|Genre||Pocket Classic RPG|
|MtAMinutes to Action||13|
|Score||8 Gameplay: 7
Fun Factor: 7
|Buy from Amazon|
Suikoden Tierkreis for the Nintendo DS is the newest edition to the classic RPG series released last month. It's the first portable original RPG in the series and features all the mainstays, including 108 Stars of Destiny (heroes), turn-based combat, an epic story, and random battles. Tierkreis is German for "zodiac." What that has to do with the game, I do not know, something to do with the Stars of Destiny maybe?
This is of course a guest review by my friend Grant. He recently reviewed the first hour of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and offered to review his newest purchase. We're both big fans of the Suikoden series, though we've played completely different games. I've played 1, 2, and 4, while Grant has played 3, 5, and now Tierkreis. I keep trying to get him to play Suikoden 2 as it's one of the best games ever... but as long as he writes for the site, I don't care. Enjoy Grant's review of Suikoden Tierkreis.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - The game kicks off a with an anime cutscene, complete with voice acting. Some evil knight guy mocks the heroes while they shrug off the insults and charge at him. The evil knight guy summons a flash of light and the scene ends.
02 - I get to choose the name for a character. I just name him after myself, I don’t have time to be creative. I only capitalize the first letter of the name, I hope all other names are like this. Don’t you hate those games that have names in all caps, but you don’t do it for your character so he completely feels out of place?
03 - A cutscene with the in game graphics occurs. I wake up to start the game, an idea that has never been utilized in an RPG before. My friend Liu is there and he ridicules me for not waking up in time. A girl named Marica comes in and bothers us. All of the characters have voice acting, and they seem to be having a contest to see who can speak the quickest (the main character wins by a mile).
04 - The girl joins my party and the guy who was supposed to wake me up joins me as a companion. I get control of my character and walk around the room, nothing interesting outside of the save point. I leave the building and start my adventure.
05 - A short conversation occurs about someone we have to meet in the town square, so we decide to head over there. The game makes you select points of interest and they warp you there automatically, similar to Final Fantasy X. I find the person in question and we start chatting. He is going with us on our expedition out on the Eastern Hill.
06 - I finish up my conversation and talk to a few other people in the area. I figure out how to open my menu and find that I only have 100 cash. Why is the main character in RPGs never rich?
07 - Another conversation with some girl who claims to be my mom, but obviously isn’t. I talk to the town elder about a guy I’m looking for.
08 - I find the guy I’m looking for, Jale, at the general store. He gives me some medicine, hooray!
09 - The conversation finishes up as Jale joins the party.
10 - I look around the general store and do some shopping. Since I only have 100 Suikoden Dollars (not actual currency use in the game), I neglect to buy anything. Time to progress the story!
11 - The town elder lectures me about the enemies I will face, the laggarts. We tell him not to worry as we head off. A big burly guy named Dirk explains the game’s mission mechanics. Time to save and head out of the village.
12 - I’m on to the next area. Green plains with some mountains sprinkled about. Dirk tells me about battle formations and recommends I put people with spears and bows in the back. I check my formation and my main character has a staff. Does that also count a spear? I just keep the default formation as I find my first random battle.
13 - Three laggarts attack me. They kind of look like a mix between a wolf and a hedgehog. I have a few options such as normal attack, cooperative attack etc., but I just keep it simple and do a normal attack. All actions for my party members must be selected before the actual battle takes place, after both sides go I can select them again. The battle is a bit hard to keep up with since my characters and the enemies can attack at the same time, so I lose track of the damage. I win after two turns and get some pelts as loot. 675 EXP per character for the first battle isn’t too shabby.
14 - Another battle. I try out a few more commands this time. You can auto select normal attack for everyone instead of doing it individually, quite handy. After that turn ends I decide to do a cooperative attack. Everyone rushes the remaining enemy for some big damage. I win and my characters go up to level two.
15 - I come to another area with a mountain path and a small town. Dirk explains to me the different types of weapons. Town or path, what do I chose?! I decide to head towards the town as my characters are a little beat up.
16 - Random battle! I start off with a co-op attack that gives massive damage to one enemy. Unfortunately there’s two other ones, so they go unscathed until my next turn. I predictably win.
17 - The town is actually just some farmer’s house. I have a short conversation with him before leaving. Thanks for nothing!
