Monday, April 24, 2017

Review #388: Wild Arms

 Ain't a wild ride.
 I love the few Wild Arms I've played. Wild Arms 2 is bloody great, while Wild Arms 3 rests highly upon my favorite JRPGs ever. Some people consider Wild Arms 1 to be the best one, so of course I had to try it... It was not what I expected.

 You play as a team of Dream Chasers: Rudy, the dull mute hero type who has the power to wield the fearful ARMs, Jack Van Burace, the victim of a poor localization who's got a few skeletons in his closet, searching for 'Power' and lastly, Cecilia, the princess who loves escaping out of the castle, because every JRPG princess loves escaping her castle. While Wild Arms 2 and 3 had this fantastic and original Spaghetti Western theming to them, Wild Arms 1 is more of a generic fantasy game. There're golems, ancient steampunk-ish technology waiting to be found, princesses, castles, an ancient race of elves-equivalents named Elw and, lastly, the enemy race: The Machines. While there're a few twists and turns, a few more obvious than others, the story was a bit too 'me-too' as far as RPGs go for my liking, and characters were too one-dimensional. It fails to engage the player, but at least it has a few interesting ideas.
 This, being a JRPG, plays like one to a tee. Run around, explore towns, traverse dungeons, fight a few random battles and defeat some bosses for good measure. What's interesting about Wild Arms is how they deal with exploration: All three characters have their own set of 4 tools, which are used to solve puzzles while inside dungeons, Take Rudy, he can use bombs to destroy cracked walls, or use the Power Glove(It's so bad) to hit stuff, while Jack can use a grappling hook or send his pet flying mouse to grab stuff from afar. It really sets Wild Arms apart from other games... but, sadly, this time around puzzles are rather lame and simple, to the point of the use of tools feeling more like sorting obstacles than figuring out how to deal with situations. The series will really get the most out of the Tool system in subsequent games.

 But what's really puzzling is how the game progresses. More than once will the game expect you to just roam around, suffering dozens upon dozens of random encounters, until you somehow bump into where you are supposed to go next. It's poor game design, add to that the poor translation and you've a recipe for annoyance. Some puzzles are a bit too vague as well. There's this instance in which you have to speak with a nun, of course the game doesn't tell you that you need to, but she's blocked off by a kid that mentions being scared of the giant rat monsters. Somehow you have to realize that you've to use the flying mouse on the kid to get him to move and then talk to the nun... Seriously?
 Combat fares much better, using a more primitive set of mechanics than future games. Battles follow the traditional turn based system, and on each turn you've a decent variety of things you could do. You can swap out a character's equipment, you can use items, use spells/skills, attack or use FP attacks. FP is built as you take and deal damage, there're four levels to the FP gauge, and each character has four unique FP skills they can use. It's a rather fun system that works really well... .and which would be refined to a shine in latter games.

 It's interesting to see Wild Arms' origins, but this first game leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, battles are fun, but not as fun as they are in future games thanks to all the added bells and whistles. It lacks the fantastic customization that you could do on your party, and while I'm sure the tool system was original at its time... the puzzles get SO much better and so much more creative than this game. Heck, even their stories are much more engrossing and original than this generic pastiche of tropes. Wild Arms 1 is not a bad game, but it stands eclipsed by its much superior sequels.
 5.5 out of 10

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