Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Final Fantasy isn't the only source of inspiration in Wild Arms, a few hints of The Legend of Zelda can also be detected. As you progress through the game, characters will acquire tools which are used to solve puzzles. Some are original creations like wands that allow you to speak to animals or glove to push objects away while others are clearly mimicked after Link's arsenal, such as bombs or Wild Arms' interpretation of the hookshot.
I generally enjoyed these puzzles as they added variety to dungeon crawling segments, however, the random encounters would often get in the way, making things especially frustrating when I was having trouble finding the correct progression method. Perhaps most egregious is the fact Wild Arms doesn't always make it clear what you have to do or where you have to go. For example, one puzzle requires you to put an item back into the treasure chest you picked it up from, however, no clear indication was given, nor did I even know the game allowed you to do that. Other times I was forced to wander the world map aimlessly simply because I had no idea what I was supposed to trigger the next story event.
Speaking of the story, I generally enjoyed it and its themes. It began with everyone having clear goals and motivations on who they are and why the demons seek to take over the world. However, as the plot progresses the demons' tactics become more extreme and their reasoning murkier. Towards the end of the game I had lost all emotional connection with them and viewed them as little more than cartoon villains.
I'm quite glad to have played Wild Arms, while the game isn't the departure from the Final Fantasy-based formula I was hoping for, it more than makes up for it with graceful 2D visuals, a beautiful soundtrack, and a likeable main cast. The 3D graphics have definitely aged poorly, especially when compared to the 2D's segments more inspired moments of beauty. The combat is entertaining if a bit simple and the main plot starts to meander a bit towards the end, however, Wild Arms is a worthy acquisition and still worth a playthrough today.
- Legend of Zelda-like puzzles are generally fun and add variety
- Combat is easy to get into and a great choice newcomers to the genre
- Occasionally obscure puzzles made worse by random encounters
- The story and villains' motivations become somewhat murky towards the final acts
- The mix of fantasy, sci-fi and wild west isn't always seamless with the latter being forgotten in the visuals
Final Grade: B
Trivia: Perhaps as a nod to the two franchises that inspired it, Wild Arms features two subtle references to the Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy VI. A doll dressed in a green garb that looks suspiciously like Link can be found in Cecilia's bedroom.
Trivia 2: When exploring the world of Filgaia, you might also come across an arena which resembles Final Fantasy VI's Colosseum. Inside, you'll find a female spectator with green hair and ponytail, reminiscent of Terra from Final Fantasy VI.
Text packaging review
I have to say, I'm not a fan of this cover. Not only do the characters lack the detail and colors found in the opening, but the poorly rendered mid-90s CG background clashes against the 2D design. If I had to guess, I'd say the developers took concept art and simply placed a bland, boring background.
Inside, we find a manual and the game disc. Note the disc uses different art from that found in the cover, little touches like these go a long way.
The manual is light on story, giving only a few paragraphs of background information on the world and our characters. Thankfully, this is offset by how in-depth it goes to teach you how to play Wild Arms. More importantly, much of the information here is actually useful, as they include descriptions for each status ailment and even give away some of the tools you'll have at your disposal for puzzle solving. There's even a few concept art images thrown in for good measure though sadly they're in black and white like the manual itself.
Unappealing cover art aside, this is a good packaging for a standard release, I wish the manual were in color and featured more concept art images, but few games did that in Europe.
Packaging Grade: A-