The Suikoden series has a habit of manipulating players’ feelings. Did you manage to recruit all 108 Stars of Destiny? We’ll reverse a poignant plot point! Despite such willingness to exploit emotion, Suikoden II goes above and beyond to toy with us. This installment is the most manipulative in the series, due to actions of the hero’s adopted sister, Nanami.
Editor’s note: spoilers for Suikoden II will be present throughout this article.
Our hero in Suikoden II is a young man named Riou. As is common with JRPGs, he was adopted by a legendary hero, Genkaku. Genkaku went out of his way to train his son and daughter, making sure they’d be prepared for any eventualities. When war struck, Riou and his best friend, Jowy, went off to fight and join the Highland Army Unicorn Brigade. Nanami stayed behind. Through various twists of fate and unpleasant events, Riou and Jowy end up each receiving half of the Rune of the Beginning, a True Rune, and forced into a positions where either one could end up ending the Dunan Unification War.
In short, fate led Riou to a role in which he would be forced to fight. His half of the Rune of Beginning, the Bright Shield Rune, has the power to heal. He’s made head of the New State Army. Yet, instead of supporting her brother and attempting to ease his burden, Nanami does everything possible to manipulate this 16-year-old into doing what she wants or believes to be best.
Once Riou is named leader of the Dunan Army, Nanami does everything she can to call this into question. She asks why it has to be him. She tries to get him to abandon his post. She even attempts to get him to not fight against Jowy, despite the two leading opposing forces and being involved in serious altercations. She doesn’t accept his role, and instead forces herself into Riou’s company and party.
This comes to a head in two Suikoden II situations. When Riou, Nanami and the Dunan Army come to the Tinto Republic, they find it infested by Neclord’s army of the undead. Instead of taking pity on people under assault, Nanami tries to convince Riou to give up and run away. You can attempt to take a coward’s way out at this point, but at a great cost. They’ll abandon this particular fight, causing Ridley, the Tengou Star, to die in the process. Ridley didn’t believe Riou would run, and ended up killed when searching for him. His son, Boris can then replace him.
But, this only happens if Riou chooses to remain in the fight. Despite seeing the result of her influence on her brother, Nanami continues to use emotion to attempt to sway her brother. She apologizes, but also maintains that she doesn’t want to see Riou and Jowy forced to fight one another. While she owns up to her actions, she still says she wants the fighting to stop while apologizing for pulling him away from the war. It’s possible to run away again at this point, triggering a bad end.
However, it’s Nanami’s death that manipulates Riou most. It isn’t uncommon for a major hero or heroine to die in the Suikoden series. When this occurs, it also isn’t uncommon for the reward for collecting all 108 Stars of Destiny to be an unexpected resurrection. During a fight between Riou and Jowy in Rockaxe Castle near the end of the Dunan Unification War, Captain Gorudo will attempt to kill the two. Nanami gets in the way of the arrows and appears fatally injured. However, she’s very much alive.
Nanami uses this injury as an opportunity to get away and return to her hometown, Kyaro. Instead of supporting her brother, she runs. However, this decision to abandon him is just as manipulative as her earlier attempt at coercion. By stepping away, her death becomes a driving force for Riou. She becomes a martyr, a reason for him to wrap things up quickly. All three endings are ones that could only come to be after her “demise.” If he defeats Jowy, it could be because of the part his arguing played in her death. If he agrees to become president of the new Dunan Republic, it could be seen as a means of offering that peace she always wanted. Should he do what she wanted from him all along, stop fighting Jowy, he’ll learn she’s been alive all along and have an opportunity to be with her and Jowy again.
Riou is constantly in Nanami’s shadow throughout Suikoden II. Her influence is always hanging over him. Her constant attempts to get him to stop fighting, even when it could mean innocent people dying, and manipulation influence every element of the plot. It can not only spell out an early end to the story, should she get him to take a coward’s way out, but could be seen as influencing each standard ending. Nanami is a driving force in Suikoden II, which unfortunately isn’t always good for Riou.