Wild Arms is a humble RPG offering developed by Media Vision, and was published by Sony in the US in 1997 a few months
before the inevitable release of the great FFVII. Because of this Wild Arms pretty much went under the radar of most gamers
but was successful enough to merit two (if mediocre) sequels.
Make no mistake however the first Wild Arms is by far the best game in the series, and not only that it is also one of
the very best RPGs of all time. So it is no wonder that today 8 years after its release the game is highly sought after by
hardcore RPG fans.
I approached this game a couple of weeks ago after finishing Fable and Lunar 2. I approached the game thinking this was
going to be a simple, fun, quick RPG in which my brain would finally take a much needed break from the monstrous Lunar 2,
and the 3-D action adventuring of Fable. However what I found was the total opposite of what I was expecting. Wild Arms is
an epic, a SUPER long and frustratingly difficult RPG, that only those who have the patience of a Shaolin temple monk will
To start the 2-D visuals of Wild Arms are some of the best if not the best I have seen in a 2-D RPG ever. The backgrounds
are beautifully drawn, featuring exquisite colors, and lighting effects. The Graphics here are good enough to even grab the
attention of some of the most 2-D hating gamers around. Wild Arms is really a work of art, Visually (and in other areas as
well) it takes a lot from the Lunar series and Chrono Cross.
The Character sprites themselves are by far the best I have seen in this type of game, save for Grandia, Breath of Fire
IV and maybe Xenogears. The character sprites in Wild Arms are smooth, they don’t have that pixilated look of those
found in Xenogears, you can even see their hair be moved by the wind. Not only does Wild Arms presents us technically impressive
looking graphics but the artwork it’s flawless, one only has to witness the beautiful design of our three main heroes,
not only that each location and village in the game has a distinctive feel.
The visual presentation is near flawless, yet two small things will hold the score back a bit on this category. One the
world map, which looks like it belonged on the Super Nintendo, and two, the horrible 3-D graphics that appear during battles.
Of course this was 1997, and the big selling point of the game was that this was going to be the first RPG to feature Full-Polygonal
3-D battles, and that it did. Yet because it was the first to do it, the graphics look simplistic, the characters look short
and squatty, and lack detail, the animations are stiff and the common enemy polygonal figures are a flat out embarrassment
(The Boss models look a bit better).
Call me a purist if you will but I would have prefered to keep the battles in 2-D. Other than that I cannot complain much
about the visual package in Wild Arms.
Music wise this is Composer Michiko Naruke’s best work ever, in fact musically this game is on par with the Lunars
and the Final Fantasy series. The music sort of has like an old western feel, but enough Japanese soul in it to keep anime
fans from jumping of bridges; the compositions from beginning to end are brilliant. I have very seldom heard such beautiful
music in an RPG that does not come from Square, Sega, or other big developer, so big props to media vision and Sony for this.
Story Wise the game couldn’t have been better, while it is cliched (it takes obvious elements from Lunar 2, Chrono
Trigger, and FFVI) if you are going to steal cliches steal them from the best and that is what Scenario writer Akifumi Kaneko
did. You start the game controlling Dreamchasers ( a cross between adventurer, treasure hunter, and mercenary) Rudy and Jack,
and also at your control is princess Cecilia. Each character has different issues to resolve even though unfortunately Rudy
doesn’t speak (ala Link). Each character has an interesting past specially Rudy and jack.
Naturally their world Filgaia is in peril. However unlike most games the world had already been screwed before the game
started, by a war between alien invaders called Demons, and the Filgaia’s 3 native races the Elws (who are really Elves,
why they are called Elws is anyone’s guess, maybe the developers did not want to make the cliché so obvious), Humans
and the Guardians.
After fierce battles that left Filgaia a barren wasteland, the Demons were defeated and had to retreat to the planet’s
Arctic Zone. However after everything was resolved, the Humans greed (Humans are always evil), forced the good natured and
nature loving Elws to abandon Filgaia, as they foresaw the planet’s impending doom.
The Guardians having used up all of their power disappeared and became myths of time. So now they are more than mere legends
of the old Filgaia.
At the game’s start, Filgaia is slowly rebuilding itself, but the Demons apparently have regrouped and once again
they will threaten Humanity’s existence. The difference now is that both the Elws and the guardians have gone AWOL,
and it is up to ARM (an ancient weapon, that some citizens of Filgaia see as evil) wearing Rudy, Rat carrying Jack (the rat
is his partner Hanpan) and Magic casting Princess Cecilia to save Filgaia.
