reviews\ Oct 25, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Wild Arms 3 - PS2 - Review

Welcome to Filgaia, a world that mirrors our own during the early 1800s when the frontier was savagely cruel and wild.  It is in this barren wasteland that the fate of four drifters will collide in a tale of adventure, gunfights and . . . monsters? Oh the Wild West was never quite like this.


For those of you who have followed this much-loved Playstation series, Wild Arms 3 continues the role-playing elements and rich storylines that made this a fan favorite.  In the same Final Fantasy tradition of introducing new characters and stories for each sequel, this game follows the adventures of Virginia, Gallows, Jet and Clive--four drifters that band together to find a mysterious object of power.


At the start of the game, the four drifters meet on a train and gamers are given the choice to choose a character to play out their introductory mission and reason for being on that train.  Each character has his or her own reason for searching for the mythical item but they manage to forge an alliance and travel Filgaia as a group.  You can control the characters through the enormous world that is Filgaia--mainly on foot and later on horses.


Like most role-playing games, there are many towns, ruins or dungeons to explore.  Each town has a place to rest up before traveling on to your main mission but talking to towns people offer up side quests the group can take on for money or just for the experience.  As you’ll soon find out, this Old West is filled with much more than just bandits . . . this world is crawling with monsters of all shapes, sizes and strength.  The more battles you fight, the more experience and strength your characters get.


An exclamation mark appears when an enemy draws near--a white or green exclamation marks means you can avoid an encounter and a red one means you have no choice but to fight.  Battles are done on a turn-based manner, although this time your characters are moving around during the fight.  Each character has his or her own special ability (Clive has a Lock On ability that allows him to increase his hit rate) and they even come in possession of Medium (a summons guardian).  The battles are pretty straightforward and sometimes even a bit dull after awhile, but they’re necessary in order to defeat those powerful enemies you need to destroy.


There are a number of original concepts introduced here that do work nicely than others.  You can interact with objects (pick up boxes, throw crates, turn knobs, etc.) and hang down from certain obstacles when needed.  You can also take command of ships that move on the sand--although awkward, as it is to control, it’s still a welcome change.  And the use of Gimel Coins to save the game--you can also save by talking to a Memory Figure (that funny looking robot with a sombrero)--or used to continue the game when your party is defeated.


Difficulty-wise, the game has its share of challenging battles and puzzles.  Certain enemies are just too difficulty to defeat and it takes a lot of thought and experimentation on your part to defeat it.  The same can be said about the puzzles in the game.  Still, probably the most frustrating part is the fact that sometimes a NPC will tell you where you must go and if you weren’t paying close attention to what was being said that character would not always repeat it.  This will leave you wandering the land aimlessly and neither the new Search System will not help and gamers will have to load their game and go back to the same town again for the information.


Another original aspect of the game is the graphics, which use a process known as stroke-shading to give each anime-styled character a cel-shaded look.  This actually works great during cut scenes and gunfights.  The environments are not only massive but also nicely detailed all around with smooth textures on the majestic canyons and the bricked walls of some dungeon.  And the special effects, especially centered on the summons guardians, are just great to watch.


As far as the sound is concerned, Wild Arms 3 has a beautiful soundtrack with a score that is as grand as the story itself.  The music is both sweeping, grand and sometimes even moving--it’s definitely a score that compliments the story.  This Western soundtrack makes up for the absence of voice acted dialogue (all character dialogue is handled through text boxes).  There are also some great sound effects during battles and while exploring the land.


Saddle your horse, partners, Wild Arms 3 is an RPG adventure fans of the genre shouldn’t miss even with its trivial imperfections.  With a wonderfully crafted story, great characters and an immense world to explore, gamers will be spending hours with this one. 


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.2
Wild Arms 3’s traditional RPG elements are thankfully filled with all the things RPG fans love about this genre.  The controls are pretty basic when it comes to exploring Filgaia, you can walk or dash across the land or you can ride on horses in the same way you ride a Chocobo in the Final Fantasy games.  This time, though, you can scan the area for important locations of interest.  You can also interact with objects that get in your way by picking them up, pushing them or tossing items around. 


Battle is more straightforward and the best part about it is that now the characters can move around, positioning themselves while one of them takes a turn and performs an action. Sadly, the fights aren’t as exciting as they should be and many gamers might consider it something of a nuisance that gets in the way of the great story.  You can avoid fights but you’ll be missing out on the valuable experience points you gain after winning a battle.   


Graphics: 8.0
Inspired by the cel-shading graphics of recent games, the visuals in this game might seem unusual at first but it surprisingly works here.  Characters are rendered anime-style and are nicely detailed, but it’s the stroke-shading visual enhancements that add its own personality to the game.


There are some great special effects during battle and much of it comes from the summons guardians when they’re in action.  Each summons uses unique power attacks that involve ice; water or tornadoes and they all look great. 


Sound: 7.6
There are no voice talent featured in the game since all dialogue is handled through text boxes.  Strangely enough, though, the game is better for it.  For one thing, much of the dialogue doesn’t translate well from Japanese to English so you can only imagine how funny it would sound when spoken verbally.  Still, the soundtrack in Wild Arms 3 more than makes up for the lack of voice acting with its sweeping cinematic Western score.


The sound effects are also well done, especially when it comes to the gunfights--each gun sounds sharp and loud.  You’ll find little sound effects for mostly everything you come in contact with while exploring towns, for example.  Walk up to a chicken and you’ll hear it cluck while getting in front of a horses’ path results in the horse neighing furiously.  Each summons also has its own sound when being called or when the summons uses its powers on the enemy.


Difficulty: Medium
Scattered throughout this unusual realm are enemies of various degrees of difficulty and you’ll have one hell of a time trying to figure out their weaknesses.  Of course, there are some enemies you should only confront when you have high experience points or the right summons guardians.  And the puzzles--which are thankfully plentiful--range from those tricky door opening puzzles to those puzzles that offer power items as prizes.  Many of puzzles are actually challenging without being too particularly frustrating.


Concept: 8.4
Like the Final Fantasy series, the sequels don’t follow a particular storyline and they introduce new characters so gamers don’t have to play the first game to enjoy this one.  From the very start of the game, players will get a sense of the game’s original concepts offered here . . . such as the four different prologues that introduces the main characters and their distinct abilities.  New to the series are the ship battles that are pretty awkward to control but is still a welcome addition nonetheless.


Overall: 8.5
While not quite perfect, Wild Arms 3 is a solid RPG with a wonderfully sweeping and enough appealing characters to keep RPG buffs pleased.  There’s enough to see and do in this world so gamers will surely get their money’s worth.


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