Review by Heatmiser
Recall, if you will, a few years back when John Travolta said he was contemplating making a sequel to his mega-disaster flop of a film Battlefield Earth. Critics didn't want it, fans didn't need it, and thankfully in the end the whole entire mess was avoided. But now comes the SRPG Suikoden Tactics ("Rhapsodia" in Japan), a semi-sequel, semi-gaiden video game of Suikoden 4, the Battlefield Earth of the Genso Suikoden oeuvre,. To many fans, the Suikoden franchise has been in decline since the series' second game, what with Konami content with creating either weird Suikodens (Suikogaiden), pointless Suikodens (Suikoden Card Stories), or the just plan crummy ones (Suikoden 4). Thus continues the latter trend, in a game so pointless and bland-- particularly compared against the majesty of the first two-- that I can't defense its creation as anything other than a cash-grab on the part of the designers. No wonder the lead producer of the first two Suikodens left the production team.
The story, if you can call it that, begins an indeterminate time after the events of Suikoden 4- so if you didn't play that game, you will understand nothing here. It starts you off as Kyril, generic-looking RPG hero on a quest with your father to destroy all the rune cannons in the land. Why this is your quest isn't really clear, even until right at the very rear end of the game, but you keep carrying it on, through thick or thin, no matter how pointless it seems. From town to town, vista to vista, battling enemies and scoping out any and all leads to your quest. To find cannons. And blow them up. For some reason.
And oh, those battles. The crux of any strategy role-playing game is the battles, and boy are they... average. Of course, averageness is leaps and bounds better than most everything else in this game, but hey. If you've seen one SRPG, you know what happens here; the party of good guys tries to beat down the party of bad guys on a giant grid field, and you get to use magic and items and weapons and... well, that's it, really. No abundance of powerful & unique personal skills like in Final Fantasy Tactics, no abundance of secrets and side areas like in Disgaea. No, Konami feels fine with just giving us about 20 story battles, boring ol' fight/item/magic combat basics, and a handful of moderately enjoyable guild quests to spice things up in the midst of the ten-trillion leveling up battles you'll have to do in order to keep pace with the swiftly increasing difficulty. As an added "bonus", you can get a couple of secret characters if you have a completed Suikoden 4 save file on your mem card, if, that is, you played through that terrible game. This all might be good enough if the story were great, but, as I mentioned above, it ain't.
But the graphics are good, right? Right, Heatmiser?? Well, how can I put this... Suikoden Tactics has graphics maybe slightly better than a PS2 launch title. Think Battle Arena Toshinden Tactics, if you will. Blurry, tiny characters regularly fill the screen, with a only handful of animations for each of them to tide you over during the dozens of magic spells and fights in which you'll participate. I actually walked up to an inch away from my screen just to see if the character sprites were cel-shaded, and I'm still not 100% sure. Either way, the graphics, like the story, are woeful through and through. At least the music was, surprisingly, above par, with a hauntingly beautiful opening theme that'll sucker you in to thinking the best is yet to come. Nope, this game peaks at the title screen.
And it's a shame, really. The Suikoden franchise was once the antithesis of the Final Fantasies of the world; the lil' games with the huge, glorious hearts. Now, ironically, Konami has released a sort of Final Fantasy X-2 of their own, and without even a scantily clad Rikku to be found anywhere. I'd have higher hopes for Suikoden 5, the next entry in the series proper, if Konami hadn't already misspelled the word "its" in the ad on the back of this game's manual. Like Suikoden Tactics itself: harmless error, or sign of things to come? Only time will tell.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 11/30/05
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