Suikoden II - Underappreciated But Imperfect

Suikoden II - Underappreciated But Imperfect

After years of unavailability, Suikoden II has been re-released. The big question, of course, is how good this classic really is.

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This comes across as a situation where you were disappointed because people promised too much. There's no way the game could live up to those expectations. Absolutely no way.

I'll also say that if you look into some of those minor characters, there is a lot of depth to them. Rikumaru for example, claims to be on a journey looking for revenge. He's also noted to be from the same village as Mathiu, the strategist from the first game. Other characters have similar bits of trivia, though you would have to use the investigator to know all this. And the various returning characters, especially Viktor and Flik, do grow a bit and get some pathos.

On some level, you almost have to have played the first. Partly to get some more depth on the story and characters (Jowstan is actually mentioned in the first and is cleverly used by your army to win a battle). And partly to get some of the bonuses, like being able to use the first game's hero in random battles.

Suikoden 2 is easily one of my all time favorite games. Probably in the Top 10. It's not perfect (I didn't even think that when I first played it), but it is incredibly charming.

Oh, and War Battles in the first game were also literally just Rock, Paper, Scissors, too. So those came a long way in Suikoden 2.

Unfortunately, I felt that the story's execution was, at times, uneven. To be sure, when it focuses in on the war and the surrounding political intrigue it's exhilarating. I personally couldn't get enough of the twists, turns and backstabbing that make up some of the best parts of the plot. And don't even get me started on the scenes involving Luca Blight. They pull no punches with this guy. He destroys villages, conquers cities and proudly murders people for the sheer fun of it. He's an unrepentant embodiment of human evil who is absolutely intimidating and steals the show whenever he's on screen.

Glad you liked the game. It is nice to see it get some recognition after all these years of trying (and largely failing) to tell people how good it actually is. But, this is odd that you say this here, as Suikoden II has no plot twists, and Luca Blight is not by any means evil.

He is a bad person, to be sure, but also a post-Freudian character, that is to say that there is no real "good" or "evil" in the world of Suikoden.

There has never been a plot twist in any of the Suikoden games, because characters act in ways that are completely consistent with their established psychologies and philosophies. The fact that this may seem like a "twist" to some chalks up to just how bad the cliches and tropes of game storytelling and popular culture have become, and just how superior Suikoden really is.

Edit: Also, I have really come to despise the Game of Thrones comparison, the writing in Suikoden games is vastly superior, especially when compared to the TV show and not the books.

Suikoden... 2? I'm very surprised that you'd call this a classic over the far superior original Suikoden game. Suikoden was a masterpiece; Suikoden 2 was a huge disappointment to me after the first one, and an average jRPG at best.

I actually own the original Suikoden II. And Suikoden. And III, IV, and V. I'm still waiting for VI to be honest.

My love of this game comes from the fact that it was the first true sequel game I ever played. When Flick and Viktor came back, I hit the roof. And then, when you got to go back to the city in the first game, the roof exploded. And when you are able to recruit your hero from the first game with his same name (although the name is a bit glitched)? Just wow...Also, loved the fact that you finally get to see the conclusion to Kasami's love story in the second game.

I adore this game, and I'm glad you liked it too. You nailed everything in your review, brief though it was. I always had a set of characters that I preferred in ever Suikoden game, while others I just got and never bothered to even try. Some do have some interesting backstories, like Clive. If you can basically beat the game in under twenty hours, you get to see his own special side quest come to an end from the first game. Other characters have mysteries that I am dying to find out, like Jeane. Anyone who has played the series knows what makes her special.

And Luca was indeed nuts. He is truly a great villain, and the boss fights--that's plural, with a 's'--to kill him were some of the most intense fights I've ever had. The guy just would not go down. It takes a literal army to beat him.

What, there are people comparing Suikoden II to Game of Thrones? I own all the Suikoden games and it's my favourite JRPG series, but that's just dumb. A big appeal to the series is that rather than being a group of plucky teenagers on a globe (a very small one) trotting quest to save the world from destruction, Suikoden is more grounded being set in a single country or two and the story revolving around politics and military conflict. Also it's all set in the same world so each new release can expand the world and build off the last game... though they kind of dropped the ball on the latter, as only 1->2 was a true sequel. 3 was close but it took a bigger leap ahead feeling like a game was missed in between, 4 was a 'prequel' and not worth mentioning, and 5 could almost be a standalone.

