Review by Bkstunt_31
"What would you sacrifice to have "the power" to change everything?"
A tale worth continuing...
The Suikoden series is one RPG series that I really haven't had much exposure to, which is a shame as after I played the first Suikoden game for the PlayStation I gave it a 9/10 as soon as I beat it. I really liked its music, story, vast amount of characters and its simplistic effective 2-D graphics. A lot of other people must have liked it as well, and so now we have Suikoden 2.
Suikoden 2 actually has little to do with the first Suikoden. It takes place in the same world, but in a different part of the world, with brand new protagonists. Those of you that played the original Suikoden know that there were greater powers at work within the story, and these people and powers were pretty much un-accounted for at the end. THAT is the real element that ties these stories together, but that story involves the world of Suikoden and doesn't get resolved (or really come into play much at all) during the events of Suikoden 2.
This game is also notable for how much it COSTS. This game is SPENDY! Seriously, if you haven't heard about this before go over to Ebay and search for a copy and you'll discover that you're looking at a triple-digit price tag. Why the high price? Well it's simple supply and demand. The game is good and is also fairly rare, having only appeared on the Sony PlayStation in limited quantities in American. And while the original Suikoden has been released on digital formats (like the PSN store), Suikoden 2 has not. Well, enough with the introduction to the game, let's get onto the actual review!
It seems like we've been here before.
The story features three childhood friends. Our hero (whom you get to name), his friend Jowy and his adopted sister Nanami. The hero and Nanami were adopted by the hero Genkaku when they were both orphans while Jowy soon became their close friend. As they get older Genkaku passes away and the hero and Jowy decide to join their nation of Highland's Military Youth Brigade. However, the youth brigade is attacked during the night with most of the young soldiers being slaughtered in their sleep. The hero and Jowy escape and soon learn that it is not the neighboring county of Jowston attacking, but Highland troops themselves are slaughtering their young countrymen, led by the prince Luca Blight as a means of blaming the attack on Jowston and starting (or, more correctly, re-starting) a war with them. Jowy and the hero escape by jumping off a cliff into a river. From there, the hero will be found by Viktor (from Suikoden I fame) and will strive to re-unite with his friend and sister while taking a stand against Luca Blight and Highland.
Sound familiar? It should a little bit, as the start of Suikoden features a hero leaving his nation to fight against them (it was more of a rebellion then two nations fighting against each other though). Honestly, the story throughout Suikoden 2 has a lot of re-occurring themes and aspects of it brought over from Suikoden. For example, you will still go on a journey to collect 108 recruits to your army (known as the Stars of Destiny, and yes 108 playable characters IS a ton), you will still have a headquarters to expand and house your recruits and another young hero rises up from obscurity to overthrow the great evil. It should also be noted that Suikoden 2 has a SMALL problem with translation issues, as words can be completely left out sometimes and "proper English" isn't always followed.
As familiar as it is, Suikoden 2 is its own story and it definitely starts off with a bang. The characters backgrounds and struggles are masterly told and you will soon find yourself actually CARING about these characters long before the game kicks it up a notch by throwing a massive and unexpected plot twist at you, making you question your friends actions and your own place in the war. The story itself is epic on a grand scale and yet has enough personal touch between this core group of friend to be absolutely heartwarming. The game's story prides itself in its detail of dozens of characters feelings and back-stories, and with 108 recruit-able characters to find and learn about, you are going to learn a LOT of back story. The characters come in waves as you play, as the game's pacing does a good job of making the hero visit a variety of different places during the story. In the end, I found Suikoden 2 is a much more memorable experience than Suikoden and a worthy addition to the series.
Building up an army yet again.
At its core, Suikoden 2 features MOSTLY the same battle systems that Suikoden did. For the majority of the game, you will be in control of up to six characters. The hero is always present and throughout the story you will often HAVE to play with certain other characters (for example, "big sister" Nanami isn't about to let you run off without her). These battles are fairly similar to most RPG's in the fact that you'll encounter random enemies as you explore areas and the battle system is turn based. Six characters however is much more than most RPG's (making Suikoden unique), and to handle it each character has their own weapon which is always classified as a short, medium or long ranged weapon. They are then put into two rows of three characters each, which forces you to think about character placement. With 108 total characters you can have a lot of different setups, but get this: you can actually pull off different combination attacks with different combinations of certain characters! Add on to that the fact that you can outfit each party member with different items, armor and accessories, as well as different runes (Suikoden's Magic system) and you have a LOT of customization to play around with. The leveling system of Suikoden also really takes into account the fact that there's over a hundred characters people may want to play around with. The leveling system gives you experience depending on what your current level is compared to the monsters you just beat, making it easy to take a low level character into a few high-level fights and get them up to par!
