12/17/98 Japan, 08/31/99 USA
Sequel to the award winning Playstation game Suikoden, this game is...much the same, really. Fight a war, recruit the 108 Stars of Destiny, build a gigantic castle. The main character is the son on the hero Genkaku (official name Riou), and is bestowed half of a True Rune, the Bright Shield rune. Meanwhile, his friend, Jowy Atreides receives the other half, the Black Sword rune. Bright Shield is used mostly for healing and protection spells, while Black Sword is used to kill things. Painfully.
And, speaking of runes, there are a few changes from Suikoden. Now, instead of one rune slot per person, there is a maximum of three: one on the right hand, one on the left hand, and one on the forehead. Certain runes can only fit in certain locations. For example, the Pale Gate rune, a very powerful summoning rune, can only be applied on a person's forehead. Coincidently, only powerful mages can have runes on their foreheads.
The graphics are much the same as the previous game, possibly with a slightly larger colour pallette. Also, the ability to run at will (when you don't have Stallion in your party) is a great addition, as it is nice to be able to move quickly and have six character who don't suck in your party. The anthropomorphic holly creatures are back, and in greater numbers, as well.
The game chronicles the Dunan Unification War, beginning in the solar year 460. The Evil Empire is the Highland Empire, ruled by the royal Blight family. Riou and his allies band together at North Window Castle, formerly under the control of Neclord. From there on, forces join from the City-State of Jowston and the Matilda Knights.
North Window Castle starts out in shambles, with heaps of rock on the ground and ruined buildings all over. As Riou recruits the Stars of Destiny (and a few that are not Stars) and proceeds with the plot, the castle grows. Unlike the first game, there are quite a lot of things outside the castle that change, as well. If you collect all 108 Stars, there is a small castle town outside the main fortress, complete with shops.
And of course, minigames. Lots of minigames. Rope climbing, more Iron Chef parodies (with the added bonus of hypnotist chefs), gambling, etc. Some even have good prizes!
sources: GameFAQs for release dates, the game and my mighty brain for everything else.
Suikoden - Suikoden II - Suikoden III