Anyways back to the point, Game of Thrones, or A Song of Ice and Fire, is renowned as a top fantasy series known for taking what had become to some a stale fantasy genre and turning it on it's head with a gritty & realistic 'grown up' story. The only thing you can say about Suikoden II in this regard is it would make a good fantasy novel in it's own right, which would be quite a rarity in the JRPG genre. But comparing it to 'Game of Thrones' is just plain lazy.

Not every moment is enthralling, though. There are times when the game definitely drags things out too long (infiltrating the Greenhill academy) and its cast of heroes struck me as being largely less interesting than its fantastic villains. A lot of this owes to the fact that Suikoden II, famously, includes more than 100 recruit-able NPCs. Now, to be fair, the whole recruiting shtick is, legitimately, one of the game's bright spots. It adds a nice collection element and helps to establish a tangible measurement of your army's growth. Unfortunately, when you have that many characters, it's hard to make all of them memorable. The game certainly makes some admirable efforts to combat this problem. Different characters brought to the same plot event will, for instance, usually have unique pieces of dialogue written specifically for them. In my experience though, there were characters the game clearly favored and the rest were different degrees of bland.

That's a minor annoyance I've always had with JRPG's in general, and Suikoden takes it to a whole new level with so many characters. But while it's often maligned by fans of the series because it made a number of changes but this is one area where I really like Suikoden III, which I rank just a step below II. No you're not following the story of a single protagonist & friends, it has a much different structure being broke up into chapters that jump between 3 main (story) and 1 side (castle) character. The effect is the story naturally puts to use about 30 active combat characters. Still leaves a lot of unused characters but far far less than the other games in the series.

I Looooooooooooooooooooooooooooove Suikoden 2. My only gripe is the 20 hour timed quest for one of the characters necessary for the 108 stars to get best end. It interferes with my desire to grind my party and talk to all the NPCs. I know it's all usually useless information, but it's world-building information.

Also I'm upset there hasn't been a new one in years.

And I don't care what anyone says, the 108 stars thing is fun as hell. Collecting all the good guys, some are fighters, some aren't, some have quests you can do, and almost everyone has a rad sick combo move they can perform.

My handsdown favorite auxilary character has got to be the Gumshoe private detective. His part in the main story was really subtle but he ultimately SAVED THE WHOLE CONTINENT WITH A COIN. WITH A COIN! Everyone else does it with combat, but no.

This dude sets gears in motion with just a coin.

Plus I love how he can reveal backstory on everyone in your army, it's pretty cool to find all these details without serious digging on my part. Just wish he did it a little quicker.

RandV80:
Anyways back to the point, Game of Thrones, or A Song of Ice and Fire, is renowned as a top fantasy series known for taking what had become to some a stale fantasy genre and turning it on it's head with a gritty & realistic 'grown up' story. The only thing you can say about Suikoden II in this regard is it would make a good fantasy novel in it's own right, which would be quite a rarity in the JRPG genre. But comparing it to 'Game of Thrones' is just plain lazy.

Not so.

Unless you're using a walkthrough to help you complete the game and achieve the best possible ending there is more than enough character death in Suikoden II to give Games Of Throne a run for its money. Not only do non-playable characters die like crazy, but plenty of player characters can also die depending on how well you're doing in the game and what sort of choices you've made.

And say what you will about Games Of Thrones, most people describe it by the amount of character death that takes place.

Re: Game of Thrones. I've never watched the TV show, but I've read the first chapter of a few of the books in the series, and I don't see the appeal. It doesn't reveal any interesting world building, and the characters are so "realistic" in their selfishness and "evil" nature that I might as well read some real person's diary. I read fiction because in fiction good people can win, I don't need fiction to tell me that in reality life sucks, so I really don't get that type of "grown up" story telling.

RE: Game of Thrones

As I said the comparison is pointless, as the two are trying after very different things. Song of Ice and Fire is obviously influenced by Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Suikoden (Water Margin, Shui hi zhang, etc), but takes a more postmodernist and dare I say nihilistic approach, at least thus far. Whereas Suikoden (the Games) are about power, both political and military, the disenfranchised, and balancing the power necessary to bring about positive change and the inherent corruption that power always brings. Among many other things.