All of that previous game play stuff is the same as it is in Suikoden though, so what's new in Suikoden 2!? Well, for one the MAJOR battles are different (you ARE fighting a war after all, there ARE major battles). In Suikoden you used to play a form of rock-paper-scissors to determine who was winning in a major pitched battle. In Suikoden 2 though, battles take place out on the world map, which becomes a grid-based field for your units. Then, you will command different types of units (Calvary, infantry, archers, magic-users) around and attack the enemy similar to the Fire Emblem series, only each unit is led by up to three of your characters and represents hundreds (if not thousands) of soldiers. Each side moves all of their soldiers at once and attacks, then the other side goes. Now, certain characters WILL have their own squad (like the hero or Viktor for example), but you can actually change out who else is in their squad leading it with them (up to three, remember?). Why is that important? Because each person has ABILITIES and ATK and DEF stats assigned to them, meaning you can effectively customize your armies in the major battles. How cool is that? Duels from the first Suikoden also make a comeback, but they are still effectively the same, utilizing another simple rock-paper-scissor system.
Just like the first game, Suikoden 2's multiple battle systems GUARANTEE that the action doesn't stagnate for too long. Add into that all of the customization you could do and the DOZENS of additional characters that require you to go out of your way to recruit (which in and of itself encourages exploration and the undertaking of dozens of small side-quests) and you have got yourself an entertaining and varied game, which every gamer appreciates. I had a ton of fun playing this game and can't really think of anything in it that is really a negative. I thought and thought and the only thing I could really think of is how EASY some of the major battles are. It seemed to me that in over half of the battles (which all have story tied to them, granted), you are constantly facing either a fight you can't win or the enemy either pulls back or has their force diminished in some way.
Simple yet beautiful.
It's no secret that Suikoden 2 was "behind the times" graphically compared to other popular RPG's of the time like, oh, Final Fantasy 7-9. You know, all that fancy "3D" stuff. Being all 2D and sprites lets the developers really focus on making the graphics PRETTY though, and oh boy did they come through in spades. The world map was pretty generic and similar to most RPGs (the lakes are especially beautiful though, with mountains poking out and hiding beneath the water), but the backgrounds are wonderfully detailed. There's so much variety and beauty that you just HAVE to sit back and appreciate it at times. The characters are all sprites, but they are all well designed and animated beautifully. The backgrounds in the original Suikoden were good as well, but I believe Suikoden 2 has that game trumped on variety.
The character design should be the main focus here though, as 108+ characters is a mind-boggling big number. The game has portraits and animations for each of them too, as crazy as that is. Several characters have their own special attacks as well. Not EVERYTHING is perfect though, as I felt the Major battle graphics were frankly repetitive and average at best, but to be fair it's hard to illustrate thousands of soldiers battling I suppose. It's also important to note that the game does have a FEW cut-scenes in it, but they are few and far between (and weren't anything spectacular, to be honest). In the end the game is just a treat for the eyes though, and should still hold up well for any gamer who can appreciate any game that isn't 3D.
A treat for your ears!
The music in Suikoden was quite good. Surprisingly good even. Battle music, world map music, and several town themes were definitely memorable to me. Suikoden 2 features even more music than Suikoden! The soundtrack is yet again heavily composed by wind and string instruments, but can break out the orchestra when it wants to. To get a taste of the soundtrack, head over to Youtube and listen to "Reminiscence" (which is hauntingly beautiful), "An Old Story" and "Her Sigh" (Radat's town theme, which I think is probably my favorite in the game). There's a good mixture of music types in the game, as the track can easily move from touching (note the songs above), dramatic (Battle Themes) and heck, even classical ("If you listen closely" and other tracks). The soundtrack is downright excellent, but I did find one of the War Themes to be a bit too repetitive and choppy. Sound effects are pretty standard, but do their job in bringing life to the game. Hearing the hero's tonfa after a duel is awesome and the rest of the sound effects are just plain satisfying. Overall, the audio throughout the game is easily one of the game's highlights.
Enjoying the little things.
In my time with Suikoden 2 I spent over 40 hours on my way to beating the game. That was with me recruiting all 108 characters and going out of my way to run several small quests to ensure that I get every character, so I have to imagine that you can save a few hours if you just plow through. However, 40 hours isn't me "milking" the game either! There are several optional mini-games you can pursue, including cooking challenges that have you collecting recipes from around the world (there are over 30 of them!), gambling games, and supplying members of your army with hidden/collectible items from around the world (books, windows, farm animals, etc). There's even trading stations in many towns where you can "play the market" by buying and selling items according to supply and demand! And all of that stuff is optional and non-combat related! I mean, you have 108 characters that you can tweak with spells and equipment and learn their special attacks and combination moves (if they have any, that is).
The game also features multiple endings, as well as the chance that you can lose characters in battle and several plot-related choices that I just plain can't tell you that open up entirely new story options. This game is absolutely packed with optional characters, activities and secrets to find. Packed. Any gamer that can get into this game will plenty of re-playability in Suikoden 2.
I don't hand out a lot of 10s, but Suikoden 2 is downright impressive. The story as a whole is easily a 10 given the amount of emotion and detail (detail in the main plot and the character backgrounds), combined with the occasional branching plot paths and multiple endings. The music is fantastic, and the re-playability options (and amount of content period) make both of those categories 10 easily. RPG fans will undoubtedly want to play this game, especially those who have played and enjoyed the first Suikoden. It's not exactly easy to come across legitimately in the United States at least, but now you know why! Have fun and keep playing.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 05/21/12
Game Release: Suikoden II (US, 08/31/99)
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