Monday, June 19, 2017

Review #400: Suikoden II

 Bigger, badder and better than Suikoden I.
 Suikoden was a fairly unique little JRPG that dealt with themes of politics and war, taking place in a contained region, as opposed to the usual 'defeat the poor attempt at a sympathetic villain, save the world, maybe get the girl' plot that JRPGs love. It had its fair share of unique mechanics and terminology as well as a world that was yearning to be further developed, and then a sequel happened...

 After being sold out by their own forces, Jowy and Riou, two teenagers at the service of Highland's military, become outcasts and become embroiled in a war between nations. There're plenty of poignant scenes, epic battles, epic villains, turns, twists and even flying squirrels. The story is pretty darn fantastic, dealing with subjects of good, evil and what's in-between, having armies duking it out not because of morality, but because of different perspectives. It's a very engrossing story, despite the sometimes spotty translation, and the characters that the game opted to focus on are fairly memorable. There're plenty of returning characters, and if you transfer your old Suikoden savefile, you'll get a few bonus extra lines from them. Luca Blight is the game's only real villain, and what a villain he is, stealing every scene he's in, and the last battle against him is fantastic, and it doesn't even mark the end of the game!!
 The brunt of the game plays like the rest of the games in the franchise: Exploring, duels and strategic battles. As per usual, there're 108 recruitable characters, some will offer passive bonuses to your headquarters, but most of them can be taken into battle. This time around there're up to three different rune slots per characters, so you can customize your spells a lot more, no long must you sacrifice your only rune slot to be able to dash. Heck, you don't need a rune to run this time around anyways! Finding all 108 characters is still nigh impossible without a guide, so do yourself a favor and find one, it's no fun missing out on the best ending because you didn't know that there was only a tiny window of time available to recruit Futch and Humphrey!

 Random encounters play out the same, with a party made up of up to six different units, and they play out in turns, same old, same old. Duels are the same, you must figure out what the enemy is gonna do in a rock-paper-scissors fight according to what they say. Strategic Battles feel more like an SRPG than before: You move each and every individual unit on your army over a map, and then engage in battle or cast spells. It's fairly mundane, and most of these feature a few twists and turns so that they are over pretty fast. Still, be worried, as death of a unit might mean permanent death for some of the defeated characters.
 Do keep in mind that it doesn't matter how you play this game, be it PS1, PS2, PS3 or through emulation, the game will feature audio bugs of different kinds. Most notably, a few songs won't play, ever, even though they are in the disc, so a lot of the strategic battles are fought in complete silence! And while being able to recruit McDohl, Suikoden I's hero, if you have a Suikoden savefile, is a great little bonus, the game will kick him out of the party pretty often, and going back to Gregminster to recruit him again is a pain in the neck that makes it almost not worth it. Almost.

 Suikoden 2 is fantastic. Riou and Jowy's plight to end the war, the different roads they take, the people that gather around them and fate itself will put them at odds with each other. It's an engrossing tale, and the gameplay is a fine tuning of what came before it. While its explosive price was kind of prohibitive, its PSN rerelease means there's no excuse for skipping it.
 9.0 out of 10

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