Friday, December 27, 2002

Wild ARMs 3 (Advanced 3rd)

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation 2
Credits: 2002 Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc., Media Visions, Inc. Screenshots by RPGFan.

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Skysenshi's Description:
On one fateful night, four drifters meet inside a lonely train. Each of them have a purpose. One is in search of her long-lost father. One aims only for the loot that every adventure will bring. Another is escaping from a responsibility dictated by his bloodline. And the last only seeks to satisfy an important client whose visions foretell impending disaster.

The guardians of Filgaia have brought them together. Their mission: To protect something beyond their own selfish interests. The time has come to bring the power of their ARMs to the fore...

An improvement from the 2nd Wild ARMs. >>> by skysenshi
I loved the first Wild ARMs. Unfortunately, the second installment was a complete chore. In fact, it was my trauma of the 2nd that nearly stopped from buying this third release. I'm glad that my love for the original egged me to try this one. I definitely do not regret my decision in making this my first PS2 experience, just as Wild ARMs 1 had been my first PSX game.

Though I completely believe that WA1 is still the best when it comes to the story, WA3 isn't too far behind. You'll hear familiar concepts such as Yggdrasil, Fatima, Nanomachines,, it's not a Xenogears rip-off. These names are based on Norse mythology—Square doesn't have exclusive rights to these (incidentally, Square Soft, Inc. did the US text and translation for this game). WA3 uses the concepts differently, its plot revolving around dreams and memories. You start off wandering around a decaying Filgaia, with hardly any water or signs of greens to keep you from getting a severe case of sunburn. You are a drifter, whose law lies upon your gun. But soon you'll find yourself searching for the cause of the planet's near-extinction and its relation to everyone's dreams and memories.

What's so great about this game is that it breaks away from the usual RPG stereotype where girl is a magic user with an extremely weak constitution and big brawny guy is a sharpshooter with ridiculously high HP. The lead character this time is Virginia Maxwell, a female drifter, who, despite her apparent lack of fashion sense (would you go to a battle wearing a pink fluffy dress?) and sickeningly sweet SailorMoony spiels, seems to be the most balanced out of the 4 of your main characters. The other three that make up your party are: Jet Enduro, a boy who has no recollection of his past; Gallows Caradine, a Shamanistic member of the Baskar tribe who runs away from his priestly heritage; Clive Winslet, the handsome archeological genius and Citan (Xenogears) look-alike who is forever hunted by the memory of his deceased mentor.

Surprisingly, WA3 also has a roster of rather interesting supporting characters. There's the spoiled rich brat Maya Schroedinger whose wacky antics provide various hilarious moments. Earlier in the game, you'd meet Janus, another mercenary armed with a badass attitude and a deadly sense of humor. And on the later part, there's Beatrice. I won't say much about her since I don't want to give any spoilers, but let's just say that she's one heck of a villain who has more interest in creating than destroying.

One very cute tidbit: Marivel of the Crimson Nobles, the only main character besides Kanon who had any luster in WA2, is here "in spirit".

WA3 is like having what little good WA2 had added to the beauty of WA1's gameplay. The ARMs upgrade, which was removed from WA2, is back. It's a bit cheaper this time. Unlike in WA1 where you change equipments as you progress, prompting you to spend more on upgrades, WA3 doesn't have equipments. You only have the same weapon and the same getup all throughout. The only difference is that you can "equip" skills on your guardians/summons. Skill point system of WA2 is incorporated here. You can de-equip the skills and skill points. The good news is, like WA3's predecessors, you can mix and match your change "equipments" while in the middle of a battle.

What they added:

  1. A VIT gauge system that replenishes your HP after every battle.
  2. An ECN gauge system that lets you avoid battles, so you don't have to worry about encounters while solving the trademark brain-twisting puzzles of the Wild ARMs series.
  3. Having a gimel coin (pretty easy to acquire) means you can save anytime anywhere, except in certain areas that don't allow you to save.

Optional features of this game include Millennium Puzzles, berry breeding and farming, Gunner's Heaven, and the Abyss, a 100-story structure where saving is rarely allowed (a nightmare for gamers like me who live in a country with frequent blackouts). Many of these subquests give an EX File Key that would allow you to replay the game in EX mode with your current level and cash. The EX File Keys also let you view your status and the various opening and ending movies.

Puzzles in dungeons aren't tedious. Just difficult. Well, those challenges are certainly better than WA2's super-easy-to-solve riddles and puzzles that have tedious solutions.

Sounds and Visuals

In my opinion, WA1 still has the best goosebump-raising opening theme what with that melancholic whistle and beautiful acoustic guitar intro. But the Wild ARMs series have always been known for excellent opening song and animation. In WA2, there are 2 different OP themes for the first and second disc. Here, you basically have the same OP song, but the difference lies in the animation and the lyrics. There are 8 different OP animations, depending on where you are in the game. The OP song also has 3 versions namely, instrumental, English and Japanese. Both the English and the Japanese vocalists have beautiful voices that anybody with an ear can appreciate.

WA3's art and animation doesn't disappoint that WA tradition. Unfortunately, the downside is that they haven't improved the look of the summons. Another downside is that the character profiles and dialogue boxes show nearly translucent images of the characters. It would have been nice to see those in opaque, full-color goodness.

Overall, finishing WA3 feels good. Of course, you can't help but feel frustrated at some points in the game when you get stuck or forced to cross a disappearing walkway. Or forced to solve puzzles that require precision. Still, it's fun and memorable, just like the very first WA. Replay value is also pretty high, especially with the EX mode. I swear if I didn't have too many games piled up in my list, I would certainly play this again.

RATINGS: Gameplay 9; Battle 10; Story 9; Visuals 7; Characters 10; Sounds 9; Replay Value 9

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