Sinistral's Wild Arms 3 Review
Email the author: Sinistral
The Wild Arms are an underappreciated, seemingly little known series of games which appeared in the early days of 3D RPGs on the PSX. Surprisingly, the first Wild Arms was the game that I bought my PSX with (well, more like traded 2/3 of my SNES archive), a few months before the release of FF7. The graphics weren't that great, but the polygons were a new thing so it was acceptable. The game was very different from anything I had played, and it's not just because of the 3D square handed, balloon heads I fought with, but also because of the setting: no one had ever made an RPG based into a Wild West environment. Albeit odd, it was neither overdone, nor tacky in any of the WA games. With WA2, the production team took a few more gambles, trying out different kinds of gameplay ideas, like the system where one could cancel out a fight by pressing circle, using sonar to find towns, etc... Some of these were good, some of them not so good. The gameplay, graphics, storyline, extras and music in WA3 create an interesting mosaic setting up any RPG player for an interesting play.
Wild Arms 3 combined multiple parts of the previous games to give it a kind of gameplay not found in other RPGs. They also experimented with different kinds of fighting systems, as you can get attacked on your horse, in your ship and on your aircraft. There's little difference between normal fighting and horse-back fighting, but on your ship, you have to coordinate your characters into doing certain tasks in order to kill monsters. Interesting, but it really gets tedious... That is until you buy the only piece of equipment you need: the Arc Smash. I killed each Balal Quo Nagas in 1 strike, each shot totaling hundreds of thousands of points of damage. You're not supposed to do that I guess, but good ol' RPG thinking came through: when you see something expensive, if it looks good on your stats, get it. As for the aircraft fights.....ugh.... You don't get to upgrade your "airship", but at least, you can always "run away" easily. WA3 tweaked a WA2 concept in regards to avoiding battles, you have a gauge that refills partially after every fight and depending on the difficulty of the fight you want to avoid, the gauge will be depleted by a certain amount if you choose to press circle to avoid the fight. This has been a source of criticism by other sites, but I liked it a lot because here at RPGC, we know that finding every little piece of junk there is to find is a very important task and that meant I found almost all the little fight avoidance boosters, meaning I barely had to fight! This is good and bad in a way though. It's bad because WA3 suffers from Legend of Legaia syndrome, where monsters just aren't worth shit and thus having had to fight the seemingly endless stream of monsters would've been quite Sisyphean. It's good because one gets to avoid the Sisyphean ordeal by fighting bosses (especially the special bosses) that give zounds of experience and cash. What CAN be annoying though is that if you do get in a fight, you can't really get out of it. My biggest bitch about gameplay would have to be the wimpy final fight and dungeon. Simply sub par. I was hoping for something grand, like Ka Dingel and the space station 8\.
Another very important aspect of the gameplay is the one that was most successfully introduced in Lufia 2: puzzles. There is a ludicrous amount of puzzles in this game. The people who made this game could be hired by Sega to make some more extra creative puzzle games Sega was known for in the DC days, that's how weird it gets sometimes. Though considering the limited actions which you have, the makers seriously put a lot of effort into giving us an incredible variety of things to do, integrating the environment into a variety of ways, making you have to look at certain issues for a couple minutes to figure out what it was you were supposed to do, especially in the puzzle side quest. There are even puzzle side quests that intermingle with other side quests! Apart from the 4-5 that'll make even the most polite of players scream profanities like the Niagara Falls dump water, the puzzles are welcome addition to the simplicity 3D graphics have forced modern dungeons to be.
