Game Overkill

Game Overkill – Wild Arms

I was very pleased to see Wild Arms make the cut. Ever since I played it for a dozen or so minutes over a decade ago, where I spent most of my time bombing chickens, I’d been waiting for a chance and a reason to play it again. I just wish I could say it met my expectations.

Wild Arms - Dungeon

It started off promisingly though. You can choose to start with any of the three characters that will eventually make up your part. I chose to start with Rudy and probably spent 15 minutes running around and bombing chickens and that dog. After that, the nostalgia stopped and the game started. At first, everything I saw looked good. Since I remembered nothing other than abusing chickens, I didn’t remember that it was turn based. I also didn’t remember that there were three characters you could use. Rudy Roughknight (suuuper lame name) can use ARMs, which I thought were directly attached to his arm in the way that Mega Man can change weapons or whatever, but apparently they’re just regular guns you hold in your hand. Cecilia Adlehyde is a princess who doesn’t like being a princess and can use magic. Finally, Jack Van Burace is an idiot with a rat or mouse or whatever.

Finally, I was surprised to see the bombs as a tool that only one character had. When you start the game, the three characters don’t know each other. They each get a short intro section with some kind of mission to complete and dungeon to clear before they slowly are pointed to the same town and get a quest they need to band together for. In fact, each character gets four tools each. This, four tools, combined with the three characters and the few little puzzles you need to solve in those introductory sections made me think the game would have tonnes of interesting puzzles where you need to figure out which tool to use, send one character in one direction in order to do something necessary for a second character to go off in a second direction, and so on. Unfortunately, the “puzzles” in this game were a joke.

Out of the 12 tools you get, only a few are ever really useful in any meaningful way. In fact, you get one at the very end of the game, a guitar, that you only use twice. You have to use it to make the two penultimate bosses appear. What’s the point? As for the other tools, most of them are used a couple times immediately after you get them, then go unused for a lengthy amount of time, long enough for you to forget all about them, when all of a sudden you stumble upon a “puzzle” that stumps you for about 30 seconds. Once you remember that you have a tool that can turn back time or roller skates that don’t trigger floor traps, the puzzle is solved and you won’t use the tool again for hours. Honestly, most of these tools could be replaced with a key hidden in the dungeon and the puzzle could be replaced with a locked door and nothing would have essentially been changed.

I feel like complaining about it some more, but let’s read what Jonathan Hallée thought of the game, since he’s one of the people who listed it.

Wild Arms… Wild Arms… Why did I put this on the list again? Is it because people kept complaining that Final Fantasy VII stole its spotlight? Yeah, probably.

Nonetheless, Wild Arms is a game worth playing, or at least worth listening to. It has one of the best soundtrack in jRPGs, no doubt. Apart from the music… there are some interesting ideas. Despite the turn-based combat, Wild Arms doesn’t play out like many jRPGs. It doesn’t follow the rules and strays from the basics. I hated it, but you might like it. The story isn’t bad, though the characters are a bit bland.

Look, if you’re a jRPG fan, give it a try. I can see why some people would like it. As for others… just consider that the soundtrack made it on the #GameOverkill list…

Jonathan Hallée (a.k.a., @BigJonathan91)

Well, that wasn’t exactly a glowing recommendation, but it does reflect my feelings on the game as well, though I didn’t hate it. He’s right about the music though. Have a look at the cinematic intro. It’s styled like an anime and pretty for its time, though I don’t know why there’s a cross on that cliff. He didn’t bury someone there, did he? Anyway, the music is what really does it for me.

If you’re getting a Western, and Spaghetti Westerns in particular, then the music is working. In fact, some tracks sample the work of Ennio Morricone, who you may know from his extensive work in film and television as a composer. The theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? That was him. He composed the music for many Westerns, and since the game is set in a similar kind of environment, the game has music to fit it as well. Check out this track, The Ecstasy of Gold by Morricone from the the same film…

…and compare it to Wild Arms’ overworld theme:

The music isn’t the only Old West element in the game. The game’s setting is also a kind of the Old West, or at least a steam punk version of the Old West. With these types of games usually being set in medieval times, with the more daring ones adding the futuristic technology elements, I have to admit that it was refreshing to see a game leave this mold. As for the delivery of it all, from music to graphics, is pretty solid. Initially, the world you play in feels complete and, more importantly, interesting, making you want to explore it. I wasn’t the only one who tought so:

The reason I liked Wilds Arms so much was the atmosphere. It combined Medieval RPG with the Old West at the same time and it just worked well. Plus the characters were just so well developed and the lore was just well written. Over all another retro gem from the PS1 era. Sadly it feel to the Sequel problem..but most of them weren’t good, save Wild Arms 3 in my opinion.

Zak Higgins (a.k.a. @CronoTime)

Where Zak and I disagree is on the atmosphere. I added “initially” to my statement earlier because my impression of it was similar to how I saw having three charcaters and 12 tools to control. The world, the story, everything made me excited to go out and explore right from the start. Sadly, that feeling went away rather quickly.

For the first two thirds of the game, there is next to no exploring. In fact, the game is fairly linear. By the time you get a boat, you’ve already been to 90% of the places the boat can reach.Then by the time you get an airship-like thing, the game is practically over. Finally, to make matters worse, there’s next to nothing for you to discover anyway. Other than a little hidden spot where you can get more advanced magic, I can’t think of a single area in the game you can visit that doesn’t need to be visited in order to finish the game.

Wild Arms - Game Over

None of this makes it a bad game, just a disappointing one. Wild Arms has many of the pieces needed for an amazing RPG, but ends up doing very little with them, especially when you remember that it’s a PS1 game. Compare it to Final Fantasy or The Legend of Zelda, not the series, the original games, and all Wild Arms can really claim to have done is combine some of the elements of those two games, but less successfully and a decade later.

Again, it’s not a bad game. In fact, I will admit to enjoying it for the most part. However, one final thing to keep in mind is that there are many better RPGs in general, but particularly for the PS1. If you’re not really a fan of the genre, I’d have better games to suggest to you. If you are an RPG fan, but haven’t played many for the PS1, I’d have better games to suggest to you. If you’re an RPG fan with lots of PS1 experience who’s looking for a decent game, play Wild Arms. I know it’s not a glowing endorsememt, but it’s what I feel it deserves. Ultimately, Wild Arms finished in the 149th spot. What do you make of this?

Personally, I don’t think the game is good enough to even deserve to be on the list, but I also don’t think it’s bad enough to to be angered by its placing in the 149th position. However, the next game making the list is a complete joke: Battletoads. I accidentally beat it just before New Year’s Day, but I’ll be playing through it again in the coming weeks. So please join me in playing this “game.” I’ll be tweeting about it myself. Just check out #GameOverkill on Twitter to follow along. Once Battletoads is done, which shouldn’t take too long, I’ll be starting Skies of Arcadia Legends immediately in order to get a head start.