Monday, February 24, 2014

Review #97: Wild Arms 2

Oh boy, another game from my youth. And it's another RPG to boot.
 It's no secret that I adore Wild Arms 3, it's one of my favorite JRPGs out there, but my first dip into the Wild Arms series was the second entry. Truth be told, I had never finished Wild Arms 2, but I finally put an end to that, I have finished it and am ready to write about it.
 This game is set on the Spaghetti-Western inspired Filgaia, you have your gallows-like-bars, cow boy styled NPCs and the music is very cowboy-ish, there's plenty of firearms and the main character's last name is Winchester. However, that's about where the influences go, the rest of the game features plenty of out-of-place technology and a bayonet wielding main hero! Just like in Wild Arms 3, at the start of the game you get to pick from one out of three characters, even though you have to go through all three of them, which will have you play through a small introductory chapter. When all three characters finally join together, ARMS is formed, a team of warriors that seek to bring down the evil group Odessa, that aims to place the world under their rule. There's a lot to the plot, and like every JRPG ever holds plenty of twists, all while seeking to answer the question of what is a "Hero". Sadly, the game's translation is pretty darn awful, at times the dialogue will be making sense, and bam, a totally dumbfounding line follows that makes no sense what-so-ever. Liz and Ard, two secondary characters, are a particularly bad example, as in the Japanese version they'd speak in proverbs.... which were translated in a very literal way, needless to say, their dialogue makes no sense, and it gets worse when the party follows suit. You can get the gist of the story, luckily, but be prepared to go through plenty of lines that make no sense in their context.
 Gameplay is easily the best part about Wild Arms 2, in a sea of me-too JRPGs, Wild Arms does it's own thing both in-battle and while exploring. For starters, towns and dungeons in the overworld are hidden at plain sight, you must douse your surrounding area and hope to find it. It sounds annoying, but you always get plenty of hints, and the places where things are usually have a slight decoloration, it hardly ever becomes an issue. Plus, later in the game you get a radar that shows nearby hidden items and town. When it comes to braving the dungeons, they are filled with puzzles. Each character gets three different tools that they must use in order to fulfill certain tasks or solve puzzling, tools range from Throwing Knives to Kicking Boots, Bombs, Fire Rods, Dashing Boots and a Grappling hook, among many others! Solving puzzles is very fun, and sometimes they can be quite the headscratchers.
 Combat is also very entertaining, as the are many factors to it. First of all, every character attains their Skills in a different way: Brad and Ashley must find cartridges that bestow them with new skills, and these skills consume bullets that must be replenished at stores or via-items, however, they can upgrade these skills. Lilka gets hers by finding hidding Crests and then engraving them with spells for unlimited use, Tim must slay a certain number of enemies while wearing the corresponding Guardians, Kanon's are unlocked as she uses her skills and Marivel must steal them from certain enemies. Furthermore, in battle there is a gauge called Force Points, which rises as you hit and get hit, and starts at the level you are in(Say Ashley is level 31, then at the start of every battle, his FP will start at 31). These skill require you having a certain FP, but do not consume it. However, each character has 4 unique Force Powers that do consume FP. Finally, bosses usually have different parts to them, defeating each part grants bonus experience points and gold, plus, disables some of their attacks(Not necessarily their strongest's). All these options make combat pretty entertaining, getting into fights was just fun.
 There's also a bit of customization in the form of Personal Skills. Every time you gain a level, you also obtain a point to spend on Personal Skills. Points invested can't be taken back, so you have to think carefully. Spoilers: HP UP is the most important skill in the game, and you must start spending points on it as soon as possible, as it makes you earn more HP per level up, this will mean the difference between surviving an attack or dying in one hit, it's easily a must for the optional bosses. Then you have about 12 different Guardians, some earned as the story progresses, but most must be found on optional dungeons. These guardians provide a passive boost to characters stat and grants them a unique special command to use in battle. Did I mention optional bosses? The game has a ton of secrets and hidden sidequests, plus eleven really tough optional bosses, these are incredibly challenging and fun to battle, and they, in turn, grant you the best items in the game.
 Graphics are pretty decent, on the overworld and dungeons, the characters are 2D sprites on 3D backgrounds. The backgrounds are alright, but the sprites are fairly plain with not a whole lot of expressions to them. Battles are fully in 3D, and while character models are quite chubby, it makes them quite charming. Monsters look quite good, and there's a lot of variety to them, you probably won't see them all in your first playthrough, even after trekking through the optional stuff. Music is nothing short of great, and while I wish that there were more tunes, what's in is really good, and used in all the right places. The last boss, for example, is extremely memorable thanks to the music that plays alongside the context and what happens during the battle.
 RPGs aim to rich and involving narratives, and maybe the original version had it, but thanks to the translation, the story and dialogue is one of the things that would put you off playing this game. The gameplay is so rewarding and fun that it pulls through, and there is a lot of hidden things to find and do, the dialogue may be terrible, but the gameplay is not.
 8.0 out of 10.

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