It’s no secret that the original Playstation saw some of the best Japanese RPGs ever created. Final Fantasy VII, Xenosaga, and Lunar: Silver Star Story were a few of my favorites. Of course, the king of RPGs in the PSX era was Squaresoft (now Square Enix). Nine Final Fantasy titles, the Chrono series, the Mana series, Vagrant Story, Parasite Eve, and SaGa Frontier, to name but a few, made Square my favorite video game company.
That makes it all the more interesting that Konami was responsible for the best RPG I played during that era. That game was Suikoden II. Developed and published by Konami, a company known more for action games like Castlevania, Contra, and Metal Gear, Suikoden II was released in the west in September 1999. The game was well-reviewed upon release and should have caught the eye of RPG lovers heading in to the holiday season.
As fate would have it, another popular RPG was also released in September of 1999: Final Fantasy VIII. As you can imagine, a little known Konami RPG did not fare well against Squaresoft’s top selling series. By December of 1999, Final Fantasy VIII had sold one million copies in North America and grossed more than $50 million. That’s a huge amount of money spent on a single RPG.
Suikoden II was forgotten. Perhaps expecting the game to perform poorly against Final Fantasy, Konami only shipped a limited number of copies. What Konami didn’t expect is how popular the game would become in the following years. Due to excellent word of mouth and internet recommendations, more and more people started looking for copies. The result? One of the rarest Playstation games in existence and complete copies of the game going for $150 on eBay.
Suikoden II’s story could have ended there. And for all intents and purposes, it had. The series continued and Konami released four games on the Playstation 2 and one on the Nintendo DS, but Suikoden II was largely forgotten by Konami. No re-releases and no digital versions ever came to the West.
That brings us December 9, 2014. Suikoden II was released as a PS1 Classic on the Playstation Network fifteen years after its initial release. It was an announcement that largely came out of nowhere during the Playstation Experience Event on December 6. No one was expecting it and fan forums lit up with excitement.
Suikoden II is now available for $9.99 on the Playstation Store for PS3 and PS Vita. That being said, I don’t regret spending $125 on eBay for my copy of the game. The series has always held a special place in my heart. The original Suikoden was available at my local video rental store in 1998. My brother and I decided to rent it one night, despite its god-awful box art. (Seriously, look it up.
The Western box-art has absolutely nothing to do with the tone or style of the game on the disc).What we discovered was an amazing RPG with memorable characters, an interesting storyline, and inventive battle mechanics.
A year later, I bought a copy of Suikoden II when in came out in 1999. That’s right. I owned an original, brand new copy of the game. It expounded on the original in almost every way. Sadly, I didn’t realize the gem I had and I traded the game to a store after I beat it. It would be 12 years before I picked up another copy on eBay.
In those early years, the Suikoden series always felt like MY series. It wasn’t a game people talked about in everyday conversation. It wasn’t popular like Final Fantasy. It was a secret that only I knew about. I felt like I was part of this amazing video game world that no one else was. I idolized the characters, fought the tactical battles, and ultimately saved the day. It was my story and I didn’t know anyone else who had experienced it.
As I got older and the Internet became a bigger part of my social life, I realized how many people loved Suikoden. Entire fan forums and groups have been created to revive the series and it’s most popular entry (See the “Suikoden Revival Movement”). This week, those groups succeeded.
The story of Suikdoen II is an epic piece of video game history. It was a history that I was part of in 1999 and will continue to be part of when I download this game from the Playstation Network
I could go in to a complete review of Suikoden II, but there are plenty of those on the Internet already. Instead, I’ll just say that ten bucks for Suikoden II is the best deal in gaming right now. Period. It’s a game that stands the test of time and deserves your attention. Buy it and you too can become part of an awesome piece of video game history.