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Wild ARMs 3 - Review

*Insert ARMs pun here*

By: Tony Green


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 5
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 7
   Plot 7
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Moderate
   Time to Complete

50-60 hours

 
Overall
7
Criteria

Wild ARMs 3
 

   The original Wild ARMs has the distinction of being one of the very first RPGs to be released on the PlayStation. The game, since then, has gained something of a cult favorite among many RPGamers and is often referred to and fondly remembered. Several years back saw a sequel in the sub-par Wild ARMs 2, which featured one of the most unintelligible translations found in any game backed up by a rehashing of the originals' gameplay and downright painful visuals. Thus many did lose faith in the greatness that is Wild ARMs. Now that Wild ARMs 3 is out, Sony is hoping to bring those who strayed back in the fold.

   From the moment you start up the game, you can tell that this is a distinctive experience. The Wild ARMs series has always been famous for its heavy western theme, and Wild ARMs 3 plays this to the hilt. From the opening scenes to the world map, everything about this game screams style. The characters have moved beyond simple staves and swords; all the playable characters, and a good number of the NPCs use the powerful ARMs. These ARMs range from Shotguns to Pistols, Gatling Guns to the Bayonet used by Wild ARMs 2 hero Ashley Winchester. This is accompanied by a cacophony of sound effects appropriate to each firearm.

   The soundtrack helps complement this atmosphere. The track consists of a heavy whistling like the type used in old westerns. This whistling is present in almost all of the major tracks and helps unify it as a whole. The soundtracks themselves have a Western flair to them, relying more on guitars and wind instruments than the orchestral pianos and violins of other games. The tracks are varied enough that boredom won't set in, but most players will likely be turned off by the world map and repetitive battle tracks.


Snatch the pebble from my hand grasshopper...
Snatch the pebble from my hand grasshopper...  

   Speaking of battles, there have been some changes made since the last Wild ARMs game. Characters are no longer static in battle; throughout the fight the characters and enemies will be moving around the battlefield. However this serves nothing except as a gimmick and it can be frustrating to watch them randomly run around, attack, and then randomly run around some more. As all of the characters fight using guns, each will periodically; but reloading is as simple as taking a defensive stance. While the options available to your characters leave something to be desired, kudos to Media Vision for doing wonderful things with what they had. During battles you'll break defenses by heating and cooling them; setting Afros on fire; and numerous other humorous and ingenious ways of decimating your opponents.

   Localization is dead on, and no wonder considering that none other then the mighty behemoth Squaresoft was behind it. During a playthrough, one would be lucky to spot half a dozen errors; even then that would be a high number. While the back of the box features a particularly ridiculous piece of dialogue players will be relieved to know that when said in the game it comes out flowing and well placed.

   When it comes to unique content, Wild ARMs 3 has this in spades. During conversations, players have the oppurtunity to question certain things NPC's say, branching the dialogue while the Guardian system allows you to customize your characters stats and abilities. Bonus content, including a New Game+, is available after the game is beaten depending on your ability to search out several hidden items. Every time you load up a save file you'll be treated to an anime opening complete with English vocals. This opening will change throughout the game as characters and events help shape the world. Furthermore, transportation is no longer just a way to get across the map faster. When on horseback you'll encounter high speed foes who will attack you while your galloping across the landscape. Speeding across the dunes is even less safe, where you'll have to deal with monsters bent on cracking open your Sandcraft to get at the gooey characters in the middle, leading to a battle system that brings back memories from Skies of Arcadia. Longtime fans of the series will be pleased to know that not only does the plot continue the 'Filgaia is dying' theme from previous games, but many refrences abound and a familer face, not seen since the first game, will be showing up as well.


Sigh...
Cut 'em off at the pass!  

   As sparkling as the game sounds, it is not without its flaws. For starters, you're unable to run away from a battle. The game features a novel way of avoiding encounters, using a guage that is boosted by finding hidden items, but most players will not find very many of these and thus will only be able to avoid 2 or 3 battles before the gauge is depleted.The gauge can be refilled by fighting battles, or by finding certain gems in dungeons. The problem lies in that unless you go out of your way to find the hidden upgrades, you'll never have enough energy in the gauge to avoid more then a handful of battles, and will have to suffer through several enouncters you may have wanted to avoid fighting. The battle music is repetitive and boring. The world map's search system, almost the exact same used in Wild ARMs 2 is more of an annoyance then anything else.

   In the end, Wild ARMs 3 will surprise a lot of people. The game is an excellent addition to any RPGamer's library, even with it's few flaws. It's not a blockbuster but then again, it's not a stinker either. A MSRP of $39.99 makes this an awfully tempting purchase for most people. Go ahead and indulge yourself.





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