Suikoden II (Japanese: 幻想水滸伝II, Hepburn: Gensō Suikoden Tsū) is a role-playing video game developed and published by Konami for the PlayStation video game console and the second installment of the Suikoden video game series. It was released in late 1998 in Japan, 1999 in North America, and in 2000 in Europe. The game features a vast array of characters, with over 100 recruitable characters, of which over 40 are usable in combat.
Suikoden II takes place years after the events of the original Suikoden and centers on an invasion of the City States of Jowston by the Kingdom of Highland. The player controls a silent protagonist who is the adopted son of Genkaku, a hero who saved the City-State of Jowston in a war against Highland years ago. The protagonist and his best friend, Jowy Atreides, each gain one half of the Rune of the Beginning, one of the 27 True Runes of the Suikoden setting, and become caught up in the intrigues of the invasion and the dark fate of those who bear the halves of that Rune.
The game is considered a sleeper hit and was initially released to lackluster sales and somewhat tepid critical reception, with some criticism (and lack of widespread appeal) being directed at the game’s simpler and more retro 16-bit sprite visuals at a time when 3D graphics were heavily emphasized across the industry. In retrospect however, it has been cited as one of the greatest video games of all time and a classic of the role-playing genre.
Suikoden II is a role-playing video game with strategic elements covering those gameplay options pertaining to large scale confrontations, such as between two armies. The player controls a quiet protagonist and travels with him around the world map, advancing the plot by completing tasks and talking with other characters. The player can also recruit new characters to his cause, often involving a short sidequest to do so. In towns, the player can gather information, sharpen characters’ weaponry, and buy equipment; wilderness areas generally feature random encounters with monsters.
The battle system in Suikoden II features six-person parties. A variety of statistics determine in-game combat ability. If all six characters lose all their hit points and are thus incapacitated, it is game over and the player must restart. Exceptions exist for certain plot battles in which winning is optional; the player can lose and the plot continues on, albeit in a slightly different fashion.
Runes, the source of all magic in the world of Suikoden II, are handled the same as the original Suikoden. Characters have a certain number of spell usages per “spell level”; for instance, a character with 4 level 1 spell slots and a Fire Rune could cast “Flaming Arrows” (the level 1 Fire Rune spell) 4 times. Other runes offer different benefits, and some may be used as often as desired.
Updates from the original Suikoden include a grid and unit based tactical battle system, the addition of a three rune slot system which allows for three different runes to be equipped at once, a party inventory system, and a “dash” button that allowed the player to move around the screen quicker and vast graphical improvement. Also notable is the inclusion of a variety of mini-games including one quite reminiscent of Iron Chef. A transfer of data from the prior game in the series enables returning characters to enter the fray with higher levels and improved weapons. References to the original Suikoden are also adapted accordingly for a greater feel in continuity.
Following the original Suikoden, Suikoden II contains three different types of combat:
Regular battles: The party the player has selected faces off with 1-6 enemies. This battle type is considered typical in RPGs, containing options for attack, magic (Runes), items etc. This is the only battle style where the player can gain experience, items or Potch (the currency of Suikoden II).
Duels: The main character is pitted against another character in single combat. This style of fighting only has three moves: Attack, Wild Attack, and Defend. This duel is played in a Rock, Paper, Scissors style where “Attack” beats “Defend”, “Wild Attack” beats “Attack”, and “Defend” beats “Wild Attack”. The player can usually tell what kind of attack the enemy is going to perform by the taunts displayed on-screen.
Massive battles: More interactivity was added to this element of the gameplay over that of its predecessor. While some of the shades of the old “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style battle of the original (where cavalry beats archers, archers beat magic and magic beats cavalry) remain, Suikoden II introduces a grid style battle system reminiscent to that of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Fire Emblem games. As the main character recruits characters for his castle, this opens up more options for more units. Certain characters are ‘unit leaders’ while others are ‘supports’. Every character adds a certain amount of defense or attack to a unit. In addition, certain characters also add special abilities to the unit to which they have been attached. The numbers affect the chances of win or loss as much as the type of units being pitted against each other. Every unit may take up to a total of two ‘losses’ which are counted when a unit suffers a severe number of casualties. Each skirmish they take part in might result in no loss, loss on one side, or even loss on both sides. As mentioned before, certain characters add special abilities to the units. Examples of these abilities include being able to take more losses than usual, magic or archery to allow attacks from a distance, healing of itself or others, etc. When a unit suffers its maximum losses it will retreat from battle and, when this happens there is a possibility of the characters in the unit being wounded or even killed. Should a character be killed in a massive battle, they are considered permanently dead.