When Suikoden was first released in Japan in 1995, I believe the creators didn’t know how well the game would sell. As a result to the surprise success of Suikoden, a sequel was made. Suikoden II is set three years after the original game, but this time taking place at the Jowston League of City-States and the Highland Kingdom which are location north of the Scarlet Moon Empire.
The hero in this game is a young boy named Riou. He and his friend, Jowy, are part of the Unicorn Brigade; an army consists of youths who serve the Highland army. The City-States has formed a cease fire with the Highland Kingdom. However, just when everything seemed to be peaceful, a rain of arrows showers down on the camp that Riou and Jowy are stationed at. During the chaos, the two friends discover a shocking truth behind the attack. It seems that the one responsible for the ambush is none other than Luca Blight, Prince of the Highland Kingdom, who plans to rekindle the hatred between the two troubled nations. After learning the awful truth, Riou and Jowy run for their lives, and blindly jump off a cliff into a river. Little did they know, the river currents will separated them, and they will forever change the destiny of the two nations. The two friends end up working separately through the ranks of each country, eventually rising as their leaders.
While the first Suikoden dealt with a corrupt government and military, Suikoden II deals with “brother verses brother”, a theme which rarely is explored in video games. Though Jowy and Riou aren’t blood related, the two are childhood friends and do act like brothers. As the game progresses, the player can see how the war affects these two characters greatly.
Like the first Suikoden, there are 108 characters to recruit, and you don’t have to get all of them to beat the game. About two-thirds of the recruiting characters in Suikoden II are new while about a third of them have made a reappearance from the previous game. There is a little bonus to this game. If you saved at the last save point in Suikoden, you can transfer the game data to Suikoden II, and you can meet Tir McDohl (the hero from Suikoden). If you got all 108 characters in the first game, you can also meet Tir’s traveling buddy. Both characters can join your party, but they’re not part of the recruiting characters.
The graphics of Suikoden II are a total upgrade from Suikoden. There’s a little more detail in the background and characters. Even the opening gets an upgrade. Where Suikoden’s opening is mostly spirits and some game play footage, the intro of Suikoden II is mostly hand drawn, almost animated, with some CGI.
Like the first Suikoden, there 3 types of battles: Basic Battles, 1-on-1 Duels, and War Battles. While the Basic Battles is about the same in both games, there are some changes with the duels and the War Battles. The only thing that has change for the duels is that the “Desperate Attack” has changed to “Wild Attack.” For the War Battles, there is a major difference between the two games. The War Battles in Suikoden is basically a menu base battle where each turn you choose an action and then a group or character that is listed under that action. The War Battles in Suikoden II, however, is more tactics. You can move the characters and choose which action they should do.
There is one small improvement with the endings. Where Suikoden had 2 endings that had very little differences between them, Suikoden II had 3 endings. Fans of this series call the 3 endings: bad, good, and perfect, because, depending how many of the recruiting characters you got, determines each ending you get. However, the bad and good endings of Suikoden II is similar to Suikoden by being about the same but slightly different. Both endings have Riou becoming the leader of a new country. The difference between the two is that with one ending you choose to be the new leader, and, with the other one, you’re force to become the new leader. The perfect ending is just Riou traveling the world with two people.
There is a spin-off Suikoden game called Gensō Suikogaiden. This game is a two part series that follows Nash. This game takes place during and after Suikoden II. Suikogaiden is more of a visual novel than role playing game. However, to my knowledge, Suikogaiden was never released outside of Japan. So people outside Japan won’t met Nash until Suikoden III.
Overall, Suikoden II is a good sequel that you don’t have to play the previous game. Like the Suikoden, if you like to play this game, you’re most likely have to borrow from someone, because the cost of Suikoden II is over $100.