Review by Asam Zulqurnain

"An excellent game, not perfect but still great."

Wild ARMs 3 is a good solid RPG that fails to displease the average RPG fan. I do believe, however, that the game could have been improved on certain aspects but all can be forgiven when its originality is discovered. The beauty of the game is that even though it is a sequel to its predecessors, playing the first two games isn’t necessary. Having only played the first Wild ARMs, I found subtle references to the first game enjoyable, so it isn’t a bad idea to play the previous games.

The Game

As you start the game, you’ll come across a multi-opening, meaning that you have to choose from one of the four characters to play through each of their prologues. This feature quickly gives a good impression of the game as it gives a useful insight to the characters and their backgrounds. During and after the prologues, the game gives you short and simple to understand tutorials which work out to be satisfactory. Although sometimes you have to figure things out for yourself, most gamers would be thankful for not being bombarded with long winded tutorials. After all, the manual does a pretty good job on brushing up on the details.

The game controls are smooth and easy to navigate, plus the ability to rotate the camera angle is a blessing endowed upon the gamer. You’ll also find that you can save your progress anywhere as long as you’ve got a “Gimel Coin” in your inventory, this is a great benefit that eliminates frustration of finding save points at crucial moments. Also, at the different towns and settlements you discover there are memory figures that enable you to save your game. So you don’t need to feel conned for using up Gimel Coins at places where it should be a formality to save.

Furthermore, each character has his or her own variety of tools that can be used on the field. These are essential in order to progress further in the game or to attain hard to reach treasure chests. This idea of using tools has been carried on from the original Wild ARMs; and it is, in my opinion, a fantastic idea as a great deal of the fun lies in solving puzzles with the tools. When compared to the first game from the series, the traps and puzzles in Wild ARMs 3 seem rather simplistic even though they may require a bit of thought. This is a fairly good transition for it saves you hours of frustration, and prevents people from giving up the game all together. Still, the puzzles are a main aspect of the game that allow the player to feel a sense of accomplishment after solving them.

Another amazing feature is the innovative idea of the “migrant level.” Your party has an encounter gauge shown at the top left of the screen, along with your migrant level. Every random monster also has a set migrant level. So as soon as you are about to encounter an enemy, a white exclamation mark appears above your character’s head, giving you the opportunity to avoid the battle completely. If the enemy has a much higher migrant level than your party, then avoiding the encounter would take a considerable amount off your encounter gauge. If your party has a higher migrant level then a green exclamation mark will appear, and won’t affect the encounter gauge at all. Incidentally, a red exclamation mark signifies that you can’t avoid the battle because it’s either a surprise attack or the encounter gauge is depleted. Collecting white gems in dungeons, fighting battles and sleeping at inns will refill the gauge. To increase your migrant level, you need to find items called “Migrant Seals” all over the world. This new system of the migrant level improves the gameplay tremendously, it makes random battles bearable rather than putting you through continuous mindless assaults.

Along with collecting white gems in dungeons, you can also collect orange gems that restore your vitality. After each battle, your characters may have lost some HP, all this HP is replenished if you have enough vitality points. It is a nice original idea, but somewhat flawed because it makes the game too easy at times. Carrying on with new ideas, the “ASK system” was added in Wild ARMs 3. During a conversation some words may be highlighted in green, giving you the opportunity to ask about the topic highlighted. The game developers deserve praise for this nifty option as it compels the player to become more engaged in conversations.

Unsurprisingly, the game could have been better. The biggest problem that arises is the structure of the different towns. There is almost nothing to do apart from collecting treasure or resting at inns. Each town will have about four to five residents, which is hardly any. There’ll always be an innkeeper and an ARMs dealer, with a few other people telling you where to go. This hardly gives you the motivation of doing the good deed and saving the world that consists of about twenty people. The shortage of people morphs the game into a world of dungeons rather than a world of people, unlike the first game in the series.

