The Sony PlayStation was every RPG gamer's dream. Featuring great titles like Final Fantasy VII, Valkyrie Profile, and Chrono Cross, the PlayStation flooded the market with a plethora of RPGs. The games ranged from traditional Japanese-styled RPGs to tactical/action RPGs. With such a rich variety of RPGs, it would seem a difficult task to pick just one game to define the generation. Lucky for us, we were treated to one of the greatest games of all time: Suikoden II.
The core of this game, without a doubt, is the storyline; everything else just adds to the experience. You play the role of a young hero who, after a tragic night, is separated from his childhood friend. Amidst a time or war and hostility, you are forced to aid the enemy. As time passes, it becomes apparent that many things are not as they seem, quickly unraveling into a story of lies, deceit, and revenge. Who can be trusted? Which side is truly fighting for the greater good? Many questions arise as you progress through the game, all of which are answered over time. That's the beauty of this game. While there are certain aspects left to the imagination, all of the loose ends are tied up, leaving you with a gratified feeling.
Everything in Suikoden II is executed to near perfection. The game features a great soundtrack, ranging from soft, reedy music to frantic orchestral music. It does a great job of setting the mood, which is also bolstered by the storyline. The amount of songs on the soundtrack is almost ridiculous. Some of the tracks are remixed songs from the original Suikoden, which is a good thing. It may not be the greatest soundtrack of all time, but it is certainly one of the better ones.
The battle system, in its own right, is very good. It doesn't necessarily do anything special, but it does do enough to make it interesting. The game uses a rune system, similar to that of Final Fantasy VII's materia system. There are many types of runes, but specific runes have better abilities when equipped on certain characters. There are also "unite" attacks, which vary greatly depending on who you have in your party. Keep in mind that there are 108 characters, with a large portion of those being playable in battle. Many of them can unite for combined attacks, allowing you to hit either a group of enemies or hit one enemy for increased damage. The enemy encounter rate is relatively high, but the battles are very quick. Overall, it's a very solid battle system.
The only part of the game that doesn't necessarily excel is the graphics. While the settings and sprites are very colorful and bright, they aren't very detailed. The towns and cities look very nice, and some of the character designs are superb, but they just aren't "A" quality. Nevertheless, the game does look good and certainly doesn't have any graphical issues.
All in all, Suikoden II is quite simply one of the best games ever made. It has reached near "Panzer Dragoon Saga" status, fetching well over $80 on Ebay. I have owned this game well over five times since its release, and have played through the game to completion twice. For those of you that have played the original Suikoden, you can upload your save file onto Suikoden II, which allows you to play as certain characters from the previous Suikoden with their gear and levels intact. I won't spoil which characters make a return, but I will let you know that it is very nice to see these characters unite for another adventure. I would recommend this game to anyone who has the resources to acquire this game. In the worst case scenario, you'll disagree with everything I've said, yet you'll still be able to sell the game and make your money back. Thanks goes to Konami for making such a phenomenal game.