Part 11: Update 9 and a half: A Discussion About RunesA Discussion About Runes
Since we've met our first runemaster and a second in the next update, I figured I'll discuss runes. Runes have been greatly expanded upon in this game to include many more abilities and concepts, a good deal of these continuing on for the rest of the series. Note that certain Runes can only be equipped on certain parts of the body -- and some characters simply do not get certain Rune slots.
We've seen a few of these already: Bright Shield, Black Sword, Fire Dragon, Fire Breath, and Groundhog are all unique runes that cannot be found anywhere else nor can they be removed from their owners. The usability of these Runes varies depending on what that Rune is, from the pretty much useless Groundhog Rune to the stupidly powerful Black Sword Rune. A few animals get their own Runes, although they're not very good, and we'll discuss that when we meet them later.
We've discussed what these are, although a few have been added to II that we'll encounter later. These Runes are your typical Fire, Wind, Earth, Lighting, Water, Resurrection, et. al. Runes that are not character-specific, are either commonly found or dropped from foes, or can be bought. Typically, you'll stick these Runes on characters with good Magic stats, or... well, on characters that have a high affinity for these Runes.
These runes are passive in that they give you buffs depending on circumstances in battle. The Haziness Rune, Killer Rune, and Spark Rune are examples of these types of Runes. Sometimes these Runes have restrictions, sometimes they don't. To break this game open, you'll find yourself using one or more of these Runes in tandem.
These are weapon-specific Runes. We've seen the Titan, Unicorn, Pixie and Kite (... err, next update) Runes so far. Sometimes these Runes are useful, sometimes they're not. Generally, they're kind of a waste of time, due to either having annoying restrictions or simply not dealing enough damage to be worth your while. Of the Runes we've seen in this category so far, I've only used the Titan Rune, and only sparingly.
Embedded Weapon Runes
New to the series is the ability to attach Runes to a character's weapon. One incredibly rare Rune in particular can simply fuck this game open so hard it will cry. We've seen two of these so far: The Fire Lizard and Magic Drain Runes (errr... next update, oops!). Generally, these Runes bestow the ability to inflict status effects on a foe through normal attacks, but sometimes they just simply break the game open even more.
There is one Rune in particular in this category that must be hacked into the game, the Solitude Rune. The Solitude Rune increases its user's attack power so long as he/she is traveling with less than a full party. Basically, as you remove party members that character's attack will skyrocket. You'll generally put this on Azure because he is the only person you can't remove. The effect is reversed as soon as you place party members back in. The amount it adds is based off your own level as well as your weapon level. At level 60, with a level 16 weapon, this Rune adds 127 ATK power per person not in your party (easily making your main character have a 999 ATK stat).
Since Suikoden II has the new three-rune-slots mechanic, characters are now divided between those who can use a single Rune slot, those who can use two, and those who can use three. Characters with the ability to use all three Rune slots are rare indeed, and because of that you can break the game open with them by slotting in game-breaking combos such as Double Beat + Killer + Rune we've yet to encounter.
Few characters get all three Rune slots; slightly more get a Forehead slot, which is useful for a particular Rune that can only be put onto the Forehead. Of the characters we've seen so far, only Azure, Jowy, Millie, and Rina eventually get all three Rune slots. Millie, of course, is nerfed by the fact that she has a fixed Groundhog rune. Rina is quick to get a third Rune slot, attaining it at level 35; Jowy beats her by getting his at level 30.
Most characters will attain all the Rune slots they can acquire by the endgame, with a few stragglers not getting their last slot until the high 60s or low 70s.
Every character has a certain affinity for magic Runes in the game. These can range from D to A. D means they'll do 20% less damage with that Rune on the whole, C is normal damage, B is 20% more damage, and A is 40% more damage. A special grade, E, will mean that character will do 20% more damage but their Rune usage can also backfire. When a Rune backfires, it causes a small explosion that damages the whole party and, in the case of Viki's Blinking Rune (yes she is in this game she is in every game, yes she is a battle character now, no her Blinking Rune is not unique you can put it on other characters), will remove party members from your party and send them back to your castle. She's a special case in that every magic Rune backfires with her.
As far as affinities go with the characters we have, Gengen has an E ranking in Earth, meaning he might backfire with it if you gave him that Rune. Hanna's straight up terrible with everything, along with Rikimaru and Shiro. Jowy, is unsurprisingly, great with Darkness-aligned Runes. Mukumuku is E-ranked with Fire, strangely. Millie is great with Fire and Lightning but E-ranked in Water/Non-elemental magic, which can go badly with a certain Rune. Azure isn't particularly great with most Runes.