This month I reviewed Suikoden 2 so, as I did the previous month with Suikoden 1, I bring you yet another top 10 list! Because Suikoden 1 and 2 are so close together in timeline and share many of the same characters, I have modified my format for this list slightly to prevent repetition. A lot of the characters that made the first top 10 list would have easily made this list if only because Konami expanded upon stories further in 2. However, I decided to make a few cuts and focus on characters that were either more prominent in Suikoden 2 than they were in Suikoden 1 or on characters first introduced in Suikoden 2.
I also decided to make this list a top 10 characters rather than a top 10 recruits list because Suikoden 2 would not have been the masterpiece that it is without them. The star-bearers–those you officially need to recruit in order to achieve the perfect ending) and the supporting cast around them were equally as fascinating and important to the story and pacing of Suikoden 2. And as a final format note, some characters will occupy the same slot due to the fact that they are attached at the hip through the game. Therefore, any justification for including one would ultimately justify the other.
As with my previous top 10 list, be advised that there will be heavy spoilers from Suikoden 1, 2, and 3. I believe that in order to justify my picks I need to go in depth with the characters, their roles, and their personalities. Some characters will have been involved in the Rune Gate Wars of Suikoden 1 and the Dunan Unification war in Suikoden 2, and a few even expand into the Second Firebringer War of Suikoden 3, so the spoilers reach well beyond Suikoden 2. While I will try to cover the more important details, I will not be delving too deeply into the Suikoden Gaiden series, even if some characters touch on events within those games.
#10 – Flik & Viktor
The dynamic duo returns in Suikoden 2 following a painful cliffhanger regarding their fate from Suikoden 1. Not only do we find Viktor and Flik alive and well, but we also find that they have taken up arms against tyranny once more. Within the first act of the game, Flik, Viktor, or the two of them as a team, save Riou, the protagonist, multiple times.
Viktor hasn’t changed much from Suikoden 1 as far as his personality goes. He’s crude, rough around the edges, stupidly headstrong, yet also a diamond in the rough. He’s often found in the tavern relaxing over a pint or (once the stronghold is obtained) awaiting orders in the war room. Between the events of Suikoden 1 and 2, Viktor has formed a large group of mercenaries, secured a run down base of operations, and designed the world’s most pathetic banner to rally under. As with the first game, Viktor is both an endearing character and comedy relief. He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s dependable. He assists Riou without hesitation or expectations.
Flik, in contrast, has matured considerably. Where he was a brooding upstart in Suikoden 1, he’s grown into a calm and collected veteran. He’s often the foil to Viktor’s headstrong nature, often thinking out his course of action before stepping forward. Where Viktor solves problems by charging in and demanding a resolution, Flik finds clever and often far more effective means of accomplishing his goals. At one point in the game he even reflects the Biblical story of casting the first stone, shaming an angry mob into dispersing rather than resorting to violence.
The two made an appearance on my top 10 list from Suikoden 1, so I put them pretty low. However, it would be a crime to neglect them from this list as they played such important roles within the Dunan Unification war.
#9 – Shu
Shu studied under the strategist from the Rune Gate Wars, Mathieu, alongside Apple. He was expelled shortly before the war began,which is why he doesn’t appear in Suikoden 1, and used what he had learned from Mathieu to manipulate the marketplace and grow his own personal wealth. He distanced himself from growing too invested in any one side of any conflict and instead took to seeing war as just another way to profit. There was always money to be made, especially when tensions were high.
Following the fall of the Mercenary Fort under Apple’s tactics, Riou and his party seek Shu out to assist them in the war against the Highland Army. Shu sends them on their merry way and carefully works to avoid Riou and Apple. After gaining the assistance of an investigator, the party manages to confront Shu on one of his business errands. He agrees to help if Apple can find a coin that he supposedly flicks into a nearby river. It turns out after hours of searching that Shu had swapped his coin with a stone. However, Shu has a change of heart when he returns to the river to find Apple, Riou, and Nanami desperately searching through the freezing waters. He agrees to help the Dunan Army.
After his turnaround, Shu observes that while he inherited Mathieu’s intelligence, Apple inherited their former master’s heart. It endears him to the cause and he devotes every skill and talent at his disposal to aid the Dunan army. He’s not afraid to speak his mind or take what others see as stupid risks. He grows from a selfish, greedy business man into an asset within the army wholly devoted to the cause.
“Sometimes, even a futile gesture can be worth something.”
Shu’s strategies are interesting and inventive. They offer unique missions with exposition behind characters, places, and historical events. For example, one such mission involves Riou and a handful of his younger companions enrolling in the University of Greenhill with Flik as an escort in order to gain inside information regarding the whereabouts of the acting mayor of Greenhill. The story takes a comical turn when Flik becomes the object of a young student’s affection. While Riou spends the days listening for rumors within Greenhill and trembling at ghost stories by night, Flik investigates suspicious activity while the city of Greenhill sleeps. You gain several new recruits during this mission, you witness multiple cut scenes that range from entertaining to touching, and the mission’s conclusion allows you a peek at the motives at play behind the enemy lines. Shu as a character is interesting, but the way his strategies work through gameplay mechanics, exposition, and the story flow is what I found to be noteworthy. The missions he devises are interesting and they play well into exploring his own mind and how it works.
#8 – Chaco
When Riou enters the town of Two Rivers, he has a run in with a little winged pickpocket by the name of Chaco. He loses his entire wallet—which is no fun for the player if you had hoped to pick up some new supplies in this location—and must chase the little troublemaker deeper into the town. The city is broken up into three districts which separate three of the races: the humans, the kobolds, and the wingers. Chaco belongs to the latter and unfortunately, he is only helping to reinforce the negative opinion that the kobolds and humans hold of the wingers as being dirty little thieves. Riou has to abandon his hope of getting his wallet back in favor of a more pressing matter: the incoming Highland army.
A false peace treaty was established between the Highland Army and Two River, and a series of rumors had driven a wedge between the three races of the city. When the Highland Army revealed the treaty as a farce, it seemed that the town would fall. The human faction stood their ground but the odds were completely against them. The wingers appear after a few short battles against Riou and his party; with the assistance of the Kobolds, they manage to drive back Highland. Thanks to their actions, Two River was able to hold their ground until the Dunan Army (the canon name for Riou’s army) arrives.