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Suikoden 4


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My copy of Suikoden 4 arrived yesterday and I've put a few hours in so far. Unfortunately, it's not something I can pimp at this point. Reports of a boring storyline and an abusively high random encounter rate seem accurate. However, many of the professional reviews have neglected some of the bright spots, which I'd like to briefly mention.

 

I was pleasantly surprised that Suikoden 4 runs in progressive scan, which adds a bit of flash to the somewhat bland graphics. The textures in most parts also seem a bit better than what is the norm for PS2 games. Character models, especially faces, have been significantly upgraded from S3 but they're still mediocre. The character animations in battle are of special note. They actually happen to be the most fluid and realistic I've ever seen in an RPG, and I've played quite a few.

 

The art book given away with the game is actually very nice, and I'd recommend seeing if your EB or Gamestop still has some if you plan to buy Suikoden 4. It's made by Bradygames, and it has 96 full color pages with a fairly stiff matte finish cover. About 60 pages are taken up with character portraits, and the remainder includes things like ship drawings, concept art for towns, information about the runes, etc.

 

The artbook also reveals some worrisome information. It appears that a grand total of one SOD from past games is in S4, and the character designs are pretty boring. There is way too much reliance on greys, blues, and browns.

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Suikoden 4 seems to have a lot more in common with Suikoden 3 than it does with the first 2 games. Suikoden 3 and 4 seem very similar in terms of art direction, cutscene style, etc. Some of the wackiness of Suikoden 3 is gone as the art book did not appear to contain any party members who will incessantly argue with their hand puppets. Duck and lizard people are out, cat people and mermaids are in. All you Shrek 2 fans, get ready for Puss in Boots version 2.0.

 

Suikoden 3 was the first game I played in the series so I'm pretty receptive to the style myself, whereas people who played the games in order tend to dislike 3 & 4. At any rate, I don't think anyone disputes that S2 is the best in the series. For some reason, I never got around to finishing the last half of S2, but everyone including my wife crows about its merits.

 

S4 does scrap the trinity system, which was a smart pacing move. However, I will admit that I liked watching S3's conspiracy unfold from several perspectives(including that of the villains). S4 is shaping up to be a game that I'll probably enjoy myself, but I don't see myself recommending it to the general populace. In fact, I won't have much to say about it for a while since Growlanser III seems much more compelling.

 

Growlanser II is finished and I'm going to have some very positive things to say about it. Let's just say it's in my JRPG all time top 5 along with Xenogears, FF3/6, FF7, and Xenogears.

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