Let me take a second to talk about my little corner of gaming heaven. Konami isn't especially known for their RPGs; but, at one brief moment in their history, they found the creative genius to rival even Final Fantasy on the PlayStation. No exaggeration there, of all the great classic PlayStation RPGs, its hard to find any as endearing as Suikoden and Suikoden 2. They might not have been huge hits and were generally passed over for being a little too retro when the entire market was shifting to 3D, but those who discovered them were treated to wonderful games full of war, betrayal, great music, solid mechanics, and wonderful characters.
Many point to Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger as the peak of the genre and the last stand of sprite-based JRPGs, but they do a great disservice to themselves for denying Suikoden II its place as one of the genre's most masterfully constructed games.
Suikoden II is a 60 hour video game, which was not uncommon for the time, but what sets it apart from its peers is that the game actually has 60 hours of content. No crazy loading times to slow down battles, no extended summon animations that drag on for minutes at a time. 60 pure hours of perfectly paced narrative and gameplay. I could go on for a long time about what Suikoden II does right, but I think that's its crowning achievement.
Sadly, Konami thought it would be wise to release it on the same day as Final Fantasy VIII, but that didn't turn out so well for its sales figures.
The series continued on though in the face of its poor performance. Suikoden III came out for the PlayStation 2, and fans were generally pleased with it, but the 3D models added loading times and long distances to run, padding out the gameplay. Suikoden IV all but derailed the series thanks to the departure of series creator Yoshitaka Murayama and the general awfulness of the game. Suikoden V is seen as a return to form, but by this time the series had lost relevance. It saw a small revival on the DS and PSP, but in name only, abandoning the world and culture which connected the original games.
The series reputation has weathered its sub-par sequels with those who remember the early days of the series, and they want to see a comeback. A Facebook page has popped up call the Suikoden Revival Movement dedicated to convincing Konami it's time to get serious with the series again and to bring Suikoden and Suikoden II to the PSN worldwide. It currently only sports 1,500 fans, so hurry on over and "Like" if you want see see a comeback from one of gaming's forgotten hidden treasures.
If you are interested in the classic series, there are only a few options to get a hold of the games. Suikoden is available through the PlayStation Store for $6 as a PSOne classic. Much like Suikoden II, it's game time honestly reflects the amount of content it has, but the difference is that it can be beaten in roughly 12-14 hours. It's by far the easiest and most convenient entry to the series and one of the best $6 deals on the channel.
Suikoden II is infamous for its high prices, costing roughly $150-$200 on eBay and Amazon. I still remember seeing three other mint copies when I purchased mine at EB Games for $23, so I kick myself every time I think of them. It's a steep price to pay, but I'd gladly do it if my original disc was damaged in any way.
Suikoden III and Suikoden V are also good games, but only if you're acquainted with the series. Don't use them as entry points. Avoid Suikoden IV like the plague.