Suikoden II

Graphics: 4
Sound: 4
Control: 5
Depth: 5
Overall: 5

Suikoden II

By: Konami
Released: 1999

Originally overshadowed by the release of Final Fantasy VIII, Suikoden II is one of my favorite role-playing games for PlayStation – expanding on the original in almost every way. Unlike many console-RPG series that often reinvent themselves each game, Suikoden II is a direct sequel with many returning characters. Once again, you are a boy who, through circumstance, is thrust into a grand conflict and eventually must recruit the 108 stars of destiny. The story this time concentrates on two childhood friends and the choices they make, as they become adults. Not many videogame plots would make a good novel, but add one to the list. The game is also a decent length; so if you were disappointed by the first Suikoden’s 24-hour playtime, you have nothing to fear. With multiple endings, you’ll probably want to complete the game at least twice.

Like the first Suikoden, there are three modes of combat: Six-member monster combat, one-on-one duels, and large scale skirmishes. The army battles have been revamped from the former rock-paper-scissors affair to more strategic, unit-based fighting.

The graphics and sound are very good for this 2.5D style of game. The visuals are impressive, especially magic spells during battles. Characters are well designed, but some monsters look a little cartoonish compared to the designs in the first game. Musical orchestration is again excellent – with more variety to boot – yet the audio is no longer Yellow Book, giving the music a slight MIDI quality and losing the luster of some of Suikoden’s beautiful songs.

Later in the game, you'll gain a headquarters, which expands as you recruit more members to your cause. Besides acquiring item shops, antiques, old books, a bathhouse and games of chance, you also gain a restaurant that can cook different foods to replenish your party’s health. Depending on what plants, livestock and spices you have acquired, you'll have more recipes to choose from. But that’s just the beginning! If you check in with your chef often, you unlock an “Iron Chef” style mini game. Other nice touches are the new trading posts in different towns and the ability to recruit the hero from the first game.

With a richer plot and expansive world, Suikoden II more than makes up for its slight flaws, translation errors, and similarity to its predecessor. It may be my favorite Role Playing Game on the system.

-Ben Langberg