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Wild Arms 2 - Review

Not So Wild

By: Vic


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 5
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 4
   Plot 5
   Localization 2
   Replay Value 1
   Visuals 3
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

35 to 40 hours

 
Overall
4
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   When the original Wild Arms came out, it didn't have much competition. Released prior to Final Fantasy VII, it received many sales solely because it was an RPG. The second one had no such luck, for the US market had become saturated with RPGs at the time of its release. Developed by Media Vision, it was released under the name Wild Arms 2nd Ignition in Japan, and localized by SCEA, which decided to simply call it Wild Arms 2 for the english release.

   Like the original Wild Arms, the battle system is pretty straight forward. After you select attacks for your party members, battle ensues, with the order of attacks based on the characters' agility. Your allowed to switch members in and out of your group during battle, which is always a welcome feature. Outside of standard attack/defend/item commands, Characters have unique sets of special abilities. First off, you have Original Powers. These skills require force points to be used. Whenever you attack or are attacked, your force points go up. When you reached the required amount, you can use an OP. You don't loose force points for using OPs, you simply have to reach the required amount. Each character has their own set of OPs they can learn through different means. For example, Ashley uses a gun which you find parts for in dungeons, while Tim will be required to have certain 'runes' equipped when defeating enemies to awaken his powers.

   Another set of commands feature the Force Abilities. These work much like OPs except that when they are used, the force point gauge is depleted. No need to worry about conserving force points, they're reset at the end of battle anyway. These skills are usually gained after you've progressed to a certain stage of the game. Included in these are Guardians, which act like the summons of the Final Fantasy series. If you have a certain character in your party, anyone can use a summon based on the rune they have equipped. In addition, these runes give you enhanced stats and an additional battle command. This command can be used any time, giving you simple abilities like better accuracy for your attack.


Lilka in anime form...
Lilka in anime form...  

   There is also a set of Personal Skills all characters can acquire. Each level you go up, you get one skill point. At a skill shop you can use these points to increase the level of certain skills, such as resistance to status alignments. Each skill can go up three levels, depending on how many points you contribute to that ability.

   Despite all the commands available in battle, the system still feels rather simple and basic. Most random battles can be easily beaten with no more than standard attacks. It seems almost as if battles weren't meant as the focus of the game, rather the puzzles were. Just like the original Wild Arms, there are many puzzles to be solved throughout your quest. Luckily, unlike the original, most puzzles aren't irritating and overly difficult (except a few in disc 2). Puzzles are solved through button pressing, box pushing, switch activating, and the usage of various tools each character can use. To prevent irritation, jumping was not a basic command used in exploration. This allows freedom from those nasty timed jump puzzles seen in Alundra games and the god awful tower of Babel in Xenogears.

   A nifty feature used to reduce the annoyance of random battles is the battle avoidance system. Before many battles begin an exclamation mark will appear over your characters head. Press the button in time and you'll avoid battle, as well as interruption from puzzle solving and maze navigating. Also, there were a couple levels void of random battles. Instead, the enemies were visible on screen. Don't worry about falling behind in levels too much, it seems your expected to avoid a lot of them. I only had to do some leveling up once to beat a stage, and that's only because it required the use of a characters ability I never got.

   The puzzles added interest to the otherwise visually dull dungeons. Although boring, the graphics are clear, preventing interference with the clarity of the puzzles. The towns, dungeons, and world map are all done the same way, with rotatable 3-D polygon landscapes and sprite based characters. A decent job was done with the character sprites, they look like the characters their supposed to represent, but aren't all that interesting. In battle, the characters and monsters are done using polygons. While the original character and monster designs were very well done, their 3-D counterparts all look pathetic in battle. After battle, you receive a card of the monsters you defeated. You can view this superior rendition of the monster, as well as its stats, in an album. The graphical highlight of WA2 would probably be all two anime cut scenes. Outside of cinemas, there are a few visually appealing scenes done with 2-D graphics, but only for story sequences that you can't control.


...and blocky form
...and blocky form  

   To accompany these beautiful story scenes, Sony included a horrible translation. The characters were hardly developed until late in the game, relationships formed way too fast, and the plot wasn't always explained too well. Despite this, I actually found myself interested in the story. It probably would have been truly excellent if provided with a decent translation.

Not only the story suffered from SCEAs localization, but it sometimes was unclear what to do next. You are given vague directions as to where to go, and sometimes your still being told to do something that you just accomplished. To make finding the next level more annoying is the map location system. Initially, the world map is empty. By searching an area, a new location will appear, usually provided you've been told of its existence. It's rather irritating when your told to go find a location, because no one knows where it is, leaving you to search every inch of the world map. This is how I ended up finding most of the games secret dungeons.

Regardless if you get stuck or not, you'll have some nice music to listen to. The composer did a great job creating a unique soundtrack fitting for the games setting. The only complaint I have with the music is the standard battle theme. It's just too short, it often starts to repeat itself before one round of attacks has even been completed. Fans of the original Wild Arms might be interested to know that the music from the original opening movie is included in a (seemingly useless) screen saver option. Unfortunately it doesn't show the original opening cinema, but instead an endless row of falling dominos.


Ugly battles
Ugly battles  

Outside of the screen saver, a couple of other in game extras are included. As mentioned before, there are many optional dungeons to find, giving you access to bonus items, new summons, and additional abilities. When you've completed the game, it also allows you to save a system file. When accessed, it allows you to view your stats at the end of the game, your monster card collection, and all the movies.

Although you may spend several hours wandering aimlessly, WA2 has a good 30+ hours of game play. It may not provide you with the greatest role playing experience, and you may not play it more than once (or even finish it), but at the bargain price of under $15 it's available for, it couldn't hurt to give it a try...assuming you really like puzzles.





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