You LadyKarasu. I'm using your score system, it's solid.
Alright, a little late in posting I know, but I just finished the game the other night. Had played 12hrs of it previously, abandoned it for a year or so, then, with the announcement of Suikoden on DS, I went back in, started over, and played through til' the conclusion.
My opinion of this game is very odd and will probably look unbalanced, but I thought this game was very odd. To note, I'm a huge Suikoden fan. Suikoden I-III are easily the best and equally unregarded RPGs of their respective times.
To the scores:
Combat - 7: The fluidity of the battles really makes them fun, but the encounter rate is simply too high. I know you can equip the Champion Rune to ward of lessers, but you may as well fight them for the PartySP and Potch. If the battle system was tedious in any way I probably wouldn't have made it past the Ceras Ruins dungeon.
Another annoyance was the HP/Damage balancing throughout the game. In said dungeon for example I had to use 5-10 Medicines after each battle, which is difficulty in disguise. I could probably say more on the combat, but it's ease/fun factor once you start using party members of your choosing is a series staple and is intact in V.
Magic - 5: Overall, I think the Rune System is unique, but it needs a serious overhaul. The biggest glare, for me, is having spells be charge-based. When I've got two magic-users in combat, I want to feel free to use their magic, not save it all for the dungeon boss. Yes, there are magic restoring items in the game, but I seriously only found a single item. It feels like the magic system is the way it is because that's how it's always been, not because it's good. Unique doesn't always translate well.
Also, the majority of the Runes are garbage. So many are particular to character types that there's only a handful worth using and due to limited Run space on characters, even Runes particular to characters aren't worth using their only Rune slots for.
Lastly, though some spells looked cool, some just flat out sucked. I was pissed on seeing the lack of effort put into the Pale Gate Rune, one of the best Runes from previous games. Aside from the centaurs, each spell is a graphic of an already-existing spell with some beast thrown in to make it appear different. Pissed.
Characterization - 7: I've seen a lot of praise on the board for Vs cast, but the amount of shallow, worthless characters far outweighs the good ones. Half of my score is based on George being a key character--bravo for that decision. The Prince was well done too for a character who doesn't speak and all automated responses end with an exclamation point.
Dinn, Roog, Zegai and some others were well designed and generally developed, but so many just plain sucked. The puppet show lady? Are you serious? And the conductor guy? Resto is worthless with no cooking minigame, the crew associated with the elevator (Lu, Sorensen, something like that), all the beavers, the list goes on. And don't get me started on the beavers.
Recruitment- 4: Way too tedious this time around. It was upsetting that the Oborro crew was necessary to acquire some of the Stars, so if you didn't get them before they vanished (I didn't), then you're screwed out of some team members. A few of the requirements were completely indiscernible without a guide.
But the biggest flaw in recruitment this time had to do with pacing. In past Suikodens, scripted events were somewhat long affairs that required a lot of time to complete which in turn benefited recruiting. After so long on an event it was fun to go out and about to grind and find new characters. In V it seemed that some events barely took half an hour so I went on to the next one without thinking and after a string of that I found myself unable to recruit some people I forgot about.
Graphics - 6. Zero textures and the zoomed out camera made most of the game look like a plastic dollhouse. When cutscenes actually occurred they were very, very well done. It made the story much more engaging, but when the game would have a 10 second cutscene and then jump to the stale "everyone stand around and hand motion and speak" scene it completely ripped out outta the moment. Overall, graphics were good for the series, but the RPG is a flashy affair and there's lots of room for improvement.
Plot - 5: So, what happened? The Godwins seized control through deceit so they could use the Sun Rune to obliterate everything and make Falena that greatest nation ever? But, they couldn't use the Rune, couldn't beat the Prince and couldn't do anything very well at all.
I'm sorry, but this story was convoluted, asinine, and penned with what seemed like an "ok, this happens, then...this happens and..." kind of attitude. There's no logic involved whatsoever. I absolutely love the series staple of regional conflict, but the Suikoden team needs a research branch, some history majors to scrawl out a plot that doesn't go helter-skelter to the point of irrelevance.
The HQ- 6: I remember a scene of Suikoden II, an art still, that showed Rikimaru and Amada drinking or arm-wrestling or something like that. Camaraderie is essential to make these characters feel connected and you can do that by having them interact within the Castle. But everyone is standing around, most of the time in ridiculous locations like starring at a wall or something.
I couldn't stand to be in that Castle. It was way too difficult to navigate, especially in the final stage when Logg is fifty miles away from Viki. It didn't even look cool. The idea that more was revealed as the water level decreased was awesome, but it didn't reveal anything worth a hoot. Give me a traditional castle any day.
Duels - 8: Fun but too easy. The timer was a great addition, but essentially it's just a rock-paper-scissors formula, one which the game relies way too much on. It never made sense to me that to Guard an Attack still meant taking damage.
Wars - 7: As I said, rock-paper-scissors, though it works, it's just a bit too simple, but at the same time infuriating when I have to chase down enemy units with 8 soldiers left, but they still take out 20 of mine. The biggest flaw lies in the "retreat!". I don't know how many times retreating units fled right into the pathway of my other units, eventually creating this big muck of idiots all dying.
Regardless of rebuttals, a military unit, when routed, wouldn't flee behind the enemy they just fought into the face of another unit. Granted, when things went right, it was a lot of fun and customizing the units, though basic, was fun. Unique units like the Dragon Cavalry and using the Beavers for the only thing they're good for--Gnawing enemy ships--was good fun.
Music- 6: One good track for every three bad ones. That song in Haud village made me cringe.
Voice Acting/Cut-Scenes- 8: Like I said above, great cut-scenes, they should've done every dialogue sequence as such. It was those scenes that helped develop the Prince, and, aside from the slew of death sequences around the end, which were straight outta B-Movie 101, they were integral to the success of the game.
Mini-games - 2: Aside from the erroneous fishing game, ugh. Nothing worth the time. Jet Motto on PSX is still better than Dragon Racing.
Skills - 7: I'll be honest, I didn't know you had to equip skills to have them take effect until the last quarter of the game. And only being able to equip two makes the amount of SP gained throughout the game irrelevant. The skill system is a great idea, but could be much better.
Final Score: 7: Like I said, there's no way all those complaints make this game a 7, but here's the best thing that Suikoden V had going for it: it came after Suikoden IV which is one of the worst RPGs ever made. For me, and I think the developer as well, Suikoden V was a chance to restore the series to what it was. So, they put back all the things they took away, the stuff that makes Suikoden what it is, but they didn't go above and beyond. They didn't add anything new, they just made an average game that was much closer to what Suikoden fans are used to.
Granted, I played through it all, around 50 hrs, but I was glad to be done. The characters had half the charm of the first three games, the story was 3rd rate at best, something you could toss together in a few hours, and the core gameplay was average. But, it was better than IV by a thousand and simply shows that the dev.team knows what went wrong with IV and it's a kind of promise that we won't have to endure anything like it again.