It only took about 60 hours, but the war is over...
Suikoden 3 starts off marred in political strife between three bands: Zexen, Grasslands and Harmonia, encompassing all the different tribes and civilizations that make up each kingdom. You could say that Suikoden's world is pretty grim, and you'd be right. You're given three different lead characters: Captain Geddoe, Zexen's elite knight Chris and Grassland's Karaya tribe's leader's son, Hugo. Each character has 3 chapter all to themselves, before all narratives fuse together for chapter 4 and 5. Although you are allowed to make a choice after clearing all 9 chapters which will affect on whom the story will focus, and it will lead to a few minor differences on the latter two chapters. The story was alright, it had a few interesting peaks as well as a few dull moments, and sadly, as interesting as some of the character interactions were, they weren't very memorable as a whole.
There're three different gameplay mechanics in Suikoden. Most of the time it plays like your standard-fare turn-based combat JRPG, you move from town to dungeon to town while happening upon random encounters. You're allowed to take up to six characters with you, as well as a seventh support character, and you issue commands to pairs rather than each individual character. It works well, it's fun. Then there're also 1-on-1 duels which work as silly rock-paper-scissor matches. Can't say I was a fan of those, but at least they aren't too bad. Lastly, there're strategic battles. These are stressful and annoying. The former due to the fact that characters killed in these may die forever, locking you out of the bonus epilogue and the latter since, while you get to move each 4-man throughout the board, battles are fought automatically, so it's up to the AI not to screw up. And they will screw up because they are dumb. Why not let the player issue commands is beyond me.
I still have a couple of gripes left for me to unload. The smallest one surrounding some characters, y'see, some characters will join your party near the end of Chapter 5 which means that you won't get to use them much. It feels like kind of a waste. Secondly, it's not 'til chapter 4 that you unlock the means to fast travel, and until that happens you'll have to go through every dungeon and town on foot. It's pretty time consuming. Which is why I clocked over 60 hours yet the game felt rather short as a whole! To add insult to injury, when you recruit Vikki you're not told that you gained the ability to use her teleportation if you talk to her back on your HQ. And that means that you'll have to walk all the way back to your HQ anyways!... unless you recruit an optional character that grants you an item with the ability to warp back to HQ. The game should've done a better job explaining this, I did not find out about it 'til Chapter 5 when I was doing the rounds inside HQ.
8.0 out of 10