Suikoden II – PlayStation
Release Date: December 17th, 1998
Nerd Rating: 9.5 / 10
Reviewed by Rhutsczar
Thank you Japan for becoming the masters at making role playing games. I decided to finally try out Suikoden II after researching the game in depth for an upcoming list over on Watchmojo.com. Lets just say that it almost takes my number one spot for favorite RPG. Unfortunately, that title will still belong to Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (A review will be up soon for that one). Anyway, lets keep going into the review.
Suikoden II is obviously the second game in the franchise, and I wish I was able to play the first Suikoden to begin with. Oh well.
You take control of the self-named not so silent protagonist, we will refer to him as Riou (his Japanese name in various adaptations) and his best friend Jowy Atreides as they get wrapped up in the war between the Highland Empire and the city-state of Jowston.
Starting out as members of the Highland military, their regiment is scapegoated by the remaining military to increase the empire’s morale. Split apart, they meet a mercenary group led by Suikoden I characters Viktor and Flik. A new threat appears on the horizon, in the form of Prince of Highland and mass murderer Luca Blight, crippling Flik’s group. In order to combat Blight, Riou and Jowy are given two halves of the Rune of the Beginning, only signing their fate.
In a desperate move to reunite the scattered mercenaries, Riou is appointed the commander of the new army. Throughout out numerous battles between the Jowston army and Highland, it is eventually revealed that Jowy has allied with Luca Blight and is trying to reform from within the military. Which way will reveal results? You have to play to find out.
If the main quest isn’t enough for you, there are plenty of extra objectives for you to complete. You can collect all of the the hidden martial arts squirrels, or take on Clive’s ranger side quest, or the Unlocking Mcdohl quest (Which can only be completed if you loaded your Suikoden I data) just to name a few.
The true task of the game is collecting all of the 108 Stars of Destiny. Stars of Destiny is just a fancy term for the 108 main characters, but its sounds quite a bit better doesn’t it? My first play through of Suikoden II actually (and not regretfully mind you!) had to use a guide, since I wanted to make sure I collected everyone and obtain the true ending. A couple words of advice. If you decide to take on this task, watch your time and talk to everyone!
Karma update. Since I played with a guide 90% of the game, I missed the last two choices and screwed up the true ending. I’m not playing with a guide again.
While Suikoden II is the second game in the series, it is not necessary to play the original to understand the game perfectly. The game is a solid standalone sequel story, but it definitely doesn’t hurt for some context. Many characters from the original do feature and appear this time around, and if you have a save game from the original Suikoden then you receive awesomely fun advantages! When you recruit the original characters, they will come with increased level and elite weaponry. It pays off to invest.
What makes a game even better? When it has an impressive orchestral soundtrack of course. We have composer Miki Hagashino to thank, as he blends classical yet cinematic overtures together to make a creative yet varied score. Hagashino is also none for his work in the Life Force and Gradius series’.
When it comes to the actual game play, Suikoden expands on the traditional JRPG battle system. The game uses the”Active Battle System” from Final Fantasy fame, yet tweaks it for use of six party members over three. This is incredibly useful as you can pair characters across lines for combination attacks. They are quite often more powerful than just a single strike, but a only a handful of people can combo. In these regular battles you can also use runes if active, which serve as the main magic force in the game. Many of these have some pretty cool animations, like Jowy’s level 4 Black Sword Rune, Hungry Friend.
Then again, that is only the first type of battle that is offered in Suikoden II. There are two other types of battles that serve to move key plot points along in the game. Let’s talk about large scale battles first. These battles occur only a handful of time throughout the game, mainly invasions of another army’s territory. You control a large group of units that consist of about three main characters and a handful of unseen soldiers each, with about 10 or so in total. This turns Suikoden into essentially a game of chess and need to be played properly to achieve the best ending.
Alright, the next form of battles are duels. These duels normally occur between Riou and a key opponent that is standing in his way. Three most notable that come to mind are with Flik to prove your strength, Luca to kill him once and for all, and Jowy to prove loyalty. You only have three different attack options, but by paying attention to what dialogue your opponent says before each attack can help you determine what option to select. Tedious, I know. But these are the battles that matter.
Tired from all of the many battles you triumphantly won in a landslide? Take some time to chill out at your castle, there are plenty of extra tidbits to explore. Once you unlock the necessary characters to run the individual sectors (part of the 108 stars) then you can even have a nice little fortress for yourself, come equipped with shops of all kinds, a blacksmith, a tavern, a farm, and even a bathhouse! There will be no funny business going on there, as male and female characters bath in separate baths.
You don’t have to shop there, you also play a variety of mini games. Everyone loves mini games! At the farm you can play a version of whack-a-mole. It was easier playing on the PSX controller rather than on PCSX the second time through. Abusing animals not your thing? Try out Chinchirorin. This is a dice game much like a fantasy tavern version of craps, and is very difficult to learn. Once you understand it though, you can make plenty of money. There is also a rope climbing test, where you challenge other clones of you to a race up to the top of a cliff. Unlike the previous two mini games, this one is actually useful to gain some pretty rare and high-ranking items.
One last point here. By far the largest and funnest mini game is the cooking competition with castle chef Hai Yo. First off, in order to succeed in this game, you need to collect as many ingredients as you can from shops and NPCs around the world. Then you have to collect hidden recipes as well. You cook alongside Hai Yo for four different judges (characters you have wandering around your castle) and they all have very different tastes. Try not to lose as you can lose a very important item that Hai Yo worked so hard to obtain.
Also for a quick roster suggestion, this was my main set up for the majority of the game, also a short key to help with the positions.
- S- Short, can only attack from front row (or in Luc’s case, magic from behind)
- M- Mid, character can attack from either row with efficiency.
- L- Long, character can only attack from rear row.
- M- Riou, Main character of the series, Weapon: Dual tonfas.
- S- Flik, Commander of mercenary group, Weapon: Odessa (Long sword)
- M- Killey, Treasure/Sindar hunter, Weapon: Shadow (Dual Blades)
- M- Nanami, Riou’s step sister Weapon: Nunchuks
- S- Luc, Powerful apprentice mage. Weapon: Wind Rod (Staff)
- L- Clive, Knight Class Gunner for the Howling Voice Guild, Weapon: Sturm (long range rifle)
Alright, so that is all I have to say this time around. Suikoden II is a fantastic example of a JRPG, yet this is a classic that any fan can pick up and play (everyone really should). Pick it up for the intriguing story, the advanced battle system, or just for collecting all of the characters.
The choice is up to you. Should I continue playing the extensive Suikoden franchise? Let me know in the comments below.
If you haven’t gotten your fill of RPGs yet, be sure check out Juuchi Yosamu’s review of Xenogears!
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