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Wild ARMs 2 - Review

Blaze A Trail Through A New Filgaia

By: Howard Kleinman


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 8
   Plot 8
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

30-50 Hours

 
Overall
8
Criteria

Isn't it just Wild ARMs 2? One of the many localization blunders by SCEA.
 

   Somewhere in the massive pile of summer RPG releases came this sequel to Wild Arms, one of the early PSX RPG successes. The original game offered 3D battles, complex puzzles, high quality music, and loads of secrets. The original also features enormously excessive philosophizing, a dull, cliché plotline, and no ideas that haven't been seen used more successfully on the SNES in Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals. Given that Wild Arms' focus was mostly on fun gameplay, no one could consider those faults too extreme, and the game has become a sleeper hit. When the sequel hit on the same summer featuring the releases of long awaited RPG sequels like Chrono Cross and Legend of Mana, and highly anticipated originals like Vagrant Story, Valkyrie Profile and Legend of Dragoon, one wonders how Wild Arms 2 would fare. Indeed, graphically it is easiest the weakest release of the summer. But visuals are not the only thing that makes a game, and Wild Arms 2 has greatness where it counts.

   What must be said before anything else about Wild Arms 2 is that the game features an enormous amount of innovations in exploration. Exploration in Wild Arms 2 is not only varied in terms of methods of transportation, but in other methods. First of all, no location is visible on the world map until you find it using your scanner, which is activated using the Square button. The scanner is not even useable until someone gives you an idea of where to look. While this makes it take longer to find a location, it adds to the feel of exploring an untamed frontier. Later in the game, you will get a radar that will point out locations for you, and you have to figure out how best to manipulate your limited methods of exploration to reach that location. This requires a lot of thinking, but it makes reaching your destination far more rewarding. The complex worlds also adds a great deal to replay, with hidden dungeons and items everywhere, it's hard not to search every square inch of the map to find what other secrets lie in the land of Filgaia.

   The world map alone is not the only level of complexity in the exploration, the dungeons themselves, beautifully rendered in fully rotatable, real time 3D graphics are filled to the brim with increasingly complex puzzles. The puzzles are solved using tools like in the previous game, but now there are even more puzzles and more tools, thankfully, there are no ridiculous puzzles that cannot be solved with reasonable thought like the immortal bomb the fourth statue puzzle in the original. You might find yourself stumped for a good while on some of these puzzles, but never driven to the point of insanity.


If only there were more of it.
Anime style character designs never fail to impress.  

   In addition to all the complexities of exploring, Wild Arms 2 has an innovative battle system, light-years ahead of the system used in the first game. Gone are Magic Points, replacing them is a highly revamped force powers system. Essentially, as your characters gain levels and take and cause damage, your FP meter increases to a maximum of 100. As your FP increases, you can begin to use original powers which require a minimum amount of FP to use, but can be used without penalty continually as long as your FP is high enough. There are also the force powers, much like those used in the original game, which drain FP. This can lead to some interesting complications in battle. For example, if you want to heal the whole party using Lilka's Mystic command, it will cost 25 FP, but if Lilka's FP is only at 25, she will lose the ability to cast spells until she regains enough FP to have the minimum FP to once again be able to cast. There are other issues that are brought up by some story events, but it would be a crime to explain them here.

   In addition to the innovation of the battle system itself, the encounter cancel system has been introduced. While exploring, an exclamation mark may appear over your character's head in a word balloon. If it is a black question mark in a white balloon, a quick tapping of the cancel button will keep you out of the encounter. This is especially useful if you are trying to solve a puzzle and don't want to lose your train of thought. Sometimes, if the enemies are powerful enough, you will get a white question mark in a red balloon. This means that the encounter is inescapable, and you will have to fight.

   In addition to great gameplay, Wild Arms 2 has an engaging story, far more complex than that found in the original. Like the first game, you're allowed to choose from three characters and have to complete a short scenario for each of them before the main story begins. The three characters in this game are: Ashley, a young military cadet who wields an FFVIII-style gunblade with a rifle handle, Brad, a war hero turned fugitive, and Lilka, a young Sorceress in training trying to escape the shadow of her late, but brilliant sister. Over the course of the game the three will join a military organization referred to as ARMS, led by the ever-mysterious Irving Valeria, in order to combat a powerful terrorist organization known as Odessa.

   The plot itself is very well conceived; unfortunately it was translated by SCEA. "Off Course" we could expect a sub-par translation. While there are few errors as egregious as the infamous FFVII battle arena blunder, the game is not really translated for an American audience. The characters constantly philosophize over the nature of heroism. This is interesting at first, but by the time we get to the end of the game, we find ourselves shouting "enough already!" In case you haven't figured it out, the game's theme is heroism and what makes a hero. Outside of the excessive philosophizing, the theme is still very well handled and will leave you with some uncomfortable answers you might not have wanted to hear.


Dungeon designs are quite detailed.
Dungeon designs are quite detailed.  

   One minor flaw in the game is the erratic level of difficulty. The game begins at an incredibly easy difficulty level. After a few hours, the game reaches a moderate level of ease, but having you fighters able to destroy any and all opponents in a single hit is a little ridiculous. Thankfully, when the difficulty increases, it really increases. The game also has numerous WEAPON style bosses to challenge you at higher levels. You can conquer the game without beating them, but the true completist will want to beat them all. The game can be beaten in as little as 30 hours, but if you want to find everything, it can take well over 20 hours to find all the extras.

The last point to touch upon is the music. Composer Michiko Naruke returns and proves that her skill in composing the music for the first game was no fluke. Wild Arms 2 has a truly excellent score, with very few flaws of which to speak. From the battle themes to the map themes, Naruke has produced musical gold.

With great gameplay, deep exploration, an intriguing storyline and emotional music, Wild Arms 2 is a truly excellent RPG that you won't regret spending your time playing.



Battle Graphics are improved from the original, but still aren't that great.
Battle Graphics are improved from the original, but still aren't that great.  





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