J-RPGs are a reason to live. There are four to five CDs of great music in every title, whole books of elaborate philosophy in the system information, and absolutely no concept of restraint in the character designs or plot points or game title or anything at all. Whereas W-RPGs are built straight from the Dungeons and Dragons rule book, JRPGs are built out of whatever the flying, fucking hell comes to mind. I mean, it used to be that JRPGs meant beating governments to the punch by getting the crystals ahead of them and grinding levels along the way. Now the plots of JRPGs go every single direction known to man.
Even still, a weird-west, steampunk Dragon Warrior of this magnitude doesn’t come around often.
Back in May, I played through Wild Arms 2, which… well, the nicest way I can put it is that it wasn’t a great use of my time. It had all the makings of a pretty damn good Final Fantasy knockoff, except it was more trouble than it was worth. It plays close to Lufia II, except it doesn’t have Lufia II’s simple and lubricated design. It was neatly filled out and occasionally complicated. The graphics were almost unwatchable, and trying to traverse the overworld was more difficult than the simile I’m trying to make to accurately and comically describe it.
So you’re sitting there, cock in hand, reading the afore-paragraph and thinking “Hey! Why don’t you get to reviewing THIS game?” and now reading “Hey, these same things could be said about this game, just to a slightly less extent.”
Sho’nuff. I had really high hopes for Wild Arms 3. The graphics are still very simple but much more friendly on screen. The sound seems to have improved, too, and the game has one of the best airship themes I’ve ever heard. But ultimately, I didn’t end this game with a big smile on my face.
It started off well enough. A good old-fashioned wild west Mexican standoff on a train between four characters. Then you get to go back and look at what brought them there. There’s the young girl who wants to fly on prayer wings packing two pistols. There’s the nice-guy sniper who represents the Egon of the group. There’s the bandit with a machine gun who just wants the loot, and then there’s the Native American shaman with a sawed-off shotgun who’s surprisingly useless in battle.
Basically, this game is just a wild west Dragon Warrior. That’s what it eventually boils down to. No new characters from there, diminishing gold and experience reserves, and gaming rules that are just unnecessary. For example, you will not find the area you seek until someone gives you a clue where it’s at (less often than you really need), then you have to go out and metal detect for it while you fight a five to six minute battle every four seconds of walking. You do not get new weapons; you only get to abysmally upgrade them for outrageous prices. Magic’s almost useless, too, except for one spell you’ll abuse harder than a two-headed stepchild.
This game does have its good points…which I’ll get to whenever I quit bitching. One of the things that bothered me the most was how quickly it shed the whole wild west thing and became just another RPG reaching out into space and the past and across dimensions in the same sentence. I was NOT a fan of having to fight the same guys more than seven times. I WAS a fan of saving whenever I wanted inside of dungeons. I was NOT a fan of the overworld in this game. I WAS a fan of horseback turn-based battles….
The polarizing list goes on. The game itself is not bad; it’s just not what it could’ve been if a few damn things would’ve been fixed. I know J-RPGs are supposed to be pretty hardcore, but c’mon.
I’ll give Wild Arms 3 some major points for innovation and finding new ways to represent the dungeons and battles. You get to have tank battles at one point. One dungeon had me go deep inside it to retrieve a cursed item and had me make it outside with only 1 HP. That was surprisingly cool. A lot of the boss battles are pretty creative and even fun sometimes, but mostly they require too much to really be fun. The last boss in particular is a hard-ass, but you have to admire what it is you’re actually fighting.
Basically, if you like a lot of Zelda and Lufia puzzles and have 60 hours that you’re just going to waste lying in bed trying to find a reason to get up like I’m doing about 30 years too early, then go ahead and play it. Keep an FAQ and a map nearby so you actually have a chance of completing the game.