The Godfather, Aliens, The Wrath of Kahn, Terminator, what do all of these movies have in common with Suikoden? They are storied franchises that showed part 2 is arguably the best in the series. Konami makes Suikoden 2 no exception to the trend of the sequel upstaging the original, as it finally makes its EU PSN store debut as a PlayStation One classic.
If you have not played the first Suikoden then please check out the review for it here due to the similarities between the two games. A lot of what is said in that review about the gameplay basics can be carried over to here. It should also be mentioned again that as a PlayStation One classic, there is nothing new or changed to the game. It is a strict port of the PS1 original.
You take over the role of a young teenager named Riou, and along with his best friend Jowy, are caught up in a plot to create a new war between the Highland Empire and the City-States of Jowston. Rising from refugee to leader of the rebel forces against the Highland Empire, the player is caught up in political intrigue, friendship, and betrayal. The story is a lot darker and serious. While the first game made the motives of the hero easier to digest, Suikoden 2 puts the world in a layer of grey, making morality not as clear cut a choice. This is helped by there being multiple endings throughout the game.
As discussed in the Suikoden 1 review, that human tragedy element is an even bigger focus in Suikoden 2 because of the obfuscation of morality. Playing through the game, I had mixed emotions over events that happened because it takes you through a different path through the valley of death and human nature. The first game, overall, gives you a clear-cut choice of you’re fighting the good fight against something evil. While Prince Luca Blight is one of the most extreme, sadistic villains in any RPG, events that transpire make you question who is right, and who is wrong in the conflict. So for the gamer who wants to think deep about what is presented to him, you’re given lots of philosophical material to work with. At the same time, you still have a tale of good vs. evil that flows off the TV screen for gamers wanting to just read and enjoy the surface.
Konami also improved the amount of purpose and storyline integration of the 108 Stars of Destiny. A good amount have a role to play in progressing the narrative before, and after, joining the cast. There are still characters with little interaction outside of clicking circle, they say they are an aspiring merchant, and you offer to recruit them. This is offset by Richmond, the private detective, who can research the backstory of all of the 108 characters. Some RPGs have a hard enough time weaving together a dozen characters, let alone a cast that rivaled Dynasty Warriors before Dynasty Warriors even existed.
While this is a sequel, any knowledge of the first game only helps the player with their appreciation of the world, and understating some background material, especially with some of the returning characters. If you did not play the first you lose nothing in terms of the story though. Save data from the first game can be transferred over to give the player added benefits, like certain cameos I won’t mention due to spoilers.
One change was made to the equipment system which will be a bother to people depending on the style they enjoy. Instead of having an inventory the character can just use items from; all items need to be equipped. The catch is it takes away a slot for a piece of miscellaneous equipment. You can either go all equipment, which is what I do, all items or a mixture. I can understand why they did it that way, as the magic item system could be greatly abused as it allows non-magically skilled character access to powerful spells.
The combat system is almost unchanged from the first game. Unite attacks are still around, and so is the 6-man team. The one small addition is sometimes characters will perform double or triple attacks, meaning they will attack more than one enemy even though it is a basic attack. Duels have also returned, and are just as fun.
The strategy combat system has changed. Not every one of the 108 stars is included. Instead it has become a mini-version of a tactics style game. Certain characters are leaders which give you a new unit on the field. This is pre-determined and cannot be changed. But the others will give that unit bonuses, like extra attack or defense, or a powerful ability.
Suikoden 2 is twice the length of Suikoden 1, for those looking for the most bang for your buck. The amount of extras they added into the game help improves it over the original. One in particular is the Iron Chef mini-game which has its own unique storyline, and gives the player a reason to go collecting all the recipes around the world. There are other secondary storylines that help enrich the world that can be found if searched for carefully enough.
Suikoden 2 takes the foundation provided from Suikoden 1 and improves it. The foundation did not have any cracks, much like the lauded movies I used in the opening; it merely needed a couple tweaks. Those adjustments have created the best RPG ever made, in this writer’s opinion. Everything it does is done without fault, and can appeal to any kind of fan of the genre from the casual to the most hardcore. There is something in it for everyone. Above all else, RPGs are made or broken by their story, and this has a story that will keep you coming back again and again. Even if you disagree it is the greatest, it is still one of the best RPGs from the PS1 era and well worth your time and money to pick up if you missed it back then.