Suikoden II Review
Way back when during the era of Playstation Domination, the market was flooded with an array of great JRPGs. During this heady period, it wasn’t difficult for many of them to be overlooked thanks to the fact that only the words ‘Final Fantasy’ sat on the tips of a non-educated gamers’ tongue. As a 12 year old kid, I too was taken in and so I would rent anything that had Squaresoft printed on it (yes even Ergheiz), It wanted anything that looked like a turn based RPG and played similar to the types of games that dazzled my precocious mind. Surely enough I found games that weren’t just alliterated titles and was lucky enough to discover the likes of Grandia, The Granstream Saga, Breath of Fire III/IV, and a little number I like to call Suikoden. Little did I know what I was getting into when I rented Suikoden II, a game that sent me on a path of JRPG enlightenment.
Suikoiden II takes place three years after the events of Suikoden. The story this time around follows a prince named Luca Blightwho has gained control over the Highland Army and is plotting a war against the City State of Jowston. As soldiers of the Highland Unicorn Brigade, you and your compadre, Jowy Atreides are caught in an ambush and are forced to run away from the army. Instead of serving the bidding of the evil prince, you and Jowy join a gang of mercenaries within Jowston. Like in the first game, the quest for the True Rune becomes the primary focus and on the way slowly you develop into the leader of a new army, with the intention of stopping Luca Blight and the Highland Army.
As it stands, the events are similar to those in Suikoden II’s predercessor and for this reason a quick-glance of my earlier review is recommended for complete newcomers to the series. This time around there’s another 108 characters to recruit and you are able to summon the know-how of both friends and foes from the first game. The story takes a few twists however and from the outset it’s clear that this game boasts an all round better package.
Each member of the 108 Stars of Destiny has their own function and role and their place in the story has a greater purpose. Many of them have their own personal-sidequests, and unlike in the first game, they will only join up if you meet certain requirements. As your roster grows you gain the ability to fill out your headquarters and this can end up out-sizing many of the game’s own towns by the end.
As far as the gameplay goes, the normal battle system has been marginally improved but otherwise stands similar to the original. Magic scrolls can be used as items to cast spells, melee attacks can be used against multiple enemies, and there is more variety of the unite-attacks and the rune power-ups. You can also equip multiple runes, allowing a single character to be much more useful than he or she may otherwise be if they’re on the single-tip.
One-on-one duels stay the same as the original and as far as big changes go, the most notable are the strategic war battles. Instead of being a rock-paper-scissors based system again, you have a basic SRPG system which is comparable in design to the the popular Fire Emblem series. Each one of your units holds three different characters and unique abilities have the power to wipe out enemy units if used effectively. The more characters you have the more force you can wield so experimenting with different tactics is often the root to a well-fought victory. Just like in Suikoden, you can lose your units permanently, but if you’re really unsure of what to do, you can use an AI to do the hard work for you (beware: they suck).
As far as other minor changes go: the inventory system has been revamped and now you have a single place to store items for the whole party, every character has individual equipment slots, and you can sprint without using runes. The latter of these alterations ensures that it’s easier to get to places much faster than before.
Hardcore warriors will probably be happy to know that difficulty has been adjusted to make the game at least somewhat challenging. Whereas Suikoden I was sometimes as testing as sitting in a hammock and being fed coconuts, this game requires substantially more tactical thinking. It’s important to make much more use of specialty runes and the leveling system now understands that being you shouldn’t find obliterating enemies to be too simple. Recruiting some characters can be a bit challenging as some of them are pretty hidden and many will require you to fight them in order so that they may join your band of merry men. The game’s length has been doubled and owing to the more-complex story, the game’s sidequests are longer but this comes at a cost as backtracking plays a far bigger role than I would have liked it to.
In technical aspects, Suikoiden II has gone through the awkward adolescent-phase and finally reached man-hood. The graphics are far superior, the cities are bigger and more detailed, and most of the characters are properly animated. The effort that Konami put it in obviously shows and though the game has aged by modern-standards it’s still easily appreciated. The FMVs may well be a sign of the time as far as PSOne games go,but many of them still look very cool. Further, the sound department excels and the soundtrack is a lof more memorable, as are the boss battles.
Last but not least, now you can finally play the game with just your left hand, in case you have other really important things to do with your right hand. This is something I found out mid-way through the game and it really gave me the freedom to, ahem, multi-task while still enjoying the delights that Suikoden II can offer for JRPG afficionads.
For me the game is a step up from Suikoden I in every conceivable way. Here, you have a JRPG with decent length, well-balanced difficulty, and a story department doesn’t suffer from all the horrible cliches that tend to keep older JRPGs in the cupboard. I really enjoyed revisiting the game and I wouldn’t hesitate to shout to from the rooftops that it’s a must play for anyone who’s interested in the JRPG genre. It’s easy to get into the game regardless of whether you’ve played the original or not, and there’s a good reason why many tend to overlook Konami’s original game and jump head-first into this one.
Genre – JRPG
Platforms – Playstation 1