Review by Psycho Penguin
"If only the sequel was this good.."
Every so often a truly special game comes along, and then that game is absolutely buried and barely anyone plays it, either due to an overhyped game being released around the same time, or the lack of marketing by the company that published the game. Let's take a look at 1997, for example. Wild ARMS, being an enjoyable role playing game that I enjoyed a lot, was being released, but at the same time, the most hyped role playing game of all time, Final Fantasy 7 was released, as well. Therefore, Final Fantasy 7 kind of overshadowed Wild ARMs, and never really gave it a chance to succeed.
That is quite a shame, because Wild ARMs is a really solid RPG that has its fair share of flaws, but also has the gameplay quality few role playing games have had. While not being the best looking, or best sounding, role playing game of all time, it is still a truly fantastic and fun game that doesn't deserve to be missed out by anyone. It blends old school gameplay with innovative ideas in a way I never thought possible. The storyline seemed epic and majestic, yet was squeezed into only one disc, which means it never got overbearing. The battle system was enjoyable and simple enough to be enjoyed by even a role playing game novice. Make no doubt about it, Wild ARMs is in the upper echelon, but a few flaws keep it from getting true greatness.
Thankfully, one of the flaws does not lie in the storyline, as this is one of the better storylines ever written for a role playing game. You can really tell the developers of the game spent a lot of time delivering a solid and quality storyline that actually made sense for the most part. Basically, the world of Filagia was peaceful many eras ago, when it was protected by the Guardians. Then, out of nowhere, the enemy attacked, and left the world in ruins. This forced the three inhabitant races of the world, the Elws, Humans, and Guardians, to work together to rid the world of the enemy, in which they succeeded, forcing the metal babbles into the outskirts of the planet, to the icy tundras few will ever go.
Since they helped free the world of the evils of the Metal Demons, the Elws soon got tired of the greediness of the human race, and became alienated, soon abandoning the planet after seeing how greed was taking it over. Despite the fact the war was won, the planet began to decline, as all plant life vanished slowly. The Guardians lost their power after the war, and now are simply considered to be forklore, or an old legend. It is now 1,000 years later, and the planet is slowly rebuilding. However, the Metal Demons home planet was destroyed, and now they are waiting for the time to take over Filagia once again. However, the Guardians are determined to not let this happen, but they can't do anything themselves, due to their loss of power, so they call upon three brave heroes who will set out on a journey to save the world. In a world brought to ruin under the attack of an alien race, the wheels of fortune are about to turn.
This is simply an incredible basic storyline to the game that makes an extreme amount of sense, and also manages to be fascinating and unique. The heroes automatically have a main mission that doesn't involve them needing to beat an evil bad guy, they simply need to save the world as the Guardians did. There is basically a new wave of heroes, who may just become legends themselves 1,000 years from now. However, I will point out that this storyline really doesn't develop as well as I expected it to throughout the game. The character development is superb however, as there are three characters, and they all develop quite nicely throughout the game, especially Cecilia, who is trying to let go of her former life as a princess. This is simply a superb storyline.
In addition to the complex storyline, the game also delivered solid graphics that, while being unspectacular, still hold up to this day, somewhat. There is no doubt of the quality of the graphics while being in overhead view. The towns look amazingly designed, and you can make out little details in the various buildings. The ghost towns look like something out of the wild west, the castles are majestic and expansive, the regular towns look like a combination of run down places and fixed up places, and overall I just loved how the graphics in the overhead mode looked. Even the world map looked great, which is somewhat of a rarity for Playstation role playing games that don't have Final Fantasy in their name. ^.^
However, despite the fact that the overhead view looked awesome, once the game turns into a pseudo 3D battle system, the graphics kind of fall apart. I cannot stress enough how cheesy the characters look in the battles, especially when they jump to attack the enemies. They simply look like blobs, as do the enemies. However, the enemy designs are fairly impressive, despite the fact that they basically do the same thing almost every role playing game does: recycle earlier enemy designs later in the game and give them a new color. Despite this, there was a nice variety of enemy designs, and despite their deformedness when the battles were actually active, the enemy designs were still solid.
