RPG Review #108: Suikoden V

NuMetalManiak Phew, finally I got done with this long one. Been quite a while since I have done a review because this one has been eating up all my time, but I'd say it was worth it in the end. And what better number to do a Suikoden game review than 108, right? This is the last mainline game of Konami's Suikoden series, a series that quickly became my favorite due to amazing work with characters and what not. Let's see how this one actually went!

Gameplay: With lots of disappointments in Suikoden IV, you can bet fans wanted to see stuff that was way better in Suikoden V. The fifth game sees a much-needed return to form that IV abandoned, giving us our six-party formation back and lots of land instead of lots of sea. Many other gameplay mainstays from the previous games are thrown back in such as combat and magic skills from Suikoden III. I guess I won't talk too much about that stuff, since it's stuff Suikoden veterans like myself already know much about. What I will say though is that this is actually the toughest game as far as recruiting characters goes, but combat in this game is made easy thanks to certain characters, runes, or skills.

New to regular combat though is the Formation setting, which allows for characters to have different formations (those are found in treasure chests, and formations in the game have different skills, which involve all party members. Also character entourages can have up to four members, and if a combatant is there, then they can be swapped in in regular battles if necessary. Support characters generally have support skills of course, but can't be used as combatants. Also while characters can have two skills equipped, there exist Epic Skills, also from treasure chests, which require a character to nearly master two or more other skills to unlock but are far better. Duels are back in the series of course, with quite a lot of them to go through, the attack/defend/special comes into play here with quotes helping you figure your opponent out. However, they add a timer to this one so now you have to be quick, and the enemy is liable to get off a "super move" if their HP is low.

But the most notable change was the war battle system, going away from all of the other war battle systems to something more of real-time strategy, so active characters will move simultaneously. It's quite hard to get the hang of, especially if you have multiple battlefronts. The rock/paper/scissors mechanic exists for both land and naval war battles, with infantry/spearman being good against archers/rune archers who are good against cavalry who are good against infantry/spearman, while rams are great against arcships/rune arcships who are good against combat ships who are good against rams. And again, characters can permanently die in battle if their unit is destroyed. It's a hard one for sure. Despite this being the only major change, the rest of the gameplay mechanics, should be a nice dose of familiarity to the Suikoden veterans. Grade: A-

Characters: I guess I'll talk about the setting first. Suikoden V takes place in Falena, south of the Island Nations (setting of Suikoden IV). Falena is a Queendom with a Queen being the governing power, wed to a man who is commander of the Queens Knights. Falena is bordered by Nagarea to the west and New Armes to the east. Two noble factions have power in Falena, the Godwins and the Barows. Barows, led by Salum and Euram Barows, are more mercantile but obviously corrupt, and with a name like Godwin you can expect that faction to be centered around centralizing the government and being token Nazis in some way, run by Marscal and Gizel Godwin. In order for a queen to have a commander, that commander must win what's known as the Sacred Games, in which they fight to win the marriage of the queen (in the case of Godwin or Barows, the person who chooses the gladiator is to be the commander).

The current queen, Arshtat Falenas, got to marry an outsider, Ferid Egan, who won the games and married Arshtat. Arshtat has two sisters, Haswar and Sialeeds, both of which cannot marry although Sialeeds used to be engaged to Gizel. Ferid's Knights by that time included Georg Prime, Zahhak, Alenia, Galleon, and Kyle. Ferid and Arshtat gave way to two children, the prince and princess of Falena, and they have bodyguards for both. But enough about that, let's look at 108 Stars of Destiny once again!

