The original PlayStation was host to a cavalcade of unforgettable JRPG titles, from the colossal mainstream success of Final Fantasy VII to the quiet cult classics like Guardian’s Crusade and Azure Dreams, the console gave way to a booming era for the genre. One of the more relatively unknown JRPG series of that era was Suikoden, a chinese dynasty era influenced JRPG series that excelled through its powerful storytelling, massive yet memorable expansive cast of characters an tight gameplay mechanics that feel like turn-based RPG perfected. The series has quite the following among hardcore JRPG fans and until now has been a series that I have personally never had the privilege to give a go. Jumping straight into what many call the series best game, Suikoden II, I found myself filled with deep regret. Regret that I hadn’t played this game sooner.
What struck me almost instantly about Suikoden II was that the game looks just as good today as it would have 15 years ago when it was originally released. The sprite models are gorgeously rendered and the backgrounds are beautifully depicted. While the PlayStation was obviously capable of 3D renders at this time, Suikoden II’s use of sprite graphics has ensured the game remain timeless with a charm that hasn’t aged a day.
While the charming visuals have attributed a lot to Suikoden II aging gracefully, it is the epic (literally) story that makes this game so enduring. The characters leave such a lasting impression and their intertwined fates and journeys are both breathtaking and heartbreaking. Whether it is emotional highs or lows, Suikoden II is all over the spectrum leaving players feeling truly affected by the story of friendship, family and the things in life worth fighting for.
Particularly of note is Suikoden II’s combat mechanics. It doesn’t just have one standardized combat system it actually has three, all of which are entirely distinct from one another yet all so deeply interconnected that the flow between them feels seamless. You have standard battles, which are turn based like any old RPG game. Then you have duels, which are one on one battles which involve a rock, paper scissors style mechanic giving an added layer of strategy to the most intense fights imaginable. Lastly you have massive battles, which as you’d guess by the name are literally massive, with the player having to control an entire army of characters in epic (once again, literally) warfare. With over 100 playable characters available to join your party there may very well be no other RPG out there with so many available characters, unless you count Pokemon, but that’s a bit of a different story really.
Everything about Suikoden II from top to bottom just glows with quality. Whether it is the gorgeous aesthetics or the incomparable musical score, Suikoden II is an outright masterpiece of video-game art. Very few games truly qualify as being true art and Suikoden II makes quite the case for itself.
Feeling is something special. To be affected deeply enough to feel something, is a mark of emotional depth and sincerity. Suikoden II has both in spades, which is a large part of why it is as good as it is. I began my review mentioning the sense of regret I felt for having not played this game before and after playing through the game hours and hours upon end that regret faded and in its place a new feeling arose, gratefulness. I’m grateful to have been able to experience a game of this caliber and even though it took me 15 years to finally do that, a game like this should be cherished for a lifetime. If you are any kind of JRPG fan, do yourself a favour and play this game, it is undoubtedly one of the greatest role-playing games ever made. Not many games earn the title of masterpiece, but Suikoden II is quite simply a once in a lifetime kind of game. Powerful, affecting, beautiful, unforgettable, Suikoden.