Candied, crushed sago't gulaman
Jowy-seph: After Final Fantasy Tactics, Suikoden II would be my favorite RPG of all time. As all JRPGs are, you play the role of a scrawny boy next door who happens to have been fated to become its world’s hero, unifying its warring peoples to fight a greater evil with your charismatic personality despite barely uttering a word and your unexplainable physical and strategic prowess.
Well, I guess having possession of one of that world’s powerful true runes helps! Although technically, the Bright Shield rune is just one half of the true Rune of the Beginning, and the other half, the Black Sword rune, being in the possession of the hero’s best friend Jowy, makes for one of the strongest conflicts in all of video game history. A sentiment I’m sure the better half that completes me will certainly agree on!
[In this special edition of Sundate, Joseph and his REAL-LIFE SO Racine kick back in their loveseat and wax reminiscent.]
Riou-acine: This game is definitely in my top 5 as well! What makes Suikoden II stand out from other JRPGs, and even from the other games in the series, is the aforementioned conflict between best friends that is the focus of the story. There is an invasion on-going, but that isn’t even top of mind to the main character, and thus to the player — it’s how this war has pushed these two childhood friends apart, and how each of them tries to bring the war to an end from opposite sides. And when you do get to the end, it’s one that could go either way, depending on your actions in the game. But how can you not try your hardest to get the best ending after seeing this video in the very beginning?
Jowy-seph: Beautiful, just like you. With just a handful of charming scenes in sepia, you’d know immediately how close the bond the hero and Jowy (and Nanami, the little sister) had. Above all the politicking, the town-burning, and the demon-summoning, it was a story of TRUE FRIENDSHIP. Of course, the desire to reunite the two that didn’t lead to SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT Jowy’s death SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT just had to be a huge challenge. Recruit all 108 stars of destiny? And you have to do it before getting to a pivotal point in the game? And you have to make a split-second decision later on?
Of course, who didn’t have fun doing all those things, especially recruiting an incredibly diverse cast of characters each with defining traits and nifty gameplay and story additions? You have Hai Yo and his entire Iron Chef minigame and storyline, Richmond the detective who you could find all sorts of deep dark secrets about the rest of your army while noir music starts playing in all of its MIDI glory, the awesome rebel duo of Flik and Viktor, and Jeane with her enormous…ly vital role in supplying you with powerful runes! And it’s just great to see how they fill up YOUR OWN CASTLE, making it feel so much more alive.
Riou-acine: Thanks, dear! I have to say, I’ve played 4 out of 5 of the main series, and I still think that Suikoden II has the best castle and cast of characters. And even the “smaller” details like the music, character portraits and towns were all done really well. It’s truly a classic, one of the best games from the golden era of the PlayStation. It’s just too bad that after nearly 15 years since its initial release, there is no sign of an English digital release in the future. The Japanese audience got a PSP port for both this and the first game, but nothing for the thousands of frustrated US, Europe, and other English-speaking gamers like us.
Jowy-seph: And that’s why we are doing this very important work of reminding everyone else of how awesome this game is! We haven’t even touched on the actual gameplay, which is just as superb as the story and characters. Turn-based battle with up to six characters in one squad, and you can play to each one’s strength through their placement in the front or back row. Swordsmen and soldiers up front to dish out melee damage and tank hits, sorcerers and archers at the back to heal allies and rain down pain on enemies both physical and magical. You can even set up a party of linked characters to UNITE for devastating special attacks. GENGEN AND GABOCHA FURRY ARMY ATTACK GO!
Riou-acine: Aside from the six-member parties and character placements, I also really liked the other two types of battles: the one-on-one duels and the big army battles. I liked the rock-paper-scissors aspect of the duels and the strategy element in the army battles. And lastly, if you played the first game, got all the 108 Stars of Destiny there and imported your save file, you get plenty of bonuses in the second game, the biggest of which is actually recruiting McDohl, the hero from the first game. That’s aside from all the bonuses for the characters from the first game, like Flik and Viktor (two of my favorite characters, and mainstays in my party).
Jowy-seph: Man, I remember that duel with Luca Blight after you fight him three times with three different squads. Took a bunch of arrows, and the mofo still kept on coming, only to succumb to you if you played it right, because he could still kill you in his weakened state. One of video games’ most memorable villains, that’s for sure. And the chibi battalions clashing in the war games were always fun! Too bad they didn’t go with that mechanic again in 3 and 5. Never did get to play the first one, but at least there’s still a legit way of getting it aside from buying a PS1 and hoping to god I still find a copy somewhere! Why Konami still hasn’t made this iteration available for us Japanese-illiterate is as flabbergasting as Jeane’s timeless beauty and ever-shrinking apparel. No news for another game in the main series despite fans clamoring on social media is also rather disheartening. At the very least, we still have our memorieeeeeeessss!