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Wild Arms (PlayStation) artwork

Wild Arms (PlayStation) review

"You'll be expected to use those tools (and your wits) to make it through the many obstacles these ruins hold. Shortly after Cecilia gets a wand allowing her to converse with animals, you'll be locked in a dungeon room with the only way out being to talk to the scary looking wolf that's materialized next to you and follow it along a convoluted path. Distant switches can be manipulated by Jack's pet rodent, Hanpan, while Rudy's bombs come in useful from the moment you're introduced to him until you've reached the final bosses."

Wild Arms got lost in the shuffle to some degree in the days of the PlayStation. It had the misfortune to be released in the same general time period as Final Fantasy VII, and let's face far as presentation goes, it was an extremely ugly red-headed stepchild. Wild Arms "boasted" a two-dimensional world and dungeons where brown was the color of choice, extremely primitive attempts at 3-D battles and a complete lack of those cinematic scenes that played a sizable role in FF VII getting so much hype before its release.

That Wild Arms existed in comparative obscurity to FF VII was a shame, as when you strip away that game's sterling (for the time) production, one could make a strong case that Wild Arms might actually be the superior pure RPG. In developing it, Media.Vision gave gamers a paradise of riches that deserved more publicity.

Start with the three characters. To illustrate they're of equal importance (instead of a lead with two sidekicks), you get introduced to each separately before they join forces to save the land of Filgaia from the machinations of an otherworldly race known as the Metal Demons. The ARMs (ie: guns) Rudy collects throughout the game give him tons of offensive firepower, while Cecilia's knowledge of magic makes her the perfect support character. The third party member, Jack, learns a number of sword techniques capable of inflicting damage, healing party members and various other things -- making him a true "jack of all trades" for the group. Adding to the "different, but equal" vibe are their tools. Jack's grappling hook can get the party across chasms, while Cecilia can put out fires with a vase and Rudy's radar can alert the gang to well-hidden treasure. Each character winds up collecting four tools and the majority of them wind up being pretty handy.

This is due, in part, to Wild Arms being loaded with dungeons where getting from point A to point B is easier said than done. You'll be expected to use those tools (and your wits) to make it through the many obstacles these ruins hold. Shortly after Cecilia gets a wand allowing her to converse with animals, you'll be locked in a dungeon room with the only way out being to talk to the scary looking wolf that's materialized next to you and follow it along a convoluted path. Distant switches can be manipulated by Jack's pet rodent, Hanpan, while Rudy's bombs come in useful from the moment you're introduced to him until you've reached the final bosses.

Connecting all these dungeons is a story that was pretty entertaining, especially for the time. While "brave heroes save world from really powerful evil force" isn't anything to get excited about, there are a number of twists that keep things from feeling stale. The relation between Jack and one of the Metal Demons results in one of the game's more touching moments and the reaction of demon leader Ziekfried to the revelation the alien mother of his clan has far different plans for Filgaia than he was expecting set up a series of events that, if nothing else, makes the plot progression seem different from the norm.

Adding to the fun were a number of the game's optional bosses, which can prove capable of even testing a party strong enough to manhandle its way through Wild Arms' final confrontations. This sort of thing is nothing new in RPGs, but they're still fun to fight. The secret golems Lucifer and Sado are the most deadly foes in the final dungeon and they pale in comparison to the VERY well-hidden Ragu Ragla. I think the cool thing about these guys is that with the exception of Mr. Ragla, none of them are at that "only masochists need apply" level of difficulty so many optional foes are. They're tough and you'll need to be intelligent with your tactics, but you won't feel like they were put in the game as a cruel joke on players who don't consider a game beat until EVERYTHING is dead.

Unfortunately, some of the designers' ideas about what makes a good puzzle do come off that way. For all of Wild Arms' positives, a few puzzles where the solution seems based more on trial, error and luck than anything resembling intellect have the potential to drag things to a halt. While I was finishing off my most recent playthrough of the game, I had to obtain three relics to place on altars to open the door to the final encounters. Two of them were reasonably simple to grab, but the third was something else. The region of the dungeon containing it had a number of treasure chests containing "eyes" -- with only one being real. I had to open a chest and carry the eye it contained in front of a device that would glow blue if I had the right one and red if not. Since only one chest could be open at once, if I picked the wrong one, I'd have to return that eye before I was allowed to get another. Due to Murphy's Law (of course), I grabbed just about every fake eye before getting the usable one. That was a real fun 45 minutes I spent fighting tons of battles while carting fake eyes back and forth and hoping THIS TIME Lady Luck would smile on me and I'd have the right one.

Even though the game doesn't have glossy production and does possess a few dungeons capable of making just about anyone throw their hands in the air before going online to find a guide, I still like it. If you're a fan of turn-based RPGs, Wild Arms has a lot working in its favor. The game's "Wild West" theme manifests itself well in an excellent soundtrack and also justifies the dominant use of drab background colors. While the random battles are plentiful, they tend to be wrapped up in one or two rounds, due to the powerful attacks you obtain while progressing through Filgaia. All things considered, while there might be a few annoyances, this is one of the more fun RPGs I've played over the years.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 17, 2009)

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

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darketernal posted September 18, 2009:

I like this review, and I love this game. If anything should be added in it, I think that for the Wild Arms games in general you should have maybe mentioned the soundtrack feature a bit more then in one line, but that aside it did carry the point across well.
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EmP posted September 18, 2009:

Yeah, you cranky old coot -- Wild Arms has the best PSX soundtrack out there, as I say in my review of the game that's old, but not nearly as old as you!

