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How customization of characters can make even Hai Yo into a better warrior than Pesmerga.
Importance of Rune Slots
This essay will show how the number and availability of rune slots determine the usefulness of a character, rather than basic stats.

There is a common misconception among players of Suikoden 2 that raw stats make or break a character. They see Pesmerga's, Georg's, or Humphrey's large amount of STR and assume that they're the most powerful characters available. On the outside, it looks true, but let's look further into the battle system.

We'll use Pesmerga and Hai Yo as examples. Hai Yo is really an underused character who doesn't get the credit in battle he deserves. For the purposes of this essay, we will assume that they are both at Lv. 99, weapons sharpened to Lv. 16, and their stats are at their highest possible levels (without magic stones). We'll also give them the most armor and accessories that can boost their STR stat.

 PesmergaHai Yo
Base STR255165
Weapon STR160165
Armor STRKnight Armor (+0)Master Garb (+15)
Shield STRChaos Shield (+0)N/A (+0)
Helm STRHorned Helmet (+0)N/A (+0)
Acc. STRIron Boots (+0)Power Ring (+20)
Acc. STRGuard Ring (+0)Power Ring (+20)
Acc. STRPower Ring (+20)Power Ring (+20)
Head RuneN/ADouble Beat (DMG x2)
R. Hand RuneDouble Beat (DMG x2)Fury (DMG x1.5)
L. Hand RuneN/AKiller (Critical)
Weapon RuneRage (DMG x1.5)Rage (DMG x1.5)
Commentary by KFCrispy

This amount of damage is only possible by utilizing all three rune slots and the weapon rune slot.

If you're wondering where we got all those Power Rings, here's a list of where they can be found. One is equipped on Long Chan Chan, one is in the Sajah Rune Shop, one from the Guardian Deity event, and one in Tinto.

Pesmerga's damage formula is as follows.
1.5(255 + 160 + 20) x 2 = 1305 (652.5 or 653 per hit)

Hai Yo's damage formula, however, is this.
1.5 x 1.5(165 + 165 + 60 + 15) x 2 = 1823 (911.25 or 911 per hit)

Hai Yo deals 513 more DMG per turn than Pesmerga. Add in the fact that with his Killer rune, Hai Yo has more of a chance to deal a critical hit than Pesmerga. To find the actual damage done, simply subtract the enemy's PROT stat from each hit.

So there you have it. With some customizing, even Hai Yo can be a better fighter than Pesmerga. It's all because of his customizability and rune slots, not because of raw stats.