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TGS 2008: Suikoden Tierkreis Hands-On

The venerable RPG series heads to the DS for the first time, and we get a taste for this densely populated adventure.


TOKYO--Though the locations and cast members have changed throughout its history, the Suikoden series has traditionally been known as a character-heavy role-playing adventure on a grand scale. In Suikoden Tierkreis, the series ventures to the DS for the first time, but seems to be preserving the pillars on which its success was built. There are 108 unique characters throughout the game that you can meet, recruit, and form relationships with, and you'll do so during an adventure that starts small but soon blossoms into an epic endeavor. We visited Konami's booth at the 2008 Tokyo Game Show and spent some time adventuring, battling, and fast-forwarding through a whole lot of Japanese dialogue.

The opening cinematic reaffirms Suikoden's commitment to featuring a hefty number of characters, and we saw a wide variety of locations scroll by, each populated with a bunch of unique inhabitants. The level began with an isometric view of our party members (four total) following a dirt path through a light forest. Our compatriots bantered for a while, and we watched as anime drawings of each character popped up and spoke through a text bubble (in Japanese, of course). This happened often throughout our time with the game, occasionally with corresponding voice acting, and it quickly became clear how focused the game was on character interaction and development. Some conversations even prompted us with a choice of responses, though it was hard to tell what consequences those choices had, if any.

The protagonist of Suikoden Tierkreis is a young man who sets out from his village to rid the surrounding area of monsters, only to end up in a wide, forested valley. As we played, we reached a point where the ground began to rumble violently, trees began to fall, and rocks began to crumble. Out of the valley floor rose a vast stone statue of a human guardian holding a large staff. This statue turned out to be a large temple, and upon exploring the interior, we discovered a mysterious book lying in the middle of a circular chamber. In one of the frequent animated cutscenes, the protagonist was drawn inextricably toward the book and grabbed ahold of it, unleashing a flood of memories that seemed to echo the past destruction that left the temple in its currently ruined state. This book also seemed to endow our hero with some magical powers, which we tested out on a later level that allowed us to sink our teeth into the combat system.

Random monster encounters are the order of the day here, and they cast your party of four into turn-based battle. Your short, big-headed characters face off against a wide variety of baddies, and there are multiple levels of combat control. You can choose to have your squad all use their basic attacks on the enemy, or you can select the actions of each party member individually. You can choose a basic melee or ranged attack, a magic attack, or a high-powered team attack, depending on each character's abilities. Magic attacks cost spell points, naturally, and seem to fill familiar niches like attack, healing, and defensive or offensive buff. Team attacks can only be performed by certain characters, and we imagine that this will be an important consideration when choosing your few party members. Most of our random encounter battles played out quickly as we chose the general attack command, but we did encounter some tougher foes that required more strategic micromanagement.

At the end of battle you'll earn experience points, level up, and receive items from your vanquished foes. These can all be viewed and managed in the easily accessible inventory screen. You can choose to use the stylus or the D pad and face buttons to navigate the world and the menu screens. We found the stylus was generally easier to use, especially when moving around the area map.

In our relatively brief time with Suikoden Tierkreis we saw puma men, bipedal fish people, and a large room of glowing teleportation bays, all of which seemed to point to an impressive breadth of story and character types. This will likely please Suikoden fans, and should interest folks looking for a robust handheld role-playing game. Though a North American release hasn't been announced yet, we've got a feeling this one will be coming across the ocean before too long. We'll be sure to keep you posted on the release schedule and story content as we learn more, so keep an eye on GameSpot in the coming months.

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