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Suikoden II
Review By: Joel Fajardo
Developer:   Konami
Publisher:   Konami
# of Players:   1
Genre:   RPG
ESRB:   Teen

When Beyond the Beyond was completed shortly after the launch of the original PlayStation, gamers were anticipating a timeless game on a hopeful system from an established company. But Beyond the Beyond turned out to be what most gamers dreaded-a new generation of games-away from a Nintendo console, mind you-that lost sight of what was important in a video game. Fun, primarily, and for an RPG, a great storyline and classic adventure. It suffered in every which way possible and left gamers with a bad taste for next-generation gaming and more historically in this industry, it left them with an even worse taste for 2D games on a should-be 3D system. Because it was not only the plot that suffered, but it was the graphics and sound and the…well, let's not get too absorbed into those loathsome times.

But beyond Beyond the Beyond (catchy, eh?) there was Suikoden. And Suikoden, yes, it was good. It was the Messiah of the 2D classic gaming-if you will-and it was the first pure RPG that was of a high quality on the next-generation consoles. It was a huge game with simply a maddening spectrum of character personalities. And gaining all those characters (108, was it?), and building your own castle, and battling gruesome monsters. Ahh. It was a success in all regards and instantly gave impunity to PlayStation for the miseries of Beyond the Beyond.

Suikoden II, another Konami klassic, follows the steps of its predecessors, and quite literally. There is simply no doubt that this is Suikoden II-the graphics are virtually the same, the sound is identical (if not slightly worse), the story is very much a clone of the previous game, and you still collect the menagerie of characters that you did before. But don't shun it just yet, because it is like Suikoden I as I just mentioned. And that makes it a masterpiece. Fun and adventurous, riveting and shocking. The storyline still is deep and emotional and everything else that you loved about the first one. It still is that crazy game Suikoden I, just done a whole lot better this time around, with nearly twice the hours of gameplay.

But I only plan to brief you on the plot before I go into the detail about the game's other aspects that most of you avid gamers like to hear. You are the hero, whose name you choose-for the sake of this review, let's go with Zevorium, my character's name-and are a dedicated soldier of the Highland Army. Political warfare is going on between the City-State and Highland, and negotiations fail. A treaty is broken and Zevorium and (his best friend) Jowy's camp is invaded. Go ahead, scream. Ah! To the gamer's surprise (note the sarcasm), the two get separated and then reunite. The story unfolds from there.

It's all about politics and kings and treaties, betrayal and whatnot such as the first game was.

If not for its excellent presentation, the game would not attract such a large crowd. Before playing the game you are treated to a moderately nice intro that briefs you on the game's elements. And when actually playing the game, you notice that the quality of graphic design is only marginally better than Suikoden I. Character design is essentially the same (Zevorium, this game's hero, looks quite like the one from the original Suikoden) as are the towns and cities. The architecture, however, is slightly more popping and 3D than the first. So your eyes don't focus so much on the mechanical flatness that was mildly apparent in the first. In addition, all the animation is executed and drawn just as well as the first, with the addition of some FMV scenes during fundamental parts of the game's story.

In respect to Konami, there are many ardent fans that simply cherish Konami's tunes. Both in the Castlevania series and others. But save a few occasions, I just didn't really feel that pizzazz that brings you into the moment of battle or on the brink of tears. And isn't that what makes an RPG so wonderful? It reminded me more of some scratchy MP3s that seemed just to be thrown into the game at a moment's notice.

"Hey Ogasara," the game's US producer is called, "we forgot to put sound in this game!"

"No problem guys, I've got some MP3s right here from some unreleased Saturn games."

But everything other than that is fine. Controlling the game is easy, but tedious at times when you must incessantly equip and unequip party members-and trust me, there are many. Also, the game's rune magic system is the same as the first, so those who played the first will feel right at home with this system.

This is where the game takes off though. That Suikoden II is so much like Suikoden I is a wonderful thing when you get your castle. Building your castle is so much more fun than the first time (or maybe only because it's been so long), because not only are there tons of characters, but the regular townsfolk clones also live in your castle. It makes your home look so full.

For those of you who aren't as familiar with this as the fans that I'm addressing, at one point in the game you get your own castle. You can then travel around the world and collect new characters, each with their own story line. If you don't get them, that's fine. If you do, that's great! It becomes a challenge to figure out how to "collect" some of the people though. A certain bath-maker in Lakewest Town only likes people who enjoy a "nice and toasty" bath. So you must go out and find a market that sells products that make you steaming toasty. Only then will he join you. The number of characters seems virtually endless, because you can collect over 108 this time. And as any person whose played this game would tell you, you spend hours just trying to collect them all-and further more, develop their special abilities. This is what keeps you coming back.

The game in total is at least 40 hours long. If I had one complaint in all that time of playing, it would be that for the most part-no, I'll just be candid: the game is bone-dry of humor. Sure it's touching and emulates the human ethos well, but comic relief is nowhere to be found. It's just plain death after sad moment, after crying and after tears…

… But if you've read this far into the review, you undoubtedly understand my respect for Suikoden II. It's a game with its own essence and spirit that makes us reminisce of the classic Super Nintendo days, of which it closely trails. But in terms of fun, in a world where 3D is now the consensus' choice, Suikoden II is innovative in that it breaks away from that trend.

Not to be forgotten.

Overall: 8.9


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