Tag Archives: Stars of Destiny

Jowy and Hodor were both aiming for the same thing in Suikoden II

Suikoden 2 beat game final post GD

Here’s something rather amusing: I was playing Suikoden II as it was announced over the weekend at Sony’s PlayStation Experience event that it was finally, at long last, coming to North America via the PlayStation Network. Take that, outrageously high eBay prices. Instead of dropping over $100, you can now download the epic JRPG for a sliver of that. I’ve read two different reported prices so far: $10.00 and $6.99. Either is a fantastic price for Konami’s sparkly, well-kept gem, one that many might not have gotten to play due to its rareness, as well as it being out-shadowed during its release by Final Fantasy VIII. Yeah, the one with the floating garden school and Junction/Draw system.

That said, after a logged forty-nine hours and change and with my main party of characters all just under level 60, I can safely say that I have played Suikoden II. Again. The last time was definitely back in the 1990s. Hot off the heels of replaying Suikoden, I found my revisit to Suikoden II even more enjoyable, as well as at least seventy-five percent less goofy. This is a game about darkness and dark things, like betrayal, wavering confidence, murder, sacrifice, and rape. Sure, there’s still a good amount of silliness to balance out the grim, but all in all, this is a serious adventure in the same vein as current mega-RPGs like Dragon Age: Inquisition and Diablo III, with conflicting opinions and difficult choices all around.

Here, let me sum up the plot once more. Suikoden II‘s protagonist, who I named Hodor, goes from being a member of a youth brigade in the Highland Kingdom to being the leader of its opposition. Hodor and his best friend Jowy Atreides each end up acquiring one half of the Rune of the Beginning, both destined to become leaders. Luca Blight is heir to the throne of Highland, as well as a bloodthirsty madman who developed a strong hatred for Jowston early on after witnessing his mother’s rape by thugs hired by City-State capital Muse. Hodor will eventually find himself fighting against Luca and his best friend, for safety, for civility.

The six-party, turn-based combat from the first game returns, with visual upgrades for rune spells, but not many mechanical changes. Yup, there are more Unite attacks to use, as well as the ability to switch between rows during a fight, but I found using “auto” attack to work out well enough in most situations save for boss fights. Since the point is to recruit a bunch of different people for the war, the Suikoden series is one of the few–Chrono Cross is another–that really does encourage you to mix things up and try out new team members. You can’t go wrong with who you select so long as you have a good S/M/L range mix, keep them armored, sharpen their weapons, and give them strong runes. My mainstays throughout the campaign were Flik, Viktor, Nanami, Millie, Futch, Georg Prime, and Valeria, with Hodor acting more as a healer than anything else since his speed allowed him to act first in most fights.

Massive battles and duels are thankfully kept to a minimum, which is fine considering they still require a lot of guesswork or well-hardened knowledge of how rock, paper, scissors works. The massive battles are a little different in that you have to move units around for better positioning like in a strategy RPG, but it’s still a matter of attacking horses with bow and arrows and knowing when to charge with soldiers. If you want, Apple can take over your actions on autopilot. For every duel, I ended up using a wiki guide because, more often than not, these pixelated duels take place after a big boss fight, and I didn’t want to lose any progress. It’s just a matter of selecting the correct choice of defend, attack, or wild attack based on what your enemy says.

By Suikoden II‘s close, I did end up recruiting all 108 Stars of Destiny, but not in time to get the “good” ending, though I still like the ending I saw. Many refer to it as the “tragic” ending, but seeing as I myself recently went through a tragic ending this year, it is rather apropos. Plus, it does that thing from A Link to the Past, where you check in with everyone after the war’s over to see what they are up to. Well, not everyone. Sorry, [redacted] and [redacted]. I missed/skipped out on a few other elements, like Clive’s timed side quest, recruiting the additional squirrel warriors, doing every Richmond investigation, unlocking the hidden bath scenes, and so on. There’s so much small, side stuff in Suikoden II that it can feel very overwhelming; most of it has no effect on the plot, but provides cool little moments or bits of backstory to a game already oozing story from every orifice. Still, after nearly fifty hours, I saw plenty.

