Suikoden II



  • Hi everyone,

    I just finished my first playthrough of Suikoden II and I wanted to share my thoughts with you all. Full disclosure: I did not play through the original Suikoden before this, though I don't think doing so would have changed my opinion on this game. Also, if you haven't played yet: Spoilers ahead. I usually try to keep these thoughts relatively vague, but if you haven't played yet and want to go in completely unspoiled, then don't read any further.

    I don't know if I've ever been more frustrated with a game than I was with Suikoden II. This is a game that's so clearly ahead of its time, telling a mature story filled with incredible characters, deep lore, and a surprising amount of charm. But man, did it drive me up the wall sometimes. Some of that has to do with me: I'm an extremely neurotic person, and this game has a lot of things that set me off. Starting small: the text speed. I'm a really fast reader, and the fastest text speed still has words scrolling out at a painful rate. You can get around this by tapping X again to reveal the rest of the dialogue, which I did often. The problem is that the main character's dialogue options show up all at once, meaning that tapping X again leads to accidentally selecting an option I would have otherwise wanted to avoid. Again, this is a nitpick, but it's something that happened again and again throughout my 36 hour playthrough. Even when I got a feel for the pace at which conversations would go, there'd still be a surprise dialogue option that caught me off guard. It drove me insane.

    The translation was also bizarrely inconsistent. At first, I was actually surprised at how good it was. Again, I thought the story was fantastic, and I was really happy at the effort that went into it all. Then, out of nowhere, it took a nosedive. Characters couldn't decide on the spelling for Jowy, sometimes calling him Jowei or Joei. Numerous typos kept popping up, the most egregious being a few classic "there, they're, their" mix ups. This is on top of the glitches. Usually they were small: characters in town, enemy names, and items would often pop up as random symbols, but I can deal with that. The most frustrating glitch occurred in about half of the army battles, in which the music would simply not load in. The battles themselves weren't really engaging even with the music, but without it they were just extremely boring and felt like a waste of time.

    Again, those were all nitpicks, but they popped up so often that it felt like the game was trying to drive me insane. Those aside, there were still a few things that I felt the game could have done better. I think the combat system was a missed opportunity. It would have been cool if, Chrono Trigger-style, combo attacks started popping up with characters that fought together more often. I also thought the Rune system was like a less-successful version of FF7's Materia system, but I'm sure there was a lot more depth in there that I was missing. However, my biggest (and arguably only legitimate) issue with the game is with its pacing.

    I understand that this game is about building a nation, and I get that some people really love the castle-building mechanic, but I think it killed the flow of the game. There are stretches of the game when you travel from location to location, story beat to story beat, but those become few and far between as you enter the endgame. Always returning to this one, central location quickly lost its novelty, and I felt like it often killed the momentum of the story.

    Of course, these numerous returns to the castle are important because they often signal that you can go recruit new stars of destiny. On paper, I love this. These side quests were some of my favorite moments in the game, and gave me some legitimate laughs. However, they completely killed any momentum the story had going for it. I'd often select the "I need more time" option - sometimes accidentally - in order to make sure I could recruit more people. This simply doesn't make sense from a story perspective. If the army is bearing down on the castle, I don't have time to go on a road trip. I need to fight now! And I know, the onus is on me here, since I could have simply said "no, the story is more important, forget those characters." That's true for some of these characters, especially those found in Forest Village. But when the game shows me these characters, introduces me to them, introduces me to them, and then tells me I can't recruit them until I progress the story further (and therefore backtrack even more), I get annoyed. The game could have easily let me just recruit a whole bunch of characters upon first introduction, and if it had, I think the pacing would have been much improved.

    Finally, the Neclord story. This is the one story that made me feel like I needed to play the original Suikoden, since there's clearly a whole history between him and Viktor that plays out in that first game. I'm fine with that, and I think that it probably provides a bunch of cool moments and some closure to fans of the original. However, it's completely unnecessary to the plot of this game, and not only is it a fairly lengthy story, it happens right at the climax of the conflict between my character and Jowy. This would have been a super cool side quest for those who were interested, but instead it's made as the prelude to the finale. It completely kills the momentum that the game had been building up into those final fights, and I have no idea why they felt the need to make it part of the main story.

    Ultimately, that's why this game is so frustrating to me. There's so much that I love here. The story is legitimately one of the best I've ever seen in a game, with an incredibly powerful central conflict. While I wish they explored Jowy's motivations a bit more, the game did a great job showing us the relationship between him and the hero before his turn to the "dark side." The whole second half of the game felt so much more personal as a result, and it's something I think a lot of games lack. Luca Blight, while thinly sketched (I would have preferred to understand his motivations/why people follow him), has some legitimately horrifying moments as a villain. There aren't many games where you see a woman be forced to act like a pig before she gets murdered. Similarly, there aren't many games where you can recruit a Unicorn who shouts "NYEEEAAH" when he joins your party for fights. The game on the whole does a really remarkable job of balancing the gritty/dark aspects with the absurd, and the result is some really charming moments.

