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 it.....as 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.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 17, 2009)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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