1. Prince: Default name is Freyjadour Falenas, or Frey for short, he's the main character, same hero build, but wields what's called a tri-nunchaku. Later he wields the Dawn Rune, a child of the powerful Sun Rune.
2. Raja: Admiral of the seafaring area known as Raftfleet. Despite her age she's a competent war unit leading the Dahak.
3. Lucretia Merces: This strategist is not connected to a Silverberg for once, and is a lot more cunning. She's actually a Karayan.
4. Zerase: A mysterious black-cloaked woman who is concerned about the runes in the game. She's an incredibly powerful mage who wields the unique Star Rune.
5. Craig Laden: Leader of Falena's Dragon Cavalry, who tries to stay neutral to the conflict. He's one of the best war units.
6. Galleon: The oldest of the Queen's knights and the only one to wield a halberd, he's the most defensive character in the game. Originally from Lordlake
7. Boz Wilde: The mohawk man is another war unit only, but is a boisterous man and a wonderful ally. From Estrise
8. Nakula: An injured Armes soldier who is taken into Falenan territory and wields a spear. He's actually hunting for Nether Gate.
9. Lyon: The prince's bodyguard, Lyon will be with the player for almost the entire game never leaving his side. Originally named Mismar and formerly a Nether Gate kidnappee, she's indebted to Ferid for taking her in and never leaves the Prince's side.
10. Talgeyl: The acting mayor and leader of the town of Lordlake, a farming town.
11. Euram Barows: The foppish son of the fat lord Salum Barows, always a schemer and very plot relevant, but in the end he comes around and joins, although he is only used in war battles in that case.
11. Eresh: Notice how I have two #11s here. That's because this star can be taken by either Euram or Eresh. Eresh is somehow connected to Jeane in a way, but this mage speaks in third-person and is obviously mysterious.
12. Dinn: The general of Sable and a direct ally to the Prince's cause. Wields a nodachi in battle.
13. Kyle: A Queen's Knight who wishes to woo the ladies, and originally from Lelcar. Is skilled with Water magic.
14. Zegai: A gladiator who does barely much except fight. He's actually the combat trainer in the game and wields a spear.
15. Isato: Guardian of the Oracle of Lunas, and an elf. Sworn to the side of Haswar he protects her with his bow.
16. Haswar Falenas: Sister to the queen and Sialeeds and the oracle of Lunas, Haswar is known most for sweet personality and giving people hugs.
17. Belcoot: A dashing swordsman from the land of Kanakan and the game's Falcon Rune wielder.
18. Norma: A traveling performer with Ernst, who is looking for the wizard who can remove the curse off of him. Actually from the land of Zelant.
19. Ax: The purple dragon horse owned by Nick.
20. Cathari: A Harmonian and a member of the Howling Voice Guild, using a sniper rifle in combat and a wielder of the Godspeed Rune.
21. Georg Prime: Yep, Georg Prime is back, this time having a heavy role in the game's plot while also being one of the best characters in the entire game. Has an attached Killer Rune, "Deathblow Georg" will serve players well whenever he's around. His bad magic defense is his only offset.
22. Ernst: Used to be a human, but got in contact with a Beast Rune (not that Beast Rune) and cursed into a leopard form. In battle Ernst can use the rune to become human and use powerful attacks.
23. Killey: Killey is also back with his red hat and jacket. He's still searching Sindar ruins and is still one of my personal favorite characters in the whole series as he's great all around.
24. Shula Valya: An illustrous leader of Armes and leader of its Western Marine Corps, Shula is a moderate and doesn't go too far. He later on is recruited and is a powerful war unit.
25. Shoon: A gladiator for the Sacred Games who helps his fellow gladiators around. Is a fist fighter.
26. Bernadette Egan: Daughter of the Island Nations admiral Skald Egan, Bernadette has to put up with his mind games but then joins the Prince and is a long range mage character.
27. Volga: The leader of the east section of Lelcar and a bit rowdy.
28. Lance: The red dragon horse owned by Roog.
29. Wasil: The leader of the middle section of Lelcar
30. Flail: The blue dragon horse owned by Rahal.
31. Orok: The leader of the west section of Lelcar and formerly a Godwin supporter until he finds out the hypocrisy.
32. Yoran: An odd stable-boy who is friends with Nick in the Dragon Cavalry, and is skilled with the flute.
33. Nick: A Dragon Cavalry trainee who has Ax as his dragon, he's terrible with the flute.
34. Wilhelm: The leader of the Lindwurm Mercenary Brigade, a boisterous badass who chases after women.
35. Mueller: Wilhelm's right-hand man, who's more married to the job than anything.
36. Toma: A young spoiled kid from Lordlake and actually the grandson of Talgeyl.
37. Cius: A prison guard who ends up being one of Lucretia's bodyguards.
38. Raven: A ninja of sorts who hides from detectives and has a unique Raven Rune which allows him to avoid all physical attacks.
39. Shinro: The son of merchant Sairoh, Shinro is also a traveling merchant who becomes the item storeperson.
40. Jeane: Jeane returns yet again, this time with pink hair and still being the rune sage. She's tied in with the plot this time around too. Again, she's usable in combat and has a Charm Rune.
41. Norden: A drunk and divorced man who was originally a vice-commander, who spills the truth about Barows later on.
42. Isabel: A Zweihander-wielding woman in the Maximillian Knights, fights for justice.
43. Mathias: Isabel's squire, known for wanting to defeat enemies and toss them into a river.
44. Rahal: One of the Dragon Cavalry aces with Flail as his mount. Has a sister named Rania.
45. Roog: The other Dragon Cavalry ace with Lance as his mount.
46. Gunde: A dwarf who is silent but friendly with a passion for digging.
47. Bastan: A poor con-artist who fakes being an appraiser to support his family.
48. Lorelai: Now Lorelai has some major roles in the plot, this time being at constant odds with Killey and Zweig over the Sindar Ruins. She wields a whip in this Suikoden game.
49. Goesch: A burly farmer from Lordlake who will grow the crops, but also wields a mean club in battle.
50. Fuwalafuwalu: That's a mouthful of a name. Fuwalafuwalu is the leader of the Beaver village, and commands one of the best war units, capable of gnawing boats easily.
