Suikoden IV - Review  

by Solon

Very Easy
15-30 hours


Rating definitions 

   As of this year, Konami's Suikoden series is exactly 10 years old. Despite that there are only four parts in the series, a lot has happened. Everyone remembers the very mixed reviews Suikoden III got for its drastic changes. As some of you may have suspected, Suikoden IV is more similar to Suikoden III than any other Suikoden. Wether this is good or bad is up to you, however I suspect that there are a lot of fans of the first two games out there who probably won't enjoy this game even half as much as they wanted to.

   The first thing Sukoden IV shares with III is the music quality (or should I say, the lack of it?). The intro theme and the ending themes were both two of the best tracks I have heard in quite a while. However, the rest was nothing special at all. In Suikoden IV, background music is just that; background music. There were hardly any memorable tracks, except for the ones that had that particular Suikoden theme melody, but those were few. I was hoping that Konami would have learned after Suikoden III, that you can't really fit enough emotion into a cutscene to get the player's attention without music. My hopes were in vain. During countless cut-scenes, I just sat there in utter silence. Disappointing, to say the least.

   In the battle system section, Konami unfortunately took yet another step into the wrong direction. Instead of having 6 characters in your party, the party in Suikoden IV is limited to four members plus one support character (used for healing, finding treasures etc). Why is this bad? To begin with, there are 108 characters in all Suikoden's. Generally, there are quite a few of those that I like, so I want to be able to use as many of them as possible. See where I'm getting at? This also limits the possibillity for the "cooperation attacks" (two characters who have some relation to each other can perform a special attack by using both their turns) to work, since you'll need certain characters in your party to perform them.

Arrgh...what's..with Arrgh...what's..with

   Aside from the lack of characters, the battle system in IV is very similar to those in the previous titles. Characters can attack, use items and cast spells using their runes. Don't fret, the Auto button is still there (which you will be using in about 90% of the battles). Everyone's weapons are as usual upgraded by a weapon smith, and to reach the higher levels you have to find new hammers for the smith to use.

   Unfortunately, there is no need at all to put effort into customizing your characters. The Suikoden's have always been easy, but IV definitely crossed the line. I have never died in this game, and I don't see how I ever could. Even if I sometimes would fight 10 battles and forget to heal, I still wouldn't be in a critical state. I don't mind playing an easy game, but there has to be a limit somewhere. This also goes for the "wars", that have always been present in the Suikoden games. This time around, you battle by using huge ships with rune cannons. Basically, all you have to do is use a rune which opposes the element the enemy's rune has, and you'll sink their ship in no time at all.

Rune Power! Rune Power!

   There are a few things that Suikoden does good though. The translation is quite solid, with no apparent mistakes or grammatical errors. The voice-acting is decent, but could have been better in some character's cases. The interface is what I liked most though. Aside from the general walk & run modes, players can hold down R1 to run extremely fast. While this looks a bit silly, and can make the character a bit hard to control at times, it helps a lot if you want to reach certain areas faster. Menus and such are also very fast, smooth and easy to use. The only drawback with the interface is the ship controls for your ship, which are a bit clunky and unnecessarily complicated. I also absolutely despised how the ship would turn around 180 degrees without me being able to do anything about it, if I got too close to land.

   Not only that, sailing somewhere takes AGES. People who didn't complete Wind Waker because of all the sailing will do best in staying far, far away from Suikoden IV. Also, it doesn't help that Suikoden IV has, without doubt, the highest encounter rate I have ever experienced, save for maybe the japanese versions of Final Fantasy V and Tales of Phantasia. Of course, you will encounter monsters while you're on your ship as well.

   I had a bit of trouble placing Suikoden IV on the originality scale. The battle system, the interface and visual style are all very similar to the previous titles. However, the setting has changed quite a bit. Suikoden IV takes place in a world of islands, where you have to travel by ship in order to get anywhere. This also changed the "wars", as previously mentioned. When thinking about it carefully though, there really isn't anything besides that that is particularly different in Suikoden IV. The graphics are almost identical to those seen in Suikoden III, only slightly tuned up.

   So, with all that concluded, there is one important question remaining. What exactly is Suikoden IV about? Does it have a story, and in that case, is it good or bad? Yes, Suikoden IV does have a plot, taking place 400 years before the first Suikoden game (though with the true runes and 108 stars of destiny present). And while it does indeed relate to the previous games, I never felt like I got more out of the plot as a whole after playing it. It's more like a side-story to the Suikoden world than a plot of its own. You play as a young soldier who is by accident "chosen" by the True Rune of Punishment. In the process, he is suspected to have caused the death of a beloved commander from the army in which he serves, and he is thus expelled from the empire. After meeting up with a few loyal friends, the hero goes out on a quest for justice, which ultimately leads to liberating the world, in a very clichˇ manner.

   All in all, Suikoden can take anywhere between 15 and 30 hours to complete, depending on how many characters you want to recruit, and how much you actually want out of the game. There are a few sidequests and optional bosses, but nothing of particular value. After you've finished the game there's a newgame+ function, where you can bring most of the stuff you had over to your next run.

   After Suikoden III had been released, I was hoping Konami would give the series a rest, realizing that there would never be a game like Suikoden II ever again. With Suikoden IV, I have lost every bit of hope I ever had in these games. Hopefully, there will be no more Suikoden titles, because this one only proves that the series needs to be left alone.

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