The Suikoden series is amazing and it is a crime that Konami both abandoned it and did not release the PSP spin-off Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki outside of Japan. Fortunately, some installments are here and are even PlayStation Classics! So while I cry about never getting to see the story of a new hero, Murat, and Zeno, let’s talk about the PS2 Classic Suikoden III, which you can grab right now and play on your PlayStation 3. It is arguably the best game in the series.
A Tale of Three Heroes
In Suikoden III, we aren’t just following one hero out to save the world. We get to see the story initially from three different sides of an upcoming conflict on a continent. The Zexen Council, the Grasslands Clan, and Harmonia are all vying to exist, with Zexen and Harmonia each seemingly hungry for more territory and power. With Chris, the Zexen Knight Captain, we see how a growing merchant nation feels about the people belonging to the Grassland clans it considers barbaric. Hugo is the Karaya Clan Chief Lucia’s son tasked with a diplomatic mission who ends up seeing how quickly things can get brutal between two opposing groups. Geddoe is something of an outsider, as his group is working for Harmonia, the third region involved, but also is a band of mercenaries whose loyalties can shift.
The first three chapters for Chris, Geddoe, and Hugo are all about exposition and helping the player understand the scope of Suikoden III. There are a lot of forces involved here, and it is only by going through each one’s story that you begin to understand subtle nuances that could make a character a hero in one route and villain in another. When all three come together ahead of the fourth chapter, it puts people in a good place for the rest of the game.
Bearing the True Rune
This element of choice and seeing how different sides view the world, but eventually come together, is what makes Suikoden III so strong. While I pointed out three viewpoints above, there are actually six different playable characters in the game. Thomas is a noble attempting to build up a castle in his own two chapters, which becomes the base for the full party of 108 Stars of Destiny in the rest of the game. Koroku is something of a gag chapter, as people can pop in at any time and explore the group’s base through the eyes of one of the cutest dogs in the history of games. There is even a secret character’s storyline that only appears if you collect all 108 people. (It is a delight and stars an iconic figure who has appeared throughout the series.)
The construction of Suikoden III allows players the opportunity to slightly shape the course of destiny. There are McGuffins in the series known as True Runes. Regular runes exist as ways to give people access to magic or special skills. True Runes are variants of these that are more powerful and give their bearers immortality. Only one of each exists in the world. At one point in the game, you decide who gets a much-lauded True Rune with historical importance, making that person your main character for the last two chapters of the game. (Don’t worry; the other two people get different True Runes too.)
This unification may also make the gathering of the 108 Stars of Destiny more plausible. In each Suikoden game, we are trying to build up an army of unique characters. Some people join as part of the story, but many appear as incidental sidequests or fun bonuses. By collecting them all, you gain more warriors, add more functions in your hub, and have an excuse to keep playing. Since we are trying to reunite clans and countries here against a common enemy, it helps everything make more sense.
It’s Your Destiny
Suikoden games are always about enjoying JRPG staples like great stories, fun characters, and competent turn-based battle systems while also having the sort of collection elements and historical lore that keeps you coming back to complete everything and learn all you can about the world. Suikoden III is one of the best ways to jump into the series, even though it is the third installment, due to having multiple viewpoints, the ability to choose your main character, and an opportunity to strut around the castle like you own the joint as a Shiba Inu. It is great, and you should play it. This PS2 Classic is $9.99 in the US PlayStation Store and £7.99 in the European one.