    Finally, while I know I didn't get the "true" ending, after watching it online, I'm glad I didn't. My ending cemented the fact that this was a war, where the stakes are high and people die. It's extremely mature, and something that few stories, games or otherwise, capture in a way that feels emotionally resonant. I think the closest comparison I have would be to Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, which is not a comparison I make lightly. I'd really love to see a remake of this game, since I think it's a story that's worth telling.

    So those are my thoughts on the game. I know I make it sound like I hated it, but I really didn't. I actually liked it quite a bit. I think its brilliance only served to heighten the more frustrating aspects for me, which is a shame. But enough about me, what do you think? Am I insane? The answer is yes, but I'd still love to hear your thoughts on the game!



  • I've been wanting to play Suikoden 2 for a while, 5 is my favorite JRPG after Persona 3, 4 and 5, and hearing how 2 is supposed to be the best has made me want to play it for years.

    Seeing your comments I think it is very likely I would also find frustrating things with the game, so I do have to wonder how much that could hurt my experience with it, in any case it is still something I'm hoping I play through



  • @bard91 said in Suikoden II:

    I've been wanting to play Suikoden 2 for a while, 5 is my favorite JRPG after Persona 3, 4 and 5, and hearing how 2 is supposed to be the best has made me want to play it for years.

    Seeing your comments I think it is very likely I would also find frustrating things with the game, so I do have to wonder how much that could hurt my experience with it, in any case it is still something I'm hoping I play through

    I recommend playing Suikoden 1 before 2. Part of what makes the Suikoden series so interesting is how they're connected. 1 and 2 are especially connected since it features characters from the first game and their stories continue in the second game, so you get more out of Suikoden 2 if you played the first game.
    Naturally the first game is a little more rough, but it's still a great game.
    Suikoden 5 also connects pretty well with Suikoden 1 and 2.



  • @suplextrain i do remember reading about those connections in the past, if I'm not mistaken those games took place in the Island Nations right, or maybe it was 3?



  • @suplextrain yeah, there were moments I think I would have appreciated more had I played the original, especially since Flik and Viktor were two of my favorite characters. However, I don't think playing the original would have detracted from the negatives that I bothered me in II.

    And @bard91, I think it's still definitely worth a shot if you're interested. Now that you're prepped to deal with that stuff, you might actually enjoy it more... Or you'll just notice it more. Depends on how your brain works, I guess. Based on your tastes, though (i.e. story + strong characters), I think you'd like it.



  • @bard91 said in Suikoden II:

    @suplextrain i do remember reading about those connections in the past, if I'm not mistaken those games took place in the Island Nations right, or maybe it was 3?

    Chronologically the timeline is first 4, then 5, then 1, then 2 and lastly 3.
    1, 2 and 3 take place on the northern continent. 5 takes place in the southern continent. 4 takes place in the island nations smack dab in the middle (the tiny islands to the right of the middle island).
    4 is the game with the least connections to the rest of the series, mostly because it takes place around 150 years before Suikoden 1 (if I remember correctly) while the rest take place in the span of around 20-30 years.

    @naltmank
    Well, those were mostly nitpicks with things like localization. Some stuff you commented on like Luca Blight's motivations are explained, though not in detail (was considered too dark, if I recall correctly).

    Basically Luca's mother was raped by people hired by Muse/City-States of Jowston and he was forced to watch. Luca's father (Agares Blight) fled the scene. Jillia Blight is the child that came from said rape. This is why Luca hates his father and the City-States of Jowston.

    So naturally this isn't something the other games can address too much. Also combo moves are avaliable for characters that it would make sense. This has been a thing since Suikoden 1 (for example the protag and his martial arts master have a combo attack).



  • @suplextrain dude, so hardcore. That's exactly why I'd want a remake, though. Not to see that specific scene (I think no medium should ever go that explicit), but standards and practices have changed significantly in the past two decades. Having NPCs and stuff kind of talk about some of the horror his family has faced would help flesh that story out enough for you to piece the rest together. It would go towards giving him a lot more depth. He has such potential to be a Joffrey/Ramsay level villain!



  • That's honestly why I prefer Suikoden I over II - the pace is much brisker. I replayed through all of 1 a few years back with the intention of playing through all of 2 afterwards (around the time it released on the PS store) and I just wasn't motivated to finish 2. Now that I'm thinking about it real hard, I don't think I've ever finished 2, although I know for a fact I have a PS1 memory card in the other room that has a save file at the very end of the game. 1 was also the first game I had ever played at the time where I experienced a character death, something that has stuck with me for awhile (seems like this was Aerith for most people).



  • You seem a bit fixated on the idea that it should be a personal story between Riou and Jowy and that all the pacing and events should serve that purpose. I strongly disagree, a game about a cast of 108 characters shouldnt just serve 2 of them. The Neclord story isnt just Viktor's it's for Hix and Tengaar and Sierra too

    The fact that suikoden's story is active on so many levels, the personal stories for the hero, the intertwined stories of a hundred other characters, the politcal events of the world and region and the cosmic scale of the true runes and their bearers and manipulators, all serves as an incredible strength, not a weakness.

