During the mid aughts, I harshly reviewed two games that I didn’t give a fair chance: Suikoden IV and Suikoden Tactics. Links to both reviews (unchanged – despite being cringey as Hell) will be at the bottom of this retrospective. This year, I had the opportunity to play and replay more games than I usually would. (I suppose it’s one of the silver linings of quarantine.) Two of those games were Suikodens IV and Tactics. I’m not sure why I decided to revisit both of them; it had been years since I last went through anything in the series. But, I’m glad I did. My views on both of them have changed. Both have issues, but neither are as bad as I originally thought. I wanted to write a retrospective of sorts that gives a more clear picture of the two games.
Let’s start with Suikoden IV. From the jump, it’s clear that there’s a lot working against this title. Instead of another gorgeous anime opening like the one featured in Suikoden III, it’s an instrumental piece with some in-game footage. Things continue to not look so good the more you play. Instead of six characters, your party is limited to four. A support character can be added but they don’t participate in battle. The world map is a giant ocean with a handful of islands to explore. Controlling your ship (your main method of travel) is a chore. Top it all off with some awkward and spotty voice acting and generic 3D character graphics, and it’s clear that Suikoden IV got the short end of the development stick. Despite all of this, Suikoden IV isn’t as bad as its reputation would lead you to believe. There are some great story moments, the tactical battles are actually enjoyable, and recruiting most of the 108 Stars of Destiny isn’t as guide intensive as other games in the series. One aspect that gets a lot of criticism is the length. I was able to get all of the SoD and beat the game in about 30 hours. I appreciate the short game time even if the narrative was a rush job. Suikoden IV might be regarded as one of the weakest entries in the series but it’s inoffensive. I’m glad I finished it for multiple reasons (fans of the first Suikoden will be especially delighted) but perhaps the most important one is because of the bonuses and insight it provides for Suikoden Tactics.
Suikoden Tactics starts before the events of Suikoden IV and picks up after said events when you’re about two hours in. Obviously, I highly recommend playing Suikoden IV (and getting all 108 Stars of Destiny) before Tactics. Many familiar faces from Suikoden IV can join your team; seeing them again is a treat. Some of my original issues with Tactics still stand: non-story character art lacking eyes, character graphics looking amorphous, and the inability to not advance text quickly. A new complaint I have is the story feeling rushed. I completed the game in 40 hours, but most of those hours were spent preparing for battle, finishing side-quests, or in combat. But, the story it tells is endearing and the chemistry between Kyril, Andarc and Seneca is worth seeing. Combat was where the game really shined. Originally, I called it too slow. I’m not sure what was going on in my head when I made the criticism. Battles aren’t snappy, but that’s SOP with a tactical RPG. To add, combat always provides a decent challenge and requires the use of some strategy no matter how well you geared up your teammates. I appreciated that combat was never mindlessly easy or overly difficult. When the credits rolled after the final battle and story beats, I was bummed that the adventure ended.
Real talk: I can’t picture a scenario where either IV or Tactics will be remembered as the greatest games of all time. Neither game does anything that’s enough to make you drop what you’re playing and switch to these. However. I had a good time revisiting both of these games and can say my outlook has changed for the better. This isn’t the first time when I gave a game I didn’t like a second chance and have it turn out well. If there has ever been a game that you dropped prematurely, then consider giving it another try. That’s what I did with these two titles and it was worth it. Thanks for reading!
Original Suikoden IV Review: http://kashelltriumph.com/suikoden-iv/
Original Suikoden Tactics Review: http://kashelltriumph.com/suikoden-tactics/