Battling Madness

The first thing to marvel at are the intense battle scenes that are presented to you, what particularly captures the intensity is the fact that everyone involved in the fights is in motion at all times, even when waiting for a turn. There are no imaginary lines that separate your party, realism is the key to the battle structure as everyone is shown to you as being in a mad scramble to decimate the foe. The turn based system is still kept to preserve the fun and the strategy involved.

Noticeably, all the characters carry guns (their “ARMs”). So it’s only the special force abilities and innate base stats that separate the differences from the characters. Unfortunately, there are no new weapons in the game, just upgrades that require money. This weeds out the variety of exciting new weapons but isn’t necessarily a bad thing because you have to choose wisely on how to upgrade your ARMs, thus allowing you to build up on the strategy.

The summons in the game are known as Mediums, each Medium can be equipped by any character and has its own set of Arcana spells. Arcana is basically what they call magic. The Mediums also boost your stats which again allows you to formulate your own strategy. The role of the traditional MP is replaced by FP; FP is gained after you physically attack or when you are attacked yourself. This FP allows you to use Arcana, whilst Arcana doesn’t consume any of your FP, summoning and using special force abilities does. This new idea actually works quite well, but may take a few battles to get used to it.

The Mediums also provide “Personal Skills” that can be equipped by the characters. These are different supportive or attack boosting abilities that can turn the battles around in your direction (a nice substitute from armours and add-ons, I must say). Putting Personal Skills to good use can boost the EXP you obtain by up to ten times, however, that rarely occurs and the whole idea of boosting EXP hardly makes a difference unless you spend ages on a particular fight. The problem is that your characters have to rely too much on bosses to level up efficiently.

Memories that slap!

Wild ARM 3 has an extremely detailed and imaginative storyline. It relates to “Drifters” that traverse the sparse settlements under harsh conditions just to make a name for themselves. The main character, Virginia Maxwell, meets three other drifters, all of whom have separate goals, by coincidence on a train. The team then get involved with the Mediums, the guardian powers that “sustain the world” and then undergo the realisation that the planet is under serious threat. The story contains intricate subplots and twists that don’t fully allow you to grasp the full picture until the last moment.

This time, the game is centrally concerned with memories and the importance of preserving them. It is a new perspective taken up by a game that delivers a rather nice change from the usual. Still, a problem that upsets the scene is the tendency of certain characters feeling the need to slap another character. Sure, one instance where someone is slapped isn’t a big deal, but Wild ARMs 3 has an abundance of such cases that are often misplaced and make the atmosphere seem unnatural.

Graphics, Sound and Detail

The new installment of the series come with some pretty decent graphics, full of detail and visually contrasting colours that are a pleasure to see. The game runs smoothly and the ability to rotate the camera angle gives it the extra 3d edge and the dynamic camera angles that give an overview of the battle field are something to look forward to in future releases. The graphics in this game are unique to its title, and a fabulous job has been done with them as they somehow capture the ideal setting for the game that pictures an eroded land without competition. It would be unfair to compare these graphics with Final Fantasy X’s revolutionary standard, simply because the games are too different for comparison.

The music in the game is amazing and almost urges the player to whistle to it. It always fits with the occasion amplifying the dramatic effect, such as slow suspicious music to create an eerie tone that delivers a sense of foreboding. The Janus Cascade battle theme and the music played inside the Leyline Observatory are amongst the best pieces written.

One more time...

There are a lot of reasons to play this game over again, thus giving it a thumbs up for replay value. Such as following through the simple sounding but rather complex storyline, or to solve all the puzzles all over again. It is possible to play the game again with an EX File save, which transfers all your EXP and Gella (the worldwide currency) onto a brand new save. This gives even more of a reason to play the game again, as watching your characters annihilate anything that steps in their way makes you feel rewarded for completing the game.

Final Thought

In conclusion, Wild ARMs 3 is an extremely good purchase for RPG fans. It does a great job of containing all the elements that make a good RPG!

(8/10)


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/28/03, Updated 10/28/03


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