In this sense, Suikoden is vastly superior to at least Game of Thrones TV, which is primarily concerned with boobs, and while the SoIaF series is not yet finished, it is looking like it might fall a bit short, unless Martin pulls off some serious philosophical gymnastics in the last couple of books, which by all means is possible.

If you allow me to pull an ab auctoritate, you can take it from me, being someone with full literary training and a published author and all that. I talk about it a bit more here on a podcast I guested on: http://youtu.be/diqeESQkq4g

If you won't let me get away with that, then I'll just refer people to the Kallipolitan. They did and excellent article on the series as a whole: http://www.kallipolitan.com/issue-3.html

Hectix777:
My handsdown favorite auxilary character has got to be the Gumshoe private detective.

Plus I love how he can reveal backstory on everyone in your army, it's pretty cool to find all these details without serious digging on my part. Just wish he did it a little quicker.

I totally agree, he might very well be my single favorite aspect of the game; I've replayed it several times over the years (I was lucky enough to grab it immediately when it came out, never knew it became so expensive until a few years ago), and I always postpone the ending until I've spent hours on that aspect of the game, leveling my underused characters during the downtime.

Suikoden 3 has a character who serves the same purpose, but he is based on Japanese child detectives and I regard him as a much less interesting personality, and lacking entertaining 'hardboiled' commentary in the bios.

My friend the mediocre gameplay of the Game of Thrones RPG is better plot then entire series combine in my opinion. Then again JRPG characters are normally very flat.

Now you want a good game I highly advise you to play Lisa the painful RPG.

While it doesn't hinder this review or the validity of any points made therein, I feel it should be mentioned that one reason the Suikoden series was revered as a whole was because of their overarching storyline. Characters from past versions make everything from cameos to full returns in later sequels, and the stories of the past are often mentioned in some small form. This, then, created an ever-developing world with each new game, as we came to know more about the lands and History of Solis.

Suikoden 2, in particular, blended most of these elements well, arguably better than most of its sequels. In particular, if you had a Suikoden save file, many subtle things about the game would change, and you would be able to recruit the Hero from the first game as an Uber-powerful Unit. However, even without a save file, the story and events of the first game do still show their impact on this game's lands years later. I also believe that most people prefer Suikoden 2 to the sequels because the sequels kind of downplay this aforementioned overarching storyline. The lands depicted in 3-5 were much more far removed from the lands of 1 and 2, which were practically neighbors. This meant that many of the tales of 1 and 2 were seldom referenced, and there were fewer and fewer cameos as the games went on. Gameplay-wise, I think 5 came closest to recapturing the magic a lot of us felt for 2, but by this point there there was only a single character (IIRC) that could link 5 all the way back to 1, and none that could link it to 2.

So, yeah, a lot of people who love Suikoden obviously loved it for its story, which was very unique for the time, and its unique blend of mechanics. Say what you will about Duels, I still find them to be incredibly enjoyable, as they add a bit of impact to what would otherwise be another in a long line of 6-on-X battles.

Zato-1:
Suikoden... 2? I'm very surprised that you'd call this a classic over the far superior original Suikoden game. Suikoden was a masterpiece; Suikoden 2 was a huge disappointment to me after the first one, and an average jRPG at best.

Huh. You're the first person I've ever seen that prefers the first game. I just finished up another play through of it a week ago (and am currently going through 2 again), and while I still enjoy it, I just don't see it better than 2 in any way.

For one, the story is a mess. There's some good stuff in there, but it moves at such a breakneck pace that most character beats and plot developments happen in a couple of lines of dialogue (and I mean this literally in many spots). And there is some silliness and nonsense in there (man-eating bacteria, anyone?).

The combat is about the same, but at least the second game lets you equip characters with multiple runes, giving magic a lot more versatility. And while were on the subject of magic, 2 has the decency to tell you what spells actually do.

Character recruitment generally comes down to finding someone and pressing recruit. Occasionally you needed a specific person in your party. 2 had a lot of this to be sure, but it did mix things up with many characters, including a couple great sidequests.

The major battle system was rock-paper-scissors, pure and simple. Not the worst in the series (I personally think 3 has that honor), but not great.

The inventory system. Oh god, the inventory system. Whoever designed that should have been taken out back and beaten with a large stick.

