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Suikoden II (Japanese: 幻想水滸伝II Hepburn: Gensō Suikoden Tsū, (listen) (help·info)) 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, and many more who move the plot forward.
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 whose name is chosen by the player (named Riou in the Japanese novelization and Drama CD adaptation and Tao in the manga adaptation); he 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.
Initially released to lackluster sales and somewhat tepid critical reception, Suikoden II has since been re-appraised as one of the most acclaimed RPG's from the 32-bit era.
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 amount 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.
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The protagonist of Suikoden II (whose name is decided by the player at the start of the game, originally as Riou) goes from being a member of a youth brigade in the Highland Kingdom to being the leader of its opposition, the New Alliance Army. In acquiring one half of the Rune of the Beginning, he is destined to become leader of the newly rebuilt Jowston Army, and also to oppose the holder of the other half of the Rune of the Beginning, Jowy Atreides.
The antagonist for the majority of the game is Luca Blight, heir to the throne of Highland. Luca is a bloodthirsty madman who developed a strong hatred for Jowston at a young age after witnessing his mother's rape by thugs hired by City-State capital Muse to attack the Highland royal envoy.
A variety of characters from the original Suikoden appear in Suikoden II. Some such as Viktor play major roles in the story, while others only appear in cameos (such as Kage who is briefly seen talking to Jowy before Mayor Anabelle is killed). If the player has a completed save data from the original Suikoden in their memory card, then the protagonist of the previous game can be recruited and Gremio will appear briefly (if the saved game did not have all 108 characters recruited, Gremio will not appear).
The game begins with the player and his childhood friend Jowy Atreides working together as members of the youth division of the Highland Army. Luca Blight, the prince of Highland, and Captain Rowd, the player’s commanding officer, orchestrate the slaughter of the player's and Jowy's unit and blame it on the neighboring city-state of Jowston, giving the prince an excuse to invade Jowston. The player and Jowy escape the slaughter by jumping off a cliff into a river.
They meet again after the player is fished from the river by a group of mercenaries from the first game—Viktor and Flik—and Jowy is rescued by Pilika from the town of Toto. Eventually reuniting with the player's sister, Nanami, the two are tried as spies against Highland and sentenced to death, but are saved by Viktor and Flik and return with the mercenaries. Blight pursues them, driving the group toward the city of Muse. Searching a shrine in Toto, the player and Jowy are each given half of the Rune of Beginning—the player is given the Bright Shield Rune, and Jowy the Black Sword Rune. Afterwards, the two are transported by Leknaat out of the shrine, and continue on their travel to Muse.
After difficulty entering into Muse due to increased security, the party finally reunite with Viktor and members of the mercenary army that survived the attack. Viktor introduces the player and Jowy to Lady Annabelle—the mayor of Muse—who tells them she has a story to share regarding the adoptive grandfather/father figure of the player and Nanami, Genkaku, who died shortly before the game begins. Without the knowledge of the others, the player and Jowy are asked to participate in a spy mission to the Highland camp to the north, and while trying to escape, Jowy is captured by the enemy. He promises to catch up with the player and Nanami, however, and eventually reunites with them in Muse.
Time passes, and the player awakens on the morning of the Hill Top Summit held in Muse for all of the leaders of the city-state; Muse, Tinto, Two River, South Window, Greenhill, and the Matilda Knightdom. The party all attend the conference, where Annabelle shares the information on the Highland Army's imminent attack. The city-state is split on what action to take, as the Highland Army arrives outside Muse. After successfully defending the city, the player and Nanami go to meet Annabelle for information regarding Genkaku. They arrive, however, to find that Jowy has murdered Anabelle, and immediately flees before he can be discovered. Anabelle then apologizes to the player and Nanami for how the state treated Genkaku, without revealing details about what actually happened. Shortly after Annabelle's last words, her assistant Jess arrives and assumes that the player has killed Anabelle, and runs to get help. Jowy opens the gates to Muse as the Highland army invades the city, with the party managing to escape southward to South Window.
