Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Aug 23rd 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under RPG, playstation, ps1, psone classic

During the early years of Sony's first Playstation console the company was throwing all kinds of money around to get exclusive development deals. In order to make sure the Japanese launch era and early years went well they invested heavily into the development of role playing games. Sony's investment would lead to three early RPGs for the Playstation, Arc the Lad, PoPoLoCrois Monogatari, and Wild ARMs. Wild ARMs was developed by Media.Vision and would release in Japan in 1996, followed by a North American release in 1997, and Europe in 1998. Much later this first Wild ARMs game would be remade for the Playstation 2 in 2005. It has many changes compared to the original, however this review will focus solely on the original release.

Wild ARMs starts off with a character selection screen, unlike most RPGs. The game introduces the world of Filgaia, which will remain the setting throughout the entire Wild ARMs series of five main numbered games and a tactical spin off. There are three options to choose from, an ARMs wielding young Dream Chaser named Rudy, a much more experienced Dream Chaser named Jack and the magical student Princess of Adlehyde, Cecilia.

Interestingly, the player can choose to skip the other character introduction segments after playing just one of them, but playing all of them gives new players some background character knowledge. Rudy is the silent protagonist, both Jack and Cecilia have plenty of dialogue that they speak throughout the game. However, in terms of narrative its quite obvious that Cecilia is the actual protagonist. She was given an item called the Tear Drop when her mother passed away, and the Goddess speaks directly to Cecilia and nobody else.

Like most RPGs of the era, there are two main gameplay modes, exploration and combat. Each character's start shows off the different exploration styles. Jack starts off raiding a dungeon, Rudy starts off in a town and travels a short distance across the overworld to go into a dungeon to save a lost local boy, and Cecilia starts off in the magic academy and eventually finds and unlocks an old dungeon. All three of these starts have some unforeseen consequences that set the main story of the game into motion. One great addition to this simple formula that Wild ARMs adds is a unique set of tools for each character, letting players switch between characters on the fly and pick the tool they need to solve a puzzle. These puzzles are spread throughout towns and dungeons, some of them are as simple as blowing up a wall. Others can be a bit more in depth, such as a series of switches that might require everybody's tools to reach them all.

The combat in the game is rather basic. Each of the three characters is quite unique, but with only three options the combat can get rather dull and repetitive after a long playtime. What makes Rudy unique is his ARM that shoots bullets, and it costs money in town to reload with bullets. Jack has some physical abilities he can use. Cecilia is of course the resident mage and healer. Combat also includes Force abilities, with the Force gauge split into four different levels of abilities. The balance between these abilities is quite tight. Early on Force abilities from Jack and Rudy will hit a little harder than regular attacks, and this keeps scaling upwards through the game.

The early years of the first Playstation saw quite a few games that used similar visual design. Its quite common for games of this era to have flat 2D graphics and character sprites in the overworld. During battle the graphics switch to full 3D models and backgrounds. Wild ARMs was created with both of these visual features in place. However, Wild ARMs includes one fairly basic design feature that helps it to really stand out against the crowd of other RPGs from the era. Towns and dungeon floors are part of the same environment, so transitioning screens is instant and seamless outside of hard borders like town entrances and stairs. The game's music is quite heavily Western inspired, and really helps to sell the feeling that the game is inspired by stories of gunslingers in the Wild West.

Its quite surprising to see how well the original Wild ARMs has aged. Many of the early Playstation RPGs suffer from terrible loading times and some clunkiness to their design, but Wild ARMs does not really suffer from these issues. Loading between layers in a town or dungeon take a little time, and battles load faster than one might imagine from playing some other Playstation games. This fast loading may actually cut down on the game's playtime significantly, as it only takes between 30-40 hours to beat, while still feeling quite substantial in terms of content. The original physical release of Wild ARMs is turning into a more desired game for the Playstation, with its prices currently pushing $50. Thankfully, the game was released as a PSOne Classic on the Playstation 3 for $5.99.

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