Retro Review: Suikoden II
Developed and published by Konami and released in the U.S. in August of 1999. A follow-up to the first Suikoden released 3 years prior. This sequel takes everything great about its predecessor and improves on almost every aspect. Taking place 3 years after the ending of the first Suikoden, you play as Riou, a member of the Kingdom of Highland Youth Brigade. Riou, along with his childhood best friend Jowy, soon discovers a devious plot by the murderous Highland Prince, Luca Blight, to frame the neighboring City-States of Jowston for breaking a peace-time treaty. The pair are separated after barely escaping the slaughter of their fellow youth brigade compatriots but quickly reunited. As they make their way back home and get themselves involved in helping members of the City States fate will intervene to bestow upon them the Rune of Beginning, one of the 27 True Runes. This true rune is one of balance and splits itself into 2 runes. The Black Sword rune is entrusted to Jowy, who wishes for the power to defeat his enemies, and the Bright Shield Rune to Riou who wishes to protect his friends. Destiny will pull these friends together and push them apart. As Riou gathers friends and allies in the form of the 108 Stars of Destiny and Jowy works from within the ranks of the Highland Army to exact his revenge on Luca Blight, what will the future have in store for these childhood friends?
The art style and sprite work in this game get a bit of an upgrade from its predecessor. Junko Kawano’s character design and artwork are masterpieces in my humble opinion. The attention to detail with some character sprites still amazes me to this day, bringing a unique personality to each of the 108 Star of Destiny. Almost every character can equip up to 3 different magic runes and many characters can sync with others to create unique unite attacks making it a blast to discover new and amazing ways to fight your battles, the rune magic and unite attacks jump off the screen in stunning detail. Miki Higashino returns to compose over 100 beautifully sounding tracks for the follow-up to her work on the first Suikoden. She perfectly captures every roaming moment and intense battle scene with her compositions. The soundtrack to this game is one that is always instantly recognizable to me and an instant nostalgia earworm.
Taking the formula they created with Suikoden, the 2nd game in the series does what any should, improving on every aspect and leaving the player with a long-lasting impression. The 3 different types of battle systems as in the previous game make a return as well. This time around the large-scale army battles are more tactical grid-based and don’t rely on the rock, paper, scissors mechanic. The one-on-one duels, however, still rely on this mechanic. Recruiting the Stars of Destiny is still fun and engaging and they will bring your castle headquarters to life, check out the Iron Chef inspired cooking competition mini-game it's a fan favorite. The plot is deep but not too deep to be lost to anyone. Full of friendship, betrayal, love, and war. While the game takes place in the same world as the first Suikoden, other than a few returning characters, not much else is connected.
It would come as no surprise to any of you if you follow me on social media or know me in real life that Suikoden 2 comes highly recommended from me. I love this series dearly and though it might be cliché to say so these days, Suikoden 2 is definitively my favorite. I implore anyone to check this game out! Pro-tip, load up that save from Suikoden before starting Suikoden 2 and you might discover that you will be able to track down and recruit everyones favorite McHero!