An orphan boy was brought up in a noble household on the island of Razril, part of a federation known as the Island Nations, which is threatened by their powerful neighbor, the Kooluk Empire. When the boy grows up, he trains together with other young people, hoping to become a knight in the Gaien order. One day, during an escort mission, the knights' ship is attacked by pirates. Through a series of events, the hero is branded with the Rune of Punishment, one of the twenty-seven legendary True Runes. While devastating the enemies, this rune is also bound to deplete its bearer's life. Blamed for the death of his commander, who was unable to withstand the power of the rune, the young knight is exiled from his homeland. He must find a way to use his powers for the good of the Island Nations, fight against a Kooluk invasion, and restore his honor in the process.
Suikoden IV is a prequel to the entire series. The events of the game take place a hundred and fifty years before those of the first game, and the region of the Suikoden universe they occur in are the islands south of Toran. The game retains many classic features of the series: the ability to recruit 108 characters (Stars of Destiny); building and customization of army headquarters (this time a large ship instead of a castle); emphasis on political issues in the story; the ability to equip runes of various kinds in combat that allow the usage of magic spells, etc.
The amount of active combatants in the party has been reduced from six to four in this installment. Once again, there are three types of combat in the game: the most frequent turn-based party-vs.-party combat, duels, and tactical battles, which now take place on sea. The player can customize the the naval forces by choosing captains and commanding officers, and assigning to them runic elements. Each element has strengths and weaknesses to another one, and the player must use them tactically to gain the upper hand. Ship placement on the battle grid and attack angles play a role as well.
New to the series is ship navigation - instead of exploring an overworld on foot, the player navigates a ship, discovering new lands and islands. Also for the first time in the series there is voice acting, a fully rotatable camera, and the possibility to navigate the main character from first-person perspective.
Suikosource (A fansite that contains a complete list of all the characters in all the games, including their background stories. It also contains information about the game world's time-line and geography as well as fan art and gameplay guides.)