Suikoden 4 originally came out, I was quite skeptical.
Considering how much RPGs of late have deviated from their
origins, it's easy to lose faith in this once stoic pillar of
the gaming world. However, with a need for a new game to fill
the void between the end of KOTOR2 and the start of Xenosaga
2, I decided to hope for the best.
On one hand,
S3 was a vast disappointment to me as a fan of the prior
Suikoden games and S4 could just be a further degradation. On
the other hand, the people who talked the most crap about S4
are the same ones who seemed to have hated the brilliant
original Suikoden game. So, I took the risk.
who don't know the background, Suikoden is a game based off of
"Outlaws of the Marsh", an ancient Chinese book
about a man who gathers 107 other people of destiny to
overthrow a corruption in the government, while remaining
loyal to the actual Emperor in their own way. As these people
are wronged by the government, they soon begin a life of exile
and find their way together. With time, they form a base of
operations, a code of conduct and laws, and an army. That's
basically the plot of all four Suikoden games in a
nut-shell...except S3, which is a little lite on all of
Also, in the
Suikoden world, the biggest physical part of this fate and
destiny element is the True Runes. Magic and special abilities
are gained by attaching a magical rune to one's hands and
forehead. With these runes, new magic and special powers are
freely utilized. However, these runes that the common people
use are merely imitations of the 27 True Runes, which cannot
be created or destroyed. Whenever one of these True Runes
surface, the bearer ends up being a tool of change in the
4, the True Rune in question is the Rune of Punishment. This
is a rune that drains the life of it's bearer until he/she
dies and the rune jumps to the nearest possible victim.
As the plot
of S4 begins, the hero and his friend Snowe (the requisite
whiney bitch of the game) are graduating military training to
becomes knights. During this time you receive a brief
introduction to the world. It is 150 years before the events
of Suikoden (the first one, that is), and you are in the
southern seas. The land is basically made up of a dozen or so
small island states (in other words, a ship will be your
primary means of movement). Each one is mostly independent,
but most of these islands are on friendly terms. The land you
come from, Gaien, is the only one to show a strong military
presence. On top of this, there's also the power of the
pirates, who are quite common and diverse.
first mission as a real knight, Snowe is to escort a merchant
ship to another island, while you serve as his first mate.
Since Snowe's father is such an influential man in Gaien,
Snowe gets much larger levels of responsibility than his
cowardice and inept abilities deserve. So, during your escort
mission, pirates attack, and Snowe freaks out (abandoning ship
as you stay behind to command). You fight back and defeat the
pirates, just in time to have your commander show up to help
save the day (and hog the glory). Sadly, this pirate you're
fighting is the bearer of the Rune of Punishment. As he dies
from the wounds you inflicted on him, the rune jumps to your
commander (who shouldn't have been there since you beat this
pirate by yourself with no problems).
A few days
later, you commander, who is freaking out from some weird rune
related mental stress, is forced to defend your base from
another pirate invasion. Your commander then forces all of the
knights out of the main keep of your base and tells them to
defend the island while he does something suspicious and all
alone. During this battle, he blows up an armada with his
rune. When you break the rules and enter the keep for no apparent
reason (it's the only thing you can do to progress the story
at this point in the game), your commander dies, the Rune of
Punishment jumps to you, and Snowe enters just in time to
witness the last moments of your commander's life. Snowe,
being the whiney bitch that he is, decides that you must have
killed the commander, so you're framed by fate and found
guilty. You get exiled from the knights and sent forth into a
world with nothing to your name besides a cursed rune.
and plot of S4 are highly detailed and most small details are
fully explored by the plot. Most of the 108 characters who
will enter your group are given highly involving and
interesting back stories. All in all, the only downfall of the
plot is the moment you enter the keep and receive the rune
since there's no reason, in the plot, for you to do this. It's
the only vague and unexplained part of an otherwise
outstanding plot. Well, that and there's the fact
that you'll not find yourself interested in some of the 108
SoDs, but the others (the interesting others) make up for
who've ever played a traditional RPG, this is something quite
familiar for you. Namely, the place where I'll start is; the
you control a party of up to four people (and a support
character who will help you heal after combat, find more
treasure, etc). These four people (I'll just assume a full
party) are in a horizontal line in front of the enemy force's
line. You can use magic, items, physical attacks, special
attacks, run, auto attack (everyone just attacks physically),
etc. It's the same stuff we've seen since FF1. In fact, it's
like FF1 in how the magic works too. You have spell points per
level of spell that you must use for all spells of that level.
