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Wild Arms 2 (PlayStation) artwork

Wild Arms 2 (PlayStation) review

"We could be heeeerooooes! (but we shouldn't)"

Final Fantasy VII was a game-changer, and all other franchises needed to step up their game to keep pace with Square's money-making juggernaut. J-RPGs after its release didn't merely need weird stories and lively characters, but also serious philosophical yammering and (often clumsy) cultural critiques. Developer Media.Vision seemed to get the message loud and clear, and thus shipped out an adventure loaded with straight up bananas content and "serious" social examinations. We call this exciting and peculiar, yet unstable and long-winded tale Wild Arms 2.

Forget about the demons, environmental decay and the world-destroying wars mentioned in the first outing. This sequel's initial struggle concerns a terrorist organization called "Odessa," which seeks to commit the odious act of unifying the world against an implied bigger threat. Of course, it aims to do so violently, and that's bad news. As you can imagine, Filgaia's leaders need a hero, but they'll only hold out at least until the end of the night...

Thankfully, the world has Irving Valeria, a man with plenty of resources and connections, not to mention a clandestine sexual relationship with this own sister. Who better to combat Odessa than an incestuous billionaire with a flying mansion and a private task force called ARMS? He's signed only the raggest of the ragtag to join him, a motley crew comprised of a demon-possessed military cadet, a literally iron-fisted war criminal, a spacey sorceress, a virgin sacrifice, a mix of The Bionic Woman and Dog the Bounty Hunter, and a golem-summoning vampire armed with a microphone.

The conflict between these two teams is phenomenal, leading to loads of ridiculous scenes. At one point, Odessa drops a huge monster on a city, and ARMS catches it with Irving's flying house. They then attempt to thwart an invasion within that domicile, where a child armed with a staff (the "virgin sacrifice," as I previously called him) fights off a gun-toting, bespectacled sociopath, all in an attempt to save the very people who want to murder the kid for the greater good. Together with his companions, they also battle an explosive monster that they practically catapult into the air before it reduces their base of operations to ash. One man clings to the beast in the hopes of preventing it from escaping, knowing full well it could blast him to smoldering pieces. However, thanks to his super powers, the massive explosion that engulfs him and the subsequent plummet to the ground only leave him with a few scratches and a light limp.

ARMS willingly leaps at opportunities to endanger their lives, squaring off in turn-based battles against a menagerie of colorful mutants, dancing demons and bosses that resemble Ultraman villains (complete with outlandish names like Zolinge, Vagesta, Gatlorg and Gehenna Neros). Some of the monsters they face go above and beyond plain weird and into absurdly awesome. For instance, one segment sees our heroes challenge a nuclear warhead that transforms into a dragon, and somehow isn't an adversary of Optimus Prime. They also battle a couple of comedic, anthropomorphic lizards from outer space, as well as a whole alternate dimension crammed inside of a living being.

Ashley and company deal with the bizarre threats with similarly ludicrous offenses. They fire weapons that make the BFG look modest, burst the very earth with their magic, summon mechs that change into fighter jets, and even cut loose flurries of tricky blade slashes and projectile blasts. Party members also gain force points with each move or sustained blow, granting access to special abilities that allow them to fire two guns in a single turn, divide a foe's hit points or basically cheat and use a consumable item on all present allies.

And some of these skills and maneuvers work to your strategic advantage, especially if you experiment or closely examine their effects and find loopholes. Who knew a vampire could acquire a sleep ability that reduces a certain super-boss to a slumbering punching bag, or that a spell called "Turn Undead" can instantly kill a ghost?

You might think that this game's story is downright mad, and sometimes it is. Sometimes. Mostly, though, you're stuck watching the good guys hold a drawn out conference where Irving anally lays out your next objective, which is exactly as entertaining as it sounds. Hell, there are so many conference cutscenes that even Odessa engages in one or two. When the party isn't caught in standard chatter, they're performing the "philosophical yammering" I mentioned earlier. Unlike its contemporaries, Wild Arms 2 left religion alone and decided to examine heroism. Such a storyline could easily bring up some good points, if its dialogue weren't so on-the-nose half of the time. For instance, you watch an awesome scene where one dude blasts a tremendous flying fortress with a ridiculously-sized gun, adding a blatant monologue that ends with "...Because that's what heroes do."

After a while, you'll notice a formula to the game's discourse. Something happens, a character makes a comment, then someone utters a line about heroes, and the word HERO gets extra emphasis placed upon it, as if the audience is incapable of figuring out that the script consists of obvious commentary. It's easy to ignore all boring, talkie segments at first, but they becomes bothersome and tiring before long. Granted, the game does make some good points about heroism that verge on anti-elitism and point out that selflessness can have a tinge of selfishness to it, but the attempts at serious discussion serve only as interruptions to this sequel's balls-out (and super fun) weirdness. I'm not saying the two ideas are mutually exclusive, but execution matters. Final Fantasy VI, for instance, dealt with grief and coping, but did so in a way that it didn't detract from its wonderful fantasy elements.

Localization didn't help the game's cause, either. I'm not going to pretend this one's translation is as bad as some (Breath of Fire II and Final Fantasy Tactics come to mind), but there are definitely a few poorly worded bits of dialogue and segments that didn't go over well. Some folks spew redundant lines or wax poetic in cringe-inducing ways. There's also the humanoid reptiles Liz and Ard, who get the most vitriol spewed on them because Liz speaks in Japanese puns that don't translate well to English. His lines bear a silver lining, though, because his incoherent rambling makes him seem fittingly alien and pretentious.

Even with these two factors at odds with each other, I ended up ultimately digging the game. Maybe I'm not as gaga over it nowadays like I was in 2000, but its ridiculous plot beats make it a memorable title with a bad script. It's just a shame developer Media.Vision never gave this game the Alter Code: F remake treatment, because Wild Arms 2 needed a face lift more than its older brother.

Ashley: "I want to create a world that no longer needs heroes."
*three sequels, a spin-off, a remake and a freemium mobile game launch*

You tried, Ashley. You tried...


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (March 12, 2020)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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