In South Window, the mayor asks them to travel to the city of North Window—Viktor's hometown—to investigate disturbances that have been occurring there. After discovering that the vampire, Neclord, is alive and causing the disturbances, the party obtain the Star Dragon Sword and drive Neclord from the castle. As the party begin to leave North Window, the rest of the survivors from Muse arrive and tell that South Window has fallen to the Highland Army.
With North Window as the site of a new base they begin to build up their forces, and Viktor reveals what Annabelle had wanted to share about Genkaku. He had been a heroic general for the city-state—who also wielded the Bright Shield Rune worn by the player—and was betrayed by the then mayor of Muse, Anabelle's father. He participated in a duel against his Highland friend and fellow general, Han, to decide the fate of Kyaro town. Anabelle's father coated Genkaku's sword in a poison that he detected before the duel began, planning to blame Genkaku for the death of the Highland general. Genkaku could not bring himself to strike his friend, and thus was defeated in the duel, with Kyaro becoming Highland territory and Genkaku's name disgraced for many decades. It is this connection to Genkaku and his own character that lead the player to be named leader of the new Dunan Unification Army, and bring him to recruit people to join the cause.
The player and the rest of the Stars of Destiny recruited work to gain the support of the remaining city-states to challenge Highland. During this time, Luca Blight sacrifices nearly the entire populace of Muse to the Beast Rune after running down refugees trying to flee the city. However, Jowy has risen through the ranks of Luca Blight's army after capturing Greenhill without even a battle, eventually marrying Jillia Blight—the sister of Luca—and murdering the King of Highland by poisoning himself and having the King drink his blood as part of a peerage ceremony. Luca becomes King of Highland, and eventually launches an unsuccessful attack against the Dunan army. However, Jowy betrays Luca Blight, giving the Dunan army information of the pending attack. This allows the Dunan army to set up an ambush for Luca Blight. He is defeated and killed with Jowy then ascending to the leader of Highland through his marriage. It is revealed that Jowy's intention since his original betrayal of the city-state by murdering Anabelle has been to bring peace to the land; he never expected the player to have such success against Highland.
After finally freeing the occupied city-states and uniting all of them under one banner, the player and the party successfully defeat Highland, causing Jowy to flee, however, Nanami is shot by arrow from one of the soldiers for the king of Matilda, who plotted to assassinate both the player and Jowy. After the fall of the capital of Highland and the Beast Rune's defeat, the player returns to the spot on the cliff from the beginning of the game, when the two first escaped from the youth brigade massacre and promised to return to if they should become separated. Jowy speaks about how the two's fate had been destined to be interconnected since they first accepted the two runes in Toto. The two duel, with Jowy, Nanami, and the player's fate depending on how many Stars of Destiny the player has recruited and if the player chooses to attack Jowy.
Development and release
In the winter of 1993/1994, Konami newcomers Yoshitaka Murayama and Junko Kawano were tasked with creating an RPG for an internally developed video games console. What was produced ended up being an early version of the script for Suikoden II, before the console was cancelled, and the RPG project shelved. Shortly thereafter, it was reopened with the intention of being one of Konami's first games for Sony's upcoming PlayStation console. Murayama however, being keen not to rush into the story, wrote the "prequel" script that was used for the first Suikoden instead. This was in order to gain some experience in games development before tackling the Suikoden II story.
Konami later released Genso Suikoden I & II, a compilation of the first two games of the series, in 2005 on the PlayStation Portable. However, it was released only to the Japanese market. Suikoden II was made available for download on the PlayStation Network on December 9, 2014.
Suikoden II saw a limited print run, and the lackluster initial response prevented a reprinting of the game. Despite this, the game received "favorable" reviews according to the review aggregation website Metacritic. Contemporary analysis of the game is often very positive, and many video game critics and players alike consider it to be one of the best console RPGs from outside of the Square-Enix canon, and the best of all Suikoden games.
Similar to "Castlevania: Symphony of The Night", many people argue that Suikoden II had a lackluster initial release due to the late 1990s emphasis on advanced 3D graphics and gameplay, while 2D games with more retrospective visuals were often unfairly overlooked despite receiving great reviews.
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