Wild Arms 2: Second Ignition (PS1)

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Our tale takes place in the planet of Filgaia. A tumultuous world which faces planetary disaster on a disturbingly regular basis. One such disaster, dealt with mere generations ago, was the Blaze of Disaster. A rampaging demon who was thwarted by Anastasia Valeria and the magical blade Argetlahm. Her descendant, Irving Vold Valeria, senses another disaster on the horizon and has a deep desire to fulfill his lineage. To accomplish this –and save the world but that’s sort of secondary — he reinstates the ARMS program. A crack team of operatives able to respond to threats all over the globe. The team he means to create is composed of Ashley Winchester, a member of the Kingdom of Meridia’s elite military unit. Lilka Eleniak, a very promising sorceress. And Brad Evans, the Prisoner in Cell #666, a former lieutenant in the Slayheim Liberation Army.

History

Alright, here’s what I know about Wild Arms and the Wild Arms series. It was developed by Media Vision in a joint effort with Contrail, drew influence from a lot of westerns, and was released on April 30th, 2000. You might know Media Vision as the people who made Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth.

Other than that, I’ve got nothing so onto the competition, which was: The Misadventures of Tron Bonne (PS1), Perfect Dark (N64), and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64).

Experiences

Wild Arms 2 is an insanely long game and having tasted the snow on its peak it pains me to say that I’ll probably never finish it. I was at the point I was completing side-quests and exploring before I went into the final dungeon — this is the age before I had the internet, no guides if there’s something I had to find it myself. Then my PS2 died. I went in on a PS3 with the expectation that it would be backwards compatible as the jump from the PS1 to the PS2 had been. I was sorely disappointed insofar that some games suffered quality loss like The Bard’s Tale and others like Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories were completely unplayable. Bear in mind, our PS3 was the most backwards compatible. Point being, there was no way to transfer the save and I wasn’t about to put another 40+ hours into the game just to replay it. So it’s probably going to end up being the best game I never beat.

Gameplay

Wild Arms 2 is a turn based RPG with puzzle elements in its dungeons. As your characters roam Filgaia they’ll find tools which they can use on objects to solve puzzles to gain access to additional loot or forward passage. The game also wants the player to treat it kind of like an anime complete with a special introduction whenever they load a save and an ending sequence whenever they use the in-game quit.

The combat system is tricked out with a plethora of toys and techniques to play with.  To begin, the MP system is unique. Instead of MP character’s have FP ranging from 1-100 which increases as they deal and take damage — guarding increases FP gain despite decreasing damage so this is one of the first RPGs n which guarding served a purpose. Higher FP grants characters access to their special weapons, spells, and abilities. Spells and arms don’t consume FP but abilities do. BUT using special weapons, spell, and abilities does not give the character FP. So, you can dish out some damage now, or save up for a more powerful ability later. Ashley’s got his high accuracy, higher damage than his regular attack guns and –spoilers– has the ability to turn into a demon. Brad has incredibly high damage explosive ordinance which suffers from a lower accuracy. And Lilka can take advantage of enemy elemental weaknesses and heal herself with her spells.

In addition to these combat options every level confers an ability point which can be spent on special abilities. Such as regaining health when the character regains FP, turning guarding into a method to actually regenerate health. Or giving a character the ability to counter attack when attacked. Even rendering a character immune to certain status ailments. Speaking of status ailments…

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The counterattack ability combos quite nicely with the FP into Health ability.

Status Ailments in this game are more unique than any other game I’ve seen. Such as Disease which prevents all healing or Nightmare which acts like both poison and sleep. Or Forgetfullness which prevents XP gain. Also, a character can have multiple status ailments at once so if someone’s paralyzed and suffering from a nightmare things are going to get dangerous fast. They’re annoying but they change gameplay in a way other game’s status ailments don’t. If you don’t have the item necessary to heal a status ailment then you can cure them by reaching 100 FP and achieving what the game calls Code Green — and gaining access to the characters most powerful ability.

The Gush

The music in this game is phenomenal. They pushed the PS1’s sound card to its limits. Each character gets their own theme and almost every scene is punctuated with music appropriate to its mood.

Every boss fight starts the sillouette of the creature posing and the camera movements making it appear as if it’s slinking around. Culminating in a splash screen of the monster’s name  and a descriptive phrase e.g. Poison Armored Dragonoid, Trask. It really gets me pumped to fight the terrible beast.

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Disabling boss’ limbs stop special moves and reward the player with more XP.

Brad Evans is every 14 year old DBZ fan’s epitome of badassery. The only reason he joins the party is because Irving has the detonator to a bomb in his throat. His weapon is a giant glove that he uses to crush his enemies and beat them to death. He has a streak of white hair to perfectly accentuate that he’s getting too old for this shit. And to top it all off, he’s gay. When he reunites with his former partner his lover is in a PTSD induced madness coma. And all of his other friends are dead because the Slayheim Liberation Army’s operations ended in a terrible disaster… that got a little too real. Because Brad is too real.

The world of Filgaia exists in this bizarre state. It’s got ancient lost but advanced technology — with more being discovered all the time. Legitimately new technological advances are being made in the world as well. But its very much split between the haves and have nots. All this coexists with a a magical city deep underground where people are taught to be wizards. It’s bizarre, makes no sense, but is an interesting world to explore.

The story is actually quite compelling. It does a great job of presenting escalating threats that culminate into fantastic crescendos of pain and bloodshed. Each character also gets a stunning amount of development from learning about Brad’s troubled past to Ashley’s journey to discover what a hero is.

Secrets! There are secret dungeons, secret summons, secret characters, secret items in dungeons and on the overworld, TRADING CARDS, and more bizarre and hidden shenanigans so keep your eyes open and explore all the hidden nooks and cranies Filgaia has to offer.

The Kvetch

The translation in this game is laughably bad. The dialogue that falls out of characters’ mouths turns quickly into cryptic and absurd mumbo jumbo. Ability names include Hot Fencer and Gat lv 1-4 which is short for gatling which is mean to  imply that the character unleashes a series of blows — how is that hard to get? One of my favorite bad lines is, ‘A broken clock begins to move to some rhythm.’ And this sort of thing happens everywhere, moments are made and destroyed by the quality and lack thereof of this translation.

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Although sometimes it’s on point, though out of context.

I have no idea how the character stats work or what they mean. I know that the higher the better but I’ll be damned if I know off the top of my head what raising my resistance does. Or what the response or sorcery stats are meant to govern. It makes it so I often ignore abilities that raise statistics because I don’t know how they effect my combat abilities.

The Verdict

Now that I think about it… this game is basically an anime that you play. It’s got intros, outros, magical mid fight transformation sequences, a terrible translation, trope laden characters, goofy enemies, and the gang routinely defeats these enemies with the power of friendship. So if you ever wanted to play an Anime this game presents that boldly and without shame. It’s available on the Playstation Network so if you’ve got the time to sink into a massive JRPG then this might fill the mighty void in your schedule. You can get it for the low low price of six dollars so if you don’t mind the blocky battle graphics and you can laugh at a bad translation I definitely suggest giving it a whirl.

Next Week: Total War: Shogun 2.

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