Old RPG Review #22: Wild ARMs

NuMetalManiak Well I'm back with this aren't I? This series isn't gonna die unless I do. It's just I was done with all the other games already and it takes me a while to finish the ones I currently play. The 22nd game I'll review is a PSX game developed by Media Vision known as Wild ARMs. Media Vision was actually new to the whole RPG thing at the time, but I found this game rather decent.

Gameplay: Wild ARMs is pretty standard turn-based, random encounter battles, kinda like other games I've played. Of noticable importance is that navigation on the overworld, dungeons, and towns, is rendered in 2D, while the battles are rendered in 3D. Turn-based combat is pretty standard though, but there's a few twists. One of your characters, Rudy, uses guns for his specials, and they each use bullets instead of MP. His guns have different rates of power, accuracy, and max amount of bullets. These numbers can be upgraded by an ARMs meister in some towns, but upgrading is hefty and expensive. Worth it though. The other main twist is the force gauge. This gauge goes up every time one of your characters gets hit in a battle or if they use a technique, and certain levels in the force gauge allow for specialized techs to be used, such as taking two turns in one or summoning a guardian via an equipped rune. Some accessories can also be equipped, which nullify bad status changes or boost overall stats. The best one is obtained from the hardest boss in the game and it boosts everything by 100, prevents ambushes and status changes, and boosts luck. I'm not sure how much luck plays a factor in this game, but it's always best to make sure it's, you know, best.

Overworld navigation isn't too bad. There's walking for transportation but also using the Earth Golem to cross shallow waters, the Sweet Candy for sea travel, and the Protowing for air travel. There's also a few teleportation temples used early on. The world of Filgaia is pretty big and quite exploratory, offering up a few optional things to do. Towns are well-sized, offering up inns, regular item and equipment shops, as well as ARMs meisters and magic guilds. For Cecilia's magic in this game, there's no leveling up to get spells, instead there are items known as Crest Graphs which can be used at magic guilds to get certain spells. You're better off using guides in order to find out what each spell is capable of doing so. Now dungeons are pretty darn devious. The three playable characters each have a set of tools that can be used in dungeons to aid them, but some of the puzzles in the dungeons are quite difficult to solve. Not that it is too harsh for the avant-garde puzzle solver though! Overall, Wild ARMs gameplay may be traditional, but it sure has its fun moments. Grade: A

Characters: One thing I like about the three main characters in this game is that there are several moments where your characters separate from each other and then join up later. This even happens in the beginning of the game where you choose which character to play first. I'll go in my order:
Rudy: The blue-haired orphaned boy who lives a carefree life as a Dream Chaser, which is a title for certain characters. Unfortunately, he's pretty much a silent protagonist, so don't expect a word out of him (except for like one rare line!). Out of all the characters, he's the strongest one physically, equipping knives for weapons. Pretty strange, but Rudy's also the character who wields the guns of the game. That's what he uses instead of MP, and they do a lot of damage to enemies, at the potential cost of bullets and possibly accuracy. Grade: A-
Jack: My favorite character. Despite his apparently gruff-looking attitude on the game box, Jack exemplifies a treasure hunter, who was formerly a knight, and he has quite a serious attitude. He's pretty strong enough for enemies, exhibiting Fast Draws which are specialized sword techniques using MP. Fast draws are unlocked via plot hints, and you must use these hints if you want the fast draw mastered. He has a talking mouse friend named Hanpan who functions as one of his tools, helping to set off traps and retrieve treasure.
Cecilia: The sole girl of the group functions as the multipurpose mage, with great magic power for support and attack. She's actually the princess of Adlehyde, but does not behave as so. Through her tear drop do the Guardian race contact her and help lead her on her journey. The tear drop also is one of the tools which helps unlock certain doors. Like most mage characters, her strength comes in magic, and with Crest Graphs she gains more spells to use.

For other characters in the game, many of the NPCs make it cool as well. "Calamity Jane" Maxwell is one such character, as much a treasure hunter as anything. Over time she apparently develops a crush on Rudy. Jane always has a butler along her side, named McDullen. Other helpful characters include Bartholomew, captain of the Sweet Candy whom you help a few times, and Emma, a professor who develops a few things, such as the Earth Golem and the Protowing.

Villains are pretty cool demons too. There's the four quarter knights, and then there's the Mother. Mother obviously wants destruction, while the knights want domination. There's the leader Zeikfried, the insane body-mangler Alhazad, the Fast Draw-using Lady Harken, and the bruiser Belselk. There's also Boomerang, a hired assassin who later joins, as well as a comic relief villain named Zed. I like these villains, and the characters overall.

Plot: By staying on the start screen, a vision from the past happens where Artica is under attack by demons, who want the encapsulated body of Mother. They are also on the lookout for three pieces of her heart.

Three prologue stories to follow. Rudy starts out in Surf Village helping with work. After hearing that a kid is lost in a cave full of monsters, he plays hero and rescues him, but is found out by other villagers as he has an ARM. And for some reason, guns are forbidden, so he is banished from the village. Meanwhile, Jack is flummoxing around a temple of treasure and finds a hologram telling of a long lost race. He leaves searching for clues. Cecilia gains visions of being the Innocent One and finding clues of her own, eventually leaving her school to go to her town of Adlehyde. The three characters meet up, and then help Emma unearth a golem from the nearby tomb to use as an exhibit in the fair. I can't remember why they did this, but all of a sudden, during the night of a fair, an army of demons led by Belselk decimate the town of Adlehyde, killing lots of people and wrecking the whole place. To prevent any further loss of life, Cecilia agrees to give them the Tear Drop, and then the demons finally leave. Unfortunately, Cecilia's father, the king, dies, and the characters vow to stop the demons. Cue the end of the prologue and the pre-credits.

