As the first really good role-playing game for the PlayStation, Suikoden may not have the flare of some of Square’s more cinematic efforts, but in many ways I prefer it to the modern entries in the Final Fantasy series.
Suikoden features beautiful hand-drawn art, the best music I have ever heard in a game, and an excellent story that really appeals to me. You play as a young man who, through circumstance, is thrust into a grand conflict and eventually must recruit the 108 stars of destiny, many of whom are playable characters. You eventually obtain a headquarters, which expands as you find more recruits for your army.
The graphics mix 3-D backgrounds with 2-D character sprites to great effect. There are three modes of combat: traditional turn-based enemy fights with a party of six, large scale battles with rock-paper-scissors-style combat, and one-on-one duels. Traditional battles are especially fun. You can mix and match your group from your deep bench of recruits, adding a bit of strategy, and… with the right members, perform various combination attacks.
The quest is on the short side for an RPG, but excellent pacing and quality writing make up for it. And since you have up to 108 characters to find for your army, you’ll want to play it at least twice.
With strong characterization, great music, pixel art that has aged well, as well as varied and engaging RPG gameplay, what's not to like? While it’s slightly surpassed by its excellent sequel, I recommend playing both in order.