Suikoden IV PlayStation 2
Developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Release Date: 25th February 2005
The PlayStation 2, so often a rich source of quality RPG's, looks set to have another great year as far as the genre is concerned. With Final Fantasy XII and Xenosaga II both set for this year, amongst other titles, it's definitely going to be great for RPG fans. Before those games arrive though there is a little matter of the fourth game in the Suikoden series. Whilst the first two games in the series came to Europe on the original PlayStation console the third game in the series was never released here; something that upset quite a few people who had been waiting for it. For us Europeans then Suikoden IV is the first game in the series to be on the PlayStation 2.
Suikoden IV puts you in the role of an unnamed hero (who you get to name of course but for the sake of this review we'll simply call him hero). Initially you're about to graduate into becoming a Knight of Gaien. The game begins peacefully enough as you're assigned some basic missions before celebrating your graduation. Your world is all set to fall apart though after a battle with Pirate Brandeau. This pirate had the Rune of Punishment embedded into his hand which enabled him to wield great attacks. These attacks come at a huge price though because with each use life is taken from the user. On Brandeau being killed the Rune of Punishment embeds itself into Commander Glen, of the Knights of Gaien, who then becomes very ill. During an attack on their home, Razril, Glen uses the Rune of Punishment to wipe out the attackers and this kills him. Sure enough, on his death, the Rune makes its way into our Hero. Thanks to a cowardly companion, our Hero is falsely accused of murdering Commander Glen and is exiled. Then of course the real story begins.
Having played a lot of quality PlayStation 2 RPG's over the last four years or so, I can honestly say that I've enjoyed Suikoden IV. The games story is enjoyable and for the most part the characters are interesting. However, whilst I would recommend it to fans of the genre, there are a couple of problems that prevent the game from being hailed as one of the better games the genre has to offer. The frequency of the random battles in Suikoden IV, at times, is outrageous. Sometimes there are only seconds between battles. Whilst random battles are so often a feature of turn-based RPG's I've never know a game throw them at you so rapidly. This leads to an increased sense of repetition and may indeed put some people off the game. Thankfully the battles are short and snappy, so although there are plenty of them at times it's not as tiresome as it could be.
Another area of the game where there's cause for complaint is when you're sailing around on the ocean. To be blunt the ships handle like a three-wheeled shopping trolley. You can get around this, to some extent, by using the sea chart which allows you to simply set the course to sail. However as soon as you find somewhere to dock you'll run into another source of aggravation. For some strange reason there are invisible barriers around the islands where you have to dock and unless you sail toward them in a specific path you'll bounce off these barriers, which rotates the ship and leaves you facing in the opposite direction. This often means that you're in for a battle or two before you get to dock (as sailing around is one of those times where the random battles come thick and fast). Sailing the oceans to get from one island to another is a key part of the game and the fact that controlling them just doesn't feel right must go down as a major complaint.
Whilst this is the best looking game in the Suikoden series, the game does fall a little short of other games such as Final Fantasy X and Star Ocean on the PlayStation 2. It's by no means a bad looking game but some locations do look a little bland. The game is in full 3D though and there's none of the pre-rendered backgrounds that we so often seen in a console RPG. As a random battle is triggered you have a water rippling effect on the screen which looks nice and is preferable to the zany effects that usually precede a battle in other RPG games. The game supports 60Hz mode and Progressive Scan too which will please many people and the games frame rate remains constant throughout, which again considering everything is in 3D is a decent achievement.
Suikoden IV is absolutely fine for deaf gamers as the game is virtually fully subtitled throughout with only a few words being unsubtitled at the beginning of the game (surely an oversight). In fact not all of the dialogue uses speech but regardless of whether the conversations are verbal or not text is always displayed too, so you'll have no trouble in following the games events. The text is quite large, placed within a blue dialogue box and is white in colour which makes reading it as comfortable as possible. It would have been good to have a journal or log of the previous conversations (always good to refresh your memory of the games events if you take a long break in between play sessions) but sadly there isn't one.
Many Europeans were annoyed that Suikoden III never arrived in Europe as most of the reviews of the game hailed it as one of the best RPG's on the PlayStation 2. Whilst it's great that Suikoden IV is coming to Europe it's a little disappointing to see the game isn't the best the genre has to offer. The frequency of random battles is simply too great and the inadequate method of sailing from one island to another is another issue that will dampen your excitement for the game. Don't get me wrong Suikoden IV is a good RPG by anyone's standards but the faults with the game are in key areas and they can be annoying at times which is unfortunate.
Overall Game Rating: 7.0/10
Suikoden IV is essentially a good RPG and I'm sure fans of the genre will enjoy the game. However it has some major irritations which might put off less dedicated gamers.
Deaf Gamers Classification:
(Click the letter or here for details)
There's a few words that are not subtitled at the beginning of the game, which aren't that important, but otherwise it's fine for deaf gamers.