Hello once again, lovely readers of Lusipurr.com. This week marks a return to my journalistic roots with a retro review of Wild ARMs. Developed by Media Vision in 1996, it was released by Sony Computer Entertainment America for western markets in 1997 and was one of the first RPGs to grace the original Playstation. While it will perpetually be in Final Fantasy VII‘s shadow, Wild ARMs was a popular game in its day, and the series as a whole has remained respectable.
Wild ARMs revolves around three young adventurers and at the onset of the game the player must progress through three introductory sequences, one for each main character. These sequences provide backstory for each character, and allow the player to explore relatively easy dungeons with each character in order to get a general feel for how each character performs and can be best utilized in and out of combat. The three characters are Rudy the wandering Dream Chaser (a polite way of saying hobo, really), Jack the Indiana Jones-esque Treasure Hunter, and Princess Cecelia who can use Crest Magic. Each character has unique battle abilities as well as out of combat tools that are required to solve various puzzles in each dungeon. Rudy, for instance, can use magical bombs to remove obstacles, while Cecelia can use a Pocket Watch to reset puzzles. The puzzles are relatively easy, the trick typically being knowing which character to switch to, and what abilities to use. The characters have so many tools at their disposal that it can be easy to overlook something.
The setting for Wild ARMs is the world of Filgaia, your typical RPG world in peril. The people have had the standard thousand years of peace and prosperity in the wake of a brutal and ugly war. Now the world seems to be falling apart, its resources diminishing and the previously defeated demons are making their presence felt once more. It is naturally up to our rag-tag group of do-gooders to set the world to rights again. The thing that does actually distinguish the setting of Wild ARMs from most other RPGs or series is the Western motif the game adopts. Western meaning horses, cowboy hats, saloons, and all of those other loveable cliches. Even the music harkens back to old John Wayne movies at times, and really sets the mood for the game.
The battle system is in the traditional turn-based menu style. At the beginning of each turn the characters choose their abilities, then execute them in the appropriate order based upon each character’s RES (agility/dexterity). Rudy and Jack are melee characters, while Cecelia is the mage. Rudy’s special attacks utilize an Ancient Relic Machine (ARM) which is forbidden yet oddly popular technology from a lost civilization. Cecelia uses Crest Magic as previously mentioned, which requires the player to find Crests hidden throughout the world, and spells can then be imprinted on those Crests for future use. Spells can be bound and unbound from Crests at any time by visiting a Magic Guild, allowing the player to customize Cecelia’s inventory of spells to suit the situation. This is handy, as she starts out with only a handful of spells. As the battle progresses and characters take action or are attacked, their Force goes up. Force Power does not allow the characters to use Jedi mind tricks, but it does open up new combat abilities, allowing the player to be a bit more strategic in respect to what abilities to use and when to use them.
All in all, Wild ARMs holds up well against the test of time. The gameplay is perhaps a bit easy by modern standards, but that can be overlooked. Other than the Wild West slant to the game, it is fairly traditional. It may not be cutting edge and innovative, even for its day, but the developers knew what RPG fans like and they knew what works. The only area that may be a tad grating for modern players is the graphics. Out of combat the graphics are 2D and in combat they are 3D. The 2D graphics are sufficiently detailed to be pleasant, but the 3D graphics leave much to be desired and severely date the game. It is clear that the timing of the game straddles the SNES and Playstation eras. If the player can overlook some rather bland visuals, however, the game is certainly one worth experiencing, particularly in light of its more modern still enjoyable sequels.