The story is epic, and well paced, there are plenty of twists and shocks, more shocks if you haven’t played many
RPGs and fewer shocks if you are a seasoned vet. While it was clear to me that the story was cliched, I was never bothered
by it because it added new twists to those cliches. NOTE TO RPG DEVELOPERS EVERYWHERE: please DO NOT keep featuring GHOST
SHIPS in your games as it is getting OLD and ANNOYING.
Any how the only problems I had with the other wise inspiring and great story is the translation which was most of the
time sub par, and the constant recycling of Villains. For godsakes, I had to fight with each Villain at least 3 times. See
the player loses respect for the villains if they out stay their welcome.
Also the lack of a strong love story bothers me a bit, at the beginning of the game jack expresses his dislike for Royalty,
wouldn’t it have been something if he would have grown to fall in love with the princess? The ending of the game however
while long and well done suggests there was a love story, but I must have missed it because, because I never read an "I love
you" during the entire game.
Other than that an excellent Story the game itself is worth buying for the story alone. One of the best available in the
PS1 in that regard.
If there is a weak link at all in Wild Arms it lies in the gameplay. The game follows the standard RPG mechanic of "go
to a village yada yada yada, proceed to a dungeon yada yada yada, fight boss, and then repeat" a little to strictly. While
the game is innovative in the sense that it plays like an action RPG but it battles like a traditional RPG, the Battle system
is simplistic. You choose your attack from a menu and wait for the character to attack wait for the bosses turn and then repeat,
however it must be said that each of the 3 controllable party characters have different skills. Cecilia can use magic spells,
that she must learn by acquiring Crest Graphs in treasure chest and then taking them to different Magic Guilds scattered across
the world to create Magic spells. Jack on the other hand has Fast Draw techniques (Sword techniques) which he can use in battle
to cause massive damage to enemies but it consumes MP. Jack learns this techniques by talking to NPCs, from bosses or even
by exploring Dungeons.
Rudy for his part can use ARM attacks, that do not consume MP, but consume Bullets, ARM’s can be found in dungeons,
and can be upgraded in town ARM shops.
Much of the success on this game will depend on finding and upgrading Rudy’s ARM. It might be costly but trust me
when I say that you will need all the help you can get to get by the hellish bosses.
Which bring us to the problem, the enemies, they simply are too tough and most of the time they don’t yield enough
EXP, so think of Grandia, and Star Ocean 2 long like periods of random battling in order to have a fighting chance at the
next dungeon. I do not kid you when I say that 40 of the sixty hours that it will take to finish will be spent on battles.
And you better be in level 60 or above for the Final Trio of Bosses that attack you without an opportunity to save. So again
Wild Arms is a game exclusively aimed at the hardcore crowd. Those accustomed to easy modern RPGs such as FFX will find the
However something that the game does well is exploration. This is exactly what most of RPGs of today lack, there are hundreds
of hidden chests and secrets (even bosses) scattered throughout the game world. In fact exploration coupled with random battles
the key to success in Wild Arms. The only way to find the best equipment is through exploring, the only way to find the best
ARMs is through dungeon searching and the only way to acquire powerful magic spells is to explore the over world to find the
hidden magic guilds.
Like I stated earlier the game plays like an action RPG when you are not in battles, once you acquire all the characters
you can switch characters at will. This will be important because this is the key to solve the unique and sometimes very challenging
puzzles on the dungeons (and you better believe that there are MANY dungeons.) Each character has a different set of tools
they can use. For example Rudy can use bombs, Jack has a grappling hook (like Zelda’s hook shot) and Cecilia has the
ability to reset time in a dungeon. Each character has about four special tools, some that are necessary for the game completion
are given to you, while the optional tools you must find yourself.
Another complaint I have of the gameplay though, is that sometimes the directions are not very clear as to what to do next
in an area, so you waste a lot of time searching the world for some location in order to trigger an event. But this doesn’t
happen very frequent and it’s not bother some at all.
Wild Arms is a masterpiece and probably features the best dungeons found in a PS1 RPG ( With the original Alundra being
the exception). It has an unforgettable story (even if there isn’t a really strong love story and there could have been
one between either the princess and Jack or the Princess and Rudy), and huge world full of secrets and things to do. A must
buy for hardcore RPG fans, casual fans who are interested in playing an old school RPG should definitely take notice.