So, if you have a level 1 healing spell and a level 1
offensive spell and 2 magic points at level 1 spells, then you
can cast both once, or either one twice before hitting an inn
to refill your MP.
magic, you get these spells from runes that can be attached to
one of three body parts (the hands and the head). So, in a
strong magic user who is good with runes, you can have three
different spell sets, but some people are limited to fewer. As
you level, more body parts (of these three) open up for rune
attachment. Also, you can put on runes that give special
attacks, such as Kika's Falcon rune that deals extra melee
damage. As for the main character's Rune of Punishment, that
one takes up a slot also and cannot be removed or changed
battle, you are give a special attack called "Rush".
With this attack, you will deal good damage to the entire
enemy line while your hero gets healed a couple hundred HP
(like with FF1, hundreds are as high as your HP go). This
ability needs to be charged by attacking normally for many
rounds. Once it's charged, it goes out of combat order (which
means it happens as soon as you select it, and then you can
resume the combat order as if you never used it). This,
besides limiting your battle party to four people, is the only
change to standard combat in S4.
have the other two combat staples of the Suikoden series. The
one on one duels are back, and the large army combat is back.
In the duels, you have to guess your oponents next action
based off of what he/she says prior to his/her next action.
Then it comes down to a paper-rock-scissors style of combat.
If the enemy is going to defend, you can attack. If the enemy
attacks, you should use a strong special attack. If the enemy
uses a special attack, you should defend. It's that simple.
However, unlike the old Suikoden duels, the visuals on these
duels are much improved. You will actually see swords striking
off of swords, blades will spin and be used with finesse, and
a defensive move will look like the person is trying to defend
themselves. None of the old standard run up and something
happens and then run back to your position.
type of combat is the one that changes in each Suikoden title.
Yes, this is the all out military/kingdom battles. Since S4 is
based in a land of islands and seas, the battles take place
between ships. Each ship has a captain (who determines the
movement and the ability of the ship as a whole), up to four
gunners (who will fight by infusing the cannons with one of
their elemental runes), and up to four fighters (who will
fight when you board the enemy vessel or the enemy boards
yours). The cannons are the meat of this style of combat. It
comes down to two simple facts; the first being that you can
only fire at something on your side (since there are no
cannons on the front or rear of a naval ship). The second fact
is that each elemental type is weak to another and strong to
another (water beats fire, fire beats wind, etc).
Each time a
cannon is shot, the target can counter attack if they are able
to. If the elemental forces are the same, neither shot gets
through and the attack is negated. However, if one is a
stronger element, then the weaker one is destroyed and the
stronger shot gets through. If neither are related, then they
both get through. Prior to a battle, you will know the enemy's
cannon types to help in making the decision of what elements
to use on your ships.
battles come down to boarding actions, then the game gets
lame. The enemy will almost always greatly over power you and
then the losing ship (usually yours) will be destroyed. That's
it. In these boarding actions, you cannot do anything except
guard and make a melee attack with your defenders/invaders. No
running, runes, items, Rush attack, etc. It sucks when the
enemy boards you and you're stupid if you board them.
all there is to combat. It's mostly the familiar stuff from
prior Suikoden games, without the lame pairs setup of S3 in
normal combat. However, with a smaller number of party members
and with all of them being in the front row, you will find
little reason to use regular mages when a slightly less
magical fighter-mage will take more hits. Also, you will now
find far less reason to use all 108 Stars of Destiny when you
can only hold 4 at a time.
experience, however, it has remained the same. This is a great
thing with bringing new people into your party. When you
gain 1000 experience, no matter your current level, you will
gain a level. However, as you gain levels, the amount
you gain from a given enemy will lower. So, a lower
level character may gain 10,000 from an enemy later in the
game, while your hero (who will always be high level since you
always use him in combat) will gain only a couple
hundred. Then next fight, that lower level guy may only
gain 5,000 (since he/she did just gain 10 levels). This
type of pattern will keep going until that low level character
is around the same level as your hero in only a matter of 5 or
6 fights. This has always been the balancing factor in
Suikoden games that allows one to use all combat friendly
Stars of Destiny without fear of wasting time leveling them
As for the
rest of the game play...well, a vast majority is like what
you'd see in any modern RPG. You walk around town, you
fight battles, you buy equipment, you recruit you new members
(sometimes with some weird methods, like bringing them a
flower seed, etc), blah, blah. It's mostly tried and
true stuff, and that's definitely not a problem.
