It's difficult to get worked up over the average RPG. Invariably and inevitably, the game in question gets compared to the likes of a Final Fantasy. And if the same sort of innovation and excitement isn't there. Let me put it this way: Though Suikoden may not be groundbreaking, it's definitely good.
Basically, this is a solid RPG, both in terms of play and story. You are cast as the son of Teo McDohl, the land's greatest general. When the general must head north to deal with a rebellious uprising, you are left in charge of the McDohl household, but you join up with the Imperial Guard. Soon after, you realize just how corrupt the Emperor is; consequently you join forces with the Liberation Army to overthrow the Emperor, thus setting up a climactic, and classic, confrontation with your own father.
The play in Suikoden is similar to Beyond the Beyond, Final Fantasy VII, and well, just about every other RPG out there. You spend most of your time walking around towns and dungeons, occasionally running into monsters to disposed of - using either weapons or magic, of course. When constructing a party of adventurers, you're offered 108 characters to choose from, though a maximum of six characters can be in your party at one time. Certain characters can combine their attacks by using the "unite" command, which usually results in big-hurt damage against multiple foes. As the storyline advances, you are given a few choices during the way. Unfortunately, even with these choices, you are led down a certain path of actions. For example, if you answer "no" when asked if you want to drink some tea, and you'll find you're asked again and again until you finally drink the tea - and get poisoned.
Most of the graphics in Suikoden are average, but the fight scenes look good. When you encounter a monster, the playfield rolls out of view to reveal the fight from a diagonal perspective that zooms in and out to punctuate the action. There are also one-on-one fights, in which the you must try to outguess the opponent and counter his attacks. Major battles are also sprinkled throughout the game - massive armies clash and thousands die. These battles are usually reserved for major plot points in the game. The music in Suikoden is varied, but it can get very annoying, especially if you are stuck on the same part for any length of time.
All in all, Suikoden is a fine, albeit short, RPG. Experienced role-players should be able to whip through it in no time. Even novices shouldn't encounter too much trouble. It's got an appealing storyline, and tons of characters to experiment with. Even so, consider it a warm-up for Wild Arms and Final Fantasy VII.