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Wild ARMs - Reader Review

Wild ARMs is the Best Non-Square Soft Game to Date

By Brendan McGrath


Review Breakdown
   Battle System9.0
   Gameplay9.0
   Music10.0
   Originality8.5
   Plot9.5
   Replay Value8.5
   Sound10.0
   Visuals9.5
   DifficultyModerate
   Time to Complete40-50 hours 
Overall
9.0

   Wild ARMs is a great RPG that feels very traditional, but it also has adeep storyline with many themes and superb character development.

   Whenever talking about a game, I always like to start with graphics. Wild ARMs has two graphical modes: handrawn while in the field, andpolygonal while in battle. The handrawn graphics are excellent. Thereis so much detail in every area, especially the towns. All theintricacies of the brick walkways and the flowerpots outside the windowsin the town of Adlehyde are a joy to the eye. One of the things thatreally surprised me was how well the three main characters (Rudy, Jack,and Cecilia) animate when they change the direction they are walking.

   The battle graphics, which are polygonal, are not as clean or pretty asthe handrawn graphics, but they are very impressive technologically,even more so than Final Fantasy in some ways. For example, the lightingeffects are some of the best I have ever seen. Instead of just using acircular shadow around the base of the characters, the polygons castREAL shadows, which move around if the light source changes during aspell. And unlike Final Fantasy VII's battle graphics, the charactersare texture mapped, which helps to make them appear more rounded thanthey actually are. The frame rate for the battles is also higher thanFinal Fantasy VII's. However, there are some imperfections with thepolygons. Occasionally, there will be severe texture warping,especially on walls. This can be rather distracting. But all in all,the battle graphics for Wild ARMs are very impressive.

   Now let's move on to music. The composer for Wild ARMs is MichikoNaruke, and she did a wonderful job. Some of my favorite songs include"Into the Wilderness" from the opening anime sequence, the theme fromthe Guardian Temple, Adlehyde's theme, the entire ending music, and"Clash of Courage" from the opening flashback (which reminds me: be sureto let the game sit at the title screen; a flashback will be seen thatis easy to miss). The music is so good that I bought the soundtrack. My one gripe is that the ending credits' song for the Japanese version,"Swearing to the Skies", was taken out of the American version inexchange for a new North American-exclusive song. However, it can beargued that the new ending song is better, because it rearranges musicfrom the game, making it seem more familiar.

   The sound quality of the music is also very good, just a notch belowSuikoden, which has reigned at the top in terms of sound quality sinceits release in December of 1996. Sometimes Wild ARMs's sound actuallyuses real instruments (I think), such as a piano and a guitar, and alsowhistling.

   Now on to gameplay. Wild ARMs uses the best parts of many differentRPGs, as well as adding its own innovations. While some may not likethis, I think that good gameplay is good gameplay, and that it doesn'tmatter whether another game had similar gameplay or not. That is forcompany lawyers to deal with. ^_^

   In the field, the characters are controlled in a way somewhat similar toThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. They can pick up boxes, pushblocks, dash, etc. In dungeons, you will encounter many puzzles. Mostare not too difficult for the hard-core RPG fan, but their main functionis to add spice to dungeon exploration, not to block your way like inThe Legend of Zelda. The puzzles include switch-hitting, block pushing,dodging spikes, and much more. You will have to switch back and forthbetween the three characters to use each one's special tools. Forexample, ravines may need to be crossed using Jack's grappling hook, ora fire may need to be put out using Cecilia's water bucket.

   Each character has a special technique: Rudy has ARMs (Ancient RelicMachines, which are like guns), Jack has sword techniques, and Ceciliahas magic.

   Wild ARMs's magic system, which, as I said, Cecilia handles, is veryclever. It still uses MP, but instead of having the player learn spellsby fighting, Wild ARMs uses "crest graphs," which can be found in townsand dungeons alike. A crest graph is then taken to a magic guild intown, where you can select from white or black magic and then from alist of spells on a graph. Later in the game, you will find secretguilds with better magic to choose from. This system is ingenious,because it encourages the player to explore dungeons to gain skills,rather than running around the world map leveling up.

   Jack's sword techniques are gained while exploring dungeons. An eventmay occur, such as a rockslide, and Jack will gain inspiration for a newsword technique from it. MP is used for this as well.

   Rudy's ARMs are also found hidden in dungeons. Instead of MP, theyconsume bullets, and each ARM has its own supply. Each ARM can beupgraded at an ARMs Shop in a town to increase its strength, hit-ratepercentage, and bullet capacity.

   In addition to their special skills, the characters also have ForceSkills, which are somewhat like Final Fantasy VII's Limit Breaks (onlyWild ARMs was released first). However, they can be used a lot moreoften than Final Fantasy VII's limit breaks, because they fill up morequickly. And unlike limit breaks, each character's four force skillsrequire different amounts of the Force Meter to be filled. These forceskills are different for each character, however, each character has astheir second force skill the ability to summon a Guardian. The Guardiansummoned depends on which rune the character has equipped.

   In terms of replay value, Wild ARMs excels because of its numeroussidequests to be done near the end of the game.

   And now, we get to the most important element of an RPG, its story andcharacters. I was shocked by how good Wild ARMs's story is. While verytraditional, what makes it better than other RPGs' stories is that ithas many themes. Usually, only Square does a good job at this, butMedia Vision seems to have the talent as well. Wild ARMs's many themesdeal with religion, racism, and virtue. To tell more would give thethemes away.

   To give a brief tidbit of the story, Wild ARMs is about how the threemain characters, Jack, Rudy, and Cecilia come together to rescue theirhomeworld, Filgaia, from the Metal Demons. The Metal Demons attackedFilgaia 1,000 years ago, but with the combined strength of the Guardians(gods), Elws (no, not Elves, Elws), and humans, they were driven off ofFilgaia and back to their home planet, Hiades. But now, as they prepareto attack again, will Filgaia survive, with the Elws gone from theworld, and the Guardians' power weakening? And what has CAUSED theGuardians' Power to weaken? Is it the Metal Demons, or is it somethingelse? While the story may seem clich, it is actually very interestingas you get deeper and deeper into it.

   The character development is some of the best I've ever seen, easily upthere with Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII, Xenogears, and Kartia:The Word of Fate. Having only three main characters allowed the writersto give each one extraordinary depth. In a way, there is no real maincharacter in the game. And while Rudy doesn't speak (actually, he DOEShave two lines that I know of), he still develops very well.

   The townspeople play a vital role in the game, providing additional plotelements. One of the good things about the townspeople is that theyoften say different things depending on which character you arecontrolling. And there are a LOT of townspeople, since the towns arerather large.

   Finally, the game is translated very well. I can only think of a fewmistakes, and they are extremely minor. No complaints here.

   Overall, Wild ARMs is, as the title of this review says, the bestnon-Square Soft game. And this is quite an honor.

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