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Wild ARMs - Retroview

Wild ARMs Comes With a Secondary Use: A Frisbee

By: Stewart Bishop


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 4
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 2
   Plot 3
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 1
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

20-40 Hours

 
Overall
2
Criteria

Wild ARMs
 

   To some, the lack of Wild ARMs' 'success' was caused by the release of Squaresoft's monster hit, Final Fantasy VII. Be that as it may, there are many other factors that contribute to its less than stellar reputation, such as a rehashed story, little character development and a tremendous amount of wandering. It begins slow, drags along slow and seems to never end; everything you do seems to have been done again either in a previous portion of the game or in another RPG. Many clichŽ elements and a disgustingly high 'boringness' rate, Wild ARMs has barely any use in an RPG collection, and is certainly not worth going 'wild' over

   Our journey begins with the battle system. Upon jumping into battle, you are given the commands 'Attack,' 'Special,' 'Force,' and 'Item.' While attack and item are self-explanatory, the 'Special' brings up special attacks depending on the character you are using. Cecilia can use magic, Rudy can use ARMs (guns) and Jack uses Fast Draw skills, which are attacks that usually deal more damage to a single opponent, damage several opponents and such. Cecilia's Magic and Jack's Fast Draw attacks use MP, while Rudy's ARMs use bullets, which must be replenished either at a town or using Bullet Clips. Force techniques differ between characters. A character's Force meter (a little green bar) rises as he or she performs moves or is attacked. You gain less force for using special moves and more force for just regular attacking. There are four levels of Force attacks you can use, which diminish the bar by their respective amounts. Level 1 force techniques require a certain portion of the bar to be full, level 2 force techniques require a larger amount. When you use the force technique, your force meter is drained and the move is performed. Filling your bar to the max has its benefits as well. When the bar is full, a character enters 'Condition Green!' where he or she has a higher evade rate, counterattack rate and just ends up a lot luckier than they usually are. It's actually a quite bothersome system and makes battles very generic in general. For example, Rudy will always be using his ARMs, Jack will always be using the strongest Fast Draw he has, and Cecilia will usually be support, casting defensive and healing spells among the party. Add this to the fact that it's a turn-based system, where you give all the characters the commands at the same time, AND THEN they go about in chaotic fashion. It brings a gamer back to the day of prediction and where knowing who your faster character is can be a great aid.

   The interface is probably one of the better attributes of the game; it's easily and highly customizable. It even has a screensaver, which will go off after a certain amount of time has passed (of course you can select how long), which is pretty nifty and original. You are placed in a 2D dungeon and world map environment, which is good since it's not as hard to maneuver as in other more modern RPGs. There's also a RUN button...a real run button. You hold the button down and your character prepares to dash forward, then bolts off until you change directions, release the button or hit something. I found this to be very friendly, and it's fun to run! Each character also acquires certain Îtoolsâ that are essential to solving the game's puzzles. One thing to be sure of, however is to have plenty of patience when finding out where you have to go next; since dialogue is practically nonexistent, it's hard to find hints, so most of the game is spent wandering aimlessly.


Sure...
Our...Uh...'Heroes'  

   Wild ARMs' music is pretty good; the opening theme really shines with its catchy tune and the fact that the first half of it is whistled...Definitely one of the better intro songs I've heard. The problem, however, is the repetition. If you thought that Xenogears was bad, check out Wild ARMs. They overuse songs so much, it's bordering the insane. I could swear that the game had about 10 tracks and that's it (in comparison, my Final Fantasy Tactics OSV has 71 tracks on it). When you exit a battle, the music that was playing prior to the fight also resets, which can make you quite familiar with the first 15 seconds of a song, then nothing more. The fanfare music will also get on your nerves if you leave it on for too long. Luckily, the sound effects are nice; the footsteps never get annoying and each sound, from the 'Critical Hit' to the 'Heal' sound are loud and crystal clear.

   Originality is minimal in Wild ARMs. While the Force system was a hearty effort, it was overshadowed by the more powerful and readily accessible special techniques that each player was granted. With a heavily clichŽd plot and elements to boot, such as a battling arena and the usual 'strange and mysterious race in touch with the planet that somehow disappeared from the face of the planet'. Wild ARMs simply does not deliver anything above a sub-par experience in terms of originality.

   The plot is sickeningly familiar to the traditional "save world from destruction while discovering inner self." There were few things that hurt the plot. First was the lack of dialogue; there were practically no plot-setting conversations (at least none that actually fit where it was placed) and the most you ever really got out of talking were key items or hints to where you are supposed to be headed. Second was the little amount of characters; you control three characters, sometimes as a party, sometimes as two, sometimes by themselves. With so few characters, you'd think that there would be more focus on strong character development, but alas, there is none. One of the most vomit-inducing plots I've ever managed to dive into.

   The overall localization wasn't so hot, either. It was stomped on by Final Fantasy VII and failed to deliver a perfect translation. Once again, one would expect the translation to be good since there is little dialogue, but once again, it fails. A few misused words, 'Your' instead of 'You're' are all around, but the sad part is that you actually have to search for these mistakes; they won't come to you naturally because you hardly talk to anyone.


Such a Pity
See, This Game is So Bad, There's Only One Picture in the Archive!  

   Wild ARMs has a few optional things; a few sidequests and a 'battling arena,' which is disgustingly hard until you raise your level, but even then the rewards are nowhere near what you should be getting for your trouble. You can get better weapons, but why would you want to continue with the game? Of course, there's also the thought of playing it again. In a word: NO. I would rather lick toxic stamps for a living than play this game again.

The visuals are quite dated; the 2D landscapes aren't bad, but when you get into a battle, everything changes. A jumble of polygons that are supposed to resemble your characters pop on the screen, accompanied by your enemies. Now that you've basked in its ugliness, stare at your characters' feet during a close-up; they aren't even standing on the field, they float magically, swinging their feet back and forth. Fortunately, the out-of-battle animation is very smooth, and the lighting in battle is pretty well done. An average job, overall.

Wild ARMs is pretty easy, but there are a few bosses that are severely overpowered, such as Boomerang; fighting him is always a chore. Everyone's favorite item, goat dolls, can put a huge dent in the difficulty though, as it prevents you from dying while you wear it. It's used up afterwards, but then you just simply re-equip another one since you can equip your characters during battle. Of course, there's also Cecilia's level 1 Force technique, Mystic. It allows you to use almost any item on your entire party rather than a single character...and you get a lot of Potion Berries, which heal a very generous amount in terms of their availability.


Did I Mention That You Only Get Three Characters?
Yup...Not Much You Can Say About the Same Picture Over and Over Again...  

Though not necessarily a 'long' RPG, it certainly seems long. Every minute seems like an hour in this huge, unfriendly, wanderlust-inspiring wasteland. Half of the game is spent traveling mindlessly across the map, trying to figure out what to do next. With a guide, it shouldn't take any more than 20 hours. First timers beware.

Wild ARMs is an oddity as it starts out quite fascinating and deteriorates into the game that creates zombies. Excuses of being overwhelmed by Final Fantasy VII are purely myth; Wild ARMs was not particularly successful simply because it was a terrible RPG, to be frank. There is a more interesting use for the CD, though: it makes an excellent frisbee.





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