51. Richard: A swordsman indebted to Mueller. Despite his small stature he's one of the best characters in the whole game, very easily getting criticals while dodging pretty much any attack.
52. Wabon: Current leader of the dwarves who loves using mine carts.
53. Luserina Barows: The more mild-mannered sister of Euram, more sympathetic to the Prince's cause and the character who is responsible for switching party members.
54. Rania: An odd woman who's obsessed with sound. She's the sound setting changer.
55. Mohsen: An armory shopowner from Lelcar.
56. Silva: A glum doctor from Lordlake who is originally hostile, but still does her job right. She used to be related to Galleon.
57. Murad: A wandering doctor who specializing in detecting and treating drugs.
58. Gavaya: An Armes wannabe gladiator who uses dual axes. He's also a woman chaser.
59. Hazuki: A wandering swordswoman who beats just about everyone, except Belcoot who she vows to fight.
60. Moroon: A rock star-looking beaver who hates humans. In battle he can change the music to a rocking theme.
61. Levi: A wizard who is studying magic and becomes the magic tutor for the game.
62. Shigure: A member of Oboro's detective agency and a slacker, always with the catchphrase "what a pain"
63. Sagiri: The other major member of the detective agency, both are technically ninjas and originally part of Nether Gate. It was Sagiri who actually murdered Nakula's father, but despite her constant smile she hates killing now.
64. Marina: A happy innkeeper who is in love with Belcoot and ties in with the Sacred Games plot.
65. Babbage: An old quirky man who's obsessed with gears, naturally he ends up creating the elevator.
66. Haleth: A bureaucrat who deals with corrupt work. I think he runs a betting minigame.
67. Nifsara: Shula's bodyguard, and one of the sexier characters.
68. Yahr: A dual sword-wielding Island Nations soldier, paired with Nelis.
69. Nelis: Yahr's partner, investigates Rune cannon shells. Actually a descendant of Pablo from the fourth game.
70. Muroon: A beaver who helped build Hatred Fortress and later builds a dam to protect Lordlake.
71. Alhazred: An old man who seeks tomes (books) and is the person to give books to.
72. Bergen: A child dwarf who is Levi's apprentice, really wants to see magic.
73. Miakis: Princess Lymsleia's bodyguard, a twin dagger wielder and a powerful battle character with three open rune slots.
74. Sharmista: Open-minded bodyguard of Shula.
75. Zunda: A female dwarf who makes windows and is the window changer for the castle.
76. Sorensen: Babbage's apprentice who uses a weird barrel in combat.
77. Cornelio: A conductor who wishes to find "mediocrities" and is the soundtrack person, but only if you recruit all of the DoReMi elfs that were lost, the elves not being stars of destiny.
78. Viki: Of course Viki returns here, still ditzy and sneezing teleportation with her Blinking Rune. This time she has an amazing skill called Chain Magic, capable of casting a consecutive spell for free.
79. Zweig: A scholar who continually studies the Sindar Ruins, coming into contact with the Prince and Lorelai along the way.
80. Josephine: A self-styled FASHION DIVA who wields the Red Rose Rune. Is actually the sister of Shula Valya.
81. Lu: A genki girl obsessed with gadgets, wielding a quadruple automatic crossbow in combat.
82. Maroon: The oldest beaver sibling out of five, Maroon is the first to be sympathetic to the Prince's cause.
83. Taylor: A reporter who is out to seek the truth.
84. Oboro: A detective allowing you to investigate others within the castle.
85. Lelei: A very close bodyguard to Lucretia who studies military strategy under her.
86. Genoh: An old turtle that converses with old people and is comfortable around them. Takes up two party slots.
87. Meroon: A young beaver who uses a mallet and ball and has a catchphrase "nuooh"
88. Dongo: A dwarf who ends up being the blacksmith of the game.
89. Fuyo: A rather plump woman in the detective agency, allows you to play a card minigame.
90. Logg: A fisherman and a father, his boat services will prove useful crossing the river. Fights with an anchor.
91. Lun: Logg's daughter, has a piercing spear and is more rough than her father.
92. Shun Min: A little girl who's Retso's daughter and has an aquarium for fish. Fans of Suikoden II's cooking minigame are aware of her fate.
93. Retso: Shun Min's father, a benevolent cook who has good recipes for healing items. Retso will be tied heavily in the plot of Suikoden II's cooking minigame after what happened to Shun Min.
94. Egbert Aethelbald: A weird nobleman of the long lost Aethelbald family who has an intense hatred of Godwins and calls them FILTHY GODWIN DEVILS!!! One of the funnier characters overall. He doesn't battle, but does have a checkers minigame.
95. Chuck: The storagekeeper of the Barows mansion, later becomes the castle storagekeeper.
96. Byakuren: A snake that resides in Ceras lake where the main headquarters is located. Also being a large animal she takes up two party slots.
97. Kisara: Lun's mother and Logg's wife, also Raja's second-in-command. She fights with a large rope.
98. Nikea: A wannabe gladiator who can't enter the Sacred Games because of her gender. She's also a big eater.
99. Linfa: A gambler and perhaps also a cheater trying to make a living off of stealing. Her game is called Blind Man's Bluff.
100. Faylon: One of the Ranro bandits, this fat guy stays by Roy's side.
101. Faylen: The other of Roy's bandits and has a big crush on Roy. Wields a triple boomerang.
102. Subala: A rowdy fisherwoman from Raftfleet and a rival to Lun. She runs a fishing minigame.
103. Urda: A racist elf from Alseid who wishes to take Isato home.
104. Miroon: A beaver who tends to baths and runs the bath house where you can view some funny bath scenes.
105. Chisato: A puppeteer who runs a puppet show, and has amazing voice talent. She can change the Prince's voice with Voice Sets.
106. Takamu: A mapmaker from Falena who somehow lands in prison. His support skill guarantees escape in battle.
107. Roy: The leader of the Ranro bandits and someone who's known for impersonating the Prince. He then serves as the Prince's body double and has a huge crush on Lyon.
108. Sairoh: An old trader from Raftfleet who wants to trade salt, mostly. One of the harder recruits.

