If it's balancing you want, I can help you out with it, and you won't have to play favorites for it. I am currently analyzing each and every character at the moment and so far, the game is easy to beat with some characters, but difficult with others. But with the right equipment setups, everyone can be usable, even the normally weak and useless doctor-in-training Tuta (yes, I actually used him once, though he absolutely needs to be at 99 to be of actual use).
- Physical attack runes (*Double-Beat, *Double-Strike, *Fury, etc.) cannot be attached to the Head rune slot; they can only be attached to either the Right Hand or the Left Hand.
- Only the dedicated magicians (Luc, Rina, Tengaar, Millie, and all the other ranged magicians) can have a total of up to 3 free rune slots, the rest can only have up to 2 free rune slots, all these depending on the characters themselves, of course.
- If at all possible, rune slot unlocking should be tied to the MAG stat instead of Level, like in Suikoden 4, so that characters like Sheena, Killey, and Hai Yo can never out-damage the dedicated magicians and the naturally strong one-slot fighters like Georg, Humphrey, and Pesmerga, therefore making the latter group useless for dealing damage. Otherwise, here is a sample list we can make use of to determine at what maximum level should all characters unlock their 2nd and 3rd rune slots:
MAG stats 00 (~55/~70 at 60/99) and 01 (~70/~90 at 60/99) = no additional free rune slots
MAG stat 02 (~85/~110 at 60/99) = 2nd free rune slot at Level 83 or lower
MAG stat 03 (~105/~125 at 60/99) = 2nd free rune slot at Level 55 or lower
MAG stat 04 (~125/~150 at 60/99) = 2nd free rune slot at Level 44 or lower
MAG stat 05 (~145/~170 at 60/99) = 2nd free rune slot at Level 37 or lower
MAG stat 06 (~160/~185 at 60/99) = 2nd free rune slot at Level 32 or lower, 3rd free rune slot at Level 59 or lower
MAG stat 07 (~180/~215 at 60/99) = 2nd free rune slot at Level 27 or lower, 3rd free rune slot at Level 52 or lower
MAG stat 08 (~200/~235 at 60/99) = 2nd free rune slot at Level 22 or lower, 3rd free rune slot at Level 45 or lower
-- All these are given out on a case-to-case basis for each character.
- One free rune slot each for Bolgan (01 MAG, *Fire Breath), Shin (03 MAG, *Spider Slay), and Genshu (03 MAG, *Swallow), allowing them access to one of DB, DS, or Fury; thereby increasing their usefulness but still allowing players to pick whoever they want on their parties. We might need to adjust Bolgan's MAG stat growth rate from 01 to 03, and give him a C affinity to Fire and D or E affinities to Lightning, Wind, and Earth to accommodate for this change.
- I'll recommend some stat growth rate changes, mostly HP:
-- All melee fighters cannot have the same or lower HP growth rate as the ranged magicians. The only real exception is Lo Wen, a ranged fighter with 05 HP, simply because she is designed that way. With these in mind, either Hix's HP shall be changed from 04 (~550/~750 at 60/99) to 05 (~625/~825 at 60/99) OR Tengaar's HP shall be changed from 04 (~550/~750 at 60/99) to 03 (~500/~700 at 99) so that melee fighter Hix will always have higher HP than ranged magician Tengaar (since they have the same HP growth of 04 in vanilla Suikoden II, Tengaar can have potentially higher HP than Hix).
-- Tuta's HP from 00 (~325/~500 at 60/99) to 03 (~500/~700 at 99). Human characters should never have lower HP growth rates than the freaking squirrels!
-- Dedicated magicians (i.e. characters originally designed solely as magicians and nothing else) can never have an HP growth stat higher than 03 (~500/~700 at 99) and it can never be higher than mage knights, ranged magicians, or pure fighters. With these in mind, Luc's HP shall be changed from 03 (~500/~700 at 99) to 02 (~425/~625 at 99), Mazus' HP from 04 (~550/~750 at 99) to 03 (~500/~700 at 99).
- As for rune affinities, maybe some corrections will suffice:
-- Miklotov and Camus' respective Wind and Fire affinities should be switched. Miklotov should have a B in Wind and C in Fire, while Camus should have a C in Wind and B in Fire.
-- I really don't think Rina's affinities should be bumped up to all A's, or even at all. Most people already use her as their primary mage other than Luc even with her average affinities anyway. But if we really want Rina to make good use of *Blue Gate the way she is apparently designed, maybe bump up at least just her Fire and Lightning affinities to B and then her Water affinity to A. If we may recall, *Blue Gate's non-elemental spells use the caster's Water affinity. Rina's Water affinity of B alone is good enough evidence that she is designed to be good at *Blue Gate.
-- Anyone else thinks Millie's Water affinity should be bumped up to at least C (from E), as a call back to the then-famous urban legend that she is good at *Blue Gate?
-- I think there should be more characters with A affinities to Earth other than Luc and Tomo. They necessarily don't have to be dedicated magicians, they can even be ranged fighters and mage knights with Earth motifs like the rangers Kinnison (originally C) and Ayda (originally B) and the beastmaster Badeaux. Even Sheena is a good candidate for an Earth affinity of A as he originally comes with an *Earth when he first joins the army, and plus his mom Eileen is a pretty powerful Earth mage herself, too. With all that, plus the proposal to remove his head rune slot, the player will now have to think harder on whether to make him a pure damage dealer like how most people use him or to make him a truly hybrid mage knight a la Flik.
-- As mentioned above, I think Sheena's affinities should be bumped up. Maybe A or B affinities in Fire (he already has a B affinity to it in vanilla Suikoden II), Lightning (recall that he originally had a *Lightning attached to him in Suikoden I), and Earth (remember that his mom is a powerful Earth mage) will do.
-- The affinity bonuses are actually kind of meh. I mean, come on, only +40% base damage at A affinity? How about these?
A affinity = +100% (or 2x) base damage
B affinity = +50% (or 1.5x) base damage
C affinity = normal damage
D affinity = -50% (or x0.5) base damage
E affinity = +50% (or 1.5x) base damage
-- With these affinity ratings, players will be encouraged to use low-MAG high-affinity characters more instead of just picking high-MAG characters like Luc, Rina, Mazus, Flik, etc. all the time. I actually tried an all-female party with A-affinity characters in all but one element (no females have a Resurrection affinity of A) and MAN it was more fun than just using Luc or Rina! In case you're curious:
-- Riou, of course (*Flowing / *Bright Shield / *Resurrection, B in Resurrection)
-- Nina (*Rage, A in Fire)
-- Sierra (*Darkness / *Thunder, A in Darkness and Lightning)
-- Tomo (*Mother Earth / *Rage, the only character other than Luc with an Earth affinity of A)
-- Meg (*Cyclone, A in Wind and Lightning)
-- Yoshino (*Flowing / *Resurrection; A in Water, B in everything else [!])
- Fixed armor bonuses, of course. This gives a massive boost for the melee fighters as they won't get Panicked by the Beast Rune's Left Leg as often with the Earth Armor fixed, so they can just whack the Beast Rune all day when the mages are on Panic mode. In addition, it gives the mages more DEF as they will have to replace the Master Robe with a Robe of Mist, thereby freeing up a free rune slot for an extra Water Amulet for additional magic repel or for a usable item to cure Panic (Chili Pasta) or revive people (Flaming Sea) vs the Beast Rune.
Anything else you might to ask, please ask away! I am currently experimenting on various party configurations (mostly balanced melee/magic or magic-heavy parties, I still don't have enough confidence to play melee-heavy parties), so please give me more party suggestions to test if you are interested!