Suikoden Tierkreis is a fairly well executed, engaging and promising portable RPG. It has practically everything a player could want. The atmosphere and presense of the DS version may not have the same epic effect as the console Suikoden entries, but it is still a very good RPG.
Suikoden Tierkreis begins in tiny, independent Citro Village. A group of teenagers, made up of the hero and his friends Liu, Marica and Jale, act as the Defense Force for the town. Their teacher Dirk, who’s really more like an older brother to them, is taking them out to hunt some Laggarts that are causing trouble in the area. They don’t find any, or the Laggarts nest. They’re about to backtrack, when suddenly, a plains/field area disappears and a forest with ruins appears!
The hero seems to know something isn’t quite right, but everyone else believes that the forest and ruins were always there. The group then decides to check the ruins for the Laggart nest. Inside, they find incredibly strong skull monsters. Trapped, they run to look for another exit. Instead, the group finds a mysterious book. When the hero, Marica and Jale touch it, the receive Marks of the Stars and mysterious powers. They then defeat the monsters with no problem, and all three remember that the forest and ruins weren’t always there.
The story then goes on to what seems to be your classic save the world scenario. A cult-like movement called The Order of the One True Way is trying to overwhelm the world, and claims that the future is predetermined. The hero joins the fight to help keep the Order from forcefully expanding its territory and influence around the world.
One of the most interesting aspects of Suikoden Tierkreis is the idea of the Infinity. The game asserts that there are multiple, parallel world and it is typical for people to travel between them. This means that Marica’s double shows up during the story, as do other unique characters. It also provides the foundation for the game’s Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. If you connect to Wi-Fi to send or borrow a character, you’re simply hosting a visitor from a parallel world. It’s also interesting how the Infinity factors into the main storyline.
The 108 Stars theme returns, though in Suikoden Tierkreis they are referred to as Star-Bearers and not Stars of Destiny. Part of the goal of the game is to recruit all of them. If you succeed, you get a bonus tacked on to the good ending.
I loved how battles worked in the DS game. Four characters take part in battle. You arrange them on a grid, where three could be in front or back, before battle begins. You then proceed in a normal turn based battle, using Star Marks, Unite attacks as needed. The Auto Battle feature returns, which saves a lot of time.
The Support Character system is where battles really shine, and I hope the next entry in the main Suikoden line uses some variation of it. You get to have one support character in your party, who adds a special ability to the battle. For example: Gadburg adds the Spark command that kills all weak enemies, Erin heals one person’s HP and Sotah gives extra EXP. The Spark command is easily my favorite part of the game, as it makes leveling up characters or traversing familiar areas a breeze.
The story is surprisingly meaty as well, which was a nice surprise. I expected a more standard and predictable “teenage kids save the world,” not what actually panned out. It ends up more supernatural and fantasy-based than the typical Suikoden games, which surprised me initially.
While it definitely doesn’t feel like member of the established Suikoden series, I found myself drawing parallels between Suikoden Tierkreis and the original Suikoden. Specifically, in regards to the characters. I couldn’t help comparing Tir McDohl, Cleo, Pahn, Ted and Gremio to the main character, Jale, Marica, Liu and Dirk.
There are a few quirks, but they’re really more annoying than anything. The top screen is largely useless. In battle it’s handy, since it displays your character statistics, but it doesn’t offer any assistance at all other times. Personally, I wish that it displayed mini-maps for locations.
It’s also quite annoying that you have to waste an item slot equipping an item that allows you to run faster on the world map. Even worse is the fact that you don’t get this item until you’ve reached the Coastal Caves, and it is easily missed if you don’t enjoy dungeon crawling.
The most grievous of all annoyances is the voice acting. The casting is well done for the most part, the problem is in the delivery. Many characters, especially the main character sound rushed. At times, the hero will be talking so fast that the words are undecipherable. It’s commendable that Suikoden Tierkreis contains so much voice acting, but if you aren’t going to do it right, then perhaps don’t do it at all.
As long as you don’t get fanatical about what defines a Suikoden game, Suikoden Tierkreis is a wonderful addition to the DS RPG line-up. It has a good story, an addicting collection aspect and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection elements that actually work. It may not be a perfect portable Suikoden, but it comes very close for a spin-off.
Food for Thought:
1. Some sort of warping device would have been nice, so you could instantly leave a map area rather than trek back and forth until you find an exit.
2. The passage of time in the game helps make recruiting a bit more challenging and interesting. Certain characters only appear during certain seasons.
3. I like that many characters aren’t restricted to one weapon. It helps make party configurations easier.
4. There are some decent twists in the story. For example, I was positive one of the initial Citro Village characters was going to be a villain and betray the group, but it turned out I was wrong. (I blame the character art – they made him look so devious!)
5. I’d recommend finding and printing out a Recruitment guide. There are quite a few characters you can miss and never even meet, if you aren’t careful.
6. Monsters and enemies can be weak or strong against certain kinds of weapons (slashing, striking or piercing), but it didn’t seem to make much difference when I was playing.