Old RPG Review #33: Suikoden II

NuMetalManiak One of the more famous RPGs ever made for the Playstation, and certainly the most popular game in the Suikoden franchise, Suikoden II was developed by Konami in 1998, and takes place roughly 3 years after Suikoden I. It's a well done sequel of the first game, including many aspects of the first game while showing off newer ones. I really enjoyed this sequel.

Gameplay: Much of the stuff from the previous game remains here, the six character battle system, the rock-paper-scissors nature of one-on-one duel battles, and the general recruitment of characters to fill up the 108 Stars of Destiny. And of course, your very own castle is presented, bigger than before, your hero is the leader of this army against the Highland army, and the hero is going to need all the help he can get. To start on some of the new stuff, there's a dash button, which eliminates the need for using a Holy Rune from the first game, and then there are scroll spells, which are items you can use to incur magic damage on enemies. As far as runes go, some characters can get more than one rune slot, up to three, so the customization is good. Characters have rune affinities, though, so the player must be discrete about equipping magic runes. Some characters can do better magic damage with certain elements (Flik doing lots of damage with Lightning, for example), while others, usually physical powerhouse fighters, not so much. Shops in the game can sometimes have "Rare Finds" which can be hard to get items that you'd want to check on.

Perhaps the biggest departure from Suikoden I mechanics is the major battle system. No longer is it a rock-paper-scissors ordeal like the duels and battles in the first game, it is now set up like an Tactical RPG. To be honest, this is not my cup of tea, especially when considering characters can die in these battles permanently. Units move and attack on the battlefield according to their range, and units can be like they were previously, chargers, archers, or mages. Cavalry allows them to move more, while some characters offer bonuses, like seeing success rates in attacks, critical strikes, or avoiding damage. A damaged unit incurs a sword's worth of damage, and another sword destroys that unit. These were pretty hard, particularly the first few battles, but with customization of units, I got into it a bit more.

The last major thing to note is that you'd want to play Suikoden I, save at the last save point, and then load that data upon a new game of Suikoden II. There are characters that return from the previous game, so any you trained up will have bonuses on them. Even better, you can recruit the main hero of the first game with it loaded!

