Genre: RPG
Year: 2002
Developed by: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Published by: Konami
Platforms: PS2
Feeling Like: Journey to the East

There are very few people I’ve played through entire RPGs alongside with. This genre is typically enjoyed as a solo affair, for good reason; they’re dozens of hours long, rarely offer multiplayer options and who in their right mind enjoys watching somebody else partake in hundreds of battles and reading volumes of text?

Fuzzy does.

I won’t tell you his real name, because I refuse to call him by that. Fuzz is one of my best friends, equally nerdy but in vastly different ways which made for some really fun conversations. You know the kind of buddy you can be entirely yourself around? No hint of pretense, no putting on a mask to appear more put together, no bullshit. That was Fuzz. I was lucky that I found a few of those types at Mount Allison.

We tackled many, many video games together and you’ll read a guest post from him later on in the 500 but one of the stranger RPGs we teamed up on was Suikdoen 3.

Like, a duck named Sgt. Joe strange.

I think clumsy is an appropriate description. It’s the first time the series attempted to go full 3D and you can tell. The tight mechanics and lightning speed of Suikoden and Suikoden 2 aren’t here. Everybody moves like a spastic marionette. Load times are frequent and areas are claustrophobic. Combat is hardly what you’d call a well paced affair. If you don’t have patience to watch every attack be preceded by a few seconds of animation, stay away.

Maybe this is why it was a perfect JRPG to play with a good buddy by my side. Anytime the action slowed or we were watching a Rune spell for the 171st time, we could strike up any conversation we please. Should we get pizza tonight? Has anybody seen Danimal? What chapter are we on? Did you study for the Psychology test?

It’s not one of the best Suikoden games…but it’s a Suikoden game! And that’s enough to hit #226.


It’s bloated, weird, odd-looking but it’s also fully endearing. It contains terrific world building, some cool experimental storytelling and doesn’t feel like any other RPG on the PS2. There’s a reason it garnered critical acclaim at launch.

True to the odd nature of Suikoden 3, it took us forever to find it. No digital downloads in 2005 so we had to go on a hunting trip. Was it available at the local video store? Absolutely not. Was it available for purchase at Future Shop in Moncton? Why would it be, it’s a moderately obscure Japanese RPG from 3 years ago. Reviews only heightened our desire for it. What else were we going to do on spring break?

I don’t recall how we eventually found it (I’m guessing Dave R rescued us somehow) but as soon as we popped that sucker in, we were hooked.

Straight off the bat, I liked how you got to pick which chapters to play. The game presents three heroes to choose from, each of them get three chapters. You can do Hugo’s first chapter, then Chris’, then switch back to Hugo for his second, then Geddoe’s first, and so on. The game doesn’t restrict you in the least and I think it’s a wise move. You do have to get through all nine chapters to proceed, but it’s one of the few times I’ve seen an RPG do this. If we were getting sick of playing as one protagonist, or we wanted to see a different perspective, we switched it up.

I don’t know if it was the fixed camera angle, or the bright colors or the whimsical soundtrack, but I just liked moving around and being in this world. It tries to be grand and epic, but the locations and dungeons are rather small. I’m totally fine with that; as long as something feels big, it doesn’t actually need to be big. When you dive into a JRPG, it helps to have a forgiving imagination.

I really enjoyed the world building. True to Suikoden nature, it’s all about warring factions and the colorful personalities on all sides. I found the game put a great amount of effort to showing you conversations with as many characters as possible, both to the benefit and detriment of the experience. It helps because it humanizes nearly everybody and motivations are clearly understood. The downside is that when you can recruit 108 characters, you’re going to get a lot of filler and Suikoden 3 is naturally slow paced to begin with.

Combat I wasn’t wild about. You still have six party members, but they’re each teamed up as a duo and every action has to be done together. It’s a little cumbersome, but we got used to it. This does lead to some wicked combos, including letting Hugo ride his AWESOME GRYPHON BUDDY, FUBAR and I’m sorry for using capital letters but doing this was probably our favorite part of the entire experience. There’s no reason to ever separate the two. I want a gryphon! Named Fubar!

Sgt. Joe also kicked ass. He’s a duck in a military outfit with an axe. Say what you will about Suikoden 3, some characters are just unforgettable.

What would a massive RPG be without a quality soundtrack? This is an area where Suikoden 3 shines. The opening intro is appropriately desperate and melodramatic. Don’t you feel at home listening to Karaya Village’s theme?

And of course, the capital city has a terrific theme full of panache and adventure.

It’s also home to the single best named city in any RPG, hell any game ever.

Vinay Del Zexay.

Pro wrestler name? Chat GPT created fantastical Spanish marketplace?

Neither. It’s a town in Suikoden 3 that you spend a lot of time scrambling around. Fuzz and I never got tired of saying the same. Say it out loud. You’ll feel ridiculous, and happy.

We loved the town building, though again the load times and unclear goals made it a frustrating experience. In a side set of chapters, you play Thomas who is absolutely not a warrior but a noble put in charge of a failing castle. Recruiting townsfolk, shopkeepers and other denizens of interest is a staple of the Suikoden series and it’s done really well here.

Sort of.

The game would often have us wake up as Thomas with no clear indication where to go next. One insidious section had Fuzz and I literally go to every room unlocked to that point, talk to every single person on the planet we could find before we finally gave up and went to sleep.


Shared hardships are generally more manageable when you have a friend. We still joke about this when we’re stuck on a game. “Have you tried going to sleep?”

The lore and events that permeate the land are far more interesting than the individual characters. It’s not a home-run by any stretch of the imagination, but I think the transition to 3d is always a difficult one and Konami should be given some leeway here. The key villain and their motivation isn’t well told in the game’s main campaign, but Fuzz did progress through the post game content which is shockingly lengthy. It delves into the bad guy’s story as you control him and his lackeys. It’s surprisingly deep and I think if they’d intermingled it as Capcom did in Breath of Fire 4, it could really have improved the story. That being said, the game is already bloated enough so I can see why they made the decision to keep it as is.

Some games on the 500 I can recommend in a heartbeat. Maybe they’ve aged well, or the soundtrack is amazing enough to pull you through any challenge. Or maybe the game itself is important culturally, or maybe you’re curious about a type of game you’ve never played before. I can’t, with any confidence, say that Suikoden 3 falls into any of these categories. It hasn’t aged well, it’s glacially slow at times, the character models are creepy, the story is far too long, the combat isn’t anything to write home about and we got stuck on that stupid Thomas level. But, alongside one of my best friends, it was a unique experience that melded characters, story, locations and music in a way only an RPG can.

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