Wild Arms 3 PS2 Review

To us Westerners, the Japanese are renowned for their insane quirkiness – with its odd marriage of traditional RPG elements and cowboy themes, Wild Arms 3 certainly isn’t going to alter our perception of our far eastern friends. A good union or were these two never meant for each other?

Right from the off, Wild Arms 3 inspiration is obvious with a nice anime introduction sequence displaying the four main characters all posing coolly with guns whilst a western style song plays in the background. While we’re on the subject of music, the soundtrack in its entirety is largely cowboy like and we must say is a real pleasure for the ears. Besides this, you’ll also have access to horses, which allow you to transverse the map far quicker plus there’s plenty of cowboy like face-offs especially in the earlier stages of the game, then of course there’s the goblins, dragons and amnesia stricken heroes thrown in especially to appease the traditionalists amongst us, not many majestic castles to explore or fair princess’s to rescue sadly though.

The storyline itself is generally pure fantasy but features cowboy undertones, which could very well please those who are looking for something a wee bit fresher than the norm. It’s by no means an astonishing plot but still manages to have enough emotive moments, twists, turns and all round bizarreness to please the average RPG fan. The thing that really makes the plot of Wild Arms 3 shine however are the four main conflicting personalities, admittedly they may be highly clichéd individuals (i.e. Man with no memory, female always doubting herself) but its their unique banter that held our interest even when the plot threatened to slow down to a snail like pace.

With its fairly standard random battles and exploration, Wild Arms 3 gameplay doesn’t quite manage to match the storyline as far as freshness goes, but unoriginality is in no way a bad thing as goes our motto which we’ve probably said a hundred times or so just on this website. The game doesn’t offer anything radically new in both its battle and growth mechanics and instead travels the safe route of traditional levelling up and familiar battles.

Don’t get us wrong; the battle system isn’t entirely without any new ideas. But comparing it to the likes of Final Fantasy X and Grandia, in contrast it appears standard and to be honest….lacking. This isn’t because of its slight familiarity, more its lack of balance and design flaws, which allows you to cheat the system to a degree.

The battles are based around a little feature known as “Force Points” (FP), which allows for the use of force moves and magic – the problem being, that only one of these options expends your FP, that being the force moves whilst magic is entirely free just as long as you’ve got the required points (corresponding to your current level and supplemented to in combat by attacking and by being attacked) to pull off the move. For this reason, especially in the latter stages of the game, you’ll often resort to using powerful magic (that’s seemingly effective against just about every adversary) over and over again, without losing anything (but your patience if you’re anything like us). It’s not appalling by any means, but could easily have been something very special if just a little bit more work and time had went into balancing the system.

What is sure to be a godsend to the majority of RPG gamers is the Encounter Gauge, which allows you to bypass battles -if you so wish- and as long as you have enough points on the gauge to do so. It’s a nice idea and you have to wonder why this feature hasn’t been implemented in more RPGS after the constant moaning and groaning that comes as a result of random battles.

After visiting the world map, even random combat fans will see this gauge as a good thing as at times exploration can be a right pain. The game utilizes a search system, which has you scouring the area for new locations by constantly pressing the square button as you move along the map. To begin with this isn’t too bad, but later on as more locations become accessible, things can get rather infuriating. So much so, that we felt that progress was virtually impossible without the use of a walkthrough.

This isn’t helped by the rather tedious Sandcraft (exactly as the name implies) battles, which come later on in the game once you acquire the vehicle. These tend to drag on a bit, due to them lasting far too long – it’s only when you obtain a certain weapon for the craft, that things begin to take a turn for the better. Even then we can’t exactly class these battles as enjoyable, but at least they’re bearable.

The best aspect of the gameplay has to be the dungeon trawling, which has you exploring locations, fighting and solving puzzles. There are some truly great and varied puzzles to be found here too, thanks to each of the four characters having their own unique set of tools with which to solve some of the problems with.

With some fairly bland environments and cel-shaded characters that appear to have been crafted out of paper, visually Wild Arms 3 is nothing more than adequate. It’s pretty nice, but never astounding. The papery looking characters toddling around the 3D environments can look pretty comical initially, furthermore, the summon monsters, although fairly pretty, never look as gorgeous as those seen in FFX.

There’s no doubting that Wild Arms 3 is a flawed RPG, with problems that could easily have been addressed if just a little bit more thought had went into the creation of the game. Besides the bad, the game still has plenty of good to offer – so if you’re looking for a traditional RPG, with a slightly less then ordinary story and can look past a few glaring faults, then look no further than Wild Arms 3.