Monday, August 8, 2016

Wild Arms

I used to see Wild Arms hanging on the wall at my local Grandpa Pigeons. The cover art was just colorful enough for me to notice it existed, but just generic enough to where I passed up the game for other such gems as Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.

This was another Retronauts recommendation I picked up specifically to play on my handheld.

Wild Arms may be the perfect PS1 classic for the Vita. It's easy to pick up and play for 15 minutes or 2 hours. There are save points all over the place and it has this just sort of perfect flow where you don't really get tired of it. I've spent various long spats playing. Having just come back from a trip and playing a solid 5 hours, I have to say, this is one of the best PS1 RPGs.

What I didn't like

Wild Arms has a lot of old school game design philosophies built into it.

The random battles aren't as annoying as some games, but they do grate on you, especially as you're about to enter a door and a battle pops. Sometimes I wish I could just put on easy mode, skip the random battles, and see the story unfold.

And if you look away from the screen while in battle, you may have a status effect applied to your character and not know what it is.

There have been several times where I'll see red squiggles on one of my party members and have to leave the dungeon, get to a save point, and then just try all the status effect items until I find the right one to cure myself.

It also relies a little too heavily on mazes. Some of them are well designed and I don't necessarily hate exploring them, but too many of them (the aptly named Maze of Death) tend to be slog fests where you can't remember where you've been, what you've done, and have areas where you can jump down and land near the beginning.

What was OK

There are a lot of systems going on in combat that aren't exactly well described. I'm sure the instruction book has all of this info, but who has time for that.

The female party member is the mage and has magic. In order to learn new spells you have to find a glyph to bind spells to. You basically pay a magician in any town to do this.

One of the male party members is sort of a Jedi character. He has a brown robe and a sword and he's powerful with it. But that's not all, he uses special moves that become more powerful the longer a battle goes on.

And the other male party member has a few special moves, but mostly relies on his gun that needs to be reloaded.

There's also a lot of empty space between towns. It sometimes feels like padding, like the designers knew their world wasn't huge and they wanted to make it look larger.

What I liked

Each town has a distinct personality and has a story to tell. There's the town celebrating the god's and it has a huge carnival going on that gets crashed by the bad guys, the port town where two pirates are in a stalemate, and what is essentially a female only Hogwarts.

The combat moves along. It's a classic turn based system, but much quicker than the overindulgent animations Final Fantasy is guilty of.

This is one of those weird transitional games when it comes to graphics. Still super early in the PS1 life cycle, full 3D wasn't taken advantage of, instead we got a very interesting Super Nintendo powered up look.

Final Thoughts

If I were building a must play RPG list, Wild Arms would sit right in the middle of the top 10. It's a fantastic game that blends sci-fi, fantasy, the wild west, and Japan. The combat and story are mature compared to some of it's peers and if not overshadowed by Final Fantasy VII, Wild Arms might be seen on the same level.

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