In addition to these 108, Sialeeds is also playable for the first half of the game, she is forced to use only a Wind Rune in battle and has dual chakrams as weapons. Generally protective of the Prince and has the best interests of Falena in mind. Grade: A+

Plot: Since the backstory behind Falena was mentioned in the previous section, I'm going to talk about the actual plot here. It starts off very slow. Prince, Lyon, Sialeeds, and Georg all return home after a visit to Lordlake, but are distraught about what has happened there. It appeared that Arshtat used the Sun Rune to pass judgment, completely drying the town up. Arshtat's Sun Rune causes her to have megalomaniac moments at times, and Ferid has to calm her down. Meanwhile, Lymsleia is next in line to be queen, and has to attend the Sacred Games with her family, but is unhappy with both Gizel Godwin and Euram Barows wanting her hand in marriage due to their personalities. Little does she know that Godwin plans to use dirty tricks to win the games, first by disqualifying the Barows' gladiator, Zegai, as an Armes spy, then plotting against the underdog candidate Belcoot, whom the Prince's group helps out to save Marina. Unfortunately Marina drugs Belcoot with a drug, allowing the Godwin champion, Childerich, an easy win and giving Gizel the right to marry Lymsleia. After the princess conducts rites of passage, they return home for the wedding, where the Godwins launch their pre-emptive coup, using the same drug from before. The royal family predicted this though and had Murad create an antidote beforehand, but Godwin still sends Nether Gate assassins. As the prince, Lyon, and Sialeeds manage to escape, they meet up with Georg, who delivers the news that Arshtat and Ferid have died during the coup, while Lymsleia is forced to stay behind. The Godwins have succeeded here.

