Part 2: Surprise! It's Ridiculously Annoying MusicSuikoden 2 Tunes Opening Theme
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Suikoden II starts off with a really cool intro, mostly because of the music. Suikoden I had a great intro as well, but it definitely showed the 1995-ness of the game more than anything else did, and it too also had great music. This series is definitely one with great introductions (wait 'till we get to Suikoden III, a game where the intro cinematic is the best part of the game).
Two central runes...
Ridiculously annoying characters.
Character art bombardment.
This is Suikoden II. The not-that-great sequel to an incredibly well-balanced game.
Suikoden 2 Tunes Name Entry
Once again, we're at a naming screen. I'm going to go with Azure here.
The game prompts us to load data from the previous game. That's a good idea.
And we're off.
The game only recognizes a save made at the final Journeyman's Crystal in Suikoden 1.
It's a very different start from the first game. We're not the son of a great general, we're just a lowly soldier in an army.
I think the hi-res texture filter I had on was starting to bug me.
Jowy: Hey Azure, Nanami is probably waiting for you to come back, huh? You're her only family since Master Genkaku died... if not for this war... so anyway... should we go to sleep soon? Or do you want to get some fresh air? Looks like a nice night.
I wanna check out some of the area first.
As you can see, a few things have been changed from Suikoden 1. For example, DEF is now PROT, short for Protection, and SKL has become TECH, short for Technique. Magic and Magic Defense have been separated, meaning that a character with low Magic might still have good Magic Defense instead of being totally assreamed by magical attacks. You'll also notice that there are three Rune slots. This becomes a staple for the series, and whether or not a character gets more than one, or all three, is different on a character-by-character basis, with mages generally getting two and the best of those mages getting all three (otherwise known as the uncommon forehead Rune slot). Being able to equip multiple Runes has its positives and negatives. As a mage, your Runes all share the same magic charges you have available to you, so if you cast a level 1 Fire spell but have a Lightning Rune as well, you've also lost one charge from that Lightning Rune. It's a great implementation into the series and one of the few great things II does coming off from I.
The item management has been overhauled as well. We now have a separate party inventory that allows us to store a shitton of items that we can then switch out with our characters, who each have three item slots each. However, items and accessories now share the same menu:
So it's up to you if you want to have defense, or item usage. Once again we see that translators don't know that it's Bandanna, two n's.
We now have the ability to dash anytime we want, a much needed improvement over I, and because of that the Holy Rune is never to be seen again.
Soldiers randomly fight in their tents, because they're kids who suddenly feel pride in their army for foolish, naïve reasons.
This is our commander, Captain Rowd. He's a douche.
Apparently this dude plans to fuck Azure's sister, as soon as he gets back to Kyaro.
That's not suspicious at all.
One thing that Suikoden II does well is its exploration of child soldiers and their usability in war. These soldiers know nothing about what's to come of them tomorrow, and for the most part seem either relaxed, or incredibly excited.
None of them are battle-hardened, none of them have spilled blood. Should they be fighting? Do they deserve to wear those soldier uniforms?
Another thing that they've worked on substantially is the game's graphics. Suikoden II is an incredibly sharp-looking game. The sprites are all animated well and the backgrounds are very detailed, continuing the pastel, photograph-like dynamic. I would say this was the best-looking 2D game on the PS1 if Legend of Mana never came out the next year.
There's honestly little to do or see until you go to sleep, however.
The next morning the whole camp is attacked by surprise, and we're introduced to most definitely the worst track on the Suikoden II soundtrack, and one of the worst tracks I've heard in an RPG.
Suikoden 2 Tunes Enemy Attack (never, ever, ever, ever listen to this)
Rowd: It looks like we're surrounded!! Take the mountain path to the east and save yourselves! Hurry!!
Jowy: Let's run, Azure. We can't die here. Nanami will be all alone...
As we can see, all these kids are being slaughtered.
Jowy: Don't you think it's strange, Azure? The only way out is through these woods... the enemy must know that too.
Jowy concludes that this way leads to an ambush, and to head back.
The soldiers we saw struggling have been shot dead.
Suikoden 2 Tunes Suspicion
Apparently, this was all a setup.
Luca: I wish I had joined the ambush. All I've had to fight lately is that old man. I'm getting rusty.
Rowd: Y, yes... I mean, n, no. Prince Luca's swordsmanship is truly unmatched. My men would look like fools.
