Game Review: Suikoden 2 (PS Vita)

Welcome to another edition of Throwback Thursday! Today, I review Suikoden II, a 1998 PS One game about friendship, destiny, and power.

The second entry in the series is an improvement from its predecessor, although once again it’s unclear why a taciturn teenager ascends to military leadership and is repeatedly framed as a nation’s only hope (apart from the obvious appeal to target gamers). As an RPG, it’s certainly certifiable as a classic, with great music, lots of sidequests, customizable parties, and multiple endings.

Combat/Gameplay: 8/10
The combat system is unchanged from the original: players can choose a party of up to six members, dividing them between the front row and the back row. Characters have short-, medium-, or long-range weapons, so players must choose a mix (i.e. no swords-only party!). Certain combinations of characters can perform Unite attacks, which deal variable damage depending on the attack (e.g. 1.5x damage against all enemies or 3x damage against one opponent). Runes equipped on characters allow for offense or healing, and can also be embedded in weapons for status effects (e.g. poison, extra fire damage).

Levels increase by gaining experience through random encounters or boss fights. Characters have only one weapon throughout the game, which can be sharpened up to level 15 for maximum damage. Items, armor, and other miscellany can be bought in town stores, and later on in your very own castle. This is all very standard.

And now, my complaints:
  • The runes are annoying because you need to go to a Runemaster to attach or remove them. So if I get one in a dungeon, I have to wait to use it. And the process isn’t streamlined, either – for instance, if I want to replace a Fire rune with a Thunder rune, I go to the Runemaster, select “Remove,” select the character, select the Fire rune, and then select “Attach,” select the Thunder rune, and then select the character. Much faster if “Attach” automatically removed any rune in a slot. 
  • This game is frustrating for completionists, because instead of enjoying myself I’m frantically checking guides to see if I need to recruit someone else on my 108-must-recruit list or else miss them forever. And then I fall into the internet hole where I’m on a gaming board and someone asks about a hammer, so I click that link and discover another two characters that will be coming up waaaay later in the game…le sigh. It’s my own fault, true. But I will complain about it anyway! (shakes fist) 
  • What’s the point of the castle bath if it won’t heal my characters or lead to funny situations? 
  • WHY IS TEXT INCONSISTENT--NEEDING ME TO PUSH A BUTTON TO CONTINUE DIALOGUE ONE MINUTE, THEN RUSHING THROUGH ENTIRE SPEECHES THE NEXT GRRRR
  • In the war battles, I just let the AI do everything. Pfeh. Waste of time. 

Other than that, gameplay was fun. I especially enjoyed the cooking showdowns, and running around my expanding castle talking to everyone.

Soundtrack: 8/10
Before playing Suikoden II, I listened to the OST on Youtube and was impressed. It’s a vast improvement from Suikoden, much more dramatic and moving. You know it’s a decent OST when you don’t mind hearing the same pieces over and over again or for long stretches of time.

My favorite theme is Vincent and Simone’s – I don’t know the title, but it’s very French and satirical, skewering both weirdos for their pretensions and over-the-top clothing. Cracks me up every time!

Story/Characters: 7/10
Meh. The main protagonist has all the charisma of unbaked dough, the bad guy is a standard-issue “kill-‘em-all” evil villain with no motivation, and the sikrot real villain is only slightly more compelling than day-old pizza. (Real talk: would eat. The pizza, not Jowy.)

As with the first Suikoden, the story is about two big armies fighting each other, but unlike the first game, Suikoden II does start off pretty strongly plot-wise with a betrayal and separation and all sorts of drama. And as your hero fights back and gathers more to his cause, tension spikes up as the villain marches closer and another betrayal occurs. You must fight your best friend omg!

Leknaat, a recurring NPC, appears again to hand out True Runes. “And YOU get a rune! And YOU get a rune! And YOU get a rune!” She’s the Oprah of True Runes. As of this game, players still have no clue what her deal is apart from she has her own True Rune and babbles about destiny. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As for the 108 Stars of Destiny – let me put it this way: when I finished the game and little tiles popped up telling me what happened to each of them after the war, I was like, “Who is that?” for about half of them. Although it was pretty cool that the characters I recruited who had non-battle roles (e.g. innkeeper, warehouse keeper) dressed up as soldiers to make the enemy retreat at one point. Cool moment there.

Favorite star: Shiro! A white wolf with a blue bandanna tied to his leg who can be equipped to attack twice in one turn! AWOOOOO!

Villain: 7/10
Like I said, the initial bad guy is standard-issue. He just wants to kill everyone and uses rude language too! Boo! Meanwhile, the sikrot real villain is reluctantly thrust into a position where he must fight his best friend. At the end of the day, he acted honorably enough. It’s just that, y’know, he led an army to destroy five major cities because he thought the world wasn’t big enough for his country and its neighbor. So still a tool.

Visuals: 7/10
Suikoden II doesn’t compare to the visuals in some games using the same console (e.g. FFVIII), but its sprites are adorable. I especially enjoyed the animations of the hero shaking salt into a wok during the cooking contests. The character sprite hugs are cute, too. Even highly emotional moments are conveyed well, like when the hero is completely shocked and trembling with rage.

Also, the enemy monster designs are great! Lots of variety!

Bonus category: Grammar
Oh. My. God. Whoever did the localization is a ferocious enemy of the correct use of apostrophe. I recall multiple instances of "it's" used instead of "its." I just can't. 

TL;DR: A step up from the first Suikoden, and an enjoyable RPG in its own right. 

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This post brought to you by hunger! I’m hungry!!!