Gameplay Grade: A-

Characters: Oh boy, here we go, 108 Stars of Destiny again, plus a few more characters that are playable: Grade: A+
Tenkai Star: Riou: That's his default name, but he's the hero so name him what you want. Fights with a pair of tonfas, so he hits twice. As usual, all-around good character, is adept in magic and fighting, and he has a unique rune, the Bright Shield Rune, which helps in healing characters in battle!
Jowy Atreides: Not a Star of Destiny, but an early game character who you won't see for a while. He'll get the Black Sword Rune, and this along with the Bright Shield Rune make up the Rune of Beginning. The Black Sword Rune can do some powerful magic like instakill attacks and such. Jowy's just like the main hero, but not around for long.
Tir McDohl: Also not a Star of Destiny, but I wanted to mention him simply since loading Suikoden I data allows you to take a sidequest to get him. STILL a very good character, one of the best in THIS game, and he's still got the Soul Eater Rune. One problem though is if you want to use him, he's in his house and you have to walk through an annoying path of monsters to reach the city he's in, but he's worth it.
Tengou Star: Ridley Wizen: Commander of Kobolds, he's not playable in regular battles, but is a strong general in war battles.
Boris Wizen: There's a certain story branch that, if you take it, Ridley will die, but his Star will be replaced by his son Boris. Pretty much the same thing.
Tenki Star: Shu: The main strategist, the hero reports to him for war battles and such. He's much more cunning than Mathiu was in the first game.
Tenkan Star: Luc: Yep, here's a Suikoden I character. Still a very good mage, but still weak physically. Nevertheless, Luc is better than many other characters in magic (but magic in this game kinda sucks when compared to Suikoden I, actually). He commands a very strong magic unit in war battles, with Wind Magic helping your chances.
Tenyu Star: Humphrey Mintz: Another Suikoden I character, the solid tank returns here. He has a sidequest along with Futch if you want to recruit him. Notably, if he had a Windspun Armor equipped in the first game, he'll have it when transferred over, making him almost invincible in combat.
Tenyu Star: Hauser: He's really just another general, although he participates as a frontline fighter in normal combat if you like. Notable for being one of the few black characters in the series, though.
Tenmou Star: Kiba Windamier: Highland general who joins your cause. He's only usable in war battles, but his heavy armor skill allows his unit to take three swords' worth of damage.
Teni Star: Pesmerga: The black knight returns from Suikoden I in pursuit of another black knight. Still an extreme tank and frontline character. Rather oddly, he joined at Level 99 when I recruited him.
Tenei Star: Sierra Mikain: I happen to think she's one of the coolest characters ever, a semi-evil vampress. She's a very adept mage especially in darkness element, but she can't equip water or resurrection runes. Still, I like her a lot.
Tenki Star: Teresa Wisemail: Mayor of Greenhill, a sort of pacifist at most. Teresa's unit in major battles has access to Bombard which is a special archer ability. It has the biggest range, but low power.
Tenfu Star: Nina: She's surprisingly good in combat, nice as a medium-range and as a mage. Most notable for falling head over heels for Flik upon seeing him. They have a pretty funny unite attack too.
Tenman Star: This slot can be filled by one of three animal characters. I happened to get Feather in this slot. Feather's a griffin, and is quite a powerful fighter in combat. His animal status allows his lesser stats to go directly into his attack and defense and he's got good HP. One problem with Feather is his large animal status takes up a front and a back slot though. Feather's got a unique, wind-elemental rune attached to him.
Tenko Star: Viktor: Guess who didn't die in the previous game? Viktor (aka Bear) is still the king of attack power in this game, further emphasized by him wielding the Star Dragon Sword. He at least gets a unite with Flik in the game too.
Tensyo Star: Valeria: This slot may not go to her, because you can choose either her or Kasumi at one point. Still, Valeria is much better than before. The Falcon Rune is still great, but with extra rune slots, she can be a good spellcaster anytime.
Tomo: You have to choose between Valeria or Kasumi at one point, and this girl takes the remaining Star slot. She's the daughter of Tsai (see below), yet she's just as average as he is, even though they have a unite. Tomo has a surprisingly good attribute for Earth magic, though.
Tenritsu Star: Fitcher: A sort of whipping boy character, he's actually not special in this game except for plot points.
Tensyo Star: Clive: Ah Clive, he's still a simple long range character wielding a gun. However, he gets his own subquest in this game versus Elza, his rival. This quest is timed though, according to the game clock. I had to use codes to get my timer before certain events, because this side story is totally worth seeing. Clive's a badass.
Tenan Star: Flik: Blue Lightning is also alive in this game. Still a very good character in physical and magical offense. This is especially true with his Lightning affinity. Flik's got several units, one with Viktor, one with Nina, and one with the Matilda Knights later on.
Tenyu Star: Tsai: An average medium range character in normal combat. However, in war combat, his Fire Spear ability allows for some powerful damage to units three spaces from the unit he's in. Very useful, although it can hurt your own units too.
