Suikoden IV (幻想水滸伝IV, Gensōsuikoden IV) is the fourth main installment of the Suikoden series and the seventh game released overall. It was designed and released for the Sony PlayStation 2.
It tells the story of a knight apprentice and his comrades as they are drawn into the Kooluk Empire's plans for dominance over the Island Nations region of the ocean. The game takes place some 150 years prior to the first Suikoden, making it the first prequel in the series.
Suikoden IV maintains many of the gameplay concepts that its predecessors began and built on although with some streamlined for this title in the series. Battles were reduced to a four member party system with no concept of front or back rows. The skills system introduced in Suikoden III was removed completely and the number of runes were greatly reduced.
The war system changed once again, reverting to a grid system similar to that of Suikoden II but now based on naval battles with ships battling against each other using elemental Rune Cannons. The duel system remains mostly unchanged from its predecessors, but are now slightly more cinematic. Suikoden IV was also the first game to introduce voice acting for certain scenes.
Suikoden IV tells the story of the Kooluk Empire's invasion of the Island Nations region, an area of ocean that has been contested between Kooluk and the Dukedom of Gaien for decades. Events are complicated with the Rune of Punishment, one of the 27 True Runes is inherited by a young member of the Knights of Gaien. Kooluk pursues the hero, hoping to gain the rune, under the manipulations of Graham Cray, a former Scarlet Moon tactician who seems to desire the rune for his own purposes.
Accused of murder, the hero is forced into exile and makes his way to the Kingdom of Obel where he forms an alliance against Kooluk with the king, Lino En Kuldes. Although Obel soon falls to might of Kooluk, the rebels flee and begin to galvanise a force to resist the Kooluk Empire. Eventually the war comes to a head at the Kooluk southern frontier of El-Eal Fortress.
Reception and legacy
Suikoden IV would earn a 30/40 score from Weekly Famitsu on its release, giving the game a Silver Hall of Fame status as a result. This would be the same score given to Suikoden II, and one point less than Suikoden III.
Early 2004 saw Suikoden IV begin getting preview coverage overseas. By this point, the series was considered to be a "cult classic", punching above its weight against titans of the genre, through its intricate and crafted story and gameplay. Outlets encouraged more of the same while also hoping for updated gameplay.
In April 2004, Electronic Gaming Monthly would praise the intention of the game to borrow more inspiration from Suikoden and Suikoden II than its immediate predecessor, while being excited for the game's new graphics, voice acting, and strong single story. As previews continued through the year, the game would begin to be positioned as a lighter, aquatic alternative to darker RPGs such as Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.
Overseas reviews would begin to hit in early 2005. Electronic Gaming Monthly would condemn the game as "basic and dull" and bereft of the personality of its predecessors. The music was generally praised and classic Suikoden touches, such as the growth of your headquarters, were cited as the only reason to continue to the end. The game would score 6.5, 6.0, and 5.5 out of 10 for the magazine.
Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine declared that Suikoden IV reduced the series to "that of a lesser franchise" from the underrated one it had cited it as previously, dismissing it as simplified, bland, and average, scoring it at 3/5. Official UK PlayStation Magazine, meanwhile, would give the game 6/10, calling it "lacking in excitement, fun or any hint of originality".
GamePro would be one of the more positive outlets, giving the game a score of 3.5/5, citing the flaws mentioned previously but noting that the game felt like "familiar Suikoden" and an opportunity to "rediscover the roots of RPG storytelling".
Suikoden IV received middling reviews from critics and magazines and held a mostly negative standing among fans of the series. The streamlining of game elements met with an especially negative reaction. Following the release of Suikoden IV, the number of publications and contemporary merchandise released dropped dramatically, something many fans were quick to pin on Suikoden IV, despite its high sales.
In later years, the game would continue to be considered the weakest of the series by video game publications and a clear demarcation of Suikoden's falling fortunes, though sometimes Suikoden III would be included in that estimation.
The setting of the game would be used as the setting for the 2011 Pachislot Genso Suikoden pachislot machine in Japan.
|The Suikoden series|