Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Canon Video Game Review: Suikoden 2

Over the past three weeks or so, I have been immersed in playing the Role-Playing Game Suikoden 2. Released by Konami in Japan in 1998, and in North America in 1999, Suikoden 2 takes place three years after the events of Suikoden 1. In Suikoden 2, you control a young hero that seems to always find himself in the middle of some very tough situations. At the beginning, the hero and his friend, Jowy Atreides, are caught in an ambush of their unit in the Highland Army Youth Brigade. They escape by jumping into a river, only to be separated. The hero finds himself taken prisoner in a mercenary camp, but eventually Jowy frees him and the two go back to their hometown of Kyaro to reunite with the hero's sister Nanami. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, you can't go home again, and the two are captured as spies for the City-State army. Just before they are to be executed, the three are freed by the hero's former captors, Viktor and Flik, and they head back to the City-State to prepare for war against the Highland army led by the evil Luca Blight.

Photo Courtesy of gamefaqs.com

One of the strengths of Suikoden 2 is the amount of characters involved in the story. For one, you can recruit up to 108 members for your army, each characters offering different strengths and weaknesses. Remarkably, almost each character has a rather detailed background and, while some are more featured than others, each character has their own distinct personality. You also can find out more about each characters by having an in-game private investigator named Richmond 'investigate' them for a small fee. While this isn't necessary to complete the game, it does add something to the gaming experience as a whole. However, not every character will be available for fighting, as some can only be used in the 'battle mode' and others are just there to serve specific purposes. For example, one person opens an armor shop in your castle, while another is responsible for storage of objects that aren't needed at that time.

There are three different modes of combat in Suikoden 2. The majority of battles will take place in a regular battle system that is similar to other RPGs, where a party of up to 6 people will fight off random enemies and bosses. Each character can be assigned runes to perform magic spells and special attacks, while some characters will pull off a combo attack. For example, the hero and Jowy have a combo in which they attack every member of the opponent's party at once, while a trio of circus performers can pull off a 'fire-breathing' attack that will result in major damage, but unfortunately will leave one of the performers unbalanced for the next turn. Also, instead of buying new weapons for each of your characters, you can get each one sharpened by a blacksmith, which can be found in various towns. The second battle mode is a duel mode, in which the hero squares off mano-a-mano against an opponent. The battle screen offers three choices (attack, defend, wild attack), and you must choose which option to do based off of clues given by the opponent's words in a text box. It kind of works like rock, paper, scissors, as for example, if you choose defend of a wild attack, the wild attack will fail and you will score major hit points. This is probably the simplest battle mode in this game, especially once you can figure out what each player is going to do. The third mode is a battle mode that is somewhat similar to Advance Wars, and will take place during major battles. In this mode, you lead various units composing of up to three characters and their armies into battle against the Highland army. Some of your units will have different abilities, as one unit may be composed of archers while another may attack with magic, depending on which character is in which unit. While this is an interesting mode and a nice change of pace to the regular battle mode, the one problem I had with this is that each battle's outcome is predetermined, so even if you're kicking the other side's head in, you may have to withdraw because, well, that's what the story calls for. I kind of wish they made these battles more open-ended instead of having a pre-determined outcome. That way, I could have more of an impact in these battles through using the right strategy and tactics instead of just going through the motions and waiting for the end.

Another interesting aspect of Suikoden 2 is that, as your army grows bigger and bigger, so does the castle that houses the army. As the castle evolves, your character goes from sharing a little bedroom with Nanami, to having your own penthouse suite on the top floor. Also, different stores will open up as you get more characters, so you can buy all your armor, runes, and equipment at your own headquarters. There are also mini-games to play at the castle, from fishing in the docks to playing wack-a-mole in the garden to having Iron Chef style cookoffs in the kitchen. Yes, you can have your own cooking competitions, offering up a variety of meals based on recipes you've collected throughout your travels and cooking up three meals to be judged by four random party members. Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've competed in a cookoff with a unicorn and a bald antique collector serving as two of the judges.

Graphics wise, Suikoden 2 is kind of lacking when compared to the Final Fantasy games that came out during the same time, as the game is done in 2D. Even so, at least the graphics are crisp and well-organized for the most part. The sound is a strength in the game, especially the score, as there are quite a few tracks that are well done and will stay with you for awhile. Plus, the game offers a wide variety of tracks, so you don't hear the same song over and over again. Although this game isn't a direct sequel of Suikoden 1, players of the first game will recognize some of the characters from the first game, including Flik, Viktor, and Kasumi. Also, if you loaded up the save from a completed Suikoden 1 game at the beginning, there are a few bonus scenes, and you can even play as the hero from the first game, McDohl. If this game has a weak point, it's the translations of the text from Japanese to English, as sometimes it seems as if the characters are speaking in some form of broken English, and on one occassion, a female character is accidentally called 'he'.

Overall, despite some minor quibbles, Suikoden 2 is a great game. The storyline is engrossing and has enough twists and turns that will put you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. The battles in this game aren't too tedious, and with such a wide variety of characters to use, you'll have fun mixing and matching runes to each character. Add to that the minigames, the excellent soundtrack, and multiple endings, and Suikoden 2 is one of the finest RPGs of its era, if not of all time. Overall, I'd give it a 9.25 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this post, or ideas for future posts, then share them with me either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at KtheC2001@gmail.com

1 comment:

  1. Very good! You know I give it a 10 outta 10. My favorite game EVAR!! And I still can't believe that you took Zamza to the final battle.

    And I absolutely agree about the soundtrack, which is why I had to download it, haha. So sometimes, I just play that album and let it carry me to sleep. The music is really great in that game, as it is in the first one, too. The third Suikoden had a very different style of music that, while not bad, was very distinctively different.

    Hai Yo could beat Bobby Flay in a cook-off ANY DAY!!