Tenku Star: Jess: A Muse informant, and a character that really doesn't offer much other than being somewhat of a jerk.
Tensoku Star: Stallion: The only elf to return is this Sonic the Hedgehog wannabe. As usual, very good speed, the True Holy Rune speeds up overworld travel, and he can at least equip more than one rune in this game.
Teni Star: Georg Prime: He's an overall strong frontline character, and his unit in war battles is great. He was another character who joined at level 99 in my game. Georg makes a reappearance in Suikoden V.
Tensatu Star: Hanna: An amazon, she's an alright fighter at the most.
Tenbi Star: Killey: Killey's a fan favorite of many, and not just because he looks like a red mage from Final Fantasy. He gets three rune slots, above average in rune affinities, and works very well as a fighter. He rocks!
Tenkyu Star: Anita: She's Valeria's rival, and plays similar to her in combat, even with a Falcon Rune. If you have both, their unite is very powerful
Tentai Star: Again, one of three animals. I got Siegfried, the unicorn. He's got great magic power and physical power, but again, large animal status puts somewhat of a handicap on formation. Might as well talk about a few other animal characters.
Abizboah: Said to have the highest strength rating in the game is this squid. For the animal characters, you need Listening Crystals, and only have two of them.
Rulodia: The wife of Abizboah, but not a Star of Destiny. I go for the best ending so I don't recruit her.
Chuchara: The kid of the two squids, this baby is incredibly weak in combat, unless you do some hard training in which Chuchara's HP goes up to 999 for some reason, or so I'm told. Again, not recruited for my game.
Tenjyu Star: Nanami: Riou's big sister, and more or less the Gremio of this game plotwise. She's excellent when it comes to speed though, although not too good with magic. She has an interesting unite with our main character.
Tenken Star: Rina: Part of a circus trio, Rina makes an excellent long range attacker and mage due to her affinities, and was an early game favorite.
Tenhei Star: Tai Ho: The gambling fisherman returns, but he's been rather nerfed. I'll explain in a bit.
Tenzai Star: Eilie: The sister of Rina, a knife thrower, not as good with magic as Rina but still a good character anyways. She develops a crush on the main character too.
Tenson Star: Yam Koo: So the reason I say Tai Ho has been nerfed is because Yam Koo was demoted to NPC status, meaning no awesome fisherman unite in this game. Yam Koo runs a fishing minigame, and it's similar to the Breath of Fire games.
Tenpai Star: Bolgan: The fat fire breather is the last of the circus trio. His Fire Breath Rune is unique to him, but he's better off doing a unite with Rina and Eilie, for much more damage. I don't use him much.
Tenrou Star: Hix: On his journey through this game, Hix is still, rather average, really.
Tensui Star: Tengaar: Helping out Hix is his girlfriend Tengaar. Very much like Rina, she's an excellent long range mage still.
Tenbou Star: Freed Yamamoto: This Japanese soldier joins you for some bits, but he's more or less completely average. He does okay with magic, but he's not really special at anything.
Tenkoku Star: Yoshino Yamamoto: Wife of Freed, laundry lady, naginata wielder, all these make up Yoshino. As you'd expect, she and Freed Y have a unite together.
Tenkou Star: Chaco: Chaco's a Winger, a race of humanoids with bat wings. He's speedy, but not sturdy. At least he has three rune slots. You'd probably hate him at first since he steals all your money. In war battles his Flight ability allows extra movement.
Chikai Star: Klaus Windamier: Son of Kiba, Klaus plays a strategist card here, and nothing else too important.
Chisatsu Star: Gilbert: He leads a war unit, but he's pretty hard to get. You have to get Flik to damage him with a fire spear, dialogue then ensues. Then you got to make sure he doesn't die in that battle. Pretty rough.
Chiyu Star: Tetsu: Runs the bath service like Sansuke did in the first game.
Chiketsu Star: Jeane: Always Jeane every game. She's the runemaster, and seems to like giggling a lot. In war battles she can use powerful lightning magic.
Chiyu Star: Wakaba: A powerful martial artist with a very good speed and high HP count. She's incredibly powerful in combat and has a unique White Tiger rune for extra damage.
Chii Star: Maximillian: Max returns, although he just leads a war unit in this game.
Chiei Star: Genshu: A samurai, he can't equip any runes other than his own Swallow (chance of instakill), but he's a nice attacker. Not really good in other stats though.
Chiki Star: Camus: Ah, the pretty boy knight duo. Camus works great as a swordsman as well as a magician. His Rage rune is fixed, but it can totally kill.
Chimou Star: Miklotov: The other half of the duo. Miklotov is not much of a magic person, but he's a very strong frontline party member. Notably, he's one of very few that can equip heavy armor.
Chibun Star: Jude: Helps build a Guardian Deity of the castle, by giving him Plans you find in game. Pretty weird. The first time you do this, you get an item, but only one shot at doing so, so make it count.
Chisei Star: Lebrante: Castle appraiser, has a thing for the Celadon Urn, which is how he is recruited.
Chikatsu Star: Lorelai: She returns from Suikoden I with, Kirke's weapon? Okay. She's now a medium-range fighter, still average.
