"Simple Frustration"

After the decent sales of Wild Arms and the massive sales of Final Fantasy VII, RPGs were looking to be profitable in America. So Sony, who wanted a slice of that tasty tasty FFVII profit pie, got a development team together to produce a sequel to Wild Arms. They’d make it long, epic, and add stuff into the old formula! However it seemed as though somewhere along the line they decided to “improve” the old gameplay aspects of WA. Bad move guys. REALLY bad move!

Apparently WA2 takes place in an alternate universe of Filgaia than in the original title. Instead of the land being destroyed through a great war against the Metal Demons, Filgaia was stained by a demon called Lord Blazer. He turned the green planet to a barren wasteland of sand and rock. Thankfully the vile one was banished by the Sword Magess and peace was once again brought to the land. Now years later you take control of Ashley Winchester, a guy that write very long reviews and the leader of an elite group called ARMS. He’s out to protect Filgaia from a new threat - a terrorist group called Odessa. The plot is much better than the original game. There are way more juicy plot twists to keep the gamer intrigued as well as advancing it smoothly. However by disc 2 the entire plot changes and becomes very confusing and nonsensical, but even with that I still like the plot more than the first game’s.

The cast of characters blows the last set out of the water. You’ll learn more about each one - their emotions, their pasts, their deep dark secrets. You feel a sense of growth from them. First there’s Ashley, a balanced fighter who’s always looking for justice. He’s accompanied by the “tank” character Brad and the mage Lilika. There’s also the summoner Tim and the bounty hunter Kanon. Each one has their own special abilities as well making each one an important character. Both Ashley and Brad wield the awesome power of firearms called ARMs. Lilika on the other hand uses crests lying around to obtain spells. Tim can equip runes in order to summon the massive guardians of Filgaia. Kanon can learn different types of moves and combos through constant re-use of the same maneuvers.

Combat is essentially the same with a few minor changes that pretty much seriously mess with the game’s entertainment. You’ll still have your party of three against any of the various beasts that inhabit Filgaia and they’ll have the same old commands such as attack, defend, and ability. So, that’s ok - nothing to alarmed about yet. Of course the team brought back the FP (Force Point) meter with it’s special move for each increment of 25 FP, but they seriously messed it up because of another “brilliant idea” - they ditched MP (Magic Points for those that are new to RPGs)! Yup, Lilika doesn’t need that MP for her magic anymore, just good old FP. For example Lilika’s flame spell needs 12 FP. As soon as you obtain at least 12 FP, you can cast flame how ever many times you want during the battle as long as you don’t somehow lose that 12 FP. The most common way to lose FP is through the special level 1, 2, 3 , and 4 FP abilities. Now here’s the problem, later on spells need a whopping 55 FP and sometimes even more. Lilika’s level 4 FP ability allows her to cast two spells in one round, but it completely drains her FP meter. Doing so makes her useless because she won’t be able to cast any more spells for awhile. Basically there’s no point to her skills. Why use all your FP when you could just keep casting your hard hitting spells? Luckily this doesn’t apply to other characters such as the big physical attackers Ashley and Brad - there’s nothing wrong with them.

Unfortunately WA2’s combat still suffers from even more. Probably the biggest problem is the overall ease and shortness of every fight. I avoided probably 50% of the fights in this game and I was still completely destroying every monster. For example about halfway through the game I had Ashley dealing out 1000 damage with a normal physical attack against monsters that only had a meager 300 HP - and these were newly encountered enemies! I never even stopped to build levels! What also makes the game so simple is the ability to switch fighters during combat at the beginning of each turn and this includes fallen fighters. If Lilika had lost all her HP, I could easily just replace her with another character with full health. I actually usually had Ashely, Brad, and Lilika in front for boss fights and if one died, I just replaced them with Kanon. Also I believe this game holds your hand most of the time. When you’re about to encounter a pack of foes, an exclamation mark appears overhead. If it’s in a red box, then you can’t avoid the fight, but if it’s white, then you can skip the battle with a press of the circle button. I really loved this element of the game because I could easily blast through the dungeons without dealing with peons. However this does make this title much easier by basically forcing you to be at the correct level for the boss. Most gamers would be frustrated with constant encounters, so they’ll probably just fight the enemies, level up, and then avoid the newly considered weak enemies. The gamer will then fight a feeble boss, so soon they’ll greet the white boxes as the game’s way of telling you, “Ok, you’re strong enough to fight the boss”. If the game didn’t almost force you to be at the right level and if the monsters would be a little stronger, than maybe combat would be such a bore.

