A lot of fans agree that Suikoden II is the best game in the entire series. But what about the rest? Inspired by this article by Jason Schreier of kotaku.com on why one should play Suikoden II, fellow Revivalist Riley Crane wrote this article on why one should play its successor, Suikoden III.
Some of you bought it when it came out, and some of you have only recently had the opportunity to buy it on PSN. If you’re a Suikoden fan and you’ve never played it before I hope to convince you to do so. If you tried it and quit because you didn’t care for it, I urge you to continue. If you’ve played it all the way through and still didn’t enjoy yourself, maybe you’ll give it another try with fresh eyes. You can enjoy S3 all by itself, but its narrative will have more profound effect on you if you have played the preceding two. Much of my argument is based on the assumption that you have, and is structured around some commonly held contentions for not playing Suikoden III.
IT’S HORRIBLE. IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN 2D.
There is a need among some fans to rank Suikoden titles, and to rank games in general. The person that asks, “Is Suikoden [numeral] the worst of the series?”, is already coming from a negative space. There are strengths and weaknesses in every video game. Ask yourself if you think it’s horrible on its own merit, or do you think it’s horrible compared to your expectations of a 2nd Suikoden II? You don’t need to degrade something just to pay a compliment to another. It’s unrealistic to expect titles that cross consoles to be the same.
Just for fun let’s rank our top ten favorite 2D RPGs for PS2… Our list isn’t very long is it?
On PSX we slowly see pixel-based graphics in RPGs like S1 & S2 begin to fade from existence giving way to polygon characters against pre-rendered backgrounds. As we shift to PS2 we see those lovely pre-rendered paintings disappear as well, replaced by fully 3D environments. Comparing Suikoden III to its 3D counterparts from 2002 like Kingdom Hearts, Wild Arms 3, Front Mission 4, and SMT3: Nocturne is fair enough, but blaming it for being developed in a different era is not. History doesn’t flow, it moves in leaps and fits. We can cut Suikoden I some slack because it broke the ground for Suikoden II which had the advantage of being able to improve on its predecessor’s graphical aspects in every way, but Suikoden III did not. Accept it for what it is, the first 3D Suikoden, and try to judge it by those standards.
BUT I STILL LIKE SUIKODEN II THE BEST
I won’t argue with that. If you thought there wasn’t anything that could make you enjoy Suikoden II more, well Suikoden III can. I’ll use an example from the first game to illustrate my point. The City-State of Jowstone is introduced in the first 5 minutes of Suikoden I, an unseen nation beyond the badlands that serves an important role in advancing the plot. We are allowed to explore this nation and the complexities of its political structure in the next game which can add to our enjoyment of S1 when we return to it. The unseen nations of Grassland and Holy Harmonia serve a similar role in Suikoden II, and we get to explore them later in Suikoden III. When you return to Suikoden II after completing III it adds to your understanding of many details that may have seemed arbitrary or superfluous at the time. Playing Suikoden III can enhance your replay of Suikoden II just as much as playing II enhances the gameplay of III. It doesn’t have to be your favorite game ever to be entirely worth your time.
IT’S BEEN SPOILED FOR ME, I ALREADY KNOW EVERYTHING WITHOUT PLAYING
Just like comic book experts that get all their information from cartoon and film adaptations, you cannot substitute online videos, plot summaries, and forum discussions for firsthand experience. The order you choose to play the chapters of the trinity sight system in Suikoden III as well as the critical choices you make change the story you see. You may have watched Yuichi stream the entire game, but you only witnessed the choices that he made. Your own choices can produce a different Suikoden III. The trinity system allows some unique aspects of replay value. If you’ve only played it once you can get a lot of enjoyment out of playing it a few more times. The precise way the player experiences the setup and the critical mid-point in Act II is up to you.
Virtually every narrative that has ever been written can be broken into three acts encompassing a Setup, Conflict, and a Resolution. Every Suikoden title follows this structure. When Suikoden III came out it completed a trilogy, and narrative trilogies tend to follow a similar framework. There is a lot more setup in Suikoden I to establish the world of the 27 True Runes, Suikoden II expands that world at the same time establishing an even greater conflict of the True Runes, and Suikoden III has more resolution and payoff as the final act. It is only by the time of S3 that the story expanded enough for fans to fully comprehend the true nature of reality in the world they had come to love. If Yoshitaka Murayama is the J. R. R. Tolkien of Japan, or the George Lucas of JRPGs, then we should experience his Return of the King, his Return of the Jedi that is Suikoden III.
What do you think? Is Suikoden III a RPG worth playing? Give us your opinion in a comment!
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Suikoden III is available in the PS Store of every region* for only $9.99/€9.99/£7.99.
*With the sole exception of Australia/New Zealand, but it’s coming soon according to Konami!