Chitou Star: Tony: The farmer of this game, you give him plants to grow in the garden or play a minigame of whack-a-mole.
Chikyou Star: Gijimu: One of three bandit characters, Gijimu's the strongest, and an ax-wielder, meaning he can attack from the back row.
Chian Star: Rikimaru: An early game favorite of mine. He's the first tank character to find in this game, and is pretty good as an attacker.
Chiziku Star: Gantetsu: This large priest is very sturdy, working best as a mage in-game, but not better than others IMO.
Chikai Star: Simone Verdricci: This drag queen is one of two narcissists. He's a long range character with some good magic power, but is limited to only one rune.
Chisa Star: Connell: Does what Melodye did in the first game, changes menu sounds.
Chiyu Star: Hans: The armorer. Like in the previous game, visit shops and then the wares go to his shop (this goes for Jeane's rune shop as well). Unfortunately, your castle doesn't have rare finds. Hans is quite notable, as there's a glitch that can be exploited in game with Hans armory and gain 999,999 potch out of it!
Chirei Star: Huan: The main doctor of the castle. Used in plot points, rather invaluable in war battles since he can heal units.
Chijyu Star: Tuta: A student of Huan's, he's like Huan in war battles. He can fight in normal combat too, but he's got an abysmally low HP count and bad defense, so not going there.
Chibi Star: Futch: Futch is back, journeying with Humphrey in his sidequest. Just a really average but fast fighter though.
Chikyu Star: Kasumi: She can be chosen instead of Valeria for recruiting two other ninjas. Kasumi was nerfed to short range in this game, although she does keep her Shrike Rune and excellent speed. She has the Scout ability in war battles, and if you do the McDohl sidequest, bringing her along reveals that she had a crush on Tir as well. If you choose Valeria, Tomo takes her Star.
Chibaku Star: Badeaux: This Indian joins and gives you Listening Crystals to recruit up to two animals. He's a short range whip user in combat, and can unite with Feather and Siegfried, although you'll need five slots to put all of them in. Strangely, Badeaux doesn't appear in the castle due to a bug.
Chizen Star: Mazus: Very powerful mage, and actually the rival of Crowley from the first game. He also joined at Level 99.
Chikou Star: Mondo: A rather slow ninja, which is odd. He has a good unite with Kasumi though, and a unique Mayfly Rune.
Chikyou Star: Sasuke: Seems like he came straight out of Naruto. The only long ranged ninja, he can unite with Futch and Luc, but it's not a good one.
Chihi Star: Leona: She's the one to talk to to swap out party members in this game. Runs the tavern as well.
Chisou Star: Adlai: Gives your castle an elevator. Can be used in war battles, where his special ability is Invention which throws explosions around the unit, can backfire.
Chikou Star: Raura: Scrollmaker, take magic runes to her and she converts them into spell scrolls. Fringe case usefulness at best.
Chimei Star: Sheena: The horny perverted one returns from the previous game, and much better than before. Sheena gets three rune slots, although his affinities aren't great. I find him best as a frontline attacker with an offensive rune.
Chisin Star: Kinnison: An archer, travels with his dog Shiro, he's pretty average overall. Can unite with either his dog Shiro or with two other archers.
Chitai Star: Shiro: Of all the animal characters, Shiro was the one I used most. He's very fast and powerful, but I abandoned him due to not having armor equippable. Good units with either Kobolds or Kinnison.
Chiman Star: Amada: You have to win a duel against him. As a fighter, he's got good HP and strength, other stats aren't that great. He has a Manly Unite with Rikimaru though, and it's a good one.
Chisui Star: Emilia: Receptionist of New Leaf Academy who silently joins your entourage, she's the main librarian, like Hugo from the first game, give her books so you can read later.
Chisyu Star: Zamza: An elitist type of character, he's got a bad attitude. He is a great fighter in combat though, although his Fire Dragon Rune sucks since it damages him too. He has a great affinity in fire so a regular Fire rune makes him a good mage.
Chiin Star: Karen: The dancer of the game. She's basically like Mina stat-wise. You can play a dancing minigame for some goodies (you have to to recruit her anyways).
Chii Star: Lo Wen: The girl of the three bandit characters, very well rounded.
Chiri Star: Tenkou: Can change window settings.
Chisyun Star: Gadget: A creation of Juppo from the first game, and given to Meg here. Gadget is an outright tank in physical defense, but not really good anywhere else. Furthermore, no armor OR runes can be equipped on Gadget. Very bad I think.
Chiraku Star: Annallee: Like Kasios from the first game, she's the musician to hear all the good music tracks. In war battles, her Encourage ability allows a unit that has moved to go again.
Chitatsu Star: Viki: Always Viki, every game. Here she is now a playable character in normal combat, and a regular mage. However, her rune affinities are awful. She can damage enemies good, but runes have a great chance of backfiring and hurting the party instead. There are other characters with such affinities, but Viki is the most notable one. She's best staying at the castle and teleporting you places, much like in the first game.
Chisoku Star: Koyu: Rounding out the bandits is this speedy character. As you'd expect, they have a pretty powerful unite when all three are used.
