I'm going to be entirely honest with you all by saying that Suikoden II is quite a mixed bag. Konami decided to retain some of the old, bring in some of the new, and then for good measure, add more of the same. Coming equipped with an unchanged battle system, only slightly updated graphics, and perhaps the... oddest soundtrack I've ever experienced, Suikoden II is a unique gaming experience.
The game beings almost immediately after the conclusion of the original game, with the Hero (who has no real name) and Jowy spending their final night as Highlander (Empire) soldiers near the border-camp. Unfortunately, the peace treaty is broken and Highland attacks their own soldiers in an attempt to blame the rebels for the outburst.
Barely able to escape with their lives, the two friends are forced into a much larger fight, destined to fight each other, where only one will become the victor. Thus, the entire story of Suikoden II is summed up, with numerous sub-plots here and there. Memorial characters from the original appear, as well as an entire new cast of characters to add even more life to your town (no longer just a castle).
While not entirely innovative in the storyline, it's enough to keep the attention of the gamers for a while at best. With only a mediocre -or at least a tried and true - storyline, it became apparent that in order to reach the heights that its predecessor managed, either the gameplay or the games music would need to be incredible.
However, although I wish that I could deny it, the gameplay isn't anything to write home about. With absolutely no changes made to the random battles, fans of the original game will instantly become annoyed with how repetitive they can become, and even newcomers will soon learn that random battles aren't the strong spot of the game.
With negatives, positives usually follow close behind and Suikoden II's strong point would have to be the games strategic war battles. Featuring an entirely new system, the battles are quite inspiring and unique, something that most RPGs seriously lack these days.
I myself was most excited however by the one-on-one battles, often referred to as duels, which gave characters certain amounts of health and pitted them against their enemies with only the attack, defend, or wild attack commands.
Something I've never understood about gamers are their terrible taste for gaming music. Some of the best pieces of music I've heard have been called trash by larger groups, while the lesser soundtracks always seem to gain more attention. I can't fairly rate Suikoden II's musical score at this time, as the game continually glitched during the more emotional moments, and at times caused even the better music to sound distasteful. The soundtrack was decent enough, even with its continuous flaws.
Suikoden II's graphics and controls are perhaps the largest cause of complaints I had with the game overall. The original Suikoden was one of the first Role-playing experiences available for the Playstation, and graphics weren't nearly as important for the success of a game as they are now.
While at first glance the graphics don't appear to have been updated at all, further investigation has revealed that they have indeed been updated, most noticeably on the world map. They still can't measure up to the competition that the giants like Squaresoft present, but with Konami I'll overlook that.
The second largest complaint that I had with the game was with the terrible controls. While the game is easy to pick up and get into, the lack of analog compatibility really does hurt the game's overall experience. I remember reading something a while back that it's only about half a days work to add in the analog support, which is basically nothing at all. Despite that, Konami didn't include it in the final copy of the game, which really is quite disturbing.
Overall I thought that Suikoden II wasn't much different from the first, slightly improved graphics, nearly the same story and reused characters gave me a mixed feeling, but it did present me with a dosage of nostalgia (which is never a bad thing). I'd recommend this game to anyone who is looking for a fun trip of what RPGs used to be, imperfect.