Weapons, a staple of RPG's, are no less important in the Suikoden series. However, Suikoden is different from many other RPG series in that each weapon in the game is attached to a specific character and cannot be removed. Each weapon has a strength statistic that is represented by a number next to the weapon's name. Total attack power in battle is calculated based on this number combined with a character's strength stat.
Since new weapons cannot be equipped in Suikoden, the weapons possesed by your characters must be sharpened to increase the bonus that these weapons will afford to a character's total attack power. Sharpening is accomplished by paying a blacksmith in a town or the main castle for the service of sharpening. Each time a weapon is sharpened it increases a level and has a fixed amount of attack power specific to that level added to its base attack power. Also, as weapons are built-up, the name by which each weapon is represented in a characters Stat chart will change as specific levels. This name change is primarily aesthetic, but in some games the name change has been accompanied by an unusually large increase in a weapon's strength at the level corresponding to that of the name change. Each Blacksmith in the world has a specific level that they cannot sharpen your weapon beyond. The only exception to this is the blacksmith that you can acquire in your castle. The maximum level that they are capable of sharpening your weapon to can be increased by acquiring new hammers for your blacksmith. Commonly there have been four hammers that you can acquire: Iron, Copper, Silver, and Gold. The one exception to the hammer rule was the original suikoden game wherein you acquired a number of blacksmiths along your journey that each could sharpen your weapons a higher level than the last.
In the entirety of the main series, the maximum level for all weapons has been 16 with one exception. In the original Suikoden game, Mace, the blacksmith that had the ability to sharpen weapons to level 16, could not sharpen his own weapon which started at level 15. This has been the only playable character in the suikoden series thus far known of that could not have his weapon sharpened to level 16. It is also worth noting that the hammer system was adopted immediately after this game and has remained the system for improving castle blacksmiths since.
Each weapon has one of three ranges attached to it: Short, Medium, and Long. These ranges are represented next to the name of weapon on the stat page of its character by either the letter S, M, or L respectively. Short range characters cannot attack from the back row and can only attack the front row of the enemy team. Medium range weapons can attack from both the front and back rows and can only attack the front row of the enemy team. Long range weapons can attack from both the front and back rows and can attack any row of the enemy team. This same system applies to the weapons of enemy characters. The range of an enemy weapon is never made explicitly known to the player, but a player can usually infer from enemy appearance or attack patterns which range the enemy possesses.
In Suikoden V, the option to change your formation was added. Each formation would provide a special formation skill which could heal your party, boost stats, or intentially draw attacks to certain members. In these cases, the range of the characters attacks would significantly affect his/her hit ratio, but short-range characters are now allowed to attack.