There are certain Sony series that have faded as time went by. While each one is a tragedy, one in particular may stand out. Suikoden was a beloved JRPG franchise that combined the collecting elements of Pokemon with strong gameplay, lots of lore, and storylines that carried over from one installment to the next. While many of them are great, one in particular stood out. Suikoden II is very likely the best installment in the series. It builds so well upon the previous game, while still offering something new and refreshing.
A Tale of Two Childhood Friends
Suikoden II begins with two childhood friends, Riou and Jowy. They are fighting in the Highland Army’s Youth Brigade against the City-States of Jowston right as a way seems to be nearing an end. However, before peace treaties can be signed, Prince Luca Blight of Highland has the camp destroyed and everyone there killed. Only Riou and Jowy survive. Armed with new knowledge, they join the resistance.
However, these two friends find themselves trapped by fate. Each one is chosen by half of the Rune of Beginning, a True Rune represented by the Bright Shield and Black Sword. People who bear them are destined to fight one another. This sets the two down diverging paths. Both have the same ideal: peace. Yet, each has his own idea about how to reach it, with players getting to watch the political machinations and build up a resistance force as they wonder how things will finally play out.
So Many Storylines
What really makes Suikoden II special isn’t that there are still 108 Stars of Destiny to recruit and we have a great battle system to work with. It’s how comprehensive and detailed the game gets. Once Jowy leaves the player’s party, you would expect the character’s story to be over. Or, you’d suspect that maybe he would only show up during segments when Riou is around. But no. Even once he is no longer a part of your immediate circle, the game offers insights into his life and what he is doing.
It isn’t just the main duo that gets such attention. Flik and Viktor first appeared in Suikoden as allies of Tir who helped found the Liberation Army. They were younger then, with Flik initially rebelling against Tir due to the circumstances that brought him to power. We watch two already strong individuals mature and go on to lead a second rebellion in the name of justice and peace. We also get to see Viktor finally have his proper face-off against Neclord, a fight building since we learned what the vampire did to Viktor’s home and loved ones in the original game.
Even some of the more minor characters get these fantastic arcs. Clive is a good example. He is a Howling Voice Guild assassin who was an incredibly minor character in the original Suikoden. So much so, that someone might have missed him or never really noticed him. In Suikoden II, we learn exactly what his life as a Harmonian assassin was like and what led him down this path as people attempt to quickly complete a sidequest that has him stalking a former ally named Elza. Basically, you have under 20 hours to go through the game and see a series of incidents to find out exactly went on between the two. It’s harrowing, but oh so satisfying.
Thanks for the Memories
With Suikoden II, we got to see a series really come into its own. The first installment was good, but the sequel really hammered home the personalities we knew this series could have. It gave people voices and made more of the characters you would recruit more distinct. There is a life to it that set it apart from the first game and carried over into future installments. And, thanks to a PlayStation Classics release, people can choose between scouring the Earth for a physical PSOne copy or getting a digital, $9.99 copy for their PS3, PSP, or Vita.