should play. Screw "Final Fantasy."

PlayStation 2 · by Lucas Schippers (57) · 2003

Trinity Sighs

The Good
For the most part, Suikoden III retains what made its predecessor an interesting game: wealth of characters participating in a rich story dedicated to political conflicts.

Unlike the previous games in the series, this third installment introduces the so-called "Trinity Sight": the first three chapters (out of five) are consequently viewed from the perspectives of the three main characters. The execution of this concept leaves a lot to be desired - you must complete all those nine chapters (three for each character) to access the common fourth and fifth chapters. But at least the game tries to break away from the tradition of imposing a single main character on the player. There is even an optional point of view - Thomas' story, full three chapters you can choose to play or ignore. This was something I've rarely encountered in a Japanese RPG (including this game's predecessors): hours of material which the player could experience or ignore at will.

Suikoden III brings some interesting gameplay ideas to the table. Together with traditional leveling-up, your characters also gain skill points, which can be later distributed to increase a character's skill at your own wish. Those skills include Accuracy, Repel, Damage, Magic Resistance, Armor Protect, and many others. For example, a character with a high Continuous Attack skill will be able to attack more than one time per turn; a character with a lot of skill points invested in Heavy Damage skill will be able to perform more critical hits.

The magic system is closer to Western RPGs: instead of unlimited amount of spells which consume mana points, a character can cast only several spells until he (or she) rests in an inn. Spell chanting takes a long time, if a corresponding magic skill is at a low level. Many powerful spells hit an area, which means they would also hit your own party members. There are lots of different kinds of magic, as well as plenty of various equipment.

There are some optional locations and bosses, and a fair amount of items you can gather. There are a few battles you can lose and still be able to continue the game. Respawning "treasure bosses", very powerful monsters who guard treasure chests, can be fought according to the player's wish at any time.

As before, the idea of gradually building your own castle, recruiting people, and constructing smaller parties from 108 available characters works wonders and makes the game much deeper and more addictive than it is usually the case with games of this genre.

Following the tone of the first two games, the story of Suikoden III tries as much as possible to stay away from "defeat the big bad guy, save the world" cliches, concentrating instead of real world-like political issues. It tells about a conflict between two large countries, which eventually escalates into an even more sinister affair. Most characters are interesting and believable - which is no easy feat, considering their quantity. At the very least, they are colorful and amusing. The enigmatic main villain is also pretty convincing, and there is a nice plot twist associated with him.

The Bad
Like many other RPGs of its time, Suikoden III throws the world map out of the window, resorting instead to dot-by-dot traveling. I don't think I need to elaborate why this is a horrible idea: it's easy to see how immersion is ruined when traveling from place to place is performed by clicking on an icon. There is quite a lot of backtracking in the game, which can become exceedingly tedious, especially because there is no way to teleport to another location until very late in the game, and because the map structure is very linear - important locations are connected through large areas such as mountain paths and forests, so if you must go back, you'll have to go through the same area again.

To make matters even worse, those locations are really badly designed. The series was never known for its dungeon design, but Suikoden III breaks all records: its hostile areas look like they were made by amateurs who didn't even try. They are not just horribly straightforward - many of them utilize strange quasi-2D perspectives. Not only is that inexplicable for a fully 3D game - it also destroys any physical immersion that might have been left in the game. Every dungeon is a series of bland, plain, identically looking paths, and none of them is memorable.

The towns are a bit better, but all of them are viewed from fixed angles, and some of them are quite weird, preventing you from enjoying the graphics. There is no camera rotation, and I suspect one of the reason for that was to conceal the lack of detail in many backgrounds.

Now you'll have to take all of the above and multiply it by three. Thanks to the game's Trinity Sight system, you'll have to visit the same locations and experience the same story three times. It's not just a short prologue - I'm talking about nine (!) chapters altogether, with only two more added when all your characters finally become united. It is beyond my understanding why they didn't let the player choose their own character and just stick with that. Suikoden III would have been a much better game (and with increased replay value, too) if it made only one path mandatory, and the other two optional. But I guess this kind of freedom would be too much to ask from Japanese RPG designers.

Can you imagine how harmful this design is to pacing and feeling of accomplishment? Just when you begin connecting to the characters, building up a party you like, you'll have to do it all over again with other characters - not once, but thrice. You'll get to your own castle and free party managing much later than in the previous Suikodens. Most of the game, in fact, is spent running around through the same overly familiar locations, controlling different parties you'll have to build up from scratch. This inflated, monstrous "prologue" occupies the majority of the game and never lets it soar. And of course, the game will so often arbitrarily take characters away from you or impose them on your party that the last illusion of freedom is quickly shattered.

The Bottom Line
Suikoden III has a lot of nice concepts, but it also reveals the ever-more-obvious weakness of the series: overloaded, static progression. Its Trinity Sight system turns well over a half of the entire game into a tedious prologue with cumbersome pacing and a sore lack of dynamism. Limited exploration and excessively weak dungeon design are too high a price to pay for the old concept of 108 characters and your own castle. It's easy to respect Suikoden III, but hard to enjoy it.

PlayStation 2 · by Unicorn Lynx (181794) · 2014

Discussion

Subject By Date
Series' creative peak Donatello (466) Jul 17, 2013
What a horrible soundtrack Donatello (466) Jul 28, 2009
I'm wondering... Donatello (466) Jul 3, 2007

Trivia

1001 Video Games

Suikoden III appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Cancelled European release

The PAL release of Suikoden III was cancelled.

Game Intro

Animated intro of Suikoden III was produced by GONZO.

Horse

Although Salome has no trouble riding his horse during cutscenes, it always seems to be absent during an actual monster battle. The other mounted Knights of Zexen don't seem to have this problem and ride bravely into battle...

Awards

  • GameSpy
    • 2002 – Best Use of Waterfowl of the Year (PS2)

Information also contributed by WildKard and Al Sleeper

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Related Sites +

  • Konami: Suikoden III
    Official website.
  • Suikosource
    A fansite that contains a complete list of all the characters in all the games, including their background stories. It also contains information about the game world's time-line and geography as well as fan art and gameplay guides.

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 9045
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by etempest.

PlayStation 3 added by Sciere.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Apogee IV, —-, Patrick Bregger, Al_Sleeper, FatherJack.

Game added May 9, 2003. Last modified March 2, 2024.