Game Review – Wild Arms 5: The Vth Vanguard (PS2)

wildarms5-50v2I’ve never played a Wild Arms game, but since I love the openings for the first 3 games, I decided to get into this series by playing the 5th one, which has my least favorite opening! It was recently made avaliable on the Japanese PSN, so it was a nice opportunity!

Story & Characters

wildarms5-08Dean Stark is a young boy with a very special talent: He’s loved by Golems – which are giant creatures similar to giant robots, but with a soul of their own. In fact, every single piece of a Golem is alive, and the same is true for the small bolt found by Dean when he was younger. This inspired him to become a Golem digger and also gave him the goal of becoming an official Golem Hunter, just like he’s role model: Nightburn!wildarms5-18One certain day, Dean calls his childhood friend Rebecca Streisand to show his resolve, and they go out to challenge a cave full of monsters as a final test before Dean sets on his journey to achieve his dream. wildarms5-10Suddenly, a giant Golem arm falls from the sky into the cave, and upon being touched by Dean, the giant arm opens its hand to reveal a beautiful woman, as if she was being protected by it. However, the cave starts to collapse by the impact, and when Dean embraces the woman to save her, she looks right to his face and sheds a single tear.wildarms5-11This made the young digger perplexed, since he could not remember to have ever met her before, and once they reached a safe place, she reveals to have forgotten everything, except for two names: Avril Vent Fleur – which she believes to be her own name – and Johnny Appleseed – a name she feels to be of great importance to her.wildarms5-13When trying to return to their village, they got attacked by a giant monster that was attracted there by the Golem’s fall. When they got cornered, Avril gave two pistols to Dean, which he used to defeat the monster. She reveals that those are ARMs – a very rare and special kind of weapon. As thanks for the ARMs, Dean decides to help Avril to recover her memories by following their only clue: Johnny Appleseed. This was not Dean’s only reason, though. As he also wanted to know the reason behind Avril’s tear. Rebecca joins them, too. Not only because she wants to be with Dean, but also to fulfil her own dreams. Avril was very pleased with their company, as she had a “nostalgic feeling” about them.wildarms5-27Upon leaving the safety of their village for the first time, they finally see the harsh truth that was humans being abused by the highly advanced Veruni race. As their journey goes on, they are joined by Chuck Preston – a Golem Hunter in training. wildarms5-29Carol Anderson – a younger researcher who wishes to cure the planet and its people from an incoming calamity. wildarms5-21And Greg Russelberg – A wanted man tormented by his tragic past.wildarms5-35Each one started their journey with their own objectives, but by the end of their adventure, they notice that their will had already become one and the same.

Themes

wildarms5-42The main quest from Tales of Vesperia is very similar to the one found in Wild Arms 5, but I felt that Wild Arms 5 was able to deliver a stronger and more convincing story. You truly feel that the characters are connected with everything that’s going on and all the important events to come are hinted and foreshadowed with a decent building up. In this game, even the villains get their own character-arc! They are not mere obstacles for the heroes to overcome. In fact, this story manages to have many “gray” parts.wildarms5-46Filgaia is a harsh world to live, as they find that Verunis are not the only ones threatening them, as there are still many cruel humans around who do horrible things with those of their own kind. On top of that, they even get to know good people among the Veruni clan.wildarms5-36The characters in this game are really charismatic and easy to empathize with. Even though some are more remarkable than others (poor Chuck and Carol), I still love all of them! It’s also a breath of fresh air to see a strong depiction of woman in here, but different from those disgusting Mary Sue stereotypes you find in most romantic comedies, the female characters in Wild Arms have credibility and depth to them. They are still humans with their own weaknesses and worries. This even leads to some amusing ironies,wildarms5-39Rebecca, for instance, is a very strong young woman who doesn’t needs any man to save her. Therefore, Dean never shows any sign of concern for her safety during dangerous situations. After all, they known each other for a long time, and Dean has a big deal of respect for her. Nevertheless, since Rebecca has feelings for her childhood friend, she gets frustrated by noticing that her prince never tries to protect her. According to her: “women just love to be protected by men”. Her statement leaves the other girls in the group puzzled, since they wanted to be able to protect themselves. I find this to be hilarious, but maybe it’s just me…wildarms5-38One of the main themes is “to move forward”, and I love this, since it means “you can’t take back what was already destroyed”. In other words: There’s no Deus-Ex-Machina to give back everything they’ve lost. If I was to put into embarrassing words: “You need to accept you current self in order to move towards the future”.wildarms5-41v2The ending, by the way, is FANTASTIC! Days after I finished it, I was still thinking about it and noticing new details that made those final events all the more satisfying! During your walkthrough, you can find many hints to what will happen in the end, but those are not “in your face”. They still leave some room for you to figure things out on your own!wildarms5-37Something very unique for a Japanese title is the western spirit in this world setting, everything, down to their culture, is more western style. There are no puns with Japanese words, people don’t say “itadakimasu” before eating and they don’t use words like “cosplay” or “otaku” (No! Not even in the Japanese version!). This also means you will not find characters with Japanese names wearing kimonos who fight with katanas and eat with hashis! No sir! This is the Wild West! The cyber-punk Wild West, to be more precise!

