As MANY other people and I have mentioned, during the SNES and PS1 era the RPG was getting super popular. We had a huge library of RPG’s, from turn-based to action, to even tactics-style RPG’s flooding both systems. We had games like Chrono Trigger, Vanguard Bandits, Secret of Mana, and you get the idea. There was just a flood of them during those times and there was just so many to choose from that it can be intimidating knowing how long each RPG can take to beat. However, we did have some bad ones that are still loved, but are hard to recommend, like Lagoon, Shadow Madness, and Beyond The Beyond. We also had some hidden gems that sold well and are still around, but do not get the same amount of love that other franchises like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy get. One of these series is Wild Arms. The Wild Arms series is a series of RPG’s spanning 7 games, including a remake of the first game, that are all only on Playstation consoles. They are extremely solid RPG’s and I can recommend the first two since I haven’t played the other games in this series. In fact, let us talk about this hidden gem of a game that came out before FF7 and was suppose to be the FF7 killer, but it didn’t kill FF7. It did however gain a solid fan base and it still a very solid RPG to play today, Wild Arms for the PS1. Just a warning, this review will be very wordy and long, just like any of my RPG reviews.
The story is unique since you get 3 main characters and you can play all of them in these little mini-story arcs that then combine into one whole story. It’s hard to explain to newcomers to the series, but let’s go over each of the 3 main heroes’ story arc. The first hero you play as is a 15-year-old named Rudy Roughknight, but you never really hear him called by that name since he is set up very much like Chrono from Chrono Trigger, and you might not know this, but I don’t really like how this character is set up, but I will explain later. You start out with Rudy in a small village that he calls home, and he helps people around in the village to earn his way in life. One day, he hears the news that a child from the village has run off into a cave and you go in and save him from an evil demon that was sealed there using the power of an ancient machine called ARMS. Weird name for a gun, no? After you save the boy, the village finds out that you have an ARM, which is forbidden in the village, and you are cast out. I don’t know why you would just cast out the guy who saved one of your villagers, but whatever. The second story revolves around a swordsman named Jack Van Burace. He is a treasure hunter who is looking for artifacts from a lost civilization called the Ewl. A small mouse-like animal named Hanpan also accompanies him and acts as his moral compass. After finding something amazing in a dungeon that had a lot of old artifacts of the Ewl, he sets off to a town to find out more info of said artifacts and where to go next. The final story revolves around you playing a magic user named Cecilia Lynn Adlehyde. She lives in and goes to a sort of school of magic to learn spells and such. On her 17th birthday, she has to go through a trial to be a part of the royal Adlehyde family, and of course succeeds after a rather tough trial that is hidden in the school with a tough boss fight at the end of said trial. I say it’s tough because she is the typical magic user who doesn’t do a lot of damage with melee attacks, and she needs to watch out how many times she uses spells. After she leaves the school she heads to the same town as Jack and Rudy are heading to, and of course, their paths meet up and they team up to explore the world and of course, go through many different trials from the main bad guy force and save the land. It has your typical RPG clichés storywise, with deeper plans unfolding and old technology being used for evil, but it has some memorable characters and is overall a pretty good story. It might not be as charming as Dragon Quest 8’s story or as good as Final Fantasy 9’s story, but it gets the job done and has that same kind of Lunar and Grandia charm. A company called Media Vision made the game. If you are an importer, you would recognize their work from a PS1 shoot em’ up called Rapid Reload/Gunners Heaven. They have also made other games like Heavy Metal Thunder, Sneakers for the Xbox, and Valkyria Chronicles 3 for the PSP.
The gameplay is your typical Japanese turn-based RPG. You’ve got your turn-based battles and random encounters that you experience in the overworld and dungeon areas of the game. The typical formula is there, but there are a few tweaks to the system that gives it its own flair. While your main silent hero does carry a sword, his key special moves revolve around his gun. You can gain new attacks and upgrades through the gun that he carries around, like raising his attack power to how many bullets he carries. Your swordsman character at different points in the game’s story will learn new sword attacks that you have to use over and over again to fully unlock them. You could ask why you can use them when you need to unlock their full names, but whatever. The magic-using female doesn’t learn spells by leveling up or buying them, but gains them when you combine charms together to make all sorts of spells from the typical healing and attack spells to defense raising or lowering. The other two things that make this game somewhat unique are the guardians you can summon and the puzzle-solving in the dungeons. About a quarter of the way through the game, you gain guardians that you can equip your character that will not only get you stat boosts, but the ability to summon the giant beasts in battle for a quick, but strong attack. The puzzles are definitely unique in this RPG since your characters can wield different items to help them get through the dungeon, from bombs to blow up stuff, to a lighter to light up dark areas of the cave that happens to have a maze in it. Overall, there is enough stuff here to give this game a unique feel with the fantasy mixed in with western vibes. This leads us to the graphical and musical presentation of the game.
The graphics, while by today’s standards are simple and a bit dated, were pretty amazing back then for an early PS1 turn-based RPG. I think relatively they look better than the graphics in FF7, which today look ugly and are not fun to look at when your characters look like a bunch of Lego blocks put together. This game was unique, since it had the 16-bit feel, but showed that you could do RPG’s in 3D. The music on the other hand is amazing. This is where a lot of the western vibe comes in with the amazing opening song from the animated intro to the overworld music being the tracks I remember the most. The composer of this awesome music is Michiko Naruke. She is mostly known for working on the Wild Arms series, but has done some other stuff like help arrange music in games like Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and help compose music for games like Tenshi no Uta: Shiroki Tsubasa No Iroi (say that 3 times fast) and Valis 3. Overall, it’s a solid package even if the graphics don’t look as good as today’s graphics, but that’s a minor complaint.
So, what did I find wrong with this game? I mean, it’s a JRPG. It’s one of my favorite genres and it will give you 20-30 hours of gameplay with fun characters, solid turn-based mechanics, and great music, but there are a few things I find wrong with the game. After the main girl’s kingdom was almost taken down, there is an annoying-as-heck stealth segment where you need to sneak past the guards to get from point A to point B. These never work in RPG’s. I HATE THEM. It doesn’t help that the D pad controls make your character’s movements awkward, and it took me like 9 tries to get past this part, and it’s not that fun. Another part that annoyed me was a dungeon later in the game that was basically a big puzzle maze. After you finish it, you have to hightail it out of there in a certain amount of time before it explodes, and that is not fun. I mean seriously, it isn’t fun to combine a puzzle maze into a dungeon. I also don’t like how my main character is silent. I mean again, I understand that it’s supposed to be you, but he has no character trait that makes him memorable. He is just a blue-haired youth with a gun. They do fix this in the sequel, which we will get to at another time, but I am a part of that small minority that hates having silent protagonists. The only one I really enjoy being silent is Link from the Zelda series. I also feel like they played the whole thing with ARMS, and the whole western theme that stayed more in a fantasy setting than the Wild West. It’s rather disappointing that the western look doesn’t come into play until the third game.
So, how does this RPG hold up overall? I think it holds up pretty darn well. I think it holds up better than games like Final Fantasy 8 and Suikoden 1. There are surprisingly a lot of ways to get this game. The first one is getting a hard copy. The hard copy of PS1 goes from about 6 dollars to the highest being 12 dollars. If you pay more than that for it, you got ripped off. You can also get it on the download store on the PS3 for 6 dollars. The other alternative is getting the PS2 remake that fixes a few things and adds some new stuff. Either way, you’ve got a couple of ways of getting this wonderful early PS1 RPG.
This game gets an 8 out of 10.