Wild Arms has always been a great series for the Sony's consoles and the sequel, Wild Arms 3 seeks to be engraved in gamer's minds for some time to come. Media-Vision has made what may very well be the gem of the entire Wild Arms series.
The major gripe fans of the series had about the previous games definitely centered around the translation and localization, especially for Wild Arms 2. This time, however, fans of the series can rejoice in the fact that the translation was in good hands--in fact, Sony assigned none other than Squaresoft to do the translation and editing!
The game's story is again set in the world of Filgaia. 1000 years ago, Demons ruled over Filgaia and the humans together with the aid of the Guardians, waged an all out war against the Demons, driving them off the face of the world, however, the sheer devastation of the war left Filgaia badly ravaged and the Guardians weakened. 1000 years have passed and Filgaia is slowly dying off, much of the world has become desolate wasteland, and the vast seas and oceans have become nothing but an endless sea of sand. The survivors of the devastation created sparse settlements across this wasteland and few dare venture out to seek fame and fortune. Those who do are called Drifters, those who survive become Legends.
Wild Arms 3 begins onboard a train in which lead heroine Virginia Maxwell is on. The train is carrying a valuable treasure and as fate would have it, Drifters and outlaws alike make an attempt at it. Among them is Jet, a treasure hunter, Gallows, who is after the treasure as well and Clive, who was assigned to guard it. Virginia literally walks in on them as they break in to the train cabin. This is where the story starts in traditional Wild Arms style as the player will then choose to play out each of the 4 lead character's stories before the game begins in earnest.
Like in the past two games, Wild Arms 3 has a Wild West setting for its overall style. The latest game however, pulls of the Wild Western feel extremely well. Playing through Wild Arms 3 genuinely feels like experiencing the Wild West up front. The potent mix of fantasy and superb character development make this Wild Arms way more superior than the past two games.
Wild Arms 3 gameplay is generally quite similar to the earlier games. In a sense it is also a traditional RPG. As such, players go to a town, gather information, clear a dungeon and thus progress with the story. The biggest change this time is that your party now consists of 4 characters and that the game is now mostly in 3D.
The World Map works the same way as the last Wild Arms. When players first traverse the World Map, they won't see much in terms of Settlements or Dungeons. In order to find such locations, they would first need to find information about their existence from asking around and the using the Search System to try and pinpoint where the location is. The Search System is also used to find signs and maybe some treasure as well.
The puzzles are all back in full glory, as well as a plethora of secrets--enough to swim in! To aid in their quest, each character has their own unique items to help get past the puzzles and to progress on with the game. Virginia has a Tinder Card that can burn or light up objects and Jet has a boomerang to hit certain switches and traps from afar. All characters have other abilities like ramming into obstacles, lifting boxes and hanging from wire mesh to aid them in solving puzzles as well as to get from on area to the next.
Even though there are a lot of methods and abilities in the arsenal of the characters in solving the numerous puzzles in the game, most of the puzzles are relatively simple and simple reasoning more or less gets anyone through. However, like in the last two games, there are some puzzles in the Wild Arms 3 that are super confusing or potentially frustrating.
Another feature making a return as well as an overhaul is the Encounter System. Before a battle occurs, players will see an exclamation mark appear on above the character's head. A white one means it's an avoidable battle but doing so depletes the ECN Gauge, a green one means its totally avoidable without depleting the ECN Gauge and a red one is an unavoidable battle.
By pressing the O Button once when a white or green exclamation mark appears allows the player to avoid that battle. However, in the case of the white exclamation mark, there is a limit. The ECN [Encounter] Gauge mentioned earlier, determines how many encounters the player can avoid. The ECN Gauge has a fixed number of points, and a certain number is depleted for each battle avoided. The tougher the battle, the more points depleted. The ECN Gauge restores by 1 point for every battle won or through rest at an Inn. The Migrant Level determines what battles are easier to avoid.
Migrant Level is increased by finding a special item as the game progresses and it allows players to avoid simpler battles as the weaker encounters that fall below the Migrant Level will all be marked with a green exclamation mark. This allows the player to avoid weaker enemies without depleting the ECN Gauge.
Battles in the game have some interesting modifications as well. Players can adjust the speed of their battles in the Options and it is advisable to do so or else battles can be very slow and tedious. ARMs, which are the weapons used in the game, all have a set number of bullets, every attack a character makes costs 1 bullet and when they are depleted, characters will resort to a weaker close combat physical attack. Bullets are also needed for skills. To reload, all the character has to do is Defend and he/she will automatically replenish their ammunition. Bullets are also automatically replenished after battles.
