Suikoden IV - Reader Review  

Treading Water
by Lucky Melchior

10 - 20 Hours


Rating definitions 

   For the past decade, the Suikoden series has continued to grow and expand. The first installment of the series on the Playstation 2, Suikoden III, was seen as a bit of a disappointment by many, including myself. In 2005 Konami released the next chapter of the primary series on the playstation 2. Suikoden IV goes a long way to correct the flaws of Suikoden III, but unfortunately new problems have arose.

   A great storyline has always been the trademark of the Suikoden series. Sadly, Suikoden IV diverts from this trend. The setting of Suikoden IV is 150 years before the start of the original and far south of the Scarlet Moon Empire in the Island Nations. As usual there are 108 stars of destiny to recruit and the story revolves around a True Rune. You play as the hero and are training to be a knight of Gaien, which is one of the stronger island nations. A few things happen and you become an outcast and in possession of the True Rune of Punishment, the cursed rune, which drains the life of it's wearer. The story offers some interesting back story to a few people and places from the original. However, unlike previous installments in the series there are very few interesting characters. The plot itself is just a watered down, cookie cutter model of the previous stories. Outside military threat attacks and everyone rallies behind the bearer of the True Rune to fight back. Overall the story was very bland and felt rushed.

1 on 1 Duels Return 1 on 1 Duels Return

   The music and sound, while slightly improved from Suikoden III, again fails to match the quality of the scores for the first two installments. While the opening theme is very enjoyable, most of the tracks are average and not very memorable. The game does introduce voice acting to the series and the voice actors are satisfactory. For the most part the graphics are improved from the previous game. Finally you are able to control the camera angle, a big beef I had with Suikoden III. However, inexplicably the spell effects graphics are awful. It was almost like they forgot about it and put them in at the last moment. Overall though,the graphics are very pleasing to the eye.

   The battle system in Suikoden IV is inherently the same as the previous installments in the series. There are three types of battle systems. The standard turn-based battles, one on one duels and large scale warfare. The turn-based battles improve on the slow awkward battles of Suikoden III and return to the fast paced battles that were present in the first two installments. However, the maximum number of party members has been reduced from six to four. However, since there are far less interesting characters than in previous installments that didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. One on one duels are basically the same as in the previous games, employing a simple rock, paper, scissors strategy. The large scale warfare is the battle system that has seen the most change. Since Suikoden IV takes places primarily out at sea you control ships rather than armies. Each ship can be equipped with different elemental rune cannons. You maneuver around a standard tactical grid and each ship fires upon one another, with different elements being weak or strong against other. It is also possible to move a ship adjacent to another and board it. You then fight a turn-based battle with the loosing parties ship being destroyed.

Naval Battles Are New Though Naval Battles Are New Though

   Suikoden IV has argueably the best interface and localization of any game in the series. I can not recall any glaring translation errors, unlike previous games in the series. The menu system is also top notch. Unlike the previous games, you no longer have a few items per each character, which is difficult to manage since there are so many allies, but rather you have one large pool of party items from which to draw. The game also let's you view the items by category for easy access to certain items. Furthermore, items such as medicines and the like are stacked up to 99 rather than just groups of four to eight, as was the case in previous games. It's rather easy to manage equipment and items compared to the previous games in the series.

   Overall, especially considering the inclusion of a few nostalgic tracks and the famous loading icon returning, Suikoden IV feels more like a traditional Suikoden. However, although this game corrected several of the flaws of the previous game, it has too many new blemishes for it to progress the series at all. If you are a fan of the series I am sure you have already picked this up, and you should. Otherwise, if you are looking for an average traditional RPG, and especially if you like sailing and boats, you may want to pick this game up as long as you have reasonable expectations.

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