Every role playing game must have two things to be considered in the upper echelon: a solid storyline, and great music. Wild ARMs definitely delivers on the second one, as well! Every theme in the game was unique and really set the tone for each scene. For instance, the dramatic scenes were accompained by a melodramatic tone that really made the listener sad. The fast paced scenes had fast music that really had the game player's heart skip a beat. The battle theme, while not being spectacular, never really got on my nerves, although this is a game that could have used a variety of battle themes, due to the fact that the battle theme just isn't that good, plain and simple. The victory theme and boss theme are both very good, however. And you have not heard a good video game song until you hear the ''wild wild west'' song. Trust me, you'll know it when you see it, it's in a few caves later on in the game.
The sound effects are so good, they accompany the outstanding music perfectly. The battles do not have too many sound effects, but the ones that are present are fantastic in their own right. From the sword clashes to the sounds of items giving your character a needed boost, all the sound effects present in the game set the tone for the battles. Then, outside of battle, there were even more sound effects, from the rumblings of earthquakes, to the cries of enemies as they attack or die, plus the wonderful sounds of Jack's bird hitting onto things, plus his little chain that enabled him to move from place to place. All the sound effects in the game were truly special, and made Wild ARMs a true pleasure to listen to.
Controlling your characters in Wild ARMs could have been a little easier, but for the most part Contrail did a really solid job with the controls. About the only thing I really need to point out here is how the character runs, since it is fairly unique. You need to push the button your character wants to run in, then you have to pish it again and hold it down. So, if you want to run down, you need to push down, then push it again and hold it down, and let go when you want to stop running. If you don't let go of it in time, you run into a wall or door or something, which produces hilarious results sometimes. The rest of the controls are basic role playing game fare, it is really easy to move around the various menus, both in battle and outside of battle.
Wild ARMs is your basic role playing game, with a few innovations. You go around the world map, and you get into random battles. The battle system is fairly unique, but maintains a lot of the qualities of the average role playing game battle system. You get three characters in battle, almost at all times, except for the beginning, where your characters are split up. You get all the basic commands to use: item, attack, defend, run, special abilities, etc. There really isn't a whole lot to say about the battle system, besides the fact the graphics in it aren't that good and might just make the system less enjoyable based on that fact alone.
However, there was an innovative element added to the Wild ARMs battle. Despite the fact it seems like a Final Fantasy 7 Limit Break ripoff at first, the Force Level in Wild ARMs is simply one of the most unique and coolest ideas ever implemented into a role playing game battle system. As you did attacks, your force level increased. After a few attacks, you got to do a Force, which acts as a Limit Break. Each character had four Forces throughout the game, as time went on they learned new Forces. The ability to control when your character does a Force (just have everyone else defend and have the character you want to do a Force attack the enemy for a while) was a rather novel idea for the time, and the lack of user controlled Limit Breaks since then (FF9, anyone?) makes this a rarity.
Each character has their own special abilities, which really helped each character get their own unique personality. You have the mage, Cecilia, you have the thief type in Jack, and you have the all around character, Rudy. Each one of them had their own special ability. Rudy has ARMs, which are basically a power like Barrett's gun arm in Final Fantasy 7. He could use a wide variety of ARMs, and each ARM could be upgraded in attack power and maximum ammo by paying gold to a weapon upgrader in a town. You also had to buy more bullets for it as you ran out. Jack has fast Draw, which enables him to do strong magic and sword based attacks, like a Fire Sword combo in Final Fantasy 9. He can get the techniques from many different places. Cecilia used magic, which was one of the coolest additions to the game.
No, the addition of magic was not the cool addition I was talking about, because as we all know, magic is present in almost every role playing game out there. However, the way magic was integrated into this game is simply magical, no pun intended. To gain magic, you need to find a Crest Graph, either in battle or in a dungeon. After you get a Crest Graph, you can take it to a magic store, where the magic seller will put a magic spell of your choice into the Graph, at which point the Graph breaks. Later on in the game, she can also use alchemy to mix different elements into magic, so there is basically two different ways to get magic, and both ways are very innovative and fun.
