Old RPG Review #24: Wild ARMs 2 *Part 1*

NuMetalManiak
Phew, this one was a long RPG to go through. And with that in mind this is also going to be my longest review yet. Wild ARMs 2 is the next game in the Wild ARMs series directed by Media Vision, although it is not a true sequel to the first game. It has it's moments, primarily storyline-wise, but other than that, much of the gameplay remains similar to the first game. However, I gotta say that this game took a whole month to finish. This is due to the amount of optional stuff present as well as the very slow progression. I'll get to that.

Gameplay: So as I said the gameplay remains similar to the first. Obviously being the next game in the series it's gonna end up having some new things as well. Navigation is pretty different, instead of a static compass direction, the view can be rotated using the L1 and R1 keys. Handy when finding certain stuff, but I try to keep it north as much as possible. The other thing related to navigation is searching on the overworld for new locations. I really didn't like this at all. You had to talk to a certain NPC in order to get directions to that location, and then use the square key on the overworld to search in the area to find the location. The first part of that always got me confused. Those are some main differences, otherwise, navigation remains the same, as does running, character tools, and random encounters.

Actually, random encounters have a twist as well, in that you can cancel normal encounters that have the white "!" mark. In addition to surprise attacks by either side, there's also surprise moments when one party member fights alone in a battle or even the back party has to fight (the latter one is extremely rare and I never actually got it, just taking stuff out of the guide). Battles are kinda the same, and to be honest, I didn't like most of them. If you know exactly what you're doing practically any normal monster you fight will be downed in a single hit by any character. Of course there are certain amenities to this as well. Elemental weaknesses being taken into account, but also ones that only do half damage, no damage at all, or are absorbed as healing. I forgot to mention status changes in my Wild ARMs review, and there's some unique ones in addition to your everyday poisons, paralyses, and confusions. Such as a form of poison that does more damage each round, disease which prevents a character from being healed, and forgetfulness which stops a character from earning EXP (might be an interesting challenge). The worst one I can think of is downhearted status, which prevents force gain in battle, and force powers can mean the difference between a quick fight or a slow going one. As for actions, there's always the option of changing either equipment or active party, which brings in interesting strategies, as well as commands for automatic battles. I never used those though, manual control is best. Equippable Guardian mediums also have a special command (not their summon, more on that later) which may be used.

As far as other stuff goes, there's a new monster album feature, and if you find a certain item, you can take the monster album with you. There's a lot of enemies to find in the game, and I never found them all. Part of the reason I took a long time with this game was that I wanted to, though, and ended up finding 95% of the enemies once I beat the game. The shops are pretty interesting, the item and weapon shops, the magic shop where you can inscribe crests just like in the first game, and the ARMs dealer who can refill ammunition and upgrade the guns' hit percentage, power, and bullet capacity. The strangest shop of all has to be the Personal Skills one. The skills up certain character parameters permanently, and could greatly impact how they level up. Unfortunately, a lot of them are worthless. The best ones to get are Up HP (for everyone to gain HP in level ups) and Up M/P Defend/Attack depending on the character. Bad ones include the status protectors, which aren't 100% effective. Worst is probably Auto Guard (automatic defending when near death? WHY?)

But if there's one major thing to note about this game's gameplay, is that it is slow. Real slow. I mean the loading times after ending a battle or entering a new location give me a headache. Not to mention some unskippable moments that I sometimes don't care about. Even leveling up is a drag, as it's pretty hard to gain some levels until you find enemies like Hyulkontons or the optional bosses. (see below) Grade: B

Characters: A shining moment in Wild ARMs 2 has to be the characters. You can name all the playable ones, plus a few NPCs.

