#1- Riou & Jowy
I could not justify separating the two main characters of Suikoden 2. They share the Rune of Beginning in the form of the Bright Shield and Black Sword Runes, they share a heavy destiny, and towards the end of the game you realize that they also share their own life force with one another.
Riou was an orphan, and often scorned by the local children. He was taken in by Gengaku, an old war hero, along with his step-sister Nanami. Jowy Atreides was born before his mother married into the Atreides family so he was never fully accepted by his step-father. In fact, Jowy suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of Marcel Atreides and often fled from the estate to escape his step-father’s anger. He eventually found his way to Gengaku’s home and watched as Riou and Nanami trained. Riou and Jowy became fast friends and while Nanami was often excluded for being a girl, she grew very close to the young aristocrat as well. The three shared a childhood.
When they were old enough, Jowy and Riou enlisted in the military together. They were appointed to the Highland Unicorn Youth Brigade. On one of their first field missions, the boys woke to their camp in flames. Their comrades were ordered to flee into the woods but Jowy and Riou hesitated. In delaying their retreat, the two witnessed their commander conspiring with Luca Blight, their own prince. The staged attack on the Brigade was a charade to inflame the Highland Nations and justify military actions against the City-State of Jowston. Riou and Jowy are quickly discovered and chased to a cliff overlooking a river. Having witnessed the conspiracy, they were to be killed on sight. With no choice but to leap, the two friends took their chance in the river below.
Through the majority of the first act of the game, Riou and Jowy suffer side by side. They’re captured by Highland and sentenced to death, framed for the betrayal that they had witnessed. After their rescued, their hearts are divided. Riou seeks only to return to his homeland and make everything right where as Jowy has grown resentful of his homeland. The two are left with nothing but each other’s friendship in the face of uncertainty.
“Enjoy the moments you have together, because nothing lasts forever.”
Jowy and Riou are drawn to the Runemistress, Leknaat, and together bear the two halves of the Rune of Beginning. Riou is given the Bright Shield Rune and Jowy is given the Black Sword Rune. Shortly after, the two friends are divided by their ideals. Jowy sees that the only way to gain victory and prevent further bloodshed is to infiltrate the enemy and become the very monster they sought to destroy. Riou remains with the mercenaries, defending them against his former best friend and the armies of Highland. Jowy’s treachery is one of the most gut-wrenching moments of any game I have played. The entire first act of Suikoden 2 revolves around the friendship between them. There are several scenes where the two share each other’s company, reminiscing about the past and encouraging each other towards the future. When he betrays Riou, it’s not done lightly. He’s suffering as much as Riou is, but he’s standing on what he believes is the best road to their shared ultimate goal: peace.
The remainder of the game revolves around the escalating war. Riou is forced into a leadership role whereas Jowy has to manipulate his way into power. Riou is ultimately the shield of the Dunan army and Jowy becomes the sword of the mad prince. The two collide on the battlefield several times but even with armies at their backs their painful friendship is evident. At one encounter, Jowy risks the wrath of Luca to allow Riou and his army to retreat.
When Luca Blight is finally defeated, Jowy becomes the king of Highland. The war comes to a climax, forcing the Highland King and the General of the Dunan Army, Riou, to face one another. Jowy is defeated and retreats while the Dunan Army claims victory. Still wounded by the loss of his friend, Riou pursues Jowy for one final confrontation.
“Ever since we got these runes on our hands, we were destined to fight each other. But even if that’s our destiny, I’d still like to think that we each gained something from this.”
As with Suikoden 1, Suikoden 2’s ultimate ending depends on the player’s ability to recruit all 108 stars of destiny. If the player manages to recruit every one of the stars, Nanami is found to be alive and Riou can choose to spare Jowy in their final conflict. In showing Jowy mercy, the shattered remains of their friendship are salvaged. Jowy is shaken by Riou’s willingness to forgive him and slowly finds the strength to forgive himself.
Suddenly relieved of their burdens, the two friends pick themselves up and leave both Highland and Jowston behind, instead traveling the land with Nanami in tow.
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
– Isaiah 1:18