If you thought the castle headquarters in Suikoden was neat and fulfilling to explore, just wait until you begin seeing it grow in Suikoden II. I mean, you could spend a good hour just running around the place, examining things, talking to people, seeing where they go when the place upgrades. There’s also mini-games to tackle, like fishing, cooking, and even whacking moles, but I might touch upon those more in a separate post. My regiment was that, every time I popped back to HQ, I’d check the suggestion box for new notes, start/complete an investigation with Richmond, make a pitstop at the warehouse, and then run over to the cafe to do the latest cook-off challenge before using Viki to teleport wherever I needed to go to next. There is legitimate excitement in my heart after recruiting a new member for the group and then scouring the castle for where they reside.

Right. Fun times. I’m going to take a wee breather before moving on to (and starting over) Suikoden III, but I think closing out a less-than-stellar year with one of my absolute favorite gaming experiences next to A Link to the Past is a good thing. Very good. Now, in the wise words of Viktor: “Oi!!!!! Let’s end this damn thing!!!”

The Young Master and Dunan Unification Army leader join forces

meeting mcdohl in suikoden 2 gd

When you start Suikoden II for the first time, the game checks to see if you’ve previously played Suikoden. If you’re a good l’il gamer and still got save data on your PlayStation 1 memory card, you’re in luck. Well, maybe. Not that Konami tells you why, but there are plenty of bonuses to reap from already playing the previous game, the greatest being that you can actually get Tir McDohl’s son to join your side and fight along Hodor, Nanami, and friends. It’s a little tricky and troublesome, but totally worth the effort, as well as the short stroll down memory lane.

First off, here’s a really good breakdown about what changes can happen for characters from the first game that do appear in Suikoden II. It all depends on how far you leveled them up during your time fighting Barbarossa, but only if they were level 60 or above. There are other perks for starting equipment, runes, and weapons, too. Hmm. Given that I ran through Suikoden in twenty-ish hours and focused on only a small, select bunch of fighters, I really don’t think anyone got that high up. Sure, I could check, but that would mean removing Suikoden II‘s disc from my PlayStation 2, something I’m not yet ready to do.

Those stat bonuses aside, the real reason to let Konami know you played Suikoden is for the chance to “recruit” Tir McDohl’s son, aka the Young Master, aka Pauly (as I named him). And I say “recruit” in quotation marks because he does not actually count as a Star of Destiny, nor does he take up residence in your castle headquarters, but more on that shortly.

So, the soonest you can find McDohl is right after the big, multi-tiered battle with Luca Blight. In Banner Village, you can speak to a young kid called Ko who is dressed to the nines like some doe-eyed Hodor cosplayer, and this kid will inform the gang that someone named “McDohl” is staying at the inn, spending most of the day fishing. Well, except, in my case, McDohl is called PcDohl due to Konami’s extremely poor translation job. Basically, for each capital letter you have in your original McDohl’s name, those capital letters will be transferred into McDohl’s name in Suikoden II, replacing the original letters one by one. Much like I did with Suikoden‘s bad grammar, I’ve been taking a lot of pictures of wonky writing and translation problems for a big post after I’ve beaten Suikoden II. Stay tuned, grammar gurus.

Anyways, since I recruited all 107 Stars of Destiny before Suikoden‘s final battle and got Gremio revived (spoilerz!!!1!1!), both Pauly McDohl and Gremio appear in Banner Village. You then go on a short side quest to save Ko who got kidnapped by bandits, eventually ending back up in Gregminster and Tir McDohl’s household for supper. Now, I’ve written about what Gregminster means to me before, so returning to it was such a delight, as well as a swirl of emotions and desires. You’ll find Gregminster has changed, though not too much, and many familiar characters pop up, though it saddened me that former stars like Cleo and Pahn did not get new portrait artwork–or any portrait artwork, for that matter. The birds remain as skittish as ever.