Still, good solid review. More people prefer WA to FFVII than you might believe. I'm probably one of them.
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overdrive posted September 18, 2009:

I know what you mean about the music. It's weird with me. I love music and listen to it all the time, but when it comes to gaming reviews, I think that just about anything I'm saying about a game's soundtrack comes off feeling forced and unnatural, so I usually wind up saying as little about it as possible.....such as just mentioning that it's good here. I just have trouble putting what I like about a soundtrack into words.

I think as a pure RPG, Wild Arms is superior to FF VII because it doesn't have a bunch of filler and the game just plays more tightly. On the other hand, FF VII does blow it out of the water as far as production goes and is essentially the game that made RPGs considered "big" in America, so we started getting more of them, instead of having 50-75 percent of them not leave Japan.

On a side note, it was cool to be able to take my team and beat the game (sans the Abyss and Boomerang Flash) again. I'd originally was going to use this game if we made the finals of the TT and play it just enough to refresh my memory on it, but then we got eliminated and I was having fun with it, so I decided to just beat it again.
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joseph_valencia posted September 18, 2009:

I love Wild Arms. It's the only game in the series where the plot and characters didn't feel too retarded.
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joseph_valencia posted September 18, 2009:

I suggest incorporating music in terms of how it relates to or meshes with the game experience. For example you might say:

"As I entered the world map and the Morricone-esque fanfare kicked in, I jizzed my pants at the possibilities of this untapped frontier wasteland."


"The boss enemies are relentless, like their pounding battle music."

Lame examples, but hopefully they illustrate the idea and get those musical gears turning.
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sashanan posted September 18, 2009:

I ended up making a significant point about the music in a game for the first time on my Mana Khemia review, where it had stood out to me throughout the game how the story turns seriously darker two thirds into the game, and the music changes accordingly on many of the main areas. The review wasn't particularly well received but that was one part I was happy with, because until then, I had exactly the same problem really saying anything about music. It's not often that it really stands out to me even if I like it and realize, on some level, that it's probably a good soundtrack. But often it's just not the kind of thing that stands out to me in a game.
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CoarseDragon posted September 18, 2009:

I also enjoyed reading your review. I do like that you mentioned the three different characters starting witin their own story. I found that to be very inovative at the time and I still like it today.

Not sure if this is proper (but some of you may not know) you can purchase 1 and 2 at the Playstation store.
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zippdementia posted September 18, 2009:

I did enjoy the original Wild Arms to a point. It was decidedly difficult to make it past the terrible presentation, even harder today. You mention FF7. While that game may come off as having little more than blocky headed characters, it also had an appealing colour scheme, great character design (evidenced by their continuing popularity), memorable dialogue, and undeniably brilliant music. Wild Arms had one great musical interlude (the opening cutscene) and none of the rest. Whether or not the story is better is up for opinion, as are most RPG stories. The beginning is really fun, when you have to get the characters together and it lets you make your own spells, which is sweet. But the greys and browns got to me after a while and I had to put it down.
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darketernal posted September 18, 2009:

I disagree with only one good musical interlude. The entire game, from begining to end, be it the themes of various characters(Boomerang, Zed, the golem, Calamity Jane etc.)or overworld music/dungeon music/various towns music, I can honestly say each and every theme rocked. And that's more or less true in all Wild Arms games. It's their staple, powerful music.

As for FFVII, it was a great game, undeniably. Not my favorite, and objectively not the best rpg in my opinion, but it was great.

I do recommend trying out the Wild Arms Alter Code: F, which is basically a remake of the first game, though the fighting/equipment system is nothing alike.
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joseph_valencia posted September 18, 2009:

I find Wild Arm's pixel art to be cleaner and more appealing than the cluttered and confusing pre-rendered environments in Final Fantasy 7. The latter gets the edge when it comes to battles and magic effects, but that's because it had a bigger budget. :-p

On the subject of music, both games have great compositions, but WA had superior sound programming. As a matter of fact, one of the things that disappointed people when FF7 originally came out was how cheap the music sounded. It was like "SNES Sound Chip v1.5". The other two PSX Final Fantasy games suffered from this too, albeit to a lesser extent.
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honestgamer posted September 18, 2009:

Yeah, the music in the Wild Arms games is among the best I've heard in video games since the 8-bit days. It's insanely good across the board. Wild Arms is definitely one of the finest RPGs from the PSX era, but it's difficult to explain why to someone who hasn't played them or who can't look past their admittedly lower production values.
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shotgunnova posted September 20, 2009:

I think FF7 has a better soundtrack composition-wise, but dagnabit, Wild Arms riffs westerns' OSTs and that automatically makes it win. Everyone knows the overworld copies "Ecstacy of Gold," but I was listening to some Morricone soundtracks the other day and there was another that jumped out...forget the name...

Anyway, good review! Wild Arms is great...maybe even too great.

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