This was a mix of cell shading, anime, CG and 3D. The cel (they give such weird names to this stuff) was REALLY nice, unlike the Jetsons' imitation they're making the next Zelda into. The anime cut scenes are very few, as the one you'll most likely end up seeing is in the introduction, though it's not "a" scene, but a scene which varies throughout the game depending on where you are, which is pretty neat. However, I hear that you can unlock other scenes using EX File keys, which I'll talk about a little later. The rest of the anime is seen in facial expressions (which can be really funny) next to character dialogue and when you quit the game via the save system and the game gives you your stats. It's not much, but it's noticeable. I personally like little details like that. The only "CG" is seen in the guardian summoning, and that certainly isn't anything to write home about. The 3D application was top notch, lots of detail, variability, full 360 degree rotation and all that goodness. So overall, the graphical presentation of WA3 has grown immensely since the eye sore its predecessor, WA1, was and though it isn't FFX, it does stand on its own 2 feet. Something I felt was kinda neat about story parts in terms of graphics was how they used the 3Dness of the game to do camera close ups and to move around the room in story bits. It makes the game movie-like and more interesting to watch.
This isn't a Xenogears or an FF Tactics in terms of depths and though it does reiterate the same theme as the previous WA (save Filgaia!), WA3, like WA2, evolves from that through how and why they save Filgaia from what. So though the big picture isn't that original, but the smaller, more character based stories do have some originality themselves. You have 4 different characters with different backgrounds each searching for something at the beginning of the game and as you progress, they realize things about life and about themselves and become better people as they go through varying ordeals. You have a loner, a researcher, someone who wants to be free and someone who just doesn't quite know what to do with herself. The characterization isn't that deep, but it goes far enough to make the game enjoyable and to at least start caring about the characters. The makers went on a limb in terms of the story also: they tried to integrate imagery, themes, metaphors and the like into the game and dialogue in order to add depth, like multiple Final Fantasies (to name a few games) have done in the past. Though this was done rather well, the problem that arises in this aspect is that the main themes of memories and flight aren't themes the average player can associate with very well, so it becomes a little awkward, especially when it starts to dominate longer scenes of dialogue. If there's one thing that annoyed me about how the game proceeded was the "wherethehelldoIgonow" seen in WA3's predecessors. It starts to grate on your nerves, especially since you need to use the bloody sonar thing to make stuff appear in your screen.
New game +. That in itself will get any old school Chrono Trigger fan to drool in delight at the possibilities. With 15 EX File keys you can accumulate throughout the game to open up different stuff in the next game and to carry on your levels (though levels only) into a new game, it adds to the replay value, especially considering how Ragu Ragla's 2nd form has something like 1 000 000 HP and you need to be level 100 to use the item he gives you. Considering the Sisyphean fighting in this game, only a masochist would bother leveling that much through a first run. And if that doesn't sound bad enough, you have to go through a 100 level dungeon to get to him! There's a puzzle side quest, an alien side quest featuring everyone's favorite Hayokontons, side quests involving characters that'll just annoy you and secret bosses everywhere. The map might look big and empty at first, but there are things to be seen in the horizon in all directions by the time you're done. The sheer quantity of "stuff" in this game is surprising and can easily add 15 hours to your 1st run (helping you forget where the hell you need to go next in the process >_>).
This is the best score yet. The dungeon themes are upbeat like the previous WA's, the main themes are well played out and there aren't too many tunes that get to grate on your nerves because it's been overplayed or because it's too repetitive. The game uses less conventional instruments, westernizing the game even more. Though that might not sound good because I know I'd cringe as I hate country music, it's not like that. It's because of the way the acoustic guitar interacts with trumpets and such. Naruke's style is obvious as some of the mannerisms are blatantly her style, but Naruke also occasionally brings back some of the themes from previous games, which makes it all more enjoyable for those who've played WA1 and 2.
Wild Arms 3 ultimately suffers from Front Mission 3 syndrome on the overall level: its a good game, some would find it to be a REALLY good game because of the presence of so many extra features and the attention that was paid to so many small details, but when you finish the game, even though you might feel good about it, there's just something missing. There could've been a few add-ons or tweaks to make this into a top notch must have game. Don't get me wrong, its a lot of fun, and its definitely superior to most of the crappy RPGs I've seen tarnish the genre on the PS2, but I just feel like it could've been even more.
This wins a 4/5.