The FP System is also being used in this game and is increased every time a character does an action. FP is needed for the using of Skills, casting of Arcana and the Summoning of Guardians. The amount of FP a character starts the battle is also dependant on that character's Level. Arcana, which is the spells in Wild Arms 3 need a minimum amount to be used, but they do not deplete FP at all. They can repeatedly be cast as long as there is enough FP for the Arcana. Skills drain a fixed amount of FP when used and Summons use all available FP to determine their power. Maxing out the FP Gauge will result in Condition Green, in which time, all status anomalies on the character is dispelled.
The coolest new upgrade of sorts for the battles is the fact that early in the game, you'll be able to experience battles, on horseback! Extremely thrilling to say the least and very innovative for it to finally see the light of day in Wild Arms 3. This and all that gun slinging action can really add that Western feel to the battles in Wild Arms 3.
The Guardians in the previous Wild Arms games make a grand return. This time though, they are needed for the ability to cast Arcana as well as the equipping of Personal Skills. Each Guardian is equipped to the character in the form of a Medium, which is like a piece of equipment, and each Guardian boosts specific status of the character, as well as offer different Arcana and Personal Skills.
Personal Skills work almost the same way as the Skill System in Wild Arms 2. They are Skills that allow special characteristics like resistance to status anomalies to abilities like countering attacks or increased rate of critical attacks. Every Level a character gains allows 1 more point to assign to Personal Skills. Unlike the last game however, Players are now free to assign Personal Skill Points, as they so desire to accommodate the situation unlike the last game. Player's can remove Points from one Skill freely to assign to another, allowing much better and more strategic character development as well as situational planning.
To summon the Guardians, characters will have to use MTC, or Materialization Counts. MTC does not increase through Leveling Up. To increase MTC, the character has to defeat fixed numbers of enemies with summon attacks. The number of enemies needed to be defeated increases proportionately with the MTC Level. MTC is restored through rest at an Inn.
Each character has Vitality Points as well. This is used to restore depleted HP after battles. Once Vitality is depleted, Players will have to restore their character's HP with items or Arcana. Vitality Points are restored through picking up crystals or through a stay at an Inn. The main benefit of this comes in the fact that restorative items are actually relatively hard to obtain for the most part of the game. In fact, you won't be able to buy most HP restoring items! So every little amount in healing truly helps.
Control wise the game is pretty decent, though I personally have a little issue about the dash function. I've already lost count on the numerous instances where I ended up bumping myself into a pit when trying to shove a block! Other than that, access of menus is simple, though the tiny font can be quite a pain sometimes. Battle commands and setup is easy and very convenient, allowing players to set up formations, equip Mediums, set Options and On/Off Auto Battle before going on to the main battle commands.
The graphics in the game are pretty impressive on their own right. Firstly as mentioned earlier, the game exudes a Wild West atmosphere, and this is reflected in the game's vast environments of arid desert, vast wastelands and large open plains. The biggest change is the full jump to 3D as well as the usage of Cel-Shading. The effect is actually quite a nice change. It allows for a more animated feel to the characters and emotions and expressions are very well shown.
Spell effects are mostly simplistic but fast and the Guardian summons are decently animated and fairly well drawn. Dungeons and settlements in the game have that atmospheric feel to them, though the settlements in the game are rather small to say the least. The lighting effects in the game are fairly decent as well.
There seem to be slight graphical glitches in the game as well, especially when battling on horseback and the camera zooms far out, players will notice some bluish tears in the background. Fortunately it seems mostly to be a slight graphical glitch and doesn't effect the game in any way.
The music in the game is nothing short of spectacular. In fact, at last count, this game has at least six different battle themes! The music mostly exudes a Western style aural atmosphere, and together with the above average visuals, form a very potent aural and visual experience. Most of the vocal songs are also intact. Other then plainly adding and/or complementing the atmosphere of the game, the music can very well stand out on its own, and being a happy owner of the soundtrack, I can say it's a very solid aural treat.
The sounds in the game are decent and audible enough. The galloping of a horse to the firing of a gun is all crisp and clear. Don't expect any character voices though. The only vocals you'd figure to hear are those heard in the Introduction Movie and Quitting Movies. It would have been great if the game did have character vocals, but Sony's notoriety in that department may very well be a blessing of sorts that the game doesn't!
Wild Arms 3 is a definite must buy for the fans and even more so recommended for fans of RPGs as a whole. Its vast leaps in improvements from the last two games, as well as the good translation work from Squaresoft make Wild Arms 3 a very worthwhile investment. It's a gaming experience well worth the gun blisters and faded cowboy hats for!