Suikoden II

Suikoden II
Suikoden II Cover
Platform PlayStation
Genre Unite Attack RPG
MtAMinutes to Action 14
Score 7  Clock score of 7Gameplay: 5
Fun Factor: 7
Gfx/Sound: 9
Story: 6
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Suikoden II is a rare PlayStation RPG that can fetch some pretty ridiculous prices on eBay, with sealed copies climbing over $200. Expensive doesn't necessarily mean the game is any good though, as I've seen friends pay many bills for mediocre games that triggered the nostalgia portion of their brain. Either way, Suikoden II is a Konami developed role-playing game on a Squaresoft dominated system and thus never saw sales for this odd sounding game that came close to most other games. The Suikoden series is still being developed by Konami but many fans consider this as the best in the series.

The game itself features an interesting political storyline with highly memorable characters. This description reminds me of Final Fantasy XII, but the difference between the two games is that in Final Fantasy XII the characters seemed far removed from the political scheming where in Suikoden II our heroes are right in the mix of things. The battle system is unique in that your team of fighters consists of six characters in turn-based combat. There are also 108 total characters you can recruit to your cause, a number that seems way too high but is actually manageable and keeps the game entertaining. When not in use, all your recruits hang out in an ever-expanding castle that also serves as your home base.

This is all extra information mostly non-applicable to just the first hour of gameplay, but I consider myself a Suikoden II evangelist and will take any opportunity to push it to the masses. Now let's get started with the first hour of Suikoden II.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the hour begins. First things first, I need to name my main character. Greg, of course. I'm then asked if I want to load saved data from the first Suikoden, interesting, but not today. Our little guy flashes his nunchucks and we begin loading.

Suikoden 2 Riou Jowy Tent

01 - We're overhead at a soldier's camp at night, a blonde haired fellow is walking around outside and enters a tent with Greg in it. His name is Jowy. It looks like Greg is one of those Silent Protagonists who never speaks and his words are implied throughout.

02 - The two talk for a bit, something about Greg's family and his sister Nanami and a dead Master Gengaku. I get the option to get some fresh air with Jowy and we head outside. Jowy joins my party, that was quick.

03 - I talk to the soldiers in the camp and they keep mentioning a peace agreement, some soldiers like it, others don't. What's up with these characters by the way, they're all super skinny and tall.

05 - We head north out of the camp. I can see a waterfall in the distant but it doesn't seem like I'm going to trigger a scene or anything.

Suikoden 2 Riou Jowy Captain Rowd Surprised

06 - Whoops! Guess I entered the captain's tent and he's pissed that we're out of our uniforms. I head east from the campsite this time.

07 - I see a man hiding in the shadows but then he runs off, Jowy doesn't want me chasing him tonight, I guess we're going home tomorrow anyway.

08 - Time to hit the hay, we both crawl into our beds. Woah, I can hear men shouting. "Surprise attack!!!" Intense music starts playing.

Suikoden 2 Riou Jowy Camp On Fire

09 - Jowy joins my party again. The camp is on fire! Captain Rowd runs up to us. The City-State has broken the peace agreement! He tells us to save ourselves and run east.

11 - Men are dying and injured all over. Before we run into the woods Jowy stops us, he says that the enemy must know this is the only way out and that there must be an ambush waiting. This kid has a good military mind. We head back to warn Captain Rowd.

12 - Oh no! Rowd has betrayed his own soldiers to Prince Luca! Man, that Luca guy looks evil!

Suikoden 2 Luca Blight Evil

13 - Jowy and I agree to run north, no where else to go.

14 - Rowd and some soldiers have followed us! Time for our first battle. The screen switches to a 3D like isometric battle. The characters are still sprites though and they look pretty good.

15 - I have the option to do a Unite attack with Jowy, that seems obvious like an obvious choice! Jowy and I circle our enemies in dramatic and lightning quick fashion and hit them all hard! The weak soldiers go down. Only Rowd left. Next I just attack individually, Rowd counters Greg but then Jowy defeats him. The battle animations are really slick and pretty nice looking.

Suikoden 2 Riou Jowy Rowd Unite Buddy Attack

16 - Jowy realizes we have to jump off the cliff into the water, I half-heartedly agree.

17 - Jowy and Greg make an X on the rock with their knives so that if they ever get separted they will return here to meet back up. We jump.

