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Wild Arms 3 (PlayStation 2) artwork

Wild Arms 3 (PlayStation 2) review

"After each defeat, they showed legitimate concerns their efforts might be destined to fail....but still pushed on, determined to succeed no matter what obstacles my characters threw in front of them. It was hard for me to not be impressed by their teamwork, diligence and utter dedication to accomplishing their tasks. The traits bestowed upon them by Sony almost made their villainy seem heroic."

Leehalt: It's not enough...We were so close...But I must do whatever it takes, until the roots of Yggdrasil draw enough energy to download...

Melody: I have increased the Yggdrasil operation to 166 percent. We won't know whether it will reach its required value first, or malfunction. All we can do now is pray...

Malik: We have already paid the price in carrying out our goal! We can't let it end here, or else our flesh and blood would be for naught!

Leehalt, Melody and Malik aren't the sort of folks I'd be rooting for in the average RPG. Referred to as "The Prophets", these characters in the PS2’s Wild Arms 3 had been thorns in my side for longer than I cared to remember. Filgaia had been caught in a downward spiral for some time and they believed the only way to "save" the world would be to force it to evolve from a harsh desert world to the lush land of green it once had been. One tiny catch: there was no guarantee that anyone on Filgaia with the exception of said "Prophets" would survive such a dramatic change. And that, in a nutshell, was why my quartet of heroes had been chasing these three through one dungeon after another.

But I had to tip my hat to my foes. While they did their fair share of evil cackling while eagerly revealing diabolical plans, as I progressed through the game, it was easy to see they weren't typical villains -- just intelligent, yet misguided, people with their backs to the wall. In their minds, the destruction/rebirth of the world was the only way to make things BETTER for the future. In reading much of the dialogue between them and the heroes, it seemed "The Prophets" were more interested in convincing my characters that their way was the logical solution.....resorting to battle only after realizing their words were falling on deaf ears. Each setback only made them more desperate to fulfill their task. After each defeat, they showed legitimate concerns their efforts might be destined to fail....but still pushed on, determined to succeed no matter what obstacles my characters threw in front of them. It was hard for me to not be impressed by their teamwork, diligence and utter dedication to accomplishing their tasks. The traits bestowed upon them by Sony almost made their villainy seem heroic.

That is why Wild Arms 3 stands out in my mind as one of the better RPGs of recent times. I can't remember ever playing a game of this sort where I'd find myself soldiering on SOLELY to find out what happens next. I may have had fun solving a number of each dungeon's puzzles. I may have enjoyed hunting down some of the game's extremely useful, but well-hidden, items. Hell, I may have even gotten some pleasure from sampling a few of Wild Arms 3's unnecessary side-quests. But none of those things were what kept me coming back for more -- in my mind, every mission I accomplished and every dungeon I completed gave me one more piece of the puzzle. It's amazing how much more vivid and important even minor plot points can seem if the characters involved are multi-dimensional and interesting.

Which made me grateful for those villains, as well as a handful of other supporting players. Unfortunately, Wild Arms 3 was cursed with a quartet of good guys who seemed ripped from any generic template of uninspired heroes. Virginia, the leader, is the idealistic one who spends eternities trying to convince EVERYONE that human willpower can conquer any adversity (such as a planet being drained of life). Jet's the antagonistic loner; Gallows is the light-hearted, irresponsible guy and Clive is the quiet, but smart, one who tends to act as the voice of reason. Every once in awhile, something seemingly will act to "evolve" one of these characters....but after all is said and done, their character traits remain unaltered by those "climactic" events.

Wild Arms 3 is able to rise above that potentially crippling flaw thanks to some excellent mechanics. Each of the four heroes gains three tools during their adventuring which prove quite useful in advancing through the game's numerous dungeons. Said dungeons, which easily could have become boring after going through 15 or so, are kept fresh and interesting because of a number of puzzles that not only challenge players' minds, but also their reflexes. Exerting the necessary energy to find certain well-hidden items allow players to avoid battles with inferior foes with the tap of a button, something that goes a long way towards preventing the frequent random battles from ever becoming tedious.

Throughout much of my time with Wild Arms 3, I found it to be near-perfect as far as those mechanics went. My quartet could utilize tons of accessories designed to improve their resistance to various elements and status effects -- which proved handy in getting past a number of foes proficient in laying waste to non-protected party members. As long as I took advantage of each new ability and took the time to make sure each character was loaded with the best defensive accessories, I found it easy to keep my head above water as the enemies got deadlier with their attacks....and if I got lazy, well, let’s just say that I did get overwhelmed by various powerhouse foes more than once.

Regardless of how intriguing some of the characters were and how smoothly most things seemed to flow, there were a couple of flaws I couldn't ignore. I’d be lying if I said the game's way of having my party "discover" such hard-to-find locations as bustling towns and immense towers didn’t get on my nerves from time to time. While exploring the overworld, it is necessary to push one of the control pad buttons every few steps to "look" at the surrounding terrain. If the party is in the range of a town, dungeon, hidden item or other point of interest, it will then appear. Well, most of the time. If the party hasn't talked to the right person to get clued in that a dungeon exists in the middle of that big crater or that one hero’s hometown is next to yonder beach.....they have no chance of finding those places. Does Wild Arms 3 do a great job of ensuring players don't go places before they're supposed to? No doubt, but the way in which it does so can get tiresome -- especially when there are a ton of places to go.

The game also is loaded with an uneven array of sidequests. Some, like missions to save Filgaia from a potential alien invasion or to solve 20 block-pushing puzzles, were fun (and lucrative) diversions from the primary mission. The best aspect of others, like finding a series of books for Clive's daughter, was that I could simply choose to not bother with ‘em. And then, there’s the Abyss. Most of this extremely repetitive 100-level dungeon is completely optional, but the plot does take you through the first 10 floors to get a certain key item. This proved to be the lowlight of my journeys through Filgaia, as NONE of the game’s inventive puzzles were located in this place, meaning I had nothing to do but fight, fight and fight some more while collecting enough gems to access the elevator to the next floor.

Regardless, Wild Arms 3 is one of those games I feel compelled to recommend. I wish more designers would realize that effective villains (i.e.: folks who have goals a bit more complex than "world domination" or "destroying everything") can go a long way in making a game's plot something special. The Prophets and other assorted adversaries (such a rival quartet of adventurers led by a girl capable of transforming into characters from her favorite fantasy books) made this game a difficult one for me to pry out of my PS2. Sure, some aspects tested my patience at times, but I always could find a reason to persevere. I could continue to try to explain why, but another of the game's villains does so much better (and in fewer words) than I ever could.

Siegfried: Please entertain me some more...A hero never dies...As long as he has the will to fight!



overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 27, 2006)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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