    Hopefully you'll play at least 1 & 5 too and can appreciate everything that's going on a bit more.Then look up Clive's quest in suikoden 2 and talk about pacing again :D



  • @Sieghardt said in Suikoden II:

    You seem a bit fixated on the idea that it should be a personal story between Riou and Jowy and that all the pacing and events should serve that purpose. I strongly disagree, a game about a cast of 108 characters shouldnt just serve 2 of them.

    Not exactly. My main issues is that, in the latter half of the game, the hero/Jowy conflict clearly becomes the driving force of the story. Whereas before it was a broader war story with an all-encompassing evil antagonist as the figurehead of an aggressive nation, the game significantly narrows in scope in favor of a more intimate last act. I think the Neclord mission would be great as a side mission for those reasons that you stated, but not as a mandatory mission right before the final showdown. I think the closest analogue would be Mass Effect 2, which again has the benefit of about 15 years of storytelling progress: there are several optional character side quests that you can go on as the story leads to its ultimate climax/final mission, and these are among the best and emotionally resonant in the game. However, they're completely optional, and still fit within the prescribed timeline and stakes (i.e. the quests are based on things that these are personal things the characters want to get done before they march into a suicide mission). A big difference, of course, is in the size of the ensemble (ME2 has a relatively small crew vs. 108), but I think the model still stands.

    Also, no way I was ever going to get to the Clive storyline in time, lol. It took me way too long to realize how the EXP system in this game scales to your level, which meant a couple wasted hours near the beginning. I think I missed the first recruiting cutoff by about 90 minutes. Cool idea, though.



  • Suikoden 2 is a really good RPG. You probably should have started with the first game though because of recurring characters and how the world is all connected. But to anyone thinking about getting into the Suiko series, play 1 first, and if you really REALLY don't like it then I would say skip to S2 because it is much better. But yeah, good game do you plan on playing the rest of the series?



  • I really feel like you miss out by going straight into 2.
    The first time I met Flik, Viktor, and the rest of my homies from the first game I was fucking euphoric.
    Futch and Humphrey made me a straight up weepy little bitch.
    Viki showing up out if literal thin air.

    Fuck man. Brb replaying the first 3 Suikodens.



  • I think I might have gotten more out of II had I played the original first, but that would have just improved areas that I already liked. My issues with the game as a whole would still stand.

    @glitch I might come back to the series, but if I do it won't be for a while. I have a lot of other classic series I need to catch up with before I come back to this one.


  • Global Moderator

    I think I might have posted about Suikoden 2 in one of the topics here when I finished it.

    I really liked it but I'm definitely in the minority (I think) in liking Suikoden 1 a lot more. The main thing for me was that I didn't think they improved that much from the original game. They probably did but it all felt very familiar to me.

    Also, I thought the story was a bit too contrived in the end. I was totally fine with Luca but when it went onto Jowy being the enemy, it just made no sense to me why the war would continue. It felt like they just wanted it a twist to some extent and even though it isn't convincing at all, they just go with it.

    Still a great game, I'd just recommend playing 1 over it and definitely playing 1 before playing it.



  • @tokeeffe9 said in Suikoden II:

    I really liked it but I'm definitely in the minority (I think) in liking Suikoden 1 a lot more.

    I also prefer Suikoden 1. Part of it is undoubtedly nostalgia, but I also feel that the story is more appealing. It's more personal, the true rune in the game is more interesting and the story feels more focused. I also feel that the strategist in Suikoden 2 is a little too competent.
    Then there's also more minor stuff like how I prefer the music in Suikoden 1.

    But as has been said before, Suikoden 1 and 2 basically go hand in hand.



  • @suplextrain said in Suikoden II:

    I also feel that the strategist in Suikoden 2 is a little too competent.

    The sequence where Luca opens the locket in the woods was masterful. A brilliant way of playing on your expectations; you think it's a character moment of the villain discarding beauty, when really it's Shu being two steps ahead of everyone.


  • Global Moderator

    @suplextrain

    Nostalgia isn't even a thing for me. Finished Suikoden 1 at the beginning of 2016 and I finished 2 early this year.

    I think that's why I kept thinking I didn't see much different from the first game.

    2 does still have wonderful moments too. Don't want to make it sound like I disliked it.



  • @SabotageTheTruth

    I'm the same way, both are awesome, but I think overall 1 is better, but not by much. Also the lead in the first is more believable than the lead in 2



  • Watching Ben's stream, and I think I judged this game too harshly. There's some really good stuff in here. I stand by my criticisms, but I think the positives outweigh negatives. But man, playing Chrono Cross right now, and the music/sound quality is just so much better than Suikoden 2's. What's good with that treble? Feels almost whiny at times.

    (Oops, started nitpicking again).



  • @naltmank

    WIth Suikoden II, I think some of your criticisms are valid. As @tokeeffe9 pointed out, it was bit odd when Jowy becomes the villain. They didn't really have a better reason than, "My way to do things is better than yours so we're still enemies."

    As my favorite Suikoden, and one of my favorite games ever, I have to defend the Neclord quests by stating that both instances of fighting Neclord occurred because they needed the allies according the story and defeating Neclord was the vehicle used to obtain those allies. I forgot the deeper context though.