It could be said that Squaresoft has set a precedent in the console RPG market with itís multimillion dollar games hosting the latest in 3-D rendered graphics. It has been a staple that all other console RPG designers has been forced to follow, some with results good, some with results not so good. So it is rare that one can find an old-school experience like Suikoden II. Especially on the Playstation! But that in itself can be as good as it can be bad. While catering to one group who fondly reminisces of the RPGs of the 8 and 16 bit eras, Konami could be alienating those spoiled with the eye candy of our modern age of 32 bits.
Suikoden II follows its predecessor in almost every aspect. It tinkers, rather than builds, upon itís original engine; nothing is truly innovating. Those familiar with the original will be able to come right in, while those who are not will be able to do the same.
Suikoden II takes place a couple of years after the first game's ending. Once again, an evil empire is terrorizing the helpless, lead by the Empire General Lika Bride, who scope is to systematically burn village after village to feed his rage. You start out as a young solider betrayed by his allegiance and is soon called to face the armies of the evil Empire in one grand endgame battle. Along the way, the young solider turned rebel will recruit some 108 characters (many from the original), build and maintain a vast base and farmlands (new to the system) that encompassing it. It all sounds eerily familiar doesnít it? Not only is it the default storyline of most RPGs out there, it is a virtual carbon copy of itís antecessor.
The graphics are 2-D all the way, with sprites both brighter and sharper than those found in the original. It's not as flashy as Final Fantasy VIII, but then it is not meant to be. There is brief display of 3-D rendered cut scenes found throughout the game to carry the storyline along, but that is as far as the rendering goes. And like the first game, portraits are used to denote the more important characters of the game.
Game play is not as in-depth as most systems out there today; again, Konami has gone with old-school (I am starting to see a pattern here). Battles are quick and concise with almost zero load time with each random encounter. You can have any six people in your party at one time, and while that would make the battle limitless with some many characters to chose from, like the first, a myriad of them are filler and can not really bring anything new to the battle. Konami seeks to correct this by building on the simultaneous attacks found in the original where one or more characters would group together for one major attack. Rune stones acquired throughout the game is used for magic which is upgraded for more spells when the character that is using it raises a level.
The called strategic army battles of this sequel are tinkered with as well. In the first one, just seeing your micro sized army clash and ascend to heaven complete with halos and wings in a battle that is already won on default did not constitute as very strategic. Now you can actually position your units on a map, and from there send them out to do much damage on a particular enemy unit or assign them to defend or item use. A nice addition to something that should have been in the first one without question.
Overall, Suikoden II is a good game that really doesn't offers anything new to the title. It will appeal to those who seek the true and easy gaming feel lost in many neoteric console RPGs today. This title is also great for beginners unfamiliar with console RPGs who doesn't particularly care to start out with one of the ones renown for steep learning curves.
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