SUIKODEN II – Was it GREAT sequel?
Continuing on the Suikoden series, I will now be looking at Suikoden 2. As you can guess from the number, it is the second installment of the series. However, through a bit of internet digging, I have found out that actually, Suikoden 2 was written before Suikoden. Suikoden acted as a story that sets up the Suikoden universe.Was it a great successor to the Suikoden lore?
Riou (canon name for MC) and Jowy was youth soldiers of the Highland Army. At the night of their final day of camp, their corrupt officer staged an attack to break the treaties between Highland and Jowston. Cornered, the two youths jumped off the cliff into the river. Separated, Riou was found by the mercenaries – Viktor and Flik (returning characters from S1). And Jowy was saved by Pilika and her family in a neighboring town. Reunited, they journeyed back to their homeland only to be branded as traitors and put on death row. Saved by the mercenaries, they traveled back to the fort and found that Luca has invaded.
After an unsuccessful defense of the fort, the party made their way to city-state city of Muse. On their way, Pilika showed them a shrine that her parents guarded. Soon, both Riou and Jowy became true rune bearer. Riou with the Bright Shield Rune and Jowy with the Black Sword Rune. After the events in Muse, Jowy staged a betrayal against the city-state, an event that separates the two best friends.
At the end, Jowy revealed that his betrayal was for a greater future. He believed that one side had to win, and Highland were far more powerful compared to the scattered city-state – the more likely side to winning the war. He wanted to take the helm of Highland (which he did) and instill his idea of peace from within.
Love it. The betrayal of Jowy was the greatest plot twist. Jowy, after his betrayal, was viewed as an antagonist, only to reveal that he did what he did, was for peace. He picked a side that – at that time- was ideal for him to attain peace. One side had to win for it to end. For once, I connected with the “villain” of the game. Jowy was not all dark. If Highland won, will Jowy put the land under chaos and war or will there be peace that is no different as if the Riou won?
Luca Blight, however, was all dark. But his nickname “Mad Prince” was not without a good backstory. He witnessed his father turn coward and left him and his mother at the hands of the evil. He watched as his mother was raped multiple times and later discovered that they were hired by Muse. Thus, his hatred grew against the city-state and turning him into the “Mad Prince” – an embodiment of cruelty and blood lust.
The game has spinoffs, Genso Suikogaiden Volumes 1 and 2 and also have light novels. These titles may shed some light to my gripe against Windy and Barbarossa’s story and death. However, I am unable to read Japanese. So any references of spinoffs and novels that are not available in English, is purely based on synopsis found on the Suikoden Wikia page. And I found no story to answer my questions on the antagonists’ deaths as both character pages have their deaths go “last seen jumping off Gregminster Palace and no body was found”. They might have teleported away as I suspected or burnt to ashes along with the castle.
As Suikoden 2 was a direct sequel to Suikoden, the game retained its Chinese aesthetics. The MC even had the SunWuKong-like circlet. Also following tradition, the MC arms himself with a stick-like weapon – in this case, the tonfa. The small towns were also designed to be akin to the Chinese buildings. However, bigger cities and the Highland were more medieval.
I am very much in love with the song Reminisce from this game. It has many versions – the one I loved was from the Vocal collection. Even then, the song without the vocals (present in the game) has succesfully carried the emotions of Riou and Jowy, their memories as best friends, and their sadness because they have to fight – to uphold their ideals for the kingdom.
The battle system was similar to its predecessor. The return of 6 man party that can be made with the 108 recruits. The difference was that now each character is able to hold three runes – Head, Left and Right hand. However, the difficulty was not improved. In total, I had a game over once and that was the fight against Luca Blight. However, it was easily solved just by a re-shuffling of the party. During that arc, we got to choose 3 parties, thus using 18 fighters. The mistake I did was to putting too many strong members in the first two and I thought the third was to “finish him off”. However, only at the third fight that he got stronger instead of weaker. But for the subsequent boss fights and even the final boss, was very easy.
What did I love- Most definitely, the story! It was to me one of the most enjoyable and deep story from a game. It deviates from the cookie-cutter save the “xxxx” formula of other games. The finding and recruiting of the 108 stars was also huge part of my enjoyment. I do enjoy a bit of collecting of characters without mindless grinding.
Did it successfully acted as a foundation for the series? Yes, to an extent. Suikoden 2 had returning (and cameo appearances) of characters from Suikoden. However, the story only go so far. The kingdom that Tir McDohl saved acted as a closed off kingdom. And not willing to be involved in the conflicts in Suikoden II. Therefore, I would say that Suikoden has successfully acted as a foundation, as in it created the environment to the next game. Suikoden served as the basis of the in-game lores, however, has very little effect on the story of Suikoden 2.