The Sun comes out again...
Taking place in the Kingdom of Falena, you play as the mute hero, the Prince of Sol-Falena's Queendom. Early in the game, which means 10 hours or so into the game, our hero is subject to betrayal and exile, her sister and the Sun Run turned hostage/weapon and the entire Queendom a plaything for different political parties. It's up to the prince to gather a rebel army, save his sister and restore order to Falena. Suikoden V's story is bloody fantastic, it's smart, filled with tons of political intrigue, themes of war and some fantastic, poignant and emotional scenes peppered throughout the entire adventure. Not only does this game feature some of the best character designs in the franchise, it also features some of the most interesting, engaging and sympathetic characters in Suikoden. And there's a ton of them. One thing to be mindful of is the fact that the story is very slowly paced, heck, I was 2 hours into the game and I had seen two dungeons at most and had barely had any fights, but I think the pace works to its advantage, as it develops both the characters and the queendom of Falena very well.
Combat is back to six-man parties, thank god, since there're so many cool characters that you'll want to bring as many as you can with you. As a matter of fact, there're four extra slots which can be outfitted with support characters, for passive abilities, or four extra battle characters which which you can switch during battle. Formations are a thing now, and you'll need to make the most out of these, as characters have different attack ranges and their accuracy will decrease unless properly placed on the grid. Battles are fought by turns and work just like any other Suikoden, or any other JRPG, for that matter, y'know, the usual 'attack, defend, spell, item' options are here and accounted for. Skills are back from Suikoden 3, but a bit more limited. You can only equip two of them at a time, and you won't handicap yourself if you forget about them, since the game is rather easy and skills don't make such a huge difference in battle.
Duels have been reworked again, once again a rock(attack) - paper(defend) - scissors(Special) affair in which you must guess what your opponent is gonna do based on the line of dialogue they spew, only that now they are timed. The limited time factor really does add to the excitement and urgency of these battles, and the animations have been polished a lot from Suikoden IV, so these duels, which I never really cared about, became somewhat of a treat. It helps that a lot of these fights felt personal thanks to how likeable, or hateable, characters were.
Not only is Suikoden V the best Suikoden on PS2, it's also one of the finest JRPGs on the system. The story is phenomenal, the characters are fantastic, the combat system works great, the strategic battles are the best they've been yet, and they even managed to make me like duels. If this is fated to be the last ever numbered Suikoden game... then what a send-off it was.
9.5 out of 10