18 - The graphics switch to sepia tones so it must be a flashback. The opening credits start appearing slowly. Some kids are playing hopscotch. Could be Greg, Jowy, and maybe Nanami? Next it's three little bit older kids with an older man, maybe Master Gengaku?

19 - Then Greg and Jowy looking out over some plains followed by Greg and a girl at a grave. The next scene features Greg and Jowy performing some fancy battle moves against each other in front of a bunch of soldiers.

Suikoden 2 Riou Jowy Landscape

20 - Finally it is the march to war, Greg and Jowy included in the ranks. The flashback is over, and a dark-haired man starts talking. He says "this punk is a waste of time." That punk might be me.

21 - Greg wakes up surrounded by three men, Jowy is no where in sight. The man introduces himself as Viktor, and says he's my enemy! He's a mercenary and friend of the City-State of Jowston (which sounds suspiciously like Jowy). Another man enters, his name is Flik. Viktor and Flik argue for a minute.

23 - We all head back to their fort. Viktor shoves me in a room and locks the gate. Guess I'm a prisoner.

Suikoden 2 Riou Viktor Captured

24 - A kid named Pohl walks up, time for breakfast, and then I have to work. My job is to push all the boxes against the wall... are you serious? What is this, Shenmue? Pohl demonstrates the difficulty involved. Oh, then I have to clean up some rope! Haha.

26 - With the room nice and tidy, I head out, but Pohl has the gall to check my work. Time for supper already after that "hard day's work"!

27 - Greg goes to town on his meal. The next day I have to run errands. Two pairs of boots, three flints, and two bags of flour.

29 - I run around collecting stuff from people, but the storeroom is out of flour!

Suikoden 2 Riou Pohl Eating Food Prisoner

31 - I'm exploring the base, pretty large place. Flik apologizes for not saving Jowy. I'm sure he's okay.

32 - Pohl tells me we'll have to go to Ryube village for the flour, but someone will have to escort me. Why not Pohl? Woah, my escort is Gengen, some kind of giant fox person! Creepy. He's a Kobold warrior. A little kid named Tuta wants to tag along too. Why not. Both Gengen and Tuta join my party.

35 - Gengen warns us about monsters, awesome. Woah, overhead map of the area! I have to head northeast. Hope I get into another battle.

36 - Well, Ryube village was about 10 steps away. There's some traveling performers setting up in town; Bolgan, Eilie, and Rina are there names. They have portraits and real names so they're probably important.

Suikoden 2 Riou Overhead World Map

38 - We get the flour at the store, but before we go back Tuta wants to have some fun. I'm not sure where this "fun" is so I just head out of town and back to the base camp. Too bad I didn't get into any fights.

40 - I'm locked up again and fed. The next day my chore is to clean up oil spills around the building. Odd. I get down on my hands and knees and do the work though.

42 - I clean up about five spills and then it is dinner time again.

43 - The next day, an intruder has arrived, it's Jowy! Wow, he's come for me! Jowy joins the party, time to haul out of here.

Suikoden 2 Riou Jowy Flik Viktor Knocked Down

44 - We run upstairs and encounter Flit, we're desperately outnumbered but Greg tries to bust through anyway, he's knocked on his rear end by Flik's sword hilt.

45 - Now we're in the war room with Flik and Viktor for an interrogation. Viktor doesn't think our army could have originally been ambushed by the City-State, so we tell them the truth about Luca. Luca Blight.

46 - Viktor isn't going to let us go home, so he locks us both up. Pohl comes and feeds us both. Jowy offers me his carrots, how sweet.

48 - It's nighttime now and Jowy is ready to bust out, he asks what I'm holding: flint, oily rag, and rope. The perfect escape combination! Jowy uses a spoon to open the cell door.

Suikoden 2 Riou Jowy Rope Escape

49 - Sweet, Jowy distracts the guards by lighting the oily rag on fire with the flint and chucking it across the room. We head out on the balcony, let the rope down and escape to safety.

50 - Jowy and Greg agree to head to Kyaro town, where Nanami will be waiting. I'm back on the world map but I have no idea where to go!

52 - We do battle with some CutRabbits, they're fluffy bunnies wielding axes! We both level up to level 3 with the win.

53 - I decide to head west. We get into a battle with four Cousin Its, the Unite attack takes them down quickly!

Suikoden 2 Riou Jowy Attack Cutrabbit Closeup

54 - We find a bridge but some men won't let us cross to Radat town. I guess west wasn't the right way.

