I am a huge Suikoden fan but Suikoden 5 disembowels my faith in the series. Its problems compound themselves only making it worse. One of which is that the game forces its length upon you because it's artificial, such as empty areas, long load times and frequent random encounters. This is one of the worst games I ever played, with the only good point being the graphics; it literally makes me want to puke with how shoddy and disturbing it is. You play as the Prince of Falenas trying to restore order to his nation. The problem with the story is that it takes at least 8-10 hours to get going. Another problem is that it seems to stall just to make the game longer because you actually let some of the bad guys get away. For example, a woman you fight is saved by a man and the man jumps out the window while carrying her. Instead of pursuing the man by jumping out the window or killing him with a rune shot after he jumps out the window, you take the long way around and he obviously gets away. Even worse is when you combine that this area had a high encounter rate. This is what we call, fridge logic. This makes me question why I couldn't jump out the window nor have my party members jump out the window instead of leave the castle the long way.
As Suikoden games go, the lead basically has to flee his homeland only to eventually return to it with a kick-butt army. Suikoden 5 does this as well; following the roots of Suikoden 1 and 2, which may feel redundant. If incest does disturb you, do try to shy away because a lot of these main characters in the royal family are results of inbreeding yet are coherent (They dodged the gene pool messing up there).
You do have your betrayals as well, so keep those eyes open. Some characters seem to be like pedophiles although it is for position (Falenas is a queendom) of a marriage contest with a 12 year old girl. So the easily disturbed may want to stay away from this game.
The graphics are pretty decent, but the shiny reflective tiles in Sol-Falena have been done in the castle of Gregminister in Suikoden 1 so that's nothing new. However, it is a nice effect that as you approach a window, your shadow does become bigger. The motions in the cutscenes are better than Suikoden 4. The prince reveals facial emotions instead of having the same emotion as Suikoden 4's lead, which is an improvement.
The music and acting in the game are pretty decent. There are a handful of tunes that anyone could probably like, such as the boss theme or the old Suikoden fanfare.
The only good part of the game is that the duels are animated better than in any other Suikoden game. The characters attack and block or counter one another based on what actions you and the computer use. For example, when I dueled Lorelai, I blocked or dodged her whip, stepped on it and hit her in the face with my weapon. Another good part is that the formations provide a nice bonus attack once per battle, or formation benefits. However, this really is not notable considering how torturous this game is plus you could just play Suikoden Tactics instead which has cooperative moves that need you to be in a certain formation. The rock-paper-scissors style duel system in this game has also been done in all the other Suikoden games excluding Suikoden Tactics.
Here are the problems of the game, and there is a multitude of them. This is called the longest Suikoden ever because both the story and the gameplay stall to create the illusion that you're playing the game for a long time. I already mentioned how the story stalls because you let bad people get away and it takes hours just to get going. The game stalls because of 2 reasons.
The first reason that the game stalls itself into appearing long is that the load times are terrible. A battle will take about 10-12 seconds long to load, but that's not all. After you get to your battle map, it will take a few more seconds for the characters to load. Finally it takes about 5 seconds after the battle to end to get back to your dungeon or world map.
The second reason that the game stalls itself is that the random encounters happen very frequently. I warn people who are still interested in this game about the Twilight Forest. It took me about an hour to go through because the encounters there were 5-8 steps. This multiplies with the constant loading and lack of maps in dungeons so if you get lost, good luck not losing your sanity there (Twilight Forest especially drove me crazy to the point of quitting the game when I realized that there were ruins to explore afterwards). This makes the escape option in battle completely useless because you cannot escape the insanity of this trifecta.
Here are the minor problems. A minor problem of the game that is probably the most forgiving is the camera. You only have 3 different zooms. You can't spin it around like in Suikoden 4, so you might miss out on some treasures that were hidden by the camera. There are also loading times of several seconds between going into individual rooms of a castle. There is also the issue of empty space. Areas are needlessly big, and you can't fast dash like in Suikoden 4. I had to cross a dam and had to run for 1-3 minutes with nothing but empty space in that area. At least there were no random battles in that area.
Last but not least, there are the war battles. The war battles are an atrocity because it can make you helpless. Your troops may be stuck in a loop of consecutive battles where you can't redirect the other people. I'll explain this in further detail. Some wars have 2 fronts: land and water. Now imagine being stuck between 2 enemy troops on land. You can't move your water troops because the camera will always jump to the land and show the land troops battling. Now imagine the frustration of when the opposite happens just when you finish this one annoying loop. Now you can't control the land troops because your water troops are frequently engaged in battle.
This game is only playable to masochists. Suikoden 5 is one of the worst rpgs I have ever played. I even re-played Suikoden 1 to see if I liked it more because of nostalgia but that is not the case. In Suikoden 1, the battles load up immediately, so even if there were high encounters in that game, you can just release enemies in less than 2 seconds. In Suikoden 5, it is not worth running away because it already took a dozen seconds just to start the battle, and you'll only get into another battle within 10 steps. If you want to recruit 108 characters for your army in a quality game that is nowhere near as disturbing as this one, play Suikoden 1 or 2 instead. Suikoden Tactics is another fine choice although it has less than 108 characters, there are still many characters; the combat and stories in all 3 games are good unlike Suikoden 5.