Review by Archmonk Iga
"Wild ARMs 2 is an excellent example of an RPG done just right. I really miss the good old days."
I bought Wild ARMs 2 when it first came out back in 2000, and I remember loving every minute of it. Twelve years later, I booted it up again for the third (fourth?) time and I was just as absorbed by the world of Filgaia as I was during my previous playthroughs. Wild Arms 2 may not have brought much new substance to the table at the time of its release, but it still does a magnificent job of keeping you hooked and staying true to what made the RPG genre so amazing in the first place
What is power? Where does it come from? How should you use it? Throughout your time with WA2, these themes will be very familiar to you. And although for the most part the methods in which these themes are presented are a bit laughable, observing this grand story is still one of the best things about the game.
WA2 begins similarly to the first, where we are introduced to the three main characters. Ashley Winchester is the protagonist, with a desire to be a hero and to take care of the ones he loves. Brad Evans is a former war hero, now a prisoner, with a quiet and observant demeanor. Lilka Eleniak is a scatterbrained young magic student living in the shadow of her prestigious older sister.
After the introductory chapters, the big picture of Filgaia begins. A sinister power awakens inside of Ashley, contradicting everything he stands for. But again, as long as he uses this power for good, what harm can he do? Soon he meets up with Brad and Lilka, and the three form the ARMs group, financed and run by the wealthy Irving Valeria. Their main mission is to put a stop to Odessa, a terrorist organization set on taking over the world. Yet Filgaia is struggling with more than just Odessa's threats, as you will quickly be able to tell from the get-go.
The story here is far from anything special, and the poor translation does it absolutely zero favors. Many concepts will be drilled into your head constantly, such as following your heart, the history of Filgaia, and doing what's right. Not only is a lot of the writing poorly translated, it actually becomes very redundant. I do have to praise the characters of Liz and Ard, though, the former being possibly schizo-effective They provide some of the funniest moments you'll see from RPG villains on the PSX.
Backing away from the writing and looking at the big picture helps, too. Our main characters end up being pretty interesting, and we grow to love them deeply sooner rather than later. Three more characters join ARMs later on as well, each having their own personal struggles and beliefs. Odessa is a group of five terrifying characters too, each with their own cruel motivations. While the writing is cheesy and awkward, the bland story is saved by its diverse cast and some shocking twists.
Wild ARMs 2 doesn't take any steps to look pretty. In the field, character sprites are largely expressionless and undetailed, though they certainly look cute. Environments are gritty and hard on the eyes, with ugly browns and beiges taking up much of Filgaia. In battle, characters are a nicely updated version of the first Wild ARMs. Monster variety is great, and some of those bosses are enormous. Battle effects are quite mundane though, and even the guardians are a little silly looking. The visuals are far behind many other RPGs that came out around the same time.
Wild ARMs 2 has some of the most atrocious sound effects I've ever heard in an RPG. There is a certain charging up noise that is used for a ton of different attacks. You hear it so much it eventually becomes pretty comical. Thankfully, the soundtrack in WA2 is exceptional. A mix of standard RPG music with Filgaia's western influence brings you into the game very fluidly. The tracks are so darn catchy and infectious that the hilarious sound effects will be the last thing on your mind. The weeks you spend with this game will likely result in having the battle theme or one of the town's themes stuck in your head constantly. In my opinion, WA2's soundtrack is the best in the series.
Perhaps the most noteworthy part of WA2 is how it doesn't bring too much in terms of new content to the RPG genre, but at the same time any flaws you can find are minimal. In fact, it does just about everything right.
One of the best things about WA2's gameplay is that you can avoid battles with weaker enemies. This trait is something lots of RPGs could really learn from. Once you get into battle, things are pretty slow, even for an RPG. Attacks are slow, magic is slow, you even will have to wait a second or two before any action is taken. The fact that you can avoid most battles numbs this quite a bit. In addition, most of the game is very easyeven boss battles can be a breeze, with or without additional limbs to attack.
Battle is largely based around your characters' Force Points (FP). Any kind of action will fill up the FP gauge, allowing for more powerful moves to be used. Each character has their own moveset too, which makes the easy battles a little more fun. Ashley and Brad use ARMs; Lilka, Tim and Marivel use magic; and Kanon uses some powerful Gatling abilities. Each character's abilities are gained through different methods, adding even more variety to the battles. Ashley's new power also allows him to use Access, which grants him the strongest moveset in the whole game.
Along with their battle abilities, characters each acquire three tools to help them solve puzzles in the game's numerous dungeons. Some of these puzzles are real brain-benders, and it's a lot of fun to work them all out and open the door to the next area.
All in all, Wild ARMs 2 is extremely accessible and great for all RPG fans regardless of their experience with the genre. It's a throwback to the good old days while still offering solid gameplay to draw you in and keep you there.
With my most recent playthrough, I ended up replacing an 80-hour 100% file because I was able to do the same thing again in about half the time. I guess that means I've gotten better at videogames, or something. But anyway, the story alone could take little over 30 hours for most, but there is a huge amount of optional content in WA2. Challenging hidden bosses, a monster album and a secret character are a few things worth mentioning. Even more is the task to acquire all the abilitiesTim and Marivel will have you adding on a few more hours alone. WA2 does an excellent job of getting you committed to accomplishing everything you can, but it doesn't force you. If you try to do everything, you can expect between 40-80 hours being taken up for this wonderful RPG. And if you're anything like me, a nostalgic replay is certainly an option a few years down the road.
REPLAY VALUE: 9.5/10
Wild ARMs 2 is a very special RPG. In a gaming world plagued with DLC and ridiculous patches for incomplete games, coming back to this one was quite a pleasure. They really don't make games like this anymore. Maybe I sound old-fashioned, but it's weird to imagine a new videogame having the effect that WA2 has on me. Twelve years later, I not only think that it is just as good as I remember it being, but the entire experience this time around has been the best yet. Wild ARMs 2 is a wonderful RPG, one that should be a model for all RPGs today.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/18/12
Game Release: Wild ARMs 2 (US, 04/30/00)
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