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Suikoden II - Review

By Ryan Amos, RPGamer Writer


Review Breakdown
   Battle System7.0
   Gameplay7.0
   Music9.0
   Originality6.0
   Plot6.5
   Replay Value7.5
   Sound8.0
   Visuals4.0
   DifficultyEasy
   Time to Complete30-45 hours 
Overall
6.5
Criteria
   I'll be straight with you: I had some pretty decent expectations for Suikoden II before purchasing it. Why not? After all, the original was a wonderful game of extraordinary proportions, featuring 108 characters and a good storyline based around a war of more realistic proportions than most games of the sort. It was truly a marvel of modern gaming when released as a first generation Playstation game.

   Unfortunately, the second chapter of the Suikoden saga hasn't changed much. It still features dated graphics, a very similar storyline and one of the worst translations I've ever seen. This is obvious from the opening movie, which sports some god-awful FMV, a strange combination between some below-average CG and scrolling still shots which fail to impress the viewer.

   The soundtrack, on the other hand, is at the total opposite end of the spectrum from the visuals. Wow, I'm not much one for game music, but some of the tracks in this game flat out rock. This fact is also evident from the opening scene, the introduction song is quite epic and moving, and it sets the tone for the rest of the game. The song which plays during a battle between your party and a recurring boss from the original Suikoden is perhaps my favorite game tune ever. I literally was dying on purpose so I could go back and listen to the song again.

Old graphics
Dated graphics  
   Of course, about the only way you're going to lose a battle is to do it on purpose. Not much difficulty in the battles here; for example at one point in the game you can recruit a powerful swordfighter who is easily 15 levels above your best people. The game does try to force you to spread your experience out, by making you take certain characters at certain times, and having others unavailable at other times.

   Who can forget the massive battles between your large armies of the original Genso Suikoden? They've been changed around a bit for the sequel. Instead of merely pitting your forces against eachother in one melee battle, your troops are spread between commanders and moved around on a map a la a strategy game. It does require a little bit of thought, though you should easily trounce the enemy if you build your units well. The main strategy of these battles, however, is not chosen by you, but by your strategist.

   In fact, your character never makes a choice in the game without having someone else feed him the answer. This leads to the point of believability: how does a 16 year old kid become leader of a massive army while never making a concious decision without the intervention of others? Why is this important? Well, because it never quite hits home that you are the leader of a large and powerful army, because your strategist always dictates what you will do, all you can say is "yes."

   This could have been lost in translation, as a very, very large part of this game is. In Japanese culture, it is honorable to die for your emperor. However, in American culture, nobody will fight to the death for the mayor of their town. A better choice of words could have been used over most of the game, as a lot of things come out very awkward. This is besides the other glaring errors, such as a female citizen talking about the beauty of the mayor wanting to make her swoon or the various spelling and grammar errors strewn throughout important conversations. In addition to this, it seems Konami made a few mistakes and forgot to translate some lines at all so there will be a few characters (I've found 5 so far) who talking to will spew gibberish back at you.

Translation blunders abound
Translation blunders abound  

   One thing which VERY much surprised me was the total, utter lack of Dual Shock support. Anymore, this is a given on any new game, but if you turn on the analog function in Suikoden II, the game will not work. This game could have benefitted from use of the analog, as holding circle to run gets a little annoying.

   In the end, Suikoden II is a good game. It's not bad, but it could have been a lot better. Should you buy it? If you played the original Suikoden and liked it, there's a good chance you'll like Suikoden II as well. If you're looking for an oldschool RPG and Lunar didn't fill your bucket, you can look here. Otherwise, rent it, see if you like it, and decide from there.

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