I play videogames as if they were empathy generators. Upon finishing Earthbound, I turned to my roommate's cat, heart beating to an indescribable rhythm. I sniffled a few times and said out loud, "I should be nicer to you." Now that I am a few days removed from putting around 65 hours into Wild ARMs 3 and seeing those credits roll, I must say that, unfortunately, my face is dry, my heartbeats are stable, and since I no longer live with that roommate, Oliver the cat wasn't around but if he were, I would have nothing to say to him.
I wouldn't say Wild ARMs 3 is a bad game, but I would say it is unremarkable in many aspects. The characters, while initially showing promise, failed in their attempts to elicit an emotional response from me. Maybe it was due to their writing/localization, maybe it was due to my distaste for the visual design but either way, I was unmoved. The characters I might have felt something for were either woefully underdeveloped (no Janus backstory?) or ended up falling flat in their roles (looking at Maya, who I would say is a worse foil than Bakura for y'all Yu-Gi-Oh! fans). And the system of relying on NPC rumors to even have the ability to find the next town/dungeon was befitting of this Wild West but horribly tedious.
(Hoo boy, this is a lot more negative than the podcast.)
If I were the "Gameplay is king" type, I would hold this game in higher esteem, because the combat system can be thrilling. The use of FP, summons, and specific character roles is a system that only draws you in further as the game goes on... but that appeal ends when you get the "Finest Arts" ability, which will allow Clive to obliterate anything when he's out of ammo and at full FP. I could have avoided using this ability but smoke 'em if you got 'em, as many Western movie stars who eventually died of obstructive lung diseases probably said.
Overall, could I recommend Wild ARMs 3? On the podcast, I gave the affirmative with an asterisk, but now that I'm once again playing games that bring me joy, I'll have to say pass. I walk away not finding a cause for self-reflection, or some new truth about the world around me. That may be asking too much from Wild ARMs 3, but who said I was fun?
*Sigh* At least I got to fly around in a cyborg dragon.
Wild ARMs 3 overwhelmed me. Not in its visuals or audio, which are appealing, but at least consistent with a 2002 PS2 game. Not in its gameplay, which has interesting wrinkles but is essentially a turn-based JRPG. Wild ARMs blinded me with sheer content.
Wild ARMs 3 is a 60-hour game with over 30 dungeons. A 100-floor optional dungeon, 20 hidden puzzle dungeons, 15 secret spires that summon UFOs, and a myriad of additional sidequests. Players collect EX File items for completing many of these (a system of rewards tokens that predates Xbox achivements or PlayStation trophies) and I obtained a whopping zero. Wild ARMs 3 is too much.
But this is not me complaining about a wealth of content, just me admiring what Wild ARMs 3 has to offer and admitting that I was unable to complete it. Wild ARMs has a ton of options for tinkering and customization, a few clever tricks around RPG basics like random battles and dungeon navigation, and a story with some interesting arcs and likable characters. And I've somehow gone three full paragraphs without mentioning the signature Wild ARMs setting - a post-apocalyptic world resembling the American Old West, except full of ancient ruins, lost technology, and anime cowboys. It's a total delight. Welcome to the wild, wild west.