PSLS Retrospective – Suikoden
Leading up to the release of Suikoden IV in January of 2005, there was a lot of debate going on about what type of game it would be and about some of the changes that were being made to the Suikoden Formula. The combat was again receiving a tweak, the setting was a seeing a change as well as the party system.
Suikoden IV takes place about 150 years before the very first Suikoden and you play as a young boy living on the island of Razril. While on a mission your main character aquires the Rune of Punishment, which governs both atonement and forgiveness, and is unusual in that it consumes the life of the bearer with use. Once the previous bearer dies, it immediately jumps to someone nearby. If you have played the other Suikoden’s then the story is much of the same but is still told very well.
One of the big changes to come about in Suikoden IV is that the setting of the game is out on the sea, where most of your time will be spent. Travel on the world map is done by ship and this is easily the biggest fail of the game. The game has you travel early on from island to island but the problem is that you are given vague directions and spend 15 minutes sailing to the next island. Then on top of that you have the random encounters while you are sailing, making for a very frustrating time. The game is also the first Suikoden to incorporate voice acting in many of its characters which adds some depth to each.
The combat also sees a big change and for many it was not a good change. Instead of the usual 6 character party that many had become used to, IV stays true to its name and gives you a 4 person party instead. Your characters could team up to perform unite attacks as well as use the traditional runes. The game also drops the amount of recruitable characters down considerably from 108 to around 54 or so. The 4 person party provides a lot of limitations with choice as many battles force certain people into your party, leaving you with less customization to your party at time.
The battle system however contains many of the series trademarks with the party combat and duels, though instead of massive battles on land between armies you now have big sea battles between ships. Your ships can be customized to use particular runic elements through choice of captains and commanding officers; each element has a weakness and strength over another element.
Suikoden IV is a hard game to recommend to anyone who is not a hardcore fan of the series. While the new setting is nice, there are just too many things not done right in this game. The lengthy exploration at sea, the shrunken party from 6 to 4, the silent hero returning and the overal lack of depth at time in the story. That being said, for any Suikoden fan you should still play this game as it does have some good moments.
Opinions Around the Web
Game Informer (85) -
At its best moments, Suikoden IV sits right up there with the most outstanding RPGs ever created.
IGN (73) – But even with all that combined, there’s still one thing that Suikoden IV doesn’t have: Heart. And for better or for worse the Suikoden series has always been about that: the emotions, the feelings, and the power of family.
RPG Fan (70) – To see a series falter so badly after years of doing everything right is distressing. One can only hope that Konami returns to the drawing board before undertaking a fifth installment in the series.