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It's hard to believe that the first title in Konami's Suikoden series of roleplaying games first came out nearly 15 years ago. The first two RPGs in the series, both of which were on the Sony PlayStation, were undeniable classics, while later entries released on the PS2 drew mixed reaction. The series became well known for such features as a massive roster of recruitable characters (108 to be exact) as well as plots revolving around political intrigue and large scale army battles. Suikoden Tierkreis, a spinoff title in the series released for the Nintendo DS in March 2009, does away with some of those concepts, but still manages to be a quality RPG anyway.
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When discussing roleplaying games, it can sometimes be hard to discuss the plot without getting into spoilers, and unfortunately it's unavoidable in the case of Suikoden Tierkreis. The storyline in this DS title is a little different from what fans of the series might be used to. There is some political intrigue here, but there's also a heavy sci-fi/fantasy hook that deals with mysterious magical books, spontaneous geological shifts and parallel words. It's different, but at the same time, it is interesting enough to keep players hooked. The actual writing isn't bad either, though the voice acting hurts the quality of the storytelling (more on that later).
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This is your standard turn-based RPG through and through. In Suikoden Tierkreis, gamers will explore a variety of different landscapes and dungeon levels, do battle with countless monsters and bosses, and upgrade equipment and level up so they can face the challenges ahead. Combat thankfully is a throwback to Suikodens of old, as it involves parties of up to six people and is lightning quick (especially when you use the handy auto-battle feature).
The game offers both traditional button-style and stylus controls, and gamers and switch freely between the two. Locations are often selected from a list or by clicking on a map icon, but fear not--there's still plenty of exploration to be done. And yes, there are 108 characters that can be recruited during the course of the game, although some are more interesting and useful than others. All in all, Tierkreis features enjoyable gameplay, though the inclusion of random encounters is a bit of a drag.
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Graphics and Sound
Sometimes I hate lumping these two categories together, and this is definitely one of those cases. Suikoden Tierkreis is a visually impressive game. The characters have a PlayStation era "super deformed" look to them which works quite well on the DS, the various levels are well designed, and the semi-frequent anime cutscenes aren't bad either. Likewise, the musical score is wonderfully impressive.
So why does the game net just a 3/5 in this category? It's because of the abysmal voice acting, which is some of the worst I've ever heard. The main hero speaks way too quickly, and many of the other character actors completely fail to include any emotion in their lines whatsoever. Worse yet, some of the lines are read with completely the wrong emphasis, which is apparent because the written text actually shows you where the emphasis is supposed to be by placing certain words in all caps!
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Despite the face that the game has voice acting that makes me want to thrust sharp objects into my eardrums, and despite the fact that it doesn't quite feel like a proper Suikoden game, I enjoyed Tierkreis. It has an interesting story, great visuals, a fun combat system and lots of gameplay depth. Pick up a copy, make sure you turn the sound down on your Nintendo DS, and get ready for one of the better traditional turn-based roleplaying games to come along in years.