I know I'm ragging on the game a lot, but these are mostly nitpicks coming from a recent playthrough. I do like the game, it was worth the extra playthrough, I just think 2 fixed most of 1's problems.

zerobudgetgamer:
While it doesn't hinder this review or the validity of any points made therein, I feel it should be mentioned that one reason the Suikoden series was revered as a whole was because of their overarching storyline. Characters from past versions make everything from cameos to full returns in later sequels, and the stories of the past are often mentioned in some small form. This, then, created an ever-developing world with each new game, as we came to know more about the lands and History of Solis.

Suikoden 2, in particular, blended most of these elements well, arguably better than most of its sequels. In particular, if you had a Suikoden save file, many subtle things about the game would change, and you would be able to recruit the Hero from the first game as an Uber-powerful Unit. However, even without a save file, the story and events of the first game do still show their impact on this game's lands years later. I also believe that most people prefer Suikoden 2 to the sequels because the sequels kind of downplay this aforementioned overarching storyline. The lands depicted in 3-5 were much more far removed from the lands of 1 and 2, which were practically neighbors. This meant that many of the tales of 1 and 2 were seldom referenced, and there were fewer and fewer cameos as the games went on. Gameplay-wise, I think 5 came closest to recapturing the magic a lot of us felt for 2, but by this point there there was only a single character (IIRC) that could link 5 all the way back to 1, and none that could link it to 2.

So, yeah, a lot of people who love Suikoden obviously loved it for its story, which was very unique for the time, and its unique blend of mechanics. Say what you will about Duels, I still find them to be incredibly enjoyable, as they add a bit of impact to what would otherwise be another in a long line of 6-on-X battles.

What about George? He's a minor character in 2, but plays a huge role in 5 (fun fact: one of his investigation info blurbs from 2 hints at what he does 3 games later). There's a couple other characters, too, including the ever present Jeane and Viki.

I actually liked how 3 took place like 14 years later and we got to see some of the younger characters (and a baby dragon) grown up. On the other hand, I didn't like how 4 took place so far before the other games it was almost impossible to tie it into them.

Crimson_Dragoon:

Zato-1:
Suikoden... 2? I'm very surprised that you'd call this a classic over the far superior original Suikoden game. Suikoden was a masterpiece; Suikoden 2 was a huge disappointment to me after the first one, and an average jRPG at best.

Huh. You're the first person I've ever seen that prefers the first game. I just finished up another play through of it a week ago (and am currently going through 2 again), and while I still enjoy it, I just don't see it better than 2 in any way.

For one, the story is a mess. There's some good stuff in there, but it moves at such a breakneck pace that most character beats and plot developments happen in a couple of lines of dialogue (and I mean this literally in many spots). And there is some silliness and nonsense in there (man-eating bacteria, anyone?).

The combat is about the same, but at least the second game lets you equip characters with multiple runes, giving magic a lot more versatility. And while were on the subject of magic, 2 has the decency to tell you what spells actually do.

Character recruitment generally comes down to finding someone and pressing recruit. Occasionally you needed a specific person in your party. 2 had a lot of this to be sure, but it did mix things up with many characters, including a couple great sidequests.

The major battle system was rock-paper-scissors, pure and simple. Not the worst in the series (I personally think 3 has that honor), but not great.

The inventory system. Oh god, the inventory system. Whoever designed that should have been taken out back and beaten with a large stick.

I know I'm ragging on the game a lot, but these are mostly nitpicks coming from a recent playthrough. I do like the game, it was worth the extra playthrough, I just think 2 fixed most of 1's problems.

The problem with Suikoden I was it came out early on the PS1 and JRPG's were still evolving more complex narrative & characterization. Suikoden I was 'simpler' in the same way all those SNES RPG's were simpler. While Square had started creating more nuanced characters at the latter end of the SNES' shelf like not all JRPG developers were up to speed.

So Suikoden I has a more classic appeal, and would be better for someone who say picks FFIV as they're favourite of that series.

Also the your post below yes I was also going to mention Georg. A main character in Suikoden V, and recruitable in Suikoden II. For my opinion on III it's like what I already said, feels like they jumped 1 game ahead and we missed a bunch of important stuff. Simple spoiler free example, who's the scruffy kid who's carrying around Viktor's talking sword?

It's great and all, but I only have a PSP, and this is the one PS1 classic that they didn't make available.

 

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