Suikoden II Bits


The famous ambush on Luca Blight.

Suikoden II is the much improved sequel to Konami’s first PSX RPG. It’s a somewhat by-the-book game, but features various elements that make it stand out:

  • The mythos of Suikoden is loosely based on the Chinese novel Shui Hu Zhuan (Outlaws of the Marsh). It contains 108 recruitable characters, the majority of which can be used in battles. Some of these characters are forced on the player and employed in key roles in the story, but others are completely optional. Despite this large cast, the game is filled with lots of unique side-quests and story segments for all possible recruits.
  • The setting is geographically and historically connected to the first game, a rarity for console RPGs. Furthermore, various characters and locations from the original Suikoden play a major role in the sequel.
  • Suikoden II checks the player’s memory card to see if he has played and finished the original Suikoden, which can result in a secret character and a special ending.

  • The standard battle system features two parties of up to six characters each. What’s really interesting here, though, is that the fights take place in rounds, with the player giving directions to all his troops at the beginning of each round. Once all the instructions are handled, the game pre-calculates all the actions and plays them out “as simultaneously as possible.” What this means is that multiple enemies and party members can attack each other at the same time. Spells pause the action and no two characters can attack the same enemy simultaneously, but overall this approach greatly speeds up the encounters.

    The two main characters in one of the game's more memorable cutscenes.

  • In addition to the party battles, two other combat systems are present in the game: one-on-one duels that resemble rock, paper, scissor matches, and heavily scripted tactical battles reminiscent of Fire Emblem.
  • All of Suikoden’s locations are quite varied, somewhat shamelessly mixing the defining features of Medieval and Renaissance Europe and Feudal Japan. The inhabitants of all these locations also reflect their homes’ distinct visual styles.
  • Various characters are imbued with detailed and unique animations, some of which are only played once.

    Three characters attacking simultaneously in the fast-paced battle system.

  • Suikoden II takes full advantage of the PSX hardware, often displaying 30-40 characters on screen at any one time. Also, all of the game’s NPCs are composites of various palettes and body parts, something that really helps to enhance Suikoden II’s look.
  • There are no weapon stores in the game — each character has a unique weapon that can be upgraded by having blacksmiths “sharpen” it.
  • Defeating enemies occasionally results in items being dropped with a “?” symbol. These can be appraised in towns and sold/traded for money.
  • Non-combat characters that join the player can give easy access to minigames and provide various other services such as opening stores in the player’s stronghold. A particularly interesting example of this is a gumshoe detective that, for a price, can reveal background tid-bits on characters or provide clues on gaining new allies.
  • The game does a good job of handling the passage of time, e.g., your stronghold’s architecture continuously changes as new NPCs move in. Another good example of this is a village that gets completed raised in the beginning of the game, but starts being resettled towards Suikoden II’s conclusion.


    Your stronghold keeps expanding throughout the game.

  • Various stores offer “rare finds,” items that are either unique or only found later on in the game. Their cost is usually quite high, but they can help to give the player an upper hand.
  • The story of the game is done in the style of high fantasy, focusing on strategic battles and the struggle of an underdog rebellion. These political and tactical aspects are quite simplified in comparison to novels of similar subject matter (this was a game aimed at young teenagers, after all), but they still play a central role in the plot, i.e., entire locations are captured by opposing forces and often accompanied by a discourse on the strategies behind the battle, and the political, economical and military significance of the newly gained asset. This also has gameplay consequences as it can limit/open up new areas complete with unique stores and characters.


    Suikoden II's final duel.

  • Suikoden II has plenty of “fake questions,” console RPG staples that keep the player in a dialogue loop until he chooses the correct answer. However, Suikoden II also blends in real questions that can change the outcome of battles and result in unique cutscenes. The best example of this is when about 2/3 of the way through the game, the player is asked to abandon his cause. He can actually select to do this, which leads to a couple unique segments that culminate in a unique ending.
  • Lord Luca Blight plays the role of the insane antagonist, but he’s not the last boss. The famous confrontation between him and player (which can be seen here and here) is unexpected, and it leaves a good chunk of the game yet to be resolved. Luca Blight isn’t the cover for some ultimate evil either, so the remainder of the adventure revolves around dealing with the fallout of the war he started. An interesting aspect of this is the final battle: a fight against the beast rune that nicely contrasts the feral aspect of nature against the civilized world of men.

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  1. #1 by Matthew on March 4, 2009 - 5:28 pm

    The simultaneous character action system is a great unsung detail of this underrated classic. That, plus the fairly frequent indicence of evades and counters, created the feeling of being in an exciting skirmish even though the system was turn-based.

    I thought the game’s music was of a remarkable scope, range and quality, too.

    I gave them all a try, but I could never get into any Suikoden game after the first two.

  2. #2 by The Management on March 4, 2009 - 6:41 pm

    I agree, the copious amounts of evades and counters did help to make the battles feel dynamic. I think the frequency of these was skewed a bit towards the player’s favour, but it wasn’t too obvious. Also, with a rapid-fire pace and six characters in the party, it was a lot more forgivable when one of your guys had a misstep.

    The battle system’s two kinds of critical hits were great as well. The extra damage one would initiate a zoom-in (and obviously do a lot more damage), while the second type simply made the character gain an extra attack or two. This was particularly evident when fighting lower level enemies and made for quite a hectic and fun battlefield. Equipped with a double-beat rune, it was possible for a single character to take out all six opponents in a single round, which was always satisfying.

    The unite attack with Jowy was great too as it’d pretty much take out any group in the early going of the game, and helped to underline the friendship and duality of the two boys.

  3. #3 by V on September 29, 2009 - 12:53 am

    lawl, unicorn brigade.

  4. #4 by Mike @ DFO Wiki on August 29, 2010 - 2:08 am

    How does Suikoden II compare to Suikoden I?

    I remember enjoying Suikoden I and I’m thinking about getting Suikoden II.

  5. #5 by The Management on August 29, 2010 - 2:17 am

    I actually enjoyed Suikoden II much more than the original. The first game just felt more…washed out. Not as much variety and content, and a much shorter quest.

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