07/11/02 Japan, 10/24/02 USA
Platforms: Playstation 2
Suikoden III takes place in the Grasslands, and surrounding areas. If you've played Suikoden II, you might know a bit about it. As for the gameplay...it's much like the two previous Suikoden games; You run around, you recruit characters, you wander around your castle. However, there is a twist this time through: You play as three (or four) characters, all on different sides of the Grassland War.
The three main characters are: Geddoe, the Commander of the 12th unit from Harmonia, Chris, who is the leader of the Knights of Zexen, and Hugo, Son of the Karaya Clan leader in the Grasslands. And then the fourth main character would be Thomas, the owner of Budhic castle (but he doesn't really count).
The world map has changed significantly: Instead of the traditional Suikoden world map, there are just lines (which are roads) and dots (which are cities/fields). This may seem annoying, as you have to go through every field area to get to anything on the other side of it, even if you've been there before. Most are really quite small, though, so it doesn't get terribly tedious.
The army battles have shifted styles again. This time, there are many locations on the field, and lines connecting them. Units travel on the lines between two locations. When two units are on connected locations, they can fight. At that point, a semi-automated normal battle starts between the characters in the two units. It gets a bit more complicated then that, there are field effects on certain tiles (20% reduced damage, 15% healing), and you can retreat from battle which will take you a line deeper into 'your territory'. As of yet there have been no 'Defeat all enemies!' victory requirements, but that might just be me playing in the wrong chapters.
The castle your characters inhabit is a bit different. None of the three main characters own the land, they just hang out there occasionally. Thomas, a young man from far away owns the deed to the land. In fact, most of Thomas' chapters revolve around keeping the castle land and it's occupants safe. Getting all 108 Stars of Destiny certainly seems hard, but you can get a compitent detective, and so far I have not seen any Stars that you can miss.
Once you get to a certain point in the game, you get to select which character will be the 'main' character. Whoever you select will be the main character for the rest of the game, and will also gain new powers.
And on top of the normal levels, each of the character have skills (and empty skill slots), which help the caracter in many ways (by doing more damage, or a higher percentage of critical hits, or by having a higher evasion percentage). After each battle characters get 'skill points', which they can use to increase the skills, from E to S (E, D, C, B, B+, A, A+, S). Only certain charaters can get to the max ranking, however. For example, a runesmaster may be able to get to A+ in 'Fire Mastery', but only to B in 'Damage'. And vice versa for a warrior.
In the actual battles, there is a slightly odd pairing system. Your characters, at the start of the battle, are arranged in a grid with three columns and two rows, so there are three pairs of two character each. However, you can only give orders to a pair, and not to the individual characters. The end effect of this is that each two characters attack the same target, as well as only one of the two characters being able to do a move other then attack. To specify: Either both characters attack, both characters defend, or one attacks the closest enemy and the other uses a special move. Special moves are either casting rune magic or using an item. This is not helpful if you are trying to heal during a battle. Also, characters can only heal themselves and their partner with items (you can heal whoever you want with magic), however, there is the ability to 'share' healing items. I have no clue why this was implemented.
sources: GameFAQs for release dates, the game for everything else
Suikoden - Suikoden II - Suikoden III