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   Wild ARMs 3 - Reader Re-Retroview  

How the West Was Won
by Jeremy, the Duke of Otterland

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
25-75+ Hours
OVERALL

4.5/5

Rating definitions 

   One night on a train, four drifters named Virginia, Clive, Jet, and Gallows encounter one another while seeking an artifact, the Ark Scepter. All ultimately join forces to discover the reason why their world, Filgaia, is in decline, what with its vast seas of sand and terrain with hardly any flora. Wild ARMs 3, the third installment of Media Vision's RPG series, quietly crept to North American shores late in 2002, and combines the best elements of its predecessors into an enjoyable package.

   Like the second installment, WA3 allows players to cancel random encounters when an exclamation point appears above the active character's head, though this time, skipping such encounters, specifically in the case of white exclamation points, consumes points from the player's Encounter Gauge, and if it's empty, players encounter enemies normally; players can, however, refill the gauge with white crystals occasionally found in dungeons. Special items can increase the capacity of the Encounter Gauge and the player's Migrant Level, allowing them to avoid higher-level enemies. In the case of green exclamation points, players can skip these without consuming the Migrant Gauge, although players cannot skip encounters indicated by red exclamation points.

Pissed at the world Even good scholars can be pushed too far.

   All four of WA3's playable characters participate in combat, which is, like in the first two games, turn-based: input your party's commands and let them and the enemy beat each other up in a round, repeating as needed. Each character can perform normal attacks with their ARMs, whose stats players can upgrade at ARMs Shops for a price, with each character able to obtain up to fifteen upgrades for their respective ARMs. Players can reset ARMs upgrades any time, although they don't receive refunds from doing so. Each ARM also has a number of bullets (one of the stats upgradable in ARMs Shops), which, when consumed in battle, require a character to Defend for a turn to reload it.

   Mediums play a much bigger role in WA3 than its predecessors, with each character able to equip up to three and gain use of Personal Skills and Arcana. Each character gains a number of Personal Skill Points based on their current level, which they can freely distribute and adjust (even in battle) among various innate skills providing effects such as increased resistance to certain Arcana elements, status ailments, and so forth. Players can also equip Mediums with up to five Gears to provide additional Personal Skills, though players cannot remove Gears without losing them permanently. Each character also has a Force Points gauge in battle whose default value depends on their current level, and lets them cast Arcana as often as desired as long as they have the required amount of FP.

   Each character, moreover, has a set of skills that reduces their Force Points gauge, including Gatling, which chains their ARM ammunition into consecutive attacks, a special skill such as Gallows' Extension (which extends a spell's effect to an entire set of enemies), and the ability to summon an equipped Medium, which consumes all FP and whose power depends on the amount of FP used. Characters can increase their FP amount by attacking enemies with their ARMs or having enemies hit them; losing all HP, however, will completely deplete a character's FP.

Hit a person, make a magic white number appear! Quaking by number

   There are also a number of other interesting features in the battle system. For one, scan magic works permanently against specific types of enemies, sparing players the annoyance of having to cast Analyze on them again and allowing players to exploit their weaknesses as needed. Players can also adjust the order in which their characters take their turns, though when enemies will execute their attacks, as with most turn-based systems, is undeterminable. Players can also set battles to "Turbo" mode, which somewhat speeds them up (most fights don't drag on forever with this setting). Overall, combat is fairly enjoyable and balanced, even if the game is mostly easy (though some bosses can certainly slaughter you).

   The interface is spotless for the most part, with menus hardly being a problem, even if the game's clock is a little slow. There's also a fully-explorable world map where players, like in the second game, must "search" for new locations to appear. It's a bit odd, for instance, to have to "search" for a tower anyone could see miles away, although the system isn't bad as long as you know where to go next, and there are even a lot of hidden goodies on the world map. Still, if you miss certain dialogue, it can be easy to forget where to go next, although sometimes, talking around towns can sometimes point you back in the right direction.

   Getting through dungeons, moreover, requires the use of tools, with each character able to gain up to three. Tools are sometimes necessary to solve the many puzzles typically found in dungeons, which are actually pretty good for the most part, though there are maybe two or three that really stumped me during the whole game. Overall, aside from the issue with finding out how to advance the game, interaction is largely solid.

   WA3 has plenty of features that make it feel like a logical continuation of its predecessors, such as the Force Points system, map search system from the second game, Filgaia, Personal Skills, Mediums, and so forth, although it has plenty of features, such as the many tweaks to combat, and a western feel that isn't an afterthought, which make it feel fresh.

And PETA got pissed Bringing home the bacon

   The story, though, is fairly barebones, though isn't without its strong points. Virginia and company's search for why Filgaia is in decline doesn't seem terribly urgent, and the story can really lose focus at times. There are some good twists and decent backstory for your party, some of the villains, and Filgaia itself, but otherwise, the plot isn't a major reason to buy the game.

   The music could be, though. Series composer Michiko Naruke returns with another western-themed soundtrack that fits the atmosphere of the game, with many tracks having whistling that can really make them catchy. Cutscene music always fits the mood, too, and the vocal tracks shine as well. The sound effects don't leave much room for complaint, either, and overall, WA3 is a very nice-sounding game.

   The visuals shine, as well, using a cel-shaded style, with nicely-designed monsters and enemies, along with an anime cutscene that plays whenever you load your game and changes somewhat depending on how far you've advanced in the game. The scenery looks nice as well, despite some occasionally rushed texturing and fade-in on the world map, but otherwise, the graphics border on perfection.

   A straight playthrough of WA3 doesn't take a long time, requiring about twenty-five hours, although given the number of extras, this time can easily increase to around seventy-five hours. It's also possible to start a New Game+ with Ex File Keys gained throughout the game, found mostly through difficult sidequests.

   Overall, Wild ARMs 3 is a solid old-school style RPG with superb presentation values, enjoyable gameplay, and a decent cast of characters. It does have a few blemishes here and there, mainly in its story, although those alienated by modern, new-school RPGs might just find this to be a breath of fresh air.

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