So close to truly excellent.
This game is a good addition to the Suikoden series. It brings in a fun set of game play mechanics and some really good characters, something all Suikoden games are good at. The story is quite interesting, and not to hard to follow, though it seems a bit arbitrary at points. All in all a fun game, especially for anyone who likes Suikoden games or RPG/strategy games in general.
Now for the bad bits. Really there are only two main complaints I have for this game.
1: Unless you have played Suikoden IV you are not going to get a lot of the references. Not a problems for fans, but makes the game a bit harder to enjoy for those that have not played Suikoden IV.
2: Character death! There is nothing quite as frustrating as fighting through a long battle, then near the end of the fight, one of your characters gets knocked to 0HP, and if they are not a story critical character, they have what seems to be a 50/50 chance of being forced to retreat or dieing. As in permanently gone from the game, for the rest of the game! At that point you have two choices, loose that character or restart the fight. And this is a strategy game, some of these fights can be LONG. Loosing 30-45 minutes of effort cause of a lucky critical by a foe is not fun. *huffs*
So, all in all, is this a good game? Yes, even with the death bit, it is quite fun.
Should you play it? If you enjoy RPG/Strategy games, then absolutely.
Should you buy it? It does have an okay amount of replay-ability as do all Suikoden games, in that you can only have so many of your dozens of characters with you at once, so you can try any number of combinations.