There were also Guardians, which acted as the summons of Wild ARMs. When you got your force level all the way filled, you could unleash a devastating Guardian attack. The only time you could summon a Guardian is when your force level is filled up, so deciding whether or not to do a force attack or a Guardian summon is just another strategy session that makes Wild ARMs a true thinking game. I really enjoyed this particular aspect of the game, as it made the game more challenging and more interesting at the same time.
Tools were another innovation to the game. Each character had their own tool, which enables the player to complete the game. One of the coolest things in the game was figuring out which tool you had to use to complete an area. Each character got three tools, so there was a total of nine different tools to use. Jack had a Hanpan, which was the bird he used to open treasure chests or pull switches that he could not reach, a Lighter, which enabled the player to light up torches, and a Grappling Hook, which enabled him to swing from post to post, Bionic Commando/Rygar style! Cecilia had a Tear Drop, a magical jewel, a Pocket Watch, and a Magic Wand. Rudy had a bomb, which blew up things, Radar, and Skates.
You will definitely want to play Wild ARMs through to the end, and once you complete it, you may want to play it all over again, despite the relative long length. I think the main problem with this game, and the only area which Final Fantasy 7 truly kills it, is the fact that this game does not have too many secrets. Yes, there are a few, but chances are you will find most of them the first time through. So, you already got all the secrets the first time through, so the amount of fun you had the first time throguh may be the determining factor in whether or not you restart the adventure or not. Thankfully, the game is so fun, you may just decide to play it over again.
Like most role playing games, Wild ARMs is pretty challenging, and it is actually much tougher than a lot of other role playing games out there. Most of the bosses are quite tough early on, and they never really get easier. It will definitely take some strategy in order to defeat them. Due to the length of the game, it also gets quite tough to keep leveled up. You need to level up often, or random battles will kill you. You will notice that the difficulty of the enemies suddenly increases greatly, so you will definitely want to spend some time leveling up. This game can be completed, but it'll take a little more time than you may expect.
Now, I mentioned earlier that the game had some basic flaws that prevented it from getting a 10, and there are. For one, there is a large amount of random battles. I usually do not complain about this, as I love getting into random battles usually, as I love to level up my characters as high as I possibly can, and battle systems are fun. I love the battle system, but I got to hear the battle music too much, and the battle system can get quite annoying due to the cheesy graphics. Also, the characters barely ever talk to each other, it's like they're just with each other without actually being with each other. Finally, the game can be a little vague in places, which makes it harder to get from place to place. Thankfully, it is not on Suikoden's level, but it is right up there.
Despite these flaws, Wild ARMs is a classic role playing game that hits pay dirt on almost every level, and delivers one of the most enjoyable role playing experiences on the Playstation, a console known for awesome role playing games. The graphics are better than you may expect, despite the fact they have a 1997 look to them. The music and sound effects are truly amazing, and the battle system is fun and unique. All of the innovative elements found in this game combine to make a truly special gaming experience that, despite the flaws, make this one of the best games released in 1997. Get it now!
-The graphics definitely look better than you'll probably expect.
-The storyline is complex, innovative, and interesting.
-The music is some of the best you will hear.
-The sound effects are just as good.
-The combination of all the innovative elements plus the classic role playing game formula makes this game a winner.
-The battle system is enjoyable, despite the cheesy graphics.
Not So Good Points
-The game ends.
-There is an unusually large amount of random battles.
-The battle system can get annoying due to the cheesy graphics.
-The characters barely associate with one another.
-The game can leave you totally clueless as to where to go next.
-The storyline doesn't really develop as much as it should have, due to the lack of character interaction and dialouge.
I Run Down The Game... Psycho Penguin Style!
Storyline - 9.4/10
Graphics - 9.3/10
Music - 9.8/10
Sound Effects - 9.8/10
Control - 9.7/10
Gameplay - 9.3/10
Replay Value - Above Average
Challenge - Above Average
Game Length - 35 Hours
Is This Game Worth A Purchase? - Definitely.
Overall - 9.4/10
The Last Line
This game is a true testament to the sudden explosion in quality of the role playing genre. This game is so good, it will make every role playing game fan forget how horrible Beyond the Beyond was, and consider the first role playing games on the Playstation (Final Fantasy 7 and Wild ARMs) being truly awesome. Get this classic game today, you won't be sorry you did, trust me on that one!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/03/02, Updated 01/03/02
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