Gameplay, Story and Value:
Wild Arms is a traditional JRPG that stands apart from the crowd by way of its wild west aesthetic. The game follows Dream Chasers Rudy and Jack, as well as the princess Cecelia, as they journey across the world to save it from the threat of demonic invasion. The story is kept interesting by the constant trickling of information, as well as monumental discoveries, that help explain the events that shaped the world into what it is today. All the while you’ll meet interesting side characters like Calamity Jane, and even take on the Wild Arms version of Zoro! While story, for all its unique characters and settings, tends towards the generic side, I can’t help but appreciate how quickly it gets going. There are only three main characters in the game, and you can choose who you’re introduced to first. After completing all three of their introductory scenarios they’re all joined together by circumstance and great adventure begins!
As far as gameplay is concerned, it’s mostly your typical JRPG fare. You’ll grind XP for levels, gold for items and equipment, and engage enemies via turn-based combat triggered by random encounters. To keep things interesting, each character has access to different abilities, all of which are managed differently. Rudy wields ARMs, which are effectively just guns. Everything from revolvers to laser guns to rocket launchers are covered, and all ARMs can be upgraded through town NPCs. Using gold, Rudy can increase the damage an ARM deals, increase its accuracy, or increase its magazine size. Resource wise, each ARM has a finite amount of ammunition, using one each time it’s activated. Ammo can be regained via Bullet Clip items, or refilled in town.
Jack is a master of the Quick Draw technique, which in Wild Arms involves the rapid unsheathing of a sword rather than a gun. Throughout the world you’ll come across Quick Draw Hints, unlocking a new technique which after a few uses will materialize into a new ability! Moreover, Jack can find items that will add effects to his Quick Draws such as decreasing their MP cost.
Cecilia is your standard issue magic caster, gaining access to various types of magics through the use of special graphs that can be brought to magic shops to craft spells. While the game pitches this to you as creating your own spells, the reality is you’re just choosing which spells you get to learn and in what order. Still, it’s nice to have the option. Add to this a tiered ability system for each character (think Limit Breaks) as well as a basic summoning system, and you have a pretty fleshed out combat system.
It would be enough to stop there and call things good, but where Wild Arms really surprised me was in its Options menu, as the game gives you a huge amount of control over just about everything. You have a fully customizable Auto Battle feature, control customization and, wait for it, a basic Paint style application built into the game that lets you create your own window skins and battle icons!
Presentation, Music and Sound:
Visually, the game is a mixed bag, and I mean that literally. Upon starting up Wild Arms you’re treated to a beautiful anime opening sequence. After that the game shifts to a traditional top-down 2D RPG view, but then combat swing around into a 3D view reminiscent of Final Fantasy 7. While the 2D environments all look really good, if lacking somewhat for variety, the 3D battle graphics do take some getting used to and initially I felt they detracted from the overall experience. In keeping with the western steampunk themes, the game’s environments tend towards the brown sides, but I can’t say it every really looks too bland. As far as animations and expressions go, there really aren’t any, which is unfortunate as a game like this could really benefit from some personality.
Sound effects in Wild Arms are… weird. Everything sounds like it should, for the most part, but you have these oddities like random NPC voice samples and enemies that meow when you hit them. It’s very strange.
Finally, the music. While Wild Arms is, on the whole, a somewhat average game, the music stands out as fantastic. Whenever I start up the game, I’ll turn up the volume and walk away just to let it play through the intro sequence while I listen to the music. It’s not quite Chrono-quality, but this is definitely a game I play with the speakers turned up. In fact, for a long time now I’ve had this idea where I’d start adding one track from each game I play to a growing playlist, and I think this game has finally prompted me to do that!
Into the Wilderness
Fun and Afterthoughts:
While I really did enjoy the time I spent playing Wild Arms, it never really broke through the “Average JRPG” barrier for me. It’s generally a very solid game, back lacks consistency and at time direction, which can lead to frustration. I’d certainly recommend this one to people looking for a PS1 JRPG not made by Squresoft though, and I’m seriously considering picking up the PS2 remake, Wild Arms Alter Code F. In fact, after jumping over to Youtube for a bit I can say with almost 100% certainty I will be!