However small the growth is, the Suikoden series is seemingly making a comeback in terms of popularity. Only a few short months ago, the absolutely outstanding Suikoden II made its grand transition over to the PlayStation Network. This marked the very first time since release that this game, which sells for over hundreds of dollars online, was being widely sold at a much more reasonable price. Reception to this was overwhelmingly positive for both fans and the series as both Suikoden II and its predecessor became the top PSN sellers in December 2014. Konami has received a ton of flak lately for the right reasons, but this was one decision they made that the public absolutely loved. Any sensible person could see the Suikoden desire here, so the thought was floated around that this trend would continue with the future installments. With many players experiencing this rare series for the first time, they deserved to explore the rest in full. Sure enough, Suikoden III was put on the PSN earlier this week (PS3 only. Sorry PS4 owners).
Let’s just cut to the chase here. If you’re a fan of the first two Suikoden games, and even JRPGs in general, you need to get this game. It is easily one of the better entries of this series, which is saying a lot when you consider how well Suikoden II has aged. In fact, Suikoden III definitely does not live in the shadow of its praised predecessor in terms of quality. There is a lot about this game that soundly gives it an advantage over the others. This was the game that brought Suikoden to the next technological generation and greatly expanded its scope after all. Yet despite successfully pulling off those feats, it is the story that gives this game the leg up.
Suikoden III follows the typical formula of a small, unassuming army besting an unstoppable force and gives it a very interesting twist. Instead of focusing on one protagonist like every other game, three characters from wildly diverse backgrounds take center stage. Geddoe is the leader of a group of mercenaries, Chris is knight captain from an enemy region, and Hugo is the son of a clan chief. Until these three characters join forces, they come to blows with each other for a variety of reasons. It’s tough to pick who is right or wrong too because you only get the perspective of who you’re playing as, keeping the conflict ambiguous for most of the game. In one instance for example, Chris is an enemy when you’re playing as Hugo for justifiable reasons, but the tables are turned when it’s from Chris’s view. It’s not until you gather all 108 Stars of Destiny that you see the truth of certain events and the real diabolical forces pulling the strings. Clearly this is in stark contrast to the previous and future games where it’s exceptionally black and white. You’re the hero, they’re the villains, and you must kill them. The end.
The setting received its first major overhaul here as well. Suikoden and Suikoden II share a few similar locations despite being featured in completely different regions. The city where the first game’s hero came from plays an important role in the second game, and if you have a saved file of the original, that same hero can join your party. The environments of the outside world were mostly similar too. Suikoden III was totally different. It featured entirely new locations and only a small smattering of characters, including the main antagonist, were present in the past games. Those are the primary connectors too. With only a few tweaks you could make Suikoden III a completely separate game that is more than capable of standing on its own. As for how you explore those new regions, gone was the world map where you could travel wherever. The linearity was a bit restrictive and it did involve a lot of annoying backtracking, but the sense of scale was never lost.
If you look at the series chronologically, Suikoden III has the distinction of being where the timeline currently cuts off. Konami chose to explore the past for the fourth and fifth entries. This is unfortunate because, quite honestly, there’s still plenty of story to tell. The entire Suikoden series, despite taking place over centuries, is all featured the same world. Many fantasy JRPGs, like Final Fantasy, don’t even have this. This means that the door is open for a possible combination where you can actually witness the handiwork of your protagonists. I’m sure many fans would love to see what became of the Grasslands and beyond after Suikoden III‘s conclusion. Should a sixth entry ever come, it would be really cool to have it use the full Suikoden world as its setting.
This game was actually my first foray into the Suikoden series. I really enjoyed it and still do this day, which says a lot for its staying power and appeal to new fans. My brother picked it up because we were huge Final Fantasy fans, which obviously turned us on to the JRPG genre. For whatever reason we decided that Suikoden III was a good means to continue that passion. Of course, we didn’t expect to get sucked into a story with plenty of treachery and political intrigue, on top of the staggering 108 obtainable characters. Suikoden III was something I never experienced before and it made me quite a fan. I have since played all the games and found them to be very enjoyable, though some are noticeably lower quality than others. Should this series ever continue, I’m on board.
The fact that Suikoden III is now on the PSN for the first time is very good news. This means Konami and Sony have taken note of how popular Suikoden II was when they put it out digitally. Whether this is because of a whole new crop of fans or longtime supporters doesn’t really matter. People are clearly into this. Which means that, should the trend continue, IV and V are next. The fourth entry is definitely a series low point, but number five was an amazing return to form. Who can honestly say what will happen after these come out too. I’m personally hoping it will reinvigorate interest in the brand and persuade someone with authority to bring it back. Kickstarter might honestly be a good place to do this too. Maybe when Konami stops focusing on mobile games and internal implosions they’ll actually do something good.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. Every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.