18 - I make it to the mountains without running into a random battle. A short cutscene occurs as I’m attacked by some more monsters. I win an easy battle, and level up too.
19 - The party has a conversation about whether or not they should continue on. Of course we should, it would make for a bad game if we didn’t. The main character and his friend, Liu, talk about being outsiders and how the village still accepted them.
20 - Random battles get a bit easier now. I win two in a minute, and the enemies don’t even get a shot in.
21 - I find some treasure chests and fight a few more random battle. A save point is ahead, is it already time for the first boss?
22 - Nope, just more of the path. I seem to be climbing a mountain as I fight more random battles. My characters hit level four.
23 - After a battle, my characters are wondering if they’re going the right way. I sure hope so. It’s a dead end, so I guess it’s time to go back to town.
24 - On my way back, the ground starts to shake and an anime cutscene begins. When they break out the anime, you know something big is going down. Mountains start to shift and crumble. A huge rock formation shaped like the guy from the beginning is formed on the horizon.
25 - The main character is shocked to see that the valley has turned into a forest, but everyone else says it was always a forest. Uh, WHAT ABOUT THE GIANT MOUNTAIN THAT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE? Am I the only person seeing this?
26 - We head down into the Forest Ruins aka the new mountain. The main character is still unsure if it was always a forest, but the other characters just make fun of him. The graphics in this area are really impressive. Too bad I can’t appreciate them for long because it’s random battle time!
27 - I find the entrance to the Forest Ruins. There’s a save spot, is it time for a boss battle now? The awful thing about saving in this game is that it automatically goes to cancel, and if you hit cancel, it takes you back to the world, so you have to go back into the save menu again. Ugh.
28 - Inside the Forest Ruins some creepy monster named Skull Guts attacks me. Not exactly a boss, but he does have a lot of HP and can attack a party member for 40%-50% of his/her life bar. I eventually kill it, but more show up. Time to run away.
30 - I almost make it to the next screen when a random battle hits me. The enemies here are pretty tough. Slow, but they hit for a lot of damage. After the battle, I put Marica, my archer, into the back row.
32 - A dead end, again. My party tries to think up a plan on how to get past the enemies. There is something glowing in the middle of the room, but apparently no one cares.
33 - The glowing object is finally noticed. It’s a book! Time for another anime cutscene. The main character touches it, and images of the opening cutscene flash by quickly. I wonder if Konami is front-loading all their anime cut scenes.
34 - The characters are confused about what just happened, but there’s not time to discuss it as those Skull Guts come out and attack us. ANOTHER anime cutscene. None of them will ever top the opening of Suikoden III, deal with it Konami. The main characters shrug off Dirk’s pleas to stop as they start to fight the Skull Guts. Uh, can I override them? It was hard enough to beat one, now I have to fight a lot of them? LISTEN TO DIRK.
35 - My characters feel overwhelmed with power and they can now use something called Mark of the Stars. Oh, it’s just magic. Still, that’s pretty useful. I select some magic attacks to get rid of the skulls, and they do an impressive 100+ worth of damage. That’s enough to one hit KO one of them. Unfortunately, if you cast two magic attacks on one enemy, the game waits for both to hit before seeing if the enemy dies or not. That means if you kill the enemy with the first magic attack, it still takes the second one instead of attacking the next opponent. So I wasted that characters attack, but at least I learned it now instead of in a real boss fight. I emerge victorious once again.
37 - The party talks about the book. Dirk and Liu don’t get magic powers from it, despite everyone else getting them. Don’t worry, you can still be normal attackers. I take the book with me and head back to town. Random battle!
38 - I have to walk back out? Can’t I just be warped? Oh well. I run into a few more random battles. They’re a bit easier now and I don’t mess with my magic. I finally manage to make it outside. Can I be warped to the town now?
40 - My party has yet another group conversation. The strange feeling everyone felt earlier is gone, so the laggarts might calm down now. No warp for us, time to save and head back.
42 - My party gets to the point where the main character freaked out about the valley turning into a forest. Now the people who got powers from the book believe me, but Dirk and Liu still think I’m crazy. But what about the giant mountain? Was that always there? Am I crazy? I get a “Mission Accomplished” alert, I wonder what the next one will be…
44 - A few more random battles. The EXP scales down dramatically, enemies that gave me 800 EXP are now giving me around 65.
