Wild ARMs 3 - Retroview  

Living, Loving, and Fighting
by Cortney Stone

30-60 HOURS


Rating definitions 

   Wild ARMs 3 galloped into town in October 2002 with guns blazing. While it has not made a large impact as a memorable PS2 title, the game does not miss the mark. Wild ARMs 3 is an adventure through the rugged terrain of Filgaia that incorporates classic Wild ARMs gameplay with new twists and fresh faces.

   While exploring Filgaia, one is bound to encounter enemies. However, Wild ARMs 3 allows the player some freedom over whether to fight or turn the other cheek. An exclamation mark will appear over the character's head when a battle is about to start, and the player has a few seconds to cancel the battle by pressing the circle button. Doing so will also decrease one's Encounter Gauge. When the Encounter Gauge runs out, players are forced into every battle they find. Some battles are unavoidable, and those are indicated by a red exclamation point.

   In combat, players can choose to have the characters shoot, guard, use Arcana (a form of magic), use a skill, use an item, or summon a Medium. Shooting helps build Force Points, and skills, such as the rapid-fire Gatling attack or Virginia's item-enhancing Mystic skill, consume certain amounts of FP.

Exciting battles on horseback Exciting battles on horseback

   There are also different kinds of combat. In addition to regular battles on a field, there are also battles on horseback, while riding the hovercraft across the sand, and while cruising the skies. The horseback battles are the most impressive, and while the form does not alter tactics, it is at least visually exciting. Battles in the hovercraft are confusing, however, and the airborne battles are too few and too easy to win.

   Mediums, not guns, drive the battle system and determine whether the characters emerge victorious or eat the dust of the wilderness. There is more of an emphasis on Mediums in this game than in the others in the series. Each character can equip up to three of Filgaia's mighty Mediums of various elemental powers. Mediums bestow characters with their Arcana powers and Personal Skills. Arcana include elemental attacks, support spells, and even tactical spells that reset battles or allow a character to repeat a turn. Personal Skills can be equipped, provided the character has enough Personal Skill Points, and they can protect a character from certain status effects and elemental attacks. For example, when battling a water monster, equipping Water Ward on all characters protects them from the monster's attacks. Mediums can also be customized with items that enhance them with more Personal Skills. Failure to equip the proper Arcana and Personal Skills means certain death, and having the right Arcana on a particular character can make or break a battle.

Virginia's determination drives her through Filgaia Virginia's determination drives her through Filgaia

   The graphics of Wild ARMs 3 are 3D cel-shaded, a trend embodied by games such as Dark Cloud 2 and Viewtiful Joe. In the Wild-West-themed land of Filgaia, this gives the game a kind of old-fashioned charm, like hand-colored antique photographs. In addition, after booting up a save file, players are treated to a stunning anime sequence that evolves as one progresses through the game. Throughout the entire game, there were only two graphical flaws. One was that the ground plane would flicker and disappear in part during the horseback battles, revealing a vast sky underneath. The other was that the graphics lagged terribly during one particular boss battle with three NPCs. As events unfold before a player's eyes, their ears are also treated to a collection of tunes from series composer Michiko Naruke. Most of the songs have that distinctive Wild West flair, and none of them are annoying. A few are even very pleasant.

   The difficulty level of Wild ARMs 3 ranges from easy to medium. As noted earlier, proper channeling of Mediums makes battles easier. Playing smart, gathering certain items for customizing Mediums, and equipping the right Personal Skills all contribute to the ease of battling through the game. It is also quite easy to acquire an item that makes the final boss sequence extremely easy. However, progressing through the game involved completing things that seemed more like irrelevant sidequests than meaningful expeditions. Figuring out these quests involved quite a bit of digging, so one cannot simply walk through the game to its ultimate end. Puzzles and dungeons are challenging enough to be satisfying, with a few puzzles standing out as notorious frustrations.

Clive readies his ARM Clive readies his ARM

   The controls of Wild ARMs 3 are a mixture of fun and annoyance. Some character tools and field actions are fun to execute. Interacting with the environment to solve puzzles and traverse dungeons is one of the highlights of the Wild ARMs series, and this interaction was included in Wild ARMs 3. Familiar tools like bombs, the fiery Tindercrest, and the radar return. One particularly fun trick is to have Jet jump up and grab an overhead chain link platform, dangle under it from his hands, work his way to the edge, and swing his legs up and over so he can walk on top of it. Unfortunately, game controls can make a few puzzles unnecessarily annoying. The camera can be rotated with ease, but the angle is fixed. This makes it difficult to survey a room and figure out larger puzzles. Puzzles that involve turning wheels are annoyances as well. The game's tutorial insists that it is as easy as pressing the button to grab the wheel and pushing the analog stick to the right or the left to turn the wheel. The reality is that the analog stick has to be held at the correct angle or the wheel will not turn. This precise angle is tricky to find and hold. Fortunately, there are only a few wheel puzzles in the entire game.

   Wild ARMs 3 does not rank high in originality, although it does remain true to the nature of the series. Many names from the previous titles have returned, including Mediums like Fengalon, Stare Roe, Raftina, and Luceid, people like the Baskar and the Elw, and the ever-threatening metal demons. The story focuses on friendship and memories forged in the unforgiving wasteland of Filgaia. For most of the game, the story is interesting and entertaining. The characters are endearing and colorful, especially Virginia, the female lead. Her determined spirit, boldness, and sense of justice guide her down a path that shapes her into an inspiring hero. This compensates for the convoluted and somewhat cheesy plot twists that occur near the end of the game.

   Wild ARMs 3, unlike the second addition to the series, features decent localization. Dialogue is generally easy to read and understand. One interesting aspect of the localization is that the translators did not change certain monsters' ability names that are written in Japanese emoticons, such as m-(`.`)-m and (>_<).

   All the attributes of Wild ARMs 3 -- especially its endearing characters and brain-teasing puzzles -- make it a title that is certainly worth playing at least once, and there are plenty of sidequests to keep players occupied. Even more sidequests can be unlocked after beating the game and creating a special save file. Longtime fans of the Wild ARMs series should not miss this title, and newcomers to the series will enjoy solving puzzles and exploring the game's dungeons as they are introduced to the harsh beauty and strange complexity of Filgaia.

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