The party confronts several of a race known as Guardians, ancient beings who can be summoned to help them. They inform them that the Demon leaders are trying to resurrect their Mother, using the Tear Drop and by destroying some sacred statues. In their efforts to prevent the statues' destruction, the demons get to destroy them just before they prevent it, and as a result Mother is resurrected. Mother explains her plans for Filgaia, and guess what? It turns out that's not what the Quarter Knights had expected at all! Heck, Mother even plans their deaths alongside the rest of Filgaia.

Despite the reawakening, the party decides to take it to the source. They help Bartholomew out and can use the Sweet Candy (that's the name of his ship) and search for clues to where to go. At one dungeon, they confront Zed and Belselk, managing to defeat both of them. Zed escapes, while Belselk falls and is later assassinated by the demon Boomerang, who becomes the next Quarter Knight. The party enters Giant's Cradle and find a usable golem, returning to Emma who awakens it for another method of travel for the party.

The party reaches Court Seim and meet Jane's family. The father Nicholi explains about Rudy's past, and how the old man Zepet cared for him. At the next dungeon, Boomerang and his Guardian Luceid confront the party, and this particular demon is actually, for me, the toughest to beat. Alhazad attacks the town of Court Seim, even after they evacuate, and the party fights him. Not too hard since he has low HP. Nicholi installs a shield into the Earth Golem so it can nullify the Photosphere, and the party infiltrates it, retrieves Cecilia's Tear Drop and takes down Mother with the help of a shady figure. It turns out that the figure is Zeikfried, and allowed the heroes to take Mother down so that he and the rest of the Quarter Knights want to conquer Filgaia. The party vows to get rid of those guys, and have the ability to sail across the outer ocean after a trip to the Dragon Shrine and a confrontation with Harken. They later confront the Quarter Knights just before their master plan comes through. Zeikfried attempts to pull Rudy into a black hole via metal tether but he cuts his own arm off to free himself. Zeikfried and the heroes get sucked into the hole but the Tear Drop saves the heroes. Back at Adlehyde, it is revealed that Rudy was actually a destructive artificial creation known as a Holmcross which is capable of destruction via the ARM. But Zepet prevented him from doing so and gave him a good heart.

With the help of the Elw girl Mariel the party finds a way to get Rudy back. After doing so, the scientist Emma creates the Protowing for air travel. They find two Gemini Circuits which would upgrade the Protowing's capabilities allowing it to go over mountains. The party later confronts Alhazad and a weakened Harken. Although Alhazad activates the Dark Tear, Jack destroys it, and we see a flashback of him with his girl Elmina at Arctica castle. Jack was formerly Garrett, a noble knight of Artica, but was perceived as a coward. Back at Arctica, Jack confronts Elmina, who is actually Harken, and kills her. Meanwhile, an ominous tower rises from the sea. The party reaches the tower, Ka Dingel, but Boomerang interferes. After losing though, he realizes the humans' potential, and actually sacrifices himself to help the party move on. At the top of the tower, the party finally kills Alhazad and reaches Malduke, a space station capable of world destruction. The party finally confronts Zeikfried a second time, after his defeat though, Mother reawakens inside of him (disgusting!) and you fight Motherfried. After that is done, the Guardians use their power within Cecilia's Tear Drop to banish the darkness from Filgaia. On the trip home, Zeik makes one last ditch effort to defeat the party once and for all. The party narrowly escapes death after Zeik's fall with the help of the Earth Golem, whose power shield uses up all his power to save them. And then the game has a rather long and sweet ending.

Overall, I'm liking this plot, as well as the development of several characters over time. I especially gasped at the Mother's plans for Filgaia not being the same ones as the ones who resurrected her, and I just knew that they would betray her somehow. Now, even though that's the plot synopsis, there's quite a few sidequests which net very good equipment for characters. There's an arena where you can fight a few rounds for items, and even fight a resurrected Boomerang one last time. Not to forget the nasty boss known as Angol Moa. Several other golems can be fought as bosses, giving great rewards. Finally, there's a hard-to-get-to dungeon known as the Abyss, and it's ultimate boss is Ragu Ragla, which would eventually become a household name in the Wild ARMs series due to it being the overall toughest boss in the series. These optional quests are tough, but very rewarding. Grade: A+

Music: Definitely one of the things that got me going through this RPG was the music. In particular, the town music is very well done. The usage of whistling in at least two of the town themes is splendid, and the overall musicianship is great. Dungeon music is a bit samey but it's lively. Battle music too, but at least fighting bosses has some variety (when fighting one of the quarter knights anyways). Zed has a rather unique one. Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

Yes, it's a turn-based RPG, but a damn fun one. Great plot, great music, pretty interesting battle functions, and neat interconnectivity. The plot twists and revelations are what make this one fun. You might need to grind a few levels to avoid being too weak in battles though.