Retro Rant: Suikoden 2
Suikoden 2 is a game that has a bit of a cult following, even within the rest of its series, it stands out. For a game that a pre-owned physical copy would have cost around two hundred euro only a few months ago, it would want to have something special about it. I’ve replayed this classic to let you know what to expect from the title, considering after a long campaign from fans, the games were released to the PSN store at a very reasonable price.
Firstly, like the original Suikoden, the games main merit is the epic story that is set up for us. I’ll cover the first fifteen minutes or so here just to give you an idea of the world and plot. As it’s very early in the game, I would not count it as a spoiler, but if you think it may, please skip the next paragraph and continue reading from the following one to find out how the game plays.
You begin the game as a cadet, training in the Highland army, while a war is going on with the City State. A peace treaty is called between the two countries and you are set to return home with your best friend. Your camp is attacked during the night and all the cadets are slaughtered. You and your friend, Jowy, escape the camp and are followed. Your own commanding officer is leading the attackers, and you discover that the attack is being staged to make it look like the City State is breaking the peace treaty. You escape and are washed downriver where you are rescued and taken prisoner by a familiar character.
From that point on, the game will bring you on a journey of political intrigue, friendship, betrayal, in a world that is rich in history and lore. You will meet old characters you may recognise from the first game and many more new to this story. You will have to recruit characters to your cause, with over 108 characters to fight on your side, as you uncover the mystery of yet more True Runes, the driving factor of the Suikoden series. Each of these allies will have their own side stories or reasons for joining you, which is explored a lot more than the first game. In this game, you may even have choices between more than one character to fill the role of one of the 108 stars of destiny.
The gameplay is similar to the first game, with turn based battles, but there are some welcome changes. This mostly being that you now have a much bigger inventory for party items and that each character can carry three additional items to their equipment. Battles still allow for unique united attacks, where characters can combine skills or magic to decimate the enemy. Usually there are story related hints as to who can execute these attacks. Weapons are still sharpened at a blacksmiths and can now have full runes attached to them offering magical properties.
Speaking of magic, Suikoden 2 really upped its game over the magic system in the first game. Characters can now attach up to three runes allowing for magic skills. Magic is still limited to a number of casts per level of spell, but it is a lot more versatile. A strong magic user can now have a fire rune for offense, a water rune for healing and a summoning rune for high magical damage in boss fights. This means you don’t need a dedicated healer in your party and can focus more on attacking.
The game also has large land battles at decisive points in the game. This time it’s a lot more tactical than the first game, which was more like a game of rock, paper, scissors. You will control separate units of troops, each with different abilities, attacks, skills and movement speeds. You will create the units using characters you have recruited, which will give you an edge in battle or speed up your defeat. The game plays out like a tactical RPG or a big game of chess. Think of Vandal Hearts or Final Fantasy Tactics. These battles, however, come with the same curse the first game had. A mistake can lead to an important character coming down with an acute case of perma-death. Be careful.
A plethora of mini games is also present in Suikoden 2. Some new ones where you have to climb a mountain or partake in a weird iron chef type of competition, to the bizarre dice game that made you so much money in the first game. Whats great about the mini games is that, with the exception of one or two games of dice, they are optional and you are not forced to play them if you don’t want to.
The game is easier on the eyes than the first game. You still get 2D sprites, but the colours are a lot more vivid, the game is brighter and smoother. Particularly the artwork for the characters portraits is an improvement on the first game. That being said, graphics shouldn’t be considered as a selling point for this game, though there are a few 3D videos included in the game, which is a nice touch at some of the darker parts of the story.
The games music is a mixture of, really really good, and really really irritating. Some tracks that accompany story sections of the game are epic and really set the mood. Others are really repetitive, there are some towns that will just give you a headache to hang around in. In general, the music is decent though.
Suikoden 2 has replayability if you miss some characters on your first playthrough, or if you want to carry save data forward from the first game. If you like the story, you are likely to pick the game up again in a year or two and give it another go. Otherwise, you will be wise to just give it one run from start to finish. For three to five euro though, you can’t really go wrong to try this classic out.