From this point forward, you can add McDohl to your team for turn-based battling purposes. But only him; sorry Gremio, you drew the short straw once again. And you should add him. His unite attack with Suikoden II‘s main hero is impressively deadly, able to hit all enemies in one go, not causing either to become unbalanced either. It’s essential for survival in some of the tougher parts where monsters roam. But here’s the rub–if McDohl is removed from your party, you have to travel all the way back to Gregminster to ask him to rejoin you. It’s not a simple fast travel hop with the Blinking Mirror; first you travel to Banner Village, then have to go through the forest, then get to Gregminster, then back to through the forest, Banner Village, take a boat to Radat, and lastly fast travel back to HQ. It’s lengthy and annoying, and the game automatically removes party members at various points during the plot, so you can’t rely on McDohl being there all the time, when you need him most.

Still, it’s a special slice of the game, one to pursue when not waging war and very rewarding for those that put in the time and effort to get the best results in the original Suikoden. Since Suikoden III is on the PlayStation 2, and memory cards only work for their respective consoles, I don’t think any data or secrets from Suikoden II will carry over, but we’ll see. Imagine if they eventually make Suikoden VI (unlikely, I know) and you can have a six-character team made up entirely of the series’ heroes? Imagine that!

A missed opportunity known as Greenhill’s New Leaf Academy

Suikoden II greenhill academy thoughts

Between playing some more Assassin’s Creed II this weekend and something else I’m not yet ready to reveal, I put a couple more hours into Suikoden II. When last I wrote about Hodor and his friends, they had just gained control of Dah Castle, with plans to fill it with friendly, like-minded people to assist them in taking Luca Blight deep down to the underground. Alas, not much of that actually happened, as the towns I revisited were short of recruitable Stars of Destiny, and so I got back on the main story path, settling a dispute between humans, kobolds, and winged demons, before eventually making my way to Greenhill, the newest of the five city-states and a strong believer in higher education.

Why is our colorful gang of warriors and wizards going to a college town, you ask? Well, army strategist Shu has informed us that the Highland army has taken Greenhill. Unfortunately, the Dornish army is in no shape to re-take Greenhill, but Shu wants us to rescue Teresa Wisemail, the town’s mayor, as we could greatly use her on our side. Our best bet for sneaking in is to use a party of college-age Stars of Destiny, with Flik as a bodyguard. I went with Hodor, Nanami, Gengen, Millie, Chaco, and someone else that I’m blanking on now. Um, dang. No, no–wait. Flik was an actual party member too, with Pilika in the convoy to boot. Right. Okay, it’s off to Greenhill, to learn!

Now, I’ve never played Persona 4, but I did watch the entire Endurance Run over at Giant Bomb, and my favorite parts generally involved Charlie going to school and actually participating in classes, quizzes, and socializing. There was also a good chunk of my life devoted to daily wizard lessons in Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times. I don’t know. Maybe I just miss being in school, having that structure and chance to prove yourself, but I was hoping for a similar experience here in Suikoden II. Instead, it’s all fade-to-black summaries and talk of delicious cafeteria food instead of actually experiencing it. Let me explain.

Before you even truly enter Greenhill, Fitcher, who went ahead to scout the situation, recommends everyone come up with fake names to use while playing phony high school graduates. For Hodor, I went with Bubba. Nanami liked the name Beth, and Flik got Blue Thunder. No one else in the party was special enough to warrant a name change. Naturally, this is a callback to Suikoden when everyone picked new names while escaping Gregminster and crossing a guarded border, but a part of me actually hoped I would get to roleplay Bubba while I roleplayed Hodor in this Japanese roleplaying game. Considering that only a single scene later Nanami drops Flik’s real name out in the open for all to hear and the other fake names aren’t even brought up…well, no. It was just window dressing.

Once you’re inside New Leaf Academy, you’ll meet Emilia, who will review your group’s paperwork and show you around some of the classrooms. This equates to quickly walking around the school area and some light talk before a man named Shin interrupts everything. You are then free to explore on your own before returning to the dorms for the evening. There are a few items to find, namely Old Book Vol. 5 and Recipe #20, but little interaction. In fact, most of the classrooms are empty of professors, with kids simply sitting listlessly at desks. It’s easy to imagine them brimming with activity. It’s so easy.