Chichin Star: Vincent De Boule: Yep, this guy and the awfully formal music return. He's at least playable in combat, although he's basically like Milich was in the first game. One rune only for him too, and he and Simone have a unite at least.
Chikei Star: Meg: She's back, with Gadget this time. They have a unite together, and Meg also has a unique Trick Rune which, isn't that good. Also her rune affinities are completely odd if you check them.
Chima Star: Mukumuku: Mukumuku starts the trend of the leader of a five animal group, and is the only one that's a star. He's a flying squirrel, but he's weak despite being long ranged. The other squirrels are Makumaku, Mekumeku, Mikumiku, and Mokumoku, and if you bring all five, they have a DEVASTATING unite.
Chiyou Star: Marlowe: A friend of the bandits, he claims he's a reporter but he's actually no one special.
Chiyu Star: Richmond: Starts the trend of castle detective. Pay him potch to investigate characters, sometimes it's pretty funny. Especially the ones on Jeane and Shilo.
Chifuku Star: Apple: She's back, and is the person to talk to to rearrange army units in war battles. Plays much more of a role in this game than she did in the previous one.
Chihi Star: Long Chan Chan: Wakaba's trainer, and another tank martial artist. They have a unite, but only if under berserk status, which makes it even more powerful. L.C.Chan also joined at level 99 with 999 HP when I got him too.
Chiku Star: Millie: I used her a lot, even in the final battle. She has horrid strength and her Groundhog Rune is actually a waste of a rune slot, but her fire and lightning affinities are excellent. Millie makes a great offensive mage.
Chiko Star: Tessai: The only blacksmith in this game. Unlike the first Suikoden, there's only one, and giving him hammers are basically his "upgrades", and also your upgrades too. Too bad you get him so late in the game though.
Chizen Star: Taki: Old granny is a gossiper like Onil in the first game. Not somebody I care for.
Chitan Star: Gengen: A kobold, very much like Kuromimi. Average short ranged swordfighter, I use him only for unites and stuff.
Chikaku Star: Gabocha: Other Kobold buddy, he's actually long ranged, and again I use him to see the unites with Gengen and Shiro. Very bad statwise though.
Chisyu Star: Yuzu: Little kid that loves farm animals, so I give her what I get and she basically runs the ranch.
Chizou Star: Hai Yo: Crazy looking cook, you can go into his kitchen and give him recipes and even participate in Iron Chef style cookoffs. It's basically his own game inside Suikoden II. As a fighter, he's a cook, so he's not good statwise, but I heard he get three rune slots, so he's more versatile than some.
Chihei Star: Kahn Marley: One of my favorite characters in the whole game. He joins you for the segments against Neclord, and is an adept fighter with three rune slots and good magic power. Him and Sierra are very odd characters, but they are both awesome.
Chison Star: Barbara: Runs the storage house. Unfortunately, it's actually limited in space, but still useful.
Chido Star: Sid: Creepy Winger who lives in the sewers. Has a unite with Chaco and like Chaco he can have three rune slots.
Chisatsu Star: Shin: Teresa's bodyguard, this turban-wearing guy is a swordsman similar to Genshu with his own rune the Spider Slay Rune, but it's only usable once per battle. He's got good attack, but is bad elsewhere. The unite he has with Genshu is among the coolest I've ever seen.
Chiaku Star: Oulan: Oulan's a personal favorite. A frontline tank that deserves to have a Fury Rune equipped on her, as it allows unlimited uses of her own rune, the Angry Dragon Rune. She's powerful and awesome. Also has a unite with Hanna, and in war battles, her Bodyguard ability prevents character death in a unit.
Chisyu Star: Shilo: Runs your Chinchirorin game at the castle. That game is a lot harder to exploit than in Suikoden I. Shilo can also be brought into battle, but he's really average as a long range fighter apart from technique stat.
Chisu Star: Alex: A treasure hunter who runs your castle item shop.
Chiin Star: Hilda: Alex's wife, runs the inn. You can exploit inns too to use them for free, but I think Hilda's inn is always free.
Chikei Star: Bob: A Rastafarian dude should not be simply named Bob, but oh well. His Rabid Fang Rune transforms him into a werewolf, for tremendous power. A fun character to use if used right.
Chisou Star: Ayda: Almost entirely like Kinnison, an archer. She can unite with either Kinnison or Stallion. In war battles, her Forest Walk ability allows her easy maneuverability in forests, of course.
Chiretsu Star: Pico: Guitarist of Annallee's music group.
Chiken Star: Alberto: Cellist (bassist?) of Annallee's music group. I don't think either of these guys make the songs any different though.
Chimou Star: Templton: Returns as the mapmaker, and you can actually see the map if you talk to him in the castle. Of course, the Suiko Map itself is a plus, but also in war battles, his Shortcut ability helps if you want to go over, say, a lake.
Chizoku Star: Hoi: An impersonator of the main hero, he's actually sub-par in comparison despite his unite with him. He is yet another one who joined at level 99 (in fact, the first one I got who joined at that level).
Chikou Star: Gordon: Uh, Gordon. He runs the trading post in the game, although that's probably the least-used thing. Recruiting him is the big pain, because you have to earn 50000 potch trading with him, and that was hard.