45 - Another bout of random battles. I finally make it back to town, but it looks like the forest has pushed itself closer to the area. The town elder is amazed at something, so my party goes to check it out.
46 - Apparently someone that looks like Marica has been going around town with an axe, scaring the villagers. It obviously wasn’t her… was it? I mean no one said anything about the mountain, so who knows what crazy thing could pop up next.
47 - I accept a new mission - find the Marica doppleganger. Before I start the mission, I check on how much money I have… still 100. I guess the money in this game is loot driven. I sell some of the things I won from my battles to the local trade post and now have over 5000 Suikoden Dollars. Maybe it’s time for some new weapons and armor.
48 - None of the weapons are appealing, but I buy some new armor and accessories for everyone. I hope I don’t find a better shop in five minutes that makes all my purchases obsolete.
50 - Dirk leaves the party, boo! He was easily one of the best attackers. Jale explains to me the days and seasons. In a similar format to Final Fantasy Tactics A2, in the over world you have a big map with points of interest you can travel to. These areas take a certain amount of days to get to, and after 30 days pass, a new season begins. It takes two days to head to the forest, but it goes by in just a second or two.
51 - The mission begins. I take one step and a I‘m hit with a random battle. There’s a big enemy, but it’s not too hard to take down. I find a group of wandering merchants and ask them if they saw the Marica imposter. They didn’t, but they do seem to know something about it.
52 - One of the wanderers, Hotupa, joins me as a companion. I walk over to talk to the other wanderer, but a random battle occurs. Seriously? How can there be random battles with random people standing around? Do they ever get attacked?
53 - A few more random battles. The areas in this game seem to have a lot of dead ends.
54 - I fight around the area for a bit more. The enemies are a lot tougher and don’t go down in one turn, not even magic can take them out easily. I head over to the next area.
56 - I meet a young man who threatens me. A middle-aged man, who kind of looks like a fat Hitler, calms him down as they leave.
57 - Three different paths, which one should I take? Let’s go with the middle. Dead end. Right? Some random battles, but when I reach the end I find a huge bird. Battle time. I hit it with magic for a few rounds, but it doesn’t seem to go down. What’s with this thing? It doesn’t look too tough, but my magic isn’t doing that much damage.
59 - My characters mimic my thoughts. Suddenly, an anime cutscene happens. A girl with a huge axe kills it with one hit, why didn’t you come in earlier. Turns out it’s the Marica imposter.
60 - The imposter talks about how Marica must be the version of her in this world. Huh? The wanderer knows what she’s talking about, and entices us to head over to the ruins to help us better understand it. The new girl dubbed “Marica?” joins the party as we head over to the ruins.
Time for some scores out of 10.
Minutes to Action: 13
So far, it’s your typical RPG. The classic Suikoden battle system is there, but it hasn’t shown me anything new. The first hours of RPGs merely set up the story and the universe of the game while also tutoring you on the basic game mechanics. The battles are a bit stale, just basic attack or magic. The co-op attacks seem interesting, but there’s only one available now. Suikoden’s appeal has always been it’s large roster of characters and compelling story, but since it’s the beginning we really don’t get to see any of that yet.
Fun Factor: 7
Battles are simple, yet addictive. Nothing too hard at the moment, so some may be bored and just hit auto-battle to get through them. I’ve never been a big critic of games that are too easy, so I don’t mind the lack of difficulty.
Graphics and Sound: 9.5
The graphics in this game are among the best on the DS. The areas look amazing, I often found myself purposefully heading towards dead ends just so I could see more of the scenery. The lighting and detail is simply untouched by most DS games. Character portraits look equally nice and have a great art style. The music in the game is nice, but the voice acting is a bit laughable at times. They speak at an unusually fast speed, you have to wonder what the localization team was thinking when they were recording them.
Suikoden has always been praised for its complex stories. While only an hour has passed, there are some interesting moments that make me want to keep playing. Parallel worlds? Magic knights? Random forests appearing? Hopefully it all makes sense at the end and isn’t just one crazy thing after another.
Suikoden Tierkreis may be a bit tiresome for RPG fans looking for something completely new, but its still a fun experience and it feels like a true Suikoden title. The production values are top notch, it’s easily one of the best looking DS games out there. It’s a bit too typical at the one hour mark, but it is shaping up to be another worthy entry into the franchise.