56 - Our Buddy Unite attack continues to kick butt. Kind of overpowered actually... Level four!

57 - I find Toto village, this is where Jowy floated ashore. Cool, I can save my game at the inn. I haven't saved yet at all.

59 - I leave town and head east and enter North Sparrow Pass, it's pretty foggy here. Some soldiers tell me that the path to Highland is closed.

60 - In the final minute I decide to head all the way north, but Toto is as far as I can go. I supposedly can head west through Toto to Muse, but another soldier blocks my way. I'm stumped, but that's the end of Suikoden II's first hour.

Time for some scores out of 10.

Suikoden 2 Luca Blight

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 14

Gameplay: 5
Lots of variety with the graphics, but not so much in the gameplay. But it is a console role-playing game so they're not exactly known for much more than walking around and being in battle. The battles themselves seemed really, really easy. I had plenty of hit points, and my Unite attack with Jowy was incredibly overpowering. I have a feeling this is one of those games where the battles are either really easy or really tough, but time will tell if this Unite attack will be available for much longer. Running is necessary to get anywhere fast in the villages or camps, but you have to hold a button to do so. I know that Suikoden II was released before running was the standard instead of the slow-walk, but it is still a pain. And my last complaint is on the way the dialogue was handled. It's pretty slow appearing so you're constantly tapping the X button to move it along, but if you tap it too fast and an option appears for you to select, you'll automatically select the top option and you'll have no idea what you selected! This happened to me at least three times in just the first hour.

Fun Factor: 7
Suikoden II's first hour is an enjoyable experience, we get a good story and an interesting cast of characters, along with great looking animations and battles. The story slows down a bit too much about half way through though, and my hour ended with me having absolutely no idea where to go next. Something I don't appreciate in a world this large. Other than that, I had a good time.

Graphics and Sound: 9
The animations in Suikoden II are quite impressive. The characters and environments are not any more detailed than some of the best looking Super Nintendo games, but Konami was really able to step up the depth and complexity of the battle animations on the PlayStation. Check out the Unite Attack screenshot, there's a lot going on here and it really looks nice for its day. 2D sprites will never die, and Suikoden II is one of many games that really prove great artists can enhance a game's appeal. There is a ton of variety in this PlayStation RPG: detailed characters and animations, excellent art design (especially in the flashback montage), nice looking character portraits, and a very detailed (if sparse) overworld. And this in a game where the super skinny characters really bothered me at first.

One of the most important aspects of an RPG is the music, and Suikoden II doesn't disappoint there either. There were some great songs playing, especially during the dramatic flashback, and some were typical village songs that must be a pain to write but are a necessity for a game like this. The battle sound effects were also pretty good, with the sound of numchucks banging on the enemy's head.

Story: 6
Suikoden II's first hour is the story of two young men conscripted into a war that should be over, but one evil man seems set against that. After a surprise attack, the two friends, Riou (official name) and Jowy are separated and Riou is captured by his former enemy who thinks the war is really over. Jowy then busts Riou out and they set out for home. This all sounds pretty exciting, and the first half is. But once you're captured, the game grinds to a halt as you're ordered to do a bunch of remedial tasks. This isn't Suikoden II's way of training you either, this is just an out of the way route to provide a means of escape. So up until the flashback montage, everything was really great.

As for the characters, Riou is a silent protagonist. Something that was really popular at this time but you don't see it very often anymore. Once voice acting became mainstream for RPGs, that seemed to be the end of an era, not that I'm complaining though. Jowy, Rowd, Viktor, and Flik round out the rest of the hour's main characters, and I think they're all starting to be developed well. And of course we get our first look at Luca Blight, the game's arch nemesis. Once again, games that introduce the ultimate bad guy early on usually do much better developing him and making you believe that he is evil.

Overall: 7
If you can find this game, definitely give it a try. Suikoden II is unfortunately too rare for its own good, there was a PSP port a few years ago but it was never released outside of Japan. The game's first hour is pretty good, especially for a console role-playing game, though it does take rather long before the first battle starts. Suikoden II doesn't come close to something like Final Fantasy VII's first hour, but if I may say it, I believe the game as a whole is the best RPG I have ever played. Geez, here I am way out stepping the bounds of just reviewing the first hour. Time to end this before things get out of hand.

Suikoden 2 Riou Art