Playable:
Ashley Winchester: The main character of the game (he's a guy, by the way, Ashley is a boy's name too, know about Ash Ketchum or Ashley Williams III?) is a young warrior who wields a bayonet type weapon for close combat and ARMs damage. He's very well rounded. Honestly though, I did not use him a lot. His ARMs aren't very well implemented, and he has no Lock-On type force skill (although Full Clip kinda counts, but it empties all the ammo at once). However, he ends up with this special power as KnightBlazer, which can be triggered via Access force power. This changes his form into a badass knight with some original abilities, all very damaging. Thus, Ashley is very ideal for boss fights.
Brad Evans: This big guy is supposedly a war hero that ends up being a criminal by some unforeseen circumstances. Brad's the main bruiser of the party due to his high health, defense and offense, but this obviously means his speed sucks. Like Ashley he too uses ARMs as special weapons. I liked Brad more though, because he has a Lock-On skill ensuring good accuracy, and Boost is a Lock-On with great damage output. This means he is just as ideal for boss fights as Ashley, and possibly more so.
Lilka Eleniak: The crest sorceress of the team, a magic student who is so not serious. She functions just like Cecilia did in the first game, where you find crests, take them to a magic shop, and inscribe spells to use in battle. Apart from magic though, she's not much in anything except speed, which she does well in too. Her weapon for spellcasting is apparently an umbrella, and all of her spells are single-target only, unless Extend or a DualCast force combo are used. I will say that Lilka is the most balanced and durable of the three mage characters, and I find her very ideal in random battles. Plus I just love her character design and her wicked cape.
Tim Rhymeless: This kid is another mage character, and a bit of a special one. He doesn't use crest sorcery, instead using guardian lore. I had to figure out what he is supposed to do to get the spells, and it seems that you need a certain guardian medium equipped, then have Tim kill a set number of monsters to permanently get that skill. Tim's magic abilities are actually far stronger and better targeting than Lilka's, but this is matched by his horrible speed, as well as his health. I also don't like his character design, and how he seems to be dressed like a bird or something. But he's ideal for a number of special abilities he has in his repository of spells. Notable is the fact that whenever he's in the party, Ashley, Lilka, Brad, and of course Tim himself can summon a guardian using Combine for some massive damage.
Kanon: Aisha Bernadette is a exorcist bounty hunter of sorts, appearing as an enemy the first few times you run into her because of Ashley's demonic possession, and then she becomes a playable character. Now I LOVE HER. Seriously, she is the fastest character in the game, faster than Lilka, and she can hit as hard as the two ARMs characters sometimes. Her force abilities are Gat levels or something, and the attack animations are just badass. Her main skills involve her bionic arm, thingies or whatever, which, if you use them a lot in battle, new ones are unlocked. Kanon's actually not as ideal as some of the other characters, especially in some boss battles, but I seriously liked using her.
Marivel Armitage: At first I thought this was the Elw girl from the first game, but not here. Marivel is actually an optional character that you can acquire on Disc 2, and she's actually a Crimson Noble, which is some race of vampires, although she sure doesn't dress like one sometimes. Her actual weapons during a battle are Hob and Nob, two weird robot things, but she's more of a mage character. Unfortunately, she's the weakest, and hardest to figure out for her spells. She needs to use Skil Drain on certain enemies and with luck she can use those abilities. Marivel's spells are useful for hitting every enemy though, so that's a plus. On the other hand, she's not entirely fast, her health is the second worst in the game behind Tim's, and her other stats just don't match either. For an optional character, you kinda expect more.

In addition to those listed above, at the beginning of disc two Ashley is accompanied by Anastasia, the wielder of the Sword Magess, Argetlahm. She's a slow but mostly physical fighter. There's also Lucied, the Guardian of Desire that takes the form of a wolf. Yes, people, Lucied, the same one that accompanied Boomerang, one of the demons in the first game, is an ally and a playable character in this one. Lucied's fast, but his attacks aren't entirely special. Still, they are good enough for the short time you have them.

Non-playable:

There's plenty of non-playable characters in the game, from the villains to the allies. For the first disc of the game, the main villains are this terrorist organization known only as Odessa. They have their stalwart leader, Vinsfeld Rhadamanthus, and four main generals known as the Cocytus. There's Ptolomea, the bruiser and troop leader Judecca, the gun-wielding sadist Antenora, the assassin who hates killing for some reason and Caina, probably the most faithful. There's also Liz and Ard, who are reptilian scientists, but they are idiots. Mainly because Ard is a Pokemon and Liz has very incoherent babbly sentences. They're idiots in battle too, at least Liz is, since he causes a status ailment in Ard as well as using bombs that hurt everyone, even himself.

As for other non-playable characters, the most notable one is Irving Vold Valeria. The master of the Valeria Chateau and the party's main commander for the entire game. His house is filled with a number of other named NPCs. There's Altaecia, his sister, Linda and Momo the nurses, Amy and Kate the communicators, Erwin the chateau pilot, and I think two more I can't remember. Ashley has a girlfriend named Marina Irington, Brad has a comrade-in-arms named Billy Pilder, Lilka's friend in her hometown is named Terry. Tim's love interest is Colette Mapleleaf. There's also Tony Stark and Scott Summers, friends of Ashley and Tim who, yes, are named after Iron Man and Cyclops. But they are just kids and don't do much at all in the game. Scott in particular likes to say "In my humble opinion" a lot, so he is kinda annoying in that regard. Characters overall though get an A+, mainly due to how each one develops over the course of the story. I need to make a Part 2 for this now, this thing won't make me submit more.

Comments

Admin, if you are reading this I would really appreciate there being a character count feature while doing posts. I actually had trouble submitting this one and by removing good chunks of text then was I able to submit this. - NuMetalManiak

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