So, for reasons I can't quite understand, I have not completely given up on the Suikoden series, even after the bland pretense that Suikoden 5 was, and the abominably boring yawn-fest that Suikoden 4 was. Then again, I keep giving Wild Arms chances in the hopes that they'll have a series with more than 1 good game in it, so maybe I'm just a hopeful glutton for punishment. Or an idiot.
Anyway, I recently played Suikoden Tierkreis. Now, if you speak this game's name in front of a Suikoden community, you're more likely than not to attract sneers, hisses, retching sounds, and sometimes threats on your life. People call this game the black sheep of the series, an embarrassment to it, a stain on its good name. I didn't actually KNOW this, mind, when I got and started playing the game, but I didn't have high hopes for it myself. First reason was that, as I mentioned, the Suikoden series has not been particularly impressive in the past...8 years. Suikoden Tactics wasn't bad, but it wasn't notably good, either, and the other 2 games we've seen since Suikoden 3 have been lackluster and outright boring, respectively. I'll give Suikoden 5 that it followed the series formula and mimicked a Suikoden game convincingly, but it just lacked the emotional impact and heart that characterized the older games. Suikoden 4 was so abysmally bland that it wasn't just unenjoyable, but playing it actually, I think, lessened the joy you could feel in life from that moment on. And Tierkreis's opening is not exactly awe-inspiring, as I mentioned in my Opening Sequences rant. Even the first parts of the game are kind of off-putting, with main character Sieg, AKA Motormouth, jamming words together so rapidly that you'd swear they put him on fast-forward, except his voice isn't all squeaky. It's like listening to a low-voiced Chip and Dale, only faster.
Nonetheless, by the end of the game, I found the game was decent. Maybe even good. There are some decent characters (Chrodechild's pretty neat, Dirk's alright, and Fredegund is okay, though she had WAY more potential as a deep, involved character than they ever tried to realize), the semi-main villain was decent enough, the plot had a lot of creative aspects and neat ideas, and there were a few moments that were pretty touching. So I wound up pleased with it in the end. Then I hopped onto the internet forums, and found out that this was NOT the typical reaction from Suikoden fans. My curiosity was piqued at this wide-spread hatred, so I investigated a little further to find out why, exactly, the game earns such scorn.
There are a lot of reasons I've been given as to why people don't like it. There's the voice acting, which I mentioned, although I honestly can't say I'd ever dislike a whole game significantly for its voice acting. That's just ridiculous, honestly. Sometimes people don't like the final boss, and feel like he was lame and sloppy. I can't say I thought much of The One King, either, honestly, although I felt that his gimmick of passing himself on was actually somewhat neat, but...this is SUIKODEN. Sloppy, lame, silly, out-of-nowhere over-blown final bosses is one of the most consistent aspects of the series. I mean, it's something to dislike, sure, but how can you hold The One King against Suikoden Tierkreis and not hold Barbarossa randomly becoming a dragon against 1, or villains magically being able to invoke corporeal forms of the True Runes to fight at the end of the game even when there are people with True Runes on your side with better knowledge of them that can't do the same against 3 and 5? And let's not forget that stupid fucking magic tree in Suikoden 4.
Smaller complaints aside, though, it seems to me that most of the hatred for Suikoden Tierkreis is that it's different from other Suikodens. Ultimately, that's what every major complaint seems to boil down to. People complain about the system of magic, not because it doesn't work just fine (it mostly does), but because it's different from the previous Suikoden rune-based magic system. People complain about the setting and characters, not because they aren't just fine (they are), but because it's not the regular world Suikoden takes place on and none of the characters have a connection to previous titles. They complain about the focus points of the plot, not because the themes of multiple worlds and fate-containing books don't make for a decent basis, but because the focal point isn't the 27 True Runes. There are complaints about the country-versus-country conflicts, not because they aren't there and aren't fairly okay, but because they don't have the same tactics and political machinations of the previous Suikodens. And so on.*
Basically, the consensus I'm getting is that Suikoden Tierkreis is actually a completely fine game, but that Suikoden fans won't allow themselves to enjoy it because they expect everything to be exactly the same.
This isn't rational, nor is it fair. The fact that Suikoden Tierkreis is a decent game and has notable merits in its storytelling is what should count, not whether or not those elements of plot and characters happen to be like previous games'. You can go ahead and compare it to previous Suikodens and say it's not as good as them, but you can't say that the game is a bad game just because it doesn't compare to a predecessor. If it's a decent game, it's, y'know, a decent game.
I also think that some of the comparisons are silly. I mean, people complain about the lack of the True Runes in Suikoden Tierkreis, but what about Suikoden Tactics? They served no purpose in that game and had nothing to do with its plot that I can remember. Didn't hear much complaint then. And why are people expecting a setting, plot, and overall game that continues the overall story of the main Suikoden world and its people and mysticism from a game whose title clearly denotes it as a side-story off-shoot? I mean, it's not like Konami named the game Suikoden 6 and then had it have very few significant ties to the previous games. It seems obvious to ME that it's going to be some kind of offshoot from the regular series when the regular series is numbered and this one is given a word title. Suikoden Tactics might have been set in the same Suikoden world and have plot and character ties to previous games, but its focus and plot were set on things completely irrelevant to the focus of the main series, so why the big deal with this one?
Suikoden Tierkreis is just fine. It does not deserve its reputation. And rabid Suikoden fans need to get off their groundless high horse, get real, and calm the hell down.
* I mean, I'm not saying that Suikoden Tierkreis is perfect, or even really good, on any of these points, but I am going to have to stand by the idea that it's still at least decent on each.