movement on the world map is done via ships. On a ship,
the navigation is vague, the movement is a little tedious
(it's not as slow as most reviews would like you to believe,
thanks to the R1/"speed up" button). There are
very few islands to visit, and a lot of water that looks the
same. Plus, until you visit an island, you will not see
it on your chart of the ocean. This means you will have
to blindly look for a new land mass in a vast dessert of
other downfall to the game play of S4 is the actual game
progression. You can expect to be confused a few times
on where to go next to progress the plot. You will never
be told, after the tutorial part of the game ends, to "GO
TO THIS PLACE!". Instead you will have to trigger
an event by just guessing where to go. This is a pain in
the ass until you manage to collect a certain member from all
prior Suikoden games, who will give you the means to transport
to any major location in an instant.
game play is well produced, but there are a couple of
flaws. The flaws aren't enough to ruin an excellent game
play engine, but they will be enough to get a reaction every
few hours of playing. Also, as for those who complain
about the massive number of random battles; they are quick and
not a real hassle once you realize that they exist.
seen a good number of reviews complain about the mediocre
visuals...sigh...this game is freakin' beautiful. The
water effects, in particular, are amazing. Every time
you enter a battle, the transition from travel to combat
screens involves a water ripple effect that, if you realize
what it is, will make you feel a nice sense of awe at these
beyond the effects, this game is still loaded with vibrant and
amazing visuals. Characters look nicely realistic, the
monsters have a good level of detail, the ships look like
ships. It is all well put together and amazing.
The only real lack of detail is found in the loading screens,
which are an obvious nostalgic experience put in place for
fans of the original Suikoden games. Take a look at the
loading screen and you'll see the only poor looking graphics,
but they are still great looking considering what they are
For those of
us who remember the Suikoden games from the beginning, you
will especially appreciate the improved visuals in the
duels. In a duel, you will see both the offensive and
defensive characters acting in response to each other
actions. Unlike the prior Suikoden games which simply
had the character with the advantage act while the other remained
stoic and unmoved, everyone involved is full involved in the
visual aspects to the duels.
real downfall to the visuals is not in their quality, but
their quantity. Since this game takes place in a land of
water, you will see mainly water. This will be some
really nice looking water, but it will be a big amount of
water with nothing else to it...except also you'll see your
ships. It does grow tiresome, after a while, but
fortunately you can stop relying too heavily on ship travel
after about 10 hours of playing the game.
of Suikoden have been greatly improved in this latest
game. The first thing you will notice when you put in
this game is the crisp and clean sounds to the music.
The music, while less inspiring than that of the prior 3
games, sounds wonderful. While it doesn't live up to the
overall feeling that was invoked in the prior Suikodens, it is
still beautiful on it's own.
thing you'll notice are the sound effects. You'll
especially notice the world sounds like a beach. I don't
mean it sounds similar to a beach, I mean it sounds like the
real deal. While the world may look plain with the lack
of land masses, there are plenty of sounds and audio details
to keep your mind happy.
change from prior Suikoden games in terms of the sounds is the
voice acting. In prior Suikodens, there was a complete
lack of voice acting, and this was a good thing. In most
games, it's hard to find a good voice cast of a dozen people,
but with 108+ main characters, a good voice cast would be a
miracle. While there are a few annoying voices, like
Cheipoo (one of the characters who is with you from the
beginning, sadly) with his squeeky voice of annoyance, there
are some really brilliantly acted parts. In fact, as a
whole, the voice cast deserves a good solid B grade.
Some of the voices, especially a majority of the main
characters, are flat out brilliant, and of a quality not known
in video games. Considering how a good 60% of the game's
dialogue is spoken, this great acting definitely helps to make
Suikoden 4 an even better overall experience.
This game is
not perfect by any means. However, unlike the majority
of reviews would like one to believe, there is definitely a
good game in this package. This game, also, is not
for RPG gamers who are anything less than serious about their pursuit.
If you are a gamer who plays RPGs that SquareEnix brings out
with an un-yielding devotion, this is not a game for
you. If you got into Suikoden 3 and not a single other
Suikoden perked your interest, then look elsewhere.
However, if you are a fan of the old Suikoden games, and the
RPGs that don't need to rely 100% on eye-candy, then you will
feel great with this game in your hands.
by ship mechanism may be tiresome at times, and the actions
you need to take to advance the plot may be vague and
confusing, but beyond that, Suikoden 4 is a piece of art to
the lost art of RPGs. So, despite having two minor
flaws, I cannot find any reason to give such a fun game as
Suikoden 4 anything less than a
solid 9.0 out of 10.
brave hero needs a hair cut badly
us fans of nostalgia...isn't it pretty?
of Suikoden 1, enjoy this mini-spoiler
and below you'll see your base...it's a ship
your base, you'll also have a fleet of smaller ships to use in
I said, a lot of water and very little land
and below, naval battles