Suikoden II takes place three in-universe years after the events of the original Suikoden, and centers around an invasion by the Kingdom of Highland of the City States of Jowston. The ensuing conflict became known as "The Dunan Unification War." The player controls a silent protagonist whose name is chosen by the player -- Konami confirmed that their official name of the hero is Riou, and has made appearances in both Suikogaiden I and II as such. The protagonist and his childhood friend, Jowy Atreides, each gain one half of the Rune of the Beginning, one of the 27 True Runes of the Suikoden setting, and become caught up in the intrigues of the invasion and the dark fate of those who bear the halves of that Rune. What follows is an epic tale of heartbreak and betrayal, of Kings and thieves, and of how one man can unite a nation.
Suikoden II is a role-playing game with some light strategic elements woven throughout. The player controls a silent protagonist and travels around the world map, advancing the plot by completing tasks and talking with other characters. The player can also recruit new characters to his cause, 108 in total, often involving a short sidequest to do so. In towns, the player can gather information, rest, recover and save at Inns, attach Runes (the source of spells/magic found in the game), sharpen characters' weaponry, and buy items and equipment; wilderness areas generally feature random encounters with monsters.
The battle system to Suikoden II features six person parties. A variety of statistics determine in-game combat ability. If all six characters lose all their hit points and are thus incapacitated, it is game over and the player must restart. Exceptions exist for certain plot battles in which winning is optional; the player can lose and the plot continues on, albeit in a slightly different fashion.
Runes, the source of all magic in the world of Suikoden II, are handled the same as the original Suikoden. Characters have a certain number of spell usages per "spell level;" for instance, a character with 4 level 1 spell slots and a Water Rune could cast "Kindness Drops" (the level 1 Water Rune spell) 4 times. Other runes offer different benefits, and some may be used as often as desired. Runes can also be affixed to character's weaponry for added effects, elemental bonuses and status enhancements.
Updates from the original Suikoden include a grid and unit based tactical battle system, the addition of a three rune slot system which allows for three different runes to be equipped at once (left hand, right hand and head -- some runes can only attach to a specific slot), a party inventory system, and a "dash" button that allowed the player to move around the screen quicker and vast graphical improvement. A transfer of data from the prior game in the series enables returning characters to enter the fray with higher levels and improved weapons. With this data the player is also given the option of recruiting a secret character, the hero from the original game Tir McDohl. References to the events of the original Suikoden are also adapted accordingly for a greater feel in continuity.
Following the formula of the original Suikoden, Suikoden II contains three different types of combat:
-Standard battles: The party the player has selected of up to 6 allies faces off with 1-6 enemies in standard, turn based combat. This battle type is considered typical in RPGs, containing options for attack, magic (Runes), items etc. One of the more unique features of the Suikoden series is the option to utilize the 'Unite' option in battle -- this allows certain combinations of characters to combine a more powerful attack as one unit. Uniting groups can simply make use of 2 characters, such as Riou and Jowy's 'Buddy Attack' which is available from the start of the game, to larger groups of 4 and 5 characters at once. This is the only battle style where the player can gain experience, items or Potch (Suikoden II's currency).
-Duels: At several points during the game the player character is pitted against another character in single combat. This style of fighting only has three moves: Attack, Wild Attack, and Defend. This duel is played in a Rock, Paper, Scissors style where "Attack" beats "Defend", "Wild Attack" beats "Attack" and "Defend" beats "Wild Attack". Each round the player must select one of the three attacks while their opponents choice is hidden. The player however can usually tell what kind of attack the enemy is going to perform by the taunts displayed.
-Massive battles: Branching out from the massive battles from Suikoden I which were more like a large-scale duel system, more interactivity was added to this element of the gameplay over that of its predecessor. This time, the Massive Battles take the form of a light SRPG. As the main character recruits characters for his castle, this opens up more options for more units. Certain characters are 'unit leaders' while others are 'supports'. Every character adds a certain amount of defense or attack to a unit. In addition, certain characters also add special abilities to the unit they are attached to. The numbers affect the chances of win or loss as much as the type of units being pitted against each other. Every unit may take up to a total of two 'losses' which are counted when a unit suffers a severe amount of casualties. Each skirmish they take part in might result in no loss, loss on one side, or even loss on both sides. As mentioned before, certain characters add special abilities to the units. Examples of these abilities include being able to take more losses than usual, magic or archery to allow attacks from a distance, healing of itself or others, etc. When a unit suffers its maximum losses it will retreat from battle, when this happens there is a possibility of the characters in the unit being wounded or even killed. Should a character be killed in a massive battle, they are considered permanently dead.
- Main Character(Riou): Riou is the protagonist of the game. A member of the Highland Army's Unicorn Brigade. Brother to Nanami and best friend to Jowy. Flees the army after his unit is slaughtered where upon he joins up with Flik and Viktor's mercenary group. He wields half of the Rune of the Beginning known as the Bright Shield Rune, one of the 27 True Runes.
- Jowy Atreides: Childhood friend to Riou and Nanami. Jowy joined, and subsequently fled, the Highland Army along with Riou. Taking a different approach to his revenge, Jowy infiltrates the Highland army with a plan to destroy it from within. He wields the other half of the Rune of Beginning, the Black Sword Rune.
- Nanami: The main character's step-sister and constant companion throughout the game. Always very high in spirits and energy, she is very close to both her step-brother and Jowy.
- Luca Blight: Luca Blight is presented as the main villain for most of the game. A man of menacing power, he is known across the land as "The Mad Prince," he is the commander of the Highland Army and was responsible for the slaughter of Riou and Jowy's unit, The Unicorn Brigade. He wields the mighty power of the Beast Rune.
- Flik: Known in some parts as "The Blue Lightning," Flik is one of the leaders of the mercenary group Riou falls in with after deserting the Highland army. Flick is one of the many returning characters from the original Suikoden where he helped Tir McDohl win the "Gate Rune Wars." He named his sword Odessa, after the character of the same name in the original Suikoden.
- Viktor: Another holdover from the original Suikoden, Viktor leads a small mercenary group who are responsible for rescuing Riou and Jowy after their narrow escape from the Highland Army's massacre of The Unicorn Brigade. He wields the mighty Star Dragon sword, a mystic blade of untold power.
Suikoden II was originally released for the PlayStation in 1998 in Japan and 1999 in North America. The game received a very limited print run and due to poor initial sales it never saw a reprinting. Despite all this the game was very well reviewed by the gaming press. Its limited availability caused the game to become a holy grail of sorts for collectors, with sealed copies of the game still going for over $300 on sites like ebay. In 2005 Suikoden II was re-released on the PlayStation Portable as part of a compilation of the first two games of the series, though much to the dismay of fans it never saw a release outside of Japan. The original Suikoden was released digitally over the PlayStation Network, giving fans hope of an eventual PSN release of the second game.
Frontier Gate, developed by Konami and members of the Suikoden team, features equipment styled after equipment worn by Suikoden II characters.
The original Suikoden II soundtrack was composed by Miki Higashino and Keiko Fukami. It spans four discs and over 100 individual tracks. Widely believed to be some of the best music composed during the PS1 era, physical copies of this soundtrack have been sought after by collectors since it's release in December of 1988.
An arranged cd of selected tracks from Suikoden II was released in Japan on May 10th, 2000 called Genso Suikoden II: Orrizonte. It was on a single disc and featured 12 classic tracks arranged with a very celtic/folk sound.
The following is a complete account of all the characters that will join your quest.