Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone




Coming from Sony and Japanese developers Media Vision, Wild Arms 3 is the third installment in the popular series and features some cool upgrades. This is a cool and interesting RPG for the PS2 that mixes fantasy elements such as spells and monsters with an Old West motif with six-shooters for a truly unique game. It seems odd but it works well, with a unique cel-shaded look that sets it apart from the pack. Even though Wild Arms 3 is a bit conventional in mechanics and structure, it offers solid gameplay, engaging characters and an original storyline that will keep your interest level high.

While many RPG fans have been disappointed by the focus on flashy cinematic sequences and overly dramatic plots, there are still a few games that show the genre doesn't need extraneous features to be entertaining. Wild Arms 3 takes place in a desolate planet named Fligaia that's barren and forbidding, though was once a beautiful planet. It's your mission to discover what happened to make the world die. While the landscape of Fligaia seems inhospitable, there are scattered human settlements where most people stay to protect themselves from the harsh environments. This world is fairly lawless and has been over-run by goblins and other monsters. However, there's a group of drifters who dare to go beyond the safety of their towns' walls and travel Fligaia looking for adventure. This is explained an extensive prelude where you meet the characters and learn about their background stories and motivations. It drags on for awhile because you have to play as each character before setting out. It seems slow because you play solo and learn about the past of main character Victoria and the three other bandits. This preamble is interesting and sets the stage for the intense adventure to come. Once the main quest begins, players will find numerous towns to explore and can communicate with the other NPC's on each level. The villages also contain lodges where you can rest up, plus shops where you can buy additional items.

While the plot is creative and innovative, Wild Arms 3 extends its approach to the game itself. On the surface, the gameplay seems like most RPG titles with health, force, magic, material, and experience points used to indicate your level, but there's much more lurking underneath. The structure follows a traditional RPG convention, and offers a mixture of action, exploration, puzzles and battles. What's interesting is that unlike most turn-based games, WA3 features real-time play. This means that all of the characters can attack each other simultaneously which makes things more intense, though can also mean added confusion. This system is fairly simple early on with only a single character facing a small number enemies, once the party is fully set up and multiple enemies are onscreen, things get a lot more hectic. One annoying feature is that most battles occur randomly which hurts the flow of the game, but you can avoid some encounters by pressing a key repeatedly. What makes Wild Arms 3 stand out further is that it features a unique battle system where you can attack with either magic or use your sharp-shooting to battle. Using magic doesn't penalize the player and in fact these can be used as many times as you want them to be. Gamers will also find a variety of different magic types, some of which can be used fro protection, while others can restore energy or freeze enemies. You'll also find various other items scattered around the deserts including food, restoration devices,

In addition to the standard magic spells, player can summon Mediums. These Mediums are the embodiments of the various elements and can be used to increase your personal skills. More importantly, you can summon these during a battle to perform special moves, and can restore levels and health points when you lose strength. Each character in the game has unique powers but the Mediums can be used to enhance pre-existing abilities. The personal skills can come in handy during battles because it allows you to perform balanced attacks, strategically using these against enemies. Additionally, each Medium has its own unique Arcana, or spells, that they can use when you invoke them. Like the standard magic system can be used for a variety of defensive and offensive purposes. Using the mediums isn't as complicated as it sounds, and this system seems organic with the other functions. You can use them an unlimited number of times and compliments the standard magic spells. Between the guns and the mystical elements, Wild Arms 3 implements an innovative system that gives it a unique feel and personality.

Wild Arms 3 offers a decent menu system that shows small icons in the middle of the screen. This is a nice touch and makes navigation more intuitive and interesting than in other RPGs. The game allows you to change your options as well, and can use an auto-battle system to help speed things up, though this doesn't apply when you encounter a boss character. During the game you can switch to the status control screen that shows your attributes and inventory system. Controlling the characters is straightforward, and you can use a run button to move faster or a tip-toe movement to traverse tricky areas you might encounter. The control during battles is simple with a traditional choice menu before each round. However the battle move quickly, so don't take too much time because the battles occur in real-time. This interface is well-designed and the straightforward appearance doesn't get in the way of the action.

Visually, the game stands apart from the pack and uses a variation on cel-shading called brush-shading. Most of the game takes place from a top down perspective, which is effective, and you can also swing the cameras around to gain a better viewpoint. While it's not as elaborate as some of the more cinematic games on the market, there are some nice cut-scenes and dramatic camera angles used to make the battles more exciting. This change in perspective is a welcome departure from the perspective used throughout the game. The many cool design elements give you more eye-candy than you'd expect. In addition to outlining the edges of objects, each character is shaded with angled strokes, which gives the game a more painterly appearance. The anime design is quite striking with this effect and the character designs and animations are excellent throughout, showing quite a bit of creativity, especially the monsters. Wild Arm's mixture of Western conventions and fantasy is accomplished nicely, making a world that seems to fit together perfectly. Taken with the unique theme, this gives Wild Arms 3 a completely original look. Unfortunately, there are no voice-overs, with most of the dialogue using windows. This wouldn't be a big deal except that the music is annoying and gets on your nerves in a hurry. It's not a major issue, and the game's overall look and feel shows a high degree of originality and production polish.

Wild Arms 3 starts off a bit slow, but once you get beyond this, the pace picks up substantially. Like many RPGs, the narrative is a too sentimental and manipulative but, at least there are characters with some motivation. The improvements from the series earlier installments are gradual which makes the game feel familiar with enough twists to keep your interest level high. There are too many interruptions with pointless random battles that quickly lose their impact, but this is an RPG after all. It stays largely within the confines of traditional RPG design, and offers a nice story and some challenging elements that makes it quite engrossing and entertaining. What it lacks in flash, it more than makes up for in the gameplay department. The unique Medium magic system works well in the context of the game, adding more fun to what is an already solid RPG. Players accustomed to flashier games will probably be disappointed by the traditional presentation but fans of the old-school style games will love this challenging and entertaining title.

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