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Not so Wild
So, here I was, looking for some RPG that wasn’t Final Fantasy, Chrono, or some other Square product. You know, to add some variety to the whole mess that is gaming. Apparently, this foray out into the non-Square world was doomed from the beginning, as I picked up a certain early Playstation game that had received amazing amounts of hype, but doesn’t live up to any of it. At all. Not even remotely close to being praiseworthy. Had Wild ARMs not belonged to a friend of mine, I would have ground the CD to bits and then burned the pieces in my dorm room. Then, perhaps, the pain of trudging through this game would have been slightly allayed. Since burninating all the copies of this game is not feasible, I’ll vent some of my anger towards this game in a nice, tidy review.
Wild ARMs starts innocently enough. You are introduced to a smooth 2-D world, a small step up from SNES graphics. For the most part, everything is happy, pretty, and functional. While the text’s font is a tad bit painful to get used to, it certainly didn’t take away from the initial feel of the game. You are given the choice to start with one of three characters – Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia – and it is apparent that, somehow, these three will meet up and join. You get introduced to the Tools system, where puzzles can be solved by using proper timing and tools. All in all, the game starts on a rather promising note.
Enter your first battle. Everything that was once beautiful in the world has now been completely and utterly shattered. Battles look disgusting. Greenness to a system’s graphical capabilities is not an excuse for flat-out ugliness. Primitive, sure. Ugly? NO. To complement the horrendous graphics are sound effects that will make you want to scream. However, you won’t need to – the monsters will scream for your every move, and they’ll scream screams worse than you’ll ever be able to muster. They are both ear-bleedingly awful and laughable at the same time. The Mute button will be your close companion, your CD collections your saviors. The sound effects for abilities are equally laughable, although usually not nearly as painful. On that note, the music, while occasionally just "okay", was amazingly unmemorable, the victory music being the exception. I’m still haunted by that, and not in a good way.
What about the battle system itself, you say? It’s monotonous. Nearly every battle went the same way in terms of turns and strategy – different monsters, same ol’ thing. Rudy is a mediocre fighter with power up his sleeves – the mighty ARMs that make boss fights jokes, but require upgrades and bullets to keep up to par. Jack, who always, ALWAYS goes first, is a far superior fighter, and has abilities which are far more useful in general than Rudy’s ARMs, but still won’t be necessary in the least. Cecilia is our all-purpose mage, casting both curative and offensive magic spells. She learns spells by applying them to Crests. However, since she can unlearn spells and retrieve the used Crest, as SOON as an opportunity arises to learn higher-level magic, she’ll have the whole set. It’s really very, very sad. Oh, and did I mention that magic, on the whole, is rather useless?
For having such a monotonous battle system, the menus within battles and otherwise were fairly easy to navigate. Organization was never a problem, and Tool-choosing was quick and efficient. I was very thankful for that, as it kept my game-time down to a minimum. What did bog down my progress was the incessant onslaught of mindless puzzles that permeated the game. Actually, those myriad of puzzles weren’t the biggest problems I had – the few insanely hard, completely illogical puzzles will be the ones that slow you down. Basically, treasure chests suck and bombs are your weapons against big green blocks. You figure it out; I’ll never be able to explain it.
With all of these strikes against Wild ARMs, there remains one potential saving grace – the story. Unfortunately, the game designers missed the boat here, too. Take, first, our three main characters. Rudy is our mute youngish boy character, who apparently has strange powers and was kicked out of his village for discovering them. He takes up a good amount of space, but at least his bombs make some noise for him. Oh, and he has one moment of Chrono Trigger heroism, so blatantly stolen as to induce vomiting. He may also have a few other things about him to discover, but he’ll never talk about it.
Jack is an older man, a loner by nature, although he keeps company with one of his Tools – a flying mouse named Hanpan, the Obligatory Cute ThingTM, and quite obviously the best part of the game. Of course, being older, he’s kinda like a mentor… except for the fact that Rudy doesn’t say anything, and Cecilia’s off in her own world. To add to his non-existent "coolness" factor, he has a history with one of the villains [insert gasp here]. Our third character, Cecilia, is the princess who needed to get out and explore. However, she’s wicked lonely, and openly values friendship more than a person ever should. She’s sappy and predictable. She’s got mad crazy magic powers. She’s a poor excuse for a "deep" character.
Put these three characters into an amazingly clichéd plot. Evil forces sealed in a war long ago by great powers of the earth are emerging once more, and the good powers which sealed them in the first place are, of course, unable to deal with the threat themselves. A third group of organisms, ones metaphysically close to the earth, but really quite far from it, also exist and left ruins on the planet. Now, here are our three characters put into this dying world, to discover what many RPG characters had discovered before them, with the main difference being the apparent incompetence of the villains in Wild ARMs. Blah.
Replay value is next to zilch. Other than a few uberbosses and a battle arena, there really isn’t a whole lot to look back on. Of course, there’s also living through the sound effects and the mind-numbingly easy battles. Those alone are more than enough to turn stomachs. In fact, I’m starting to feel a bit nauseous just thinking about them. The best way to avoid morning sickness is, in fact, abstinence, and I fully advocate it in the case of Wild ARMs. Do not play this under any circumstances. You have been warned.
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