Luca: Yes, the young men served their country well enough. Now we don't need a peace treaty with those State weaklings... I'll prove that they're no match for the power of Highland!!
You all remember the City-State of Jowston, right? They were an antagonistic force in Suikoden I who we didn't see anything about but were used to fuck with Kasim Hazil. Now we're in their territory, which I referred to in the final Suikoden post as the Dunan region. They are currently at war with Highland, a tyrannical force bent on taking over their land.
I posit the idea that we should get the fuck out of here immediately.
Jowy: Maybe we'll be able to escape if we climb up the cliff. Run north, Azure!!
Suikoden 2 Tunes The Will ~ Battle Theme
The first battle of the game. One thing to notice that I can't really show off in screenshots is that characters animate in battle. The main character bounces enthusiastically up and down, and he also continues the tradition of non-traditional weapons... he uses tonfas. Tonfas are awesome. Jowy, like Tir and Kai before him, uses a bo staff.
Another mechanic introduced in Suikoden 2 is multi-hit characters. Because Azure wields twin tonfas on both arms, he can hit twice. Also, the Speed stat now includes the ability to hit multiple enemies on the field in one turn. Basically, your character will attack an enemy, then move to another enemy and also attack them; the chance of this happening going up with a higher Speed stat.
Azure and Jowy start out with a Unite attack, the Buddy Attack. In the battle menu, the game tells you what each Unite attack does now, which is handy if you want a Unite that hits all enemies or just hits an individual enemy but can't tell the difference. Also, don't these enemies kind of look like the ones from Suikoden 1? Guess they didn't want to change up the outfits too much.
If you continue to refuse, you can fight an endless stream of soldiers. This is the only way to get the secret intro that most players will never see.
If you answer that option, Jowy will make an X on the rock.
After they jump, one of the highest points in Suikoden II begins.
Suikoden 2 Tunes Reminiscence (absolute must listen)
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War does terrible things.
It makes us leave home.
And all we can do is pray when those we love are lost because of it.
Even if we train,
even if we fight,
it changes us forevermore.
So when we wave goodbye,
we have to be prepared for the consequences.
That's a familiar face. I seriously feel bad for the guy who can't bang Nanami now.
I'll be cutting the post off right here to rant a little. This is not going to be an LP that slavishly bows in reverence to every small little minutiae the game has to offer. Many call Suikoden II one of the best jRPGs ever made, some even go so far as to call it the best. Playing this game more than seven years after I played the original, I came away not as impressed as I thought I would be.
Of course, when I played II I had not seen the swarming fanboyism nor did I know how much the game went for on eBay and such. And seeing how Konami hates money, this game might not ever make it to the PSN for North Americans, so its rarity will just continue to spike.
This LP is going to look at Suikoden II objectively. I find the game to be above average, which in my terminology means it's a good game, this I will not argue against. I do, however, take issue with calling it a great game.
Suikoden II is best described as schizophrenic. Where Suikoden 1 retained a constantly-moving narrative with nary a hiccup to be seen, with a soundtrack that continued to top itself over and over again, and a slowly ramping story that became quite complex when all was said and done, II suffers from many, many arcs where little happens. On top of that, it has rather large chunks of its soundtrack that are just... well, ho-hum, not impressive, boring. This can be best seen in this update. In a short period of time we're introduced to a gorgeous intro theme, the most annoying piece of music ever, a typically generic Evil Empire theme, an annoying battle theme, and then one of the most brilliant pieces of music Miki Hagashino has made.
Over the course of the LP I'll be pointing out areas of the game that I find to be lacking, and areas that I find to be brilliant.
Suikoden II is a game of high highs and low lows, and for that reason I could never put the game over its prequel, which struck a neat balance of consistent quality. There is no denying that II is a very personal story, in that it centers around the three kids we've been introduced to: Azure (Riou), Jowy, and Nanami. Their struggle to hold onto each other during the perils of war is told well, but not all of the time. When it comes to sheer emotion, II can evoke that in spades.
But it also stumbles, repeatedly. As we shall see in the future...
Riou Tenkai Star
I don't like the look of the main character in this game, and I find him to be a total downgrade from the first game. From the jRPG trope of making the character a kid (which is, admittedly, handled better in this game than in others), to his Monkey King aesthetic which seems really arbitrary (and lets be fair, the only Monkey King that matters in the realm of RPGs is the one in Saiyuki: Journey West), I really think the first game had a cooler main character.
Oh the things I'll have to say about Jowy. Negative? Positive? Guess you'll have to wait and find out.