WILD ARMS 5 - PS2 - Preview
The world is in turmoil. It’s always in turmoil. As long as role-playing games exist, you will never run out of towns to protect from an evil emperor or loved ones to rescue from a madman gone crazy.
Whether you’ve had your fill of the genre on PS2 or can’t wait for each release, Wild Arms 5 is an important sequel. The Wild Arms series began on the PSone and was the console’s first hit RPG in North America. It wasn’t massively successful – those days didn’t come until Square brought over Final Fantasy VII. But it got the attention of Square and Enix (who were separate entities at the time) and publishers like Working Designs, who would later use the PSone to give new life to Lunar: The Silver Star Story.
Wild Arms was one of the first RPGs to toy with the idea of using 3D graphics, a concept many developers have recently abandoned.
Wild Arms 5, however, stays true to its heritage, featuring modern, anime-style polygon characters, large 3D worlds, and intense real-time sequences. It will likely be the series’ last outing on PS2. But don’t cry over its eventual departure – there’s still plenty of adventuring that has yet to take place.
Filgaia – a world of despair. Dean, who the game refers to as an “ordinary boy,” wants to see the world change. He hooks up with Rebecca, a feisty gunslinger in Daisy Dukes, and Avril, a young and mysterious woman who spent an undisclosed amount of time sleeping in a giant, mechanical hand. She also shares the name of a recording artist whose work has appeared in multiple video games, but I doubt that means we’ll see her cast a spell called “Girlfriend” or “Sk8er Boy.” At least I hope not…
The game begins in – come ‘on, you know this one – a cave full of corridors. Though it looks and sounds as generic as a clown who throws banana cream pies, Wild Arms 5 is as catchy as a song you can’t get out of your head. The intro isn’t much of a catalyst, but the hyper and strategic turn-based battles are all the game needs to make you want to bear ARMS.
Most turn-based, non-strategy RPGs give your warriors one or two spaces of movement in combat. You can fight in the front or stay in the back. Some allow you to change this position mid-battle, but most force you to stick with your pre-combat settings. There isn’t much strategy involved, and unless the other gameplay features are really unique and/or exciting, there’s little room for the game to be remembered on a console that already has dozens of memorable RPGs.
Wild Arms 5 could’ve competed on speed alone. Battles – even boss fights – are over long before they can become tiresome. Encounters are random but may be turned off once an area has been conquered, a feature that allows players to further explore a location without being forced to endure unnecessary battles.
The game is unique, more strategic, and more interesting than the average turn-based RPG because of the way battles are developed. As expected, battles occur in a combat area that’s separate from the world you’re exploring. When an encounter is triggered, the screen breaks apart and transforms you to the battle location. Seven linked hexagons appear as the points of movement during battle. You may choose to disperse your team and have each party member command his or her own space. Or you may have them on the same hexagon, which may be beneficial if your enemies are clustered in one area.
However, there is a risk in doing this: attacks are targeted toward the hexagon, not a specific character. Thus, if all your eggs are in one basket and an enemy strikes, each party member will receive damage. The opposite is also true, which is why it’s often to best to disperse your party and attempt to corner your enemies into one space.
Coming at the start of the new school year, Wild Arms 5 is an RPG that’ll dare you to try that “I’m sick and can’t come” excuse again – even if it didn’t work the last 100 times it was used. Stay with us as we bring you more on Wild Arms 5 in the coming weeks.