Suikoden III Q&A
GameSpot brings you screenshots and in-depth details on Konami's upcoming RPG Suikoden III for the PlayStation2.
Konami of America recently announced the North American release of the third installment to the series Suikoden III for the PlayStation2. The game will arrive in that territory sometime in 2002. To get further perspective on the game, GameSpot recently had the opportunity to interview Yoshitaka Murayama, producer of the Suikoden series. We bring you new screenshots from the game and in-depth details on the upcoming RPG direct from the source.
GameSpot: What was the reason behind naming the series Suikoden?
Yoshitaka Murayama: For the first Suikoden, it was loosely based on the Chinese legend of the same name. In Suikoden III, other than the quest to search for the 108 Stars of Destiny, it is quite different from its original series.
GS: When you were still developing the first Suikoden, did you plan for it to be a series?
YM: In order for us to present such a vast setting for this game, we sort of had plans for it to become a series. Fortunately, the first Suikoden did fairly well and we were able to provide sequels.
GS: The North American market did not receive a release of Genso Suiko Gaiden Volume 1 and 2 for the PlayStation, so will the audience in that territory be able to understand Suikoden III without playing them?
YM: Though the Suikoden universe is one and the same, the story in Suikoden III is rather independent from the previous two titles. Of course, there will be characters from those previous two titles, but considering the story as a whole, even those new to the series should have no problem.
GS: We noticed that Suikoden III looks quite different from its predecessors in terms of character design and settings.
YM: Yes, the first Suikoden had a more Asian look, but in Suikoden III, the setting has become more independent. With three main characters, we based each of them on different parts of the world in order for the audience to distinguish one from the other. So for example, one of the character's settings is based more on Mongolia and the surrounding areas, while another character is based more on like those seen in European medieval times.
GS: One of the new features in the game is the trinity sight system. Would you care to elaborate on that?
YM: The trinity sight system allows players to see the story through the point of view of one of three characters. At the beginning of each chapter, you can choose from one of the three main characters.
GS: Does choosing different characters influence the outcome of the ending?
YM: Though there are some instances that may have an effect on the other character, the story is basically one linear story, so it will not affect the ending.
GS: We've also heard about the new free position battle (FPB) system. Can you talk a bit about that?
YM: Usually, in most role-playing games, you have your characters situated at one point. When you attack, the character moves away from that one point, approaches the enemy, and then returns back to that point. When the game has shifted to 3D, this actually should allow characters to move more freely within the battlefield. So in order to integrate that into battle, we have decided to use this system, which allows the players to experience different camera views and analyze their own positions and those of their enemies during battle.
GS: So what happens if, for example, you attack enemies from behind? Do you induce twice the damage?
YM: Our system doesn't work in that sense, but, for example, you can have your magician character positioned behind the warrior so that he won't take as much damage from enemy attacks.
GS: Can players change the view or camera angles?
YM: No, the camera angle will have its own settings, so players should be able to view the battle comfortably.
GS: What is the buddy system? It seems like an improved version of combo attacks [executed by two or more characters in your party] in the previous Suikoden titles.
YM: The previous Suikoden titles had six characters in a party, where three were on the front row and the other three at the rear. The front row tended to receive more damage than those at the rear. But because of the FPB system, this doesn't work the same, so we have instead grouped two characters as pairs, one front and one rear. For example, you can have a warrior in front to protect the mage at the rear while casting spells or have two warriors and have them attack the enemy at the same time. Different characters paired together can have different patterns of attacks.
GS: And how about the ride system?
YM: The ride system is much like an extension of the buddy system. You can have an animal, such as a griffon or horse, as your partner. Your human character can ride on the animal, and your HP combines and becomes stronger. It's a concept we thought was cool since your characters ride on animals and fight in the battlefield.
GS: Will these battle systems apply the same to the enemies?
YM: Yes, in some cases. For example, during a boss fight, you might see minions protecting the boss character.
GS: Among the 108 Stars of Destiny, can we expect to see some characters from the previous Suikoden titles?
YM: Well, Suikoden II was set three years after the first Suikoden, while Suikoden III is set 15 years after Suikoden II, so some characters--particularly from the first--might be quite old. There are some who will appear the same, while others might be grown up, among which might be sons or daughters of a character in the previous titles.
GS: How about this Fire Hero character?
YM: Ah yes, he is a mysterious character who will play a huge role in Suikoden III, but we can't talk about him at this point.
GS: Suikoden II had multiple endings--from your perspective, which would be the right one?
YM: We don't prefer to pick the one and right ending. We leave that up to the players.
GS: Will players be able to use the save data from Suikoden II in this game?
YM: Technically, it is possible to convert the data from a PlayStation Memory Card to the PlayStation 2. So yes, we plan to have something for those who have finished Suikoden II, though you wouldn't be able to convert data from the first Suikoden directly to Suikoden III. Think of it more like an extra feature, sort of a fan service.
Development and technical challenges
GS: How many from your development team have worked since the first Suikoden?
YM: Most of the main crew remains the same, but we have added more staff members to our development team, probably now more than 50 members.
GS: The game has shifted from 2D to 3D--what were some of the difficulties during development?
YM: I think creating each individual 3D polygon models for the 108 Stars of Destiny was quite a challenge. In fact, it was already challenging enough when it was still in 2D, so I think that hasn't changed.
GS: Any other challenges you've encountered?
YM: Keeping the scenario consistent under the trinity sight system was also quite a challenge. Though I am the main person handling the scenario, there are others among our staff who also work and collaborate on the scenario.
GS: Has developing on the PlayStation 2 hardware been difficult? What do you think about the GameCube or Xbox?
YM: I think it requires a lot of staff members. Role-playing games require a lot of data and that's the main thing when it comes to developing, so I think it's difficult with any console. With the PlayStation 2, it allows us to use more polygons and for programmers, more hardware power means more work (laughs).
GS: The North American release of Suikoden III has recently been announced. Has work on localization started?
YM: After the Japanese version is completed, localization should start shortly after. I think it is quite difficult to work on both versions simultaneously.
GS: Is there a possibility we'll see the game on other consoles?
YM: Porting is always a challenge when it comes to role-playing games, but yes, we are considering the possibilities.
GS: Do you have any plans on expanding the Suikoden universe in the future? We've heard about the possibilities of a Genso Suikoden Online.
YM: We haven't made such plans, but that would be interesting.
GS: Any messages for the North American fans?
YM: We are aiming to make a game with great story and gameplay, which many will enjoy. We hope you all look forward to the release.
GS: Thank you for your time, Murakami-san.