Suikoden is a strange little game. On one hand it's your typical 16-bit RPG. Except it really isn't, since there aren't any super-deformed sprites and some PSX effects are used. On the other hand, it's too 16-bit to be your typical PSX RPG. Not to mention the bizarre fact that the game has 108 characters.
But what's undeniable is that this strange little game is a good little game. And it's pretty hard to explain why. The combat system is nothing new, there are so many characters that none ever get any real development, the plot is about defeating the big bad Empire, etc. And yet, Suikoden manages a distinct feel of its own. A shaky comparison would be to the feel of, say, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon - obviously, neither that movie nor Suikoden is a grand artistic achievement, but they both have a charm to them. And both feel like a Chinese fairy tale, which makes them unique enough. Indeed, Suikoden is set in a medieval setting, but never feels like the cliched "hero saves princess! kills dragon!" crap that plagues most bad RPGs. The dialogue (when it's not butchered by the translation) reflects that - it's old-fashioned, yet not blatantly and ridiculously so. These things actually help give the game a little maturity, as its talk of friendship, honor and betrayal manages to be more than the typical ham-handed moralizing.
One gets the feeling that the game would have been really, really bad had they stretched it out. But they didn't. It takes twenty hours to beat, tops, which is just about the expected length for an RPG-ified Chinese fairy tale. At that length, the weaker parts of the game never seem to drag (even if the dungeons do seem like they're there to get in the way of the story). And all in all, it ends up being one of the most enjoyable ways to spend twenty hours there are.