|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
The PlayStation is quickly becoming an excellent platform for role-playing gamers to invest in. The latest entry into this niche market comes from Sony, and is titled Wild Arms.
In the fantasy world of Filgaia, the story is told of a historic battle in which humans, Elws, and Guardians fought off the alien Demons. A thousand years later, the Elws are gone, the Guardians are dying, but the Demons have returned to reclaim the world. It is a tale of ancient evil reawakened, which has been heard before. The plot does not take many unexpected twists, but develops well enough to maintain the player's interest.
The game's opening is innovative in that the three main characters — the young outcast Rudy, the treasure hunter with a past Jack, and the royal princess Cecilia — each start separately. Gamers must proceed along each's storyline at their own pace, switching between them at their convenience, until finally their lives become intertwined.
Another original aspect of Wild Arms is the magic system. There are two levels of magic with sixteen spells of white and black each, for a total of 64 spells. Almost any can be learned any time, but only a limited total number. Proper foresight into what types of spells will be required is a necessity. Only Cecilia may cast magic, while Jack has a variety of "Fast Draw" sword techniques he'll learn during his journeys, and Rudy can fire forbidden, technological arms of the world (hence, the game's title).
Wild Arms opens with an excellent anime clip of the three characters. Although this is the only such cartoon in the game, the rest of the graphics will not disappoint in quality. When the heroes are trekking across the countryside, the camera will zoom in when arriving at an important locale. In town, special attention is paid to detail, such as walking through a puddle and then leaving wet footprints behind. But battles is where the graphics really show. The camera is practically in a constant state of motion, providing differing points of view on the action, keeping the action level steady. Sometimes it will not focus on pertinent scenes, but this is a rare occurrence. The polygonal nature of the characters is sometimes apparent in a rather unattractive way.
The music is fully orchestrated, akin to the Final Fantasy games. It almost always heightens the mood and brings out the best in the game. After awhile, often-repeated sequences, like that played for battle victory, will be tuned out by the players, but that doesn't lessen its initial impact.
Challenge is doled out in differing amounts. Most of the enemies to not present life-endangering threats, especially since the party is armed to the teeth with magic, arms, and counterattacks. A few of the bosses will clean the floor with the heroes unless the right equipment has been brought along, though. The interface is similar to Zelda, with running, bombs, and throwing of boxes. There are some interesting puzzles in this mode — some ingenious, others not.
Wild Arms is not the end-all and be-all of role-playing games, but it comes pretty darn close. It's an offering that gamers of this genre won't be able to pass up.
This article is copyright (c) 1997, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 09-Jun-97