There are status effects in this RPGs just like the last adventure in the land of Filgaia. There’s the standard poison that drains your health with each action and confusion that makes your fighters attack at random. You’ll also recognize sleep, paralysis, and prettification from many other RPGs and they all work exactly the same. Instead of “mute” or “silent” WA2 has ability block, which makes it impossible to use abilities. That means that not only can’t Lilika cast her spells, but Ashley can’t utilize his ARMs. Some of the more interesting ones are disease, which makes it so you can’t heal yourself, and forgetfulness, which makes your character forget to gain experience points. However there is one really bad status effect: downhearted. This baddy makes your FP meter increase very slowly - that’s bad for your spell casting and ARM firing. However you’ll barely every have to worry about them. Encounters in which you’ll see these status effects are so short that you won’t even see the trouble they can cause before you’ve slaughtered every enemy.

Dungeons are yet again filled with puzzles that you’ll need each character’s tools in order to solve. Some of these puzzled are simple “no-brainers” that even a 5 year old could solve. For example you’ll need to use roller skates to get across lava, throw knives at switches, or shoot fire from wands at pedestals. However most puzzles in WA2 are extremely frustrating. For example you’ll need to move a crate in the water at one point. So how do you do it? Well it turns out you must walk on top of the crate and kick the wall. Why would anyone think to do that? There are also puzzles that don’t require the use of tools and they’re usually the most frustrating of all of them. Probably one that stumped me the most was the voice recognition puzzles. First you have to get a voice recorder. To do that you’ll need to walk into a certain room, then leave, then come back, and then leave, then come back, and so on until some guy says that he’s done checking the storage room. So you go there, get the voice recorder, then you’ll need to wander into another room and use it. I don’t know who would think to continually enter and leave the same room for a puzzle. However my favorite silly puzzles has to be the one that deals with the Japanese days of the week. Apparently no one on the localization team thought the average American might not know that the week starts on Monday in Japan. Simply put WA2’s puzzles are frustrating, annoying, and bothersome - unlike the ones in the first WA.

Another slight problem with WA2 is locating dungeons and towns. Usually in RPGs you can actually see your next destination when you’re close to it. However in WA2 they’re invisible until you locate them. When you hit the square button, a large circle of green appears and if a town or dungeon is in that circle, it will appear on the map and on the screen. Sometimes it’s a real pain trying to look for the next place to go because you’ll get vague directions such as “So and so town is in the north”. You’ll then need to slowly walk north while tapping the square button. Luckily the whole location finding becomes much easier when Kanon joins your party. Her radar points out the general area of undiscovered locations making the entire process a lot quicker.

Fortunately Sony added a pretty cool feature to aid you on your quest: the call command. Selecting “call” on the status screen allows you to talk to other ARMS members back at the Headquarters. They’ll give you hints on where you should start looking and what you’re supposed to be doing. I really liked this idea a lot because sometimes when you load up a save, you don’t remember what you’re supposed to be doing. For example I actually stopped playing WA2 for awhile then started again months later. Of course I didn’t know where the hell I was supposed to go, so I used the call command. I welcomed the information to go northeast of my current location with open arms! I sure hope to see other RPGs use this kind of thing more often.

Thankfully WA2 is much longer than the original. This title clocks in at a respectable 30 hours for the main story, and unlike the last game, has a plethora of sidequests. Some of this side stuff includes a secret character, hidden bosses, extra runes, and more! Unfortunately for me I didn’t like the main game enough to bother with the extra junk!

Graphically this sequel overpowers its predecessor. Out of combat, you control 2D sprites in a 3D polygonal world a la Xenogears. The sprites are rather bland with little animation and details. The polygons are blocky with semi-bland textures. There are a ton of horrible camera angles that you’ll need to fix through moving the camera. During combat, the characters and monsters are comprised of polygons. While they’re a huge step up from the super deformed characters of WA, everyone still looks blocky compared to newer PlayStation RPGs. In addition combat tends to go through slowdown when three large enemies or just four small enemies appear on the screen.

The music isn’t that bad at all. Many of the tunes have a western feel with whistles and acoustic guitars. There were few tracks I didn’t like, but for whatever reason the worst tunes in the game seem to repeat in different areas over and over again! If there weren’t enough songs, why didn’t they just re-use the good ones?! The sound effects are pretty soft, uninspiring, and weak. WA2 could have benefited from more thunderous blasts, booms, or even some voice-overs during combat.

WA2 tried to improve and become better than the original, yet it messed up on some of the things that made the first one great. Although this title has a better story, a way to avoid combat, a cool call/hint command, better graphics, length, and a nice soundtrack, it all can’t help that combat is WAY too easy and the puzzles are ridiculously frustrating. Fans of the original or “hardcore” RPG fans may want to see if they can stomach the game, but everyone else might as well check out something else.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 09/04/03

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