Plot: If I could say anything about this game's plot, is that there's one villain above the rest: Luca Blight.

Seriously, he's so bad. So Riou and Jowy are best buds in the Highland army's youth division, and their commander Rowd is a douchebag. He has Luca slaughter the unit, yet the buds survive and escape, only to find themselves trying to head back home and convicted as State spies. On the run again we get to see just how evil Luca is as a villain, burning villages down and making a woman plead for her life and making her act like a pig. Only to kill her anyway. He's that evil.

Around the time after this happens, Riou and Jowy both get the fragments of the Beginning Rune by Leknaat (she's yet another character who reappears in every game, I think), and then later Jowy turns traitor and kills the mayor of Muse. On the run, Riou and sister Nanami find other State friends, recruiting all they can and banishing Neclord (yep, he's back, or he never died in the first game to begin with) from North Window, Viktor's old village. This ended up being the castle for the game.

With Riou as leader, more characters are recruited, alliances forged, and battles fought. One notable plot point involves going to the Toran Republic, the setting for the first game, and meeting all the characters who have made a cameo there! I loved this segment. Still, we had to get back to the game anyways, getting rid of that evil bastard Luca Blight is no easy task. Trying to win a war battle, then getting a total of 3 parties to take him down, and then one last duel, this guy was just hard to put down. But it had to happen. This game made him into such an evil bastard, for a totally human character, you cannot possibly deny the fact that he was this evil.

So evil, that even Jowy, who defected, planned Luca's ultimate demise the whole time. Luca's death was really the halfway point, and we still have to figure out a way to remove Highland. After liberating formerly occupied cities and gaining more recruits, it does eventually happen. Riou, Jowy, and Nanami, are really close to one another, so they don't really want to fight directly, despite Jowy's current allegiance. It's only when Nanami's struck with arrows in Matilda that the buds fight together again one last time for revenge. But Jowy eventually leaves Highland when Riou's army invades, waiting at the spot they marked so long ago at the beginning of their journey.

Suikoden II like it's predecessors came with multiple endings. There's a terrible one at the Neclord segment if you deny everything. If you get Nanami a high DEF rating, the Forgiver Sign spell on the Bright Shield Rune, and quickly chose an option during the part she gets hit, then the best ending will be unlocked, but only if you refuse to lead the State after the final boss and duel Jowy at the place where it all began and DEFEND every time. Killing him won't do any good either. This game's got a much better, and quite sadder, plot than the previous game. Grade: A

Music: Alright, I actually enjoyed Suikoden I's music a lot more. In fact, I rejoiced upon hearing the old battle music in the Banner Pass, as well as the Gregminster theme when we got there. Not all songs are bad though. I like how it's a bit more oriental flair than previously, ties rather well considering how many characters have Japanese like names. Grade: B-

Overall grade: A-

Play it at least once, it's got all the things you'd like from the previous game and so much more. The war battles might need some getting used to, and some recruits are pretty rough, but it's the best Suikoden game for a reason. Now I don't know what I'm gonna do for the next RPG Review, but I know I'll be on a vacation some time next month so I won't have the time to do it in the near future. That's not to say this will ever end though!