E3 2002Suikoden III impressions

We get some play time with the latest Suikoden installment.

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In October 2001, Konami announced that Suikoden III would be coming to the US. Now, the company has an English demo ready to show at the 2002 E3. From the looks of the demo, fans of the previous Suikoden games should be pleased by Konami's new endeavor.

Suikoden III takes place 15 years after the last game and features three main characters. Using what Konami is calling the trinity sight system, you alternate between these three different characters and see three different sides of the same story. At the end of each section, you're returned to the character select screen. You can continue to play as one character, but you'll eventually have to go back and play as the other two characters to bring them up to speed with the story. At some point in the story, you'll have to choose one character to proceed with, and that will dictate which of the game's three endings you'll see.

As the Chinese legend and the previous installments of Suikoden go, there are 108 stars, or characters, to find. Some characters will be incredibly simple to find, while others will require an elaborate series of actions to discover. You don't need to find every single character to complete the game, but it's designed to provide some replayability for hard-core players. You can have up to six characters in your party, and it's possible to execute multiple-character combo attacks. Some characters team up better than others, so you'll have to mess around with your lineup to discover the different combo attacks. As far as combat goes, you're given the standard RPG battle commands, but time comes into play a lot more than it does in most other RPGs. Some attacks and most major magic spells and combos take more than one turn to execute, so you'll have to employ a little strategy to fight effectively. If a character is attacked while casting a spell, the spell is cancelled. You can also use this fact to your advantage and knock enemy spellcasters out of their spells before they have a chance to attack. At the end of every battle, you earn generic skill points that you can spend to improve your characters in specific categories. So if one of your characters is weak defensively, you can take your points to a defense trainer in one of the game's towns and spend the points toughening up your weak spots. Other character traits include counterhit, parry evade, and magic.

Graphically, the game has a stylish look to it, not unlike the slightly pointy character model design used in Sega's Skies of Arcadia. The demo we were shown contained occasional slowdown, but Konami officials assured us that these problems would be cleared up before the game ships this fall.

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