| Suikoden IV|
幻想水滸伝IV Gensōsuikoden IV
PlayStation 2 Japanese cover art
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.
Suikoden IV received middling reviews from critics and magazines and held a mostly negative standing among fans of the series. The streamline 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.