Much to my dismay, you never actually attend a class or do anything school-like while you are pretending to be college freshmen and learning about what ultimately happened to Teresa and the townsfolk. Instead, you’ll do some investigation stuff while Flik is avoiding a young girl’s smooches and then retire to the dorms for the evening so that you can kickstart another day of plot-vital happenings. There’s even a warning about misbehaving and getting expelled, but there is nothing you can do to affect any kind of system. You can’t even behave. All I was hoping for was maybe an interactive class or two, a chance to earn a special item or learn a new recipe by listening to what the teacher said and selecting an appropriate response.

In summary, I think the idea of pretending to be students at New Leaf Academy is a missed opportunity for Suikoden II, one that can’t be undone as I’ve now left the school behind, eager to get back to Dah Castle and see what story beat is next. At least I know there’s still cooking competitions to look forward to.

Team members in Mass Effect 2 are more like check marks

Over the weekend, I made a brown dwarf-size dent in Mass Effect 2, and now all I want to do is play Dragon Age: Origins all over again. Or maybe redo some cases in L.A. Noire. Or go through The Blackwell Deception one more time in commentary mode. I’m closing in on the “suicide mission” part, and all I want to do is walk away. It has nothing to do with fear. Rather, disappointment. Who cares about surviving a suicide mission if you don’t care about anyone by your side? Let me explain.

Mass Effect 2 is all about building a team. The Illusive Man hands over a number of dossiers to Commander Shepard, which show you the who and where to go parts, and then you’re off to recruit this person deemed vital for your team’s survival in taking on the Collectors. Fine, I’m cool with that. After all, I got every 108 Stars of Destiny in Suikoden and Suikoden II (missed a few in Suikoden V), so I know all about getting people to join one’s cause, no matter how insane it sounds. Recruiting a team member for Mission Impossible generally requires a quest where you go down a hallway through a series of similar-looking rooms, hide behind stuff, shoot enemies, and then chat for a bit with your target. I kid, but only slightly. A few have mixed things up like avoiding sunlight or toxic gas while going down those hallways and rooms. After that, you’ll more or less repeat this process to earn said team member’s loyalty.

I think I’ve already said this, but if I haven’t, well, here it is again: I dislike the shooting aspect of Mass Effect 2. The game’s appeal has and always will be from its lore and characters and the way these alien races interact with one another. And these characters, these people I’ve gone out of my way to get on my team, they do little when actually on a mission besides a side-handed comment here or there, unless they are pivotal to the mission at hand. See, in Dragon Age: Origins, companions talked all the time, about the world at large and how the Chantry sucks and thoughts on dwarven history or the Taint and so on. When you made Big Boy decisions, everyone around you made sure you knew how they felt, which only served to enhance their personalities and my desire to see them happy (or unhappy). The same does not apply in Mass Effect 2; there is no sense of “we’re all quite different, but we have to stick together.”

So far, nobody has reacted in a big enough way to some of Shepard’s choices, most which were along the Paragon path, but I did slip a Renegade action in there once or twice. On each mission, whether it is a recruiting one or just a side quest, I switch out one of my party members constantly, keeping Miranda always for her Warp and Heavy Overload skills. Grunt, Jack, Jacob, Mordin–I’ve tried each one at Shepard’s side. And I’ve come to the realization that I could’ve swapped out any team member for a paper bag, and nothing would’ve changed–so long as that paper bag shot a gun and had a few abilities to select. Harsh, maybe. But I expected more.

Case in point: the Ghost Ship. Oh, and there be spoilers starting in the next sentence. Basically, the Illusive Man backstabs the team and sends them into a trap, but the only people vocal about it are Joker and the ship’s AI. You’d think that, given her relationship to Cerberus, that Miranda would have some strong words–more than a handful–but no, not really.


Ghost Ship (25G): Complete the investigation of a derelict alien vessel

I don’t know. Commander Shepard has now been prompted that we can go through the Omega 4 relay, but I said something along the stupid lines of “gotta build up the team some more.” Just because I want to get everybody for the sake of being a completionist. Given all the hype and worriment that a suicide mission carries, I have to say that I am really not invested in most of my side-mates. And I’ve tried. I talk to them between missions, exhaust dialogue choices, and so on. I try, dang it. But they don’t want to represent themselves as more than check marks–the warrior, the thief, the techie, the cheerleader–and so they seem artificial in nature, and inanimate objects can’t die because they never were alive to begin with.