On the run, they go to Lunas, and then to the Barows mansion with Boz Wilde's help where Salum, Luserina, and Euram take them in. Lucretia Merces is then busted out of prison with the help of Lelei and Cius, and help out in major battles both at Rainwall (the Barows town) and Raftfleet, fighting off Bahram Luger and Dilbur Novum, two Godwin generals. They also find the truth about the Barows, with the Dawn Rune being inside their storage closet choosing to have the Prince as the wielder. This causes everyone to leave Euram and Salum behind, including Luserina and Chuck, and they are now at Raftfleet. From there, the Prince gains alliances by restoring Lordlake and gaining the trust of the Beavers, also by destroying the Godwin's Hatred Fortress. Also they encounter Lorelai and Zweig in some Sindar ruins, eventually making a castle rise out of the water which officially becomes the HQ. They then run into bandits led by Roy, who was impersonating the Prince, as well as craft an alliance with Lelcar.

The counteroffensive against Godwin strongholds comes into play after Godwin occupies Rainwall and the allies attack Doraat, where Alenia attempts to use the Dawn Rune's counterpart, the Twilight Rune, although she's not worthy of it according to Zerase. After a duel with Miakis and an encounter with Georg, it's revealed in a flashback that during the coup, Arshtat used the Sun Rune to disintegrate her attackers, although her god complex got the better of her and ended up killing Ferid. This led to Georg stabbing her through the back in order to prevent her from destroying Falena and to take care of the children. Eventually, Lymsleia, who's now crowned queen, goes to the frontlines herself, finding herself to be more competent than the Godwins, but only long enough to see her brother again. This is cut short when Sialeeds abducts Lymsleia and takes her home while Dolph, a Nether Gate assassin, stabs Lyon from behind. Galleon administers first aid and joins here.

With Godwin being desperate, this leads to trying to form alliances, succeeding with the New Armes kingdom while the Prince tries to get the help of the Dragon Cavalry. With the towns of Sable and Doraat being overrun on both sides, by Childerich and Armes generals Maha Sparna and Jidan Guisu, the Prince's forces are at a disadvantage. A branching point happens when they are giving the option of abandoning the headquarters. If the player decided to stay and defend, this leads to a plotline death of Roy, his double, who gets shot by arrows. Abandoning it is the right option, and leads to the plotline where they discover that Godwin has held dragon eggs hostage, which fully allows the Dragon Cavalry to turn the tide on Childerich and Armes. The counter-assault can be chosen to retake either Doraat, where you fight Bahram Luger and Childerich, which results in Bahram's death, or Sable, where you fight Maha and Jidan, with Jidan dying at the end of it. Then we attack the Godwin stronghold of Stormfist, where Childerich uses a Raging Nostrum drug to enhance his power after his forces get somehow wiped out by Sialeeds. He then duels the Prince (or Belcoot, Zegai, or Richard if they are brought along) but dies from the drug. Dilber Novum fights the group afterward, also dying. Sialeeds is revealed to have been chosen by the Twilight Rune and escapes. Afterwards, she kills Salum Barows in his mansion.

The final assault to take back Sol-Falena, the throne of Falena, sees Sialeeds once again using her rune in battle, while Marscal attempts to use the Sun Rune to destroy the allied fleet. This causes the Prince and Sialeeds to use their runes together, but Sialeeds passes out and dies, with the Twilight Rune going to Lyon this time. Alenia and Zahhak who sided with Godwin also die after taking Raging Nostrum, and then Gizel duels the Prince, which results in him telling the Prince that it was Sialeeds who won in the end. It ain't over yet, as Zweig reveals that Marscal has found ancient Sindar Ruins to use the Sun Rune's power. Together with Lyon and Zweig, the Prince conquer the ruins, with Dolph being destroyed by the Dawn Rune, and fight off the Sun Rune Incarnation which devours Marscal. The ending of course is determined by if you made sure you got 108 stars and none of them have died. If not, Lyon dies at the end and the protagonist will likely wander off, probably with Georg, but otherwise the best ending sees the Sun Rune reviving Lyon and then they head back home, with Prince and Lyon becoming Queen's Knights and the Sacred Games abolished, then you get the proper credits.

So many ups, so many downs, one long Suikoden game later, plus quite a few times when I look at things and think "yeah, that was done better in a previous game". But I always find Suikoden plots and characters enjoyable, therefore this is a good game. Grade: A-

Music: Oh what should I say? The music is excellent. Battle theme leaves some to be desired after awhile, but other themes are great, like the Ceras dungeon theme, Stormfist and Sol-Falena castle themes, Raftfleet's and Estrise's excellent themes, I can go on. Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

A well-done return to form for the series, bringing back core aspects that were good while giving mild expansions to each core aspect as we go. It's long, it's somewhat arduous, but it's a worthwhile experience. After all those RPG duds I came across, something like this was worth pretty much the whole month for a playthrough.