Gameplay

wildarms5-15Like previous titles, the battles are fought with up to three members of your party (being possible to change fighters during combat). The field is divided into many hexagonal grids, each one with its own bonuses. wildarms5-17Some give elemental properties to your magical attacks, while others can boost your attributes! Up to 3 units can stay on the same grid, but a playable unit can’t enter a grid occupied by an enemy, and vice-versa.wildarms5-20There’s also a force bar, which gives access to many special attacks and abilities, including team-attacks (with unique animations for each possible combination!)wildarms5-19This is straightforward system that is easy to understand, but there’s one problem. To avoid normal physical attacks getting much stronger than MP-consuming skills, they made the chances to miss a normal attack too high, which becomes very frustrating by the end, since it gets really rare for you to land a normal attack, even when you have very high attributes.wildarms5-25Exploration is an important element in this game. You have a vast field with many different cities, huge dungeons, hidden items, rare monsters and even some puzzle games. I missed this. Nowadays, most JRPGs have a “main-base” to where the heroes always return at the end of each dungeon, which is more convenient for developers, since they don’t need to expand their world setting that much. This can work for some games, but it usually makes more difficult for the story to give that feeling of “adventure”. After all: Where’s the hero’s journey if he always comes back to his home at the end of the day?”. This isn’t the case here!

Graphics

wildarms5-14The graphics are really good, which is actually quite sad for me, since I need to admit that this game released for the Playstation 2 has better graphics than certain titles being released for the Playstation 4! This is a real shame! What happened with the Japanese game industry?wildarms5-07Instead of the overused and cheaper Visual-Novel style, cut-scenes use very detailed 3D models with all sorts of camera angles to bring that cinematic-feel. When characters need to talk, not only they have a perfect lip-synch, but they use all kinds of gestures for very specific actions and interactions! It makes every single event feel fresh and interesting.wildarms5-09Each city is very different from one another, reflecting on the world-setting and its culture, which means each city brings a new experience with new discoveries. Specially because the NPCs walking around are rarely recycled. In fact, there’s a ton of cameos from previous Wild Arms titles as NPCs, and they don’t stay put, as you move forward, they will be travelling around cities and dungeons, which even feels more realistic!

Music

The Wild West theme is also carried over to the soundtrack, and I loved it! However, the opening theme is by Mizuki Nana, who is famous for singing music for Magical Girls shows like Lyrical Nanoha and Symphogear, which is why I feel “Justice to Believe” is the most out-of-place theme in the Wild Arms series. It just doesn’t fit the Wild West theme at all. On the other hand, the BGMs are filled with catch tunes using instruments like acoustic guitar, violin, piano and mostly important: whistles! (Wild Arms soundtrack is all about whistles), but since there’s a bit of cyber-punk/sci-fi elements, there’s also some tracks using electric guitar, synthesizers and such. Nonetheless, those are still great! I specially love Avril’s theme and the main battle theme!

Voices

wildarms5-45I just can’t find anything bad to say about the voice-acting! It’s just so good! Only high-level seiyuus working here, like Mizuki Nana and Touchi Hiroki. Everyone gives a perfect performance! Highlights go to Dean! His loud hot-blooded nature would be usually annoying, but Hiro Shimono (JP) and freaking Yuri Lowenthal (US) are not to be taken lightly!

Conclusion

wildarms5-34After I finished this game, two things changed about me: 1- Now, I’m a fan of this franchise. 2- From now on, I love Golems! They are a lot like Pokemons, since they have feelings and they love you as a friend or parent. But, they are also a lot like Giant Robots, so they are much more awesome! Because everyone digs Giant Robots! DAMN IT, MEDIA.VISION! You need to make a Wild Arms 6! Please!wildarms5-48

Advertisements

11 responses to “Game Review – Wild Arms 5: The Vth Vanguard (PS2)

  1. Good to see another fan! I liked this game as well, and it also happened to be my first Wild Arms ever. Well, I still haven’t played any of the other games in the series, but still.

    Oh and yeah, the cutscenes definitely bring the characters to life, I loved that. Hell, the character models actually look really nice even today. You managed to post one of my favorites with that outraged Rebecca gif, haha.

    • I’m glad to meet people with who I can talk about Wild Arms, which has become kinda of a forgotten series. I am so sad that it took so long for me to become a fan (it’s just like what happened with Black Matrix, all over again!).
      Some people (including me) see this as the best in the series, but the general reception wasn’t that good, which is probably why this was the last big entry in the franchise. This is so unfortunate! I definetely believe this game is very underrated, and it deserves much more!

  2. Well…when I first purchased this back then, it was a limited edition that came with a pretty cool artbook. I won’t lie, I loved and hated this game, because it changed so much from the Wild Arms that I played before (2nd Ignition is by far my most favorite in the Wild Arms series, but I put Later Code F, which is a very excellent remake of Wild Arms at the very top. If you ever find this buy it, play it, and love the utter HELL out of it!!). I wasn’t really fond of Dean and his seemingly obsessive Golem love (Golem Otaku? Nah, lol….). I missed how each character had their own set of Tools, up to 3 of them, and each character could be used to solve many difficult puzzles in the dungeons. Wild Arms 2nd Ignition/Alter Code F excelled highly when it came to that. Don’t get me wrong, this game isn’t that bad, maybe it could have been done a lot better, I don’t know, but it’s not really a favorite of mine. I may pick it up on my Japanese PSN just to see if maybe I could grow to love it again. Yes, the game is very long and there is plenty to do and lots of fun to be had, quests and such, but, I felt like Dean was kind of hogging the entire game, as you cannot switch between characters at all. His gun practically solves every puzzle in the many dungeons and only he can ride around in the vehicles throughout Fargaia/Filgaia. I loved the story and plot and the Veruni (are they actually Fargaian/Filgaian who left the planet and then came back many years later but were rejected by the planet?). The bosses and monsters music, etc were also done very well, made it feel like this game was REALLY in touch with the Wild West, with Norse myths thrown in, spaceships, aliens, etc. Other Wild Arms games also do this as well. But yeah, so this is your first WA game? That”s pretty cool! When I first saw it on my PSN, I was thinking that maybe i may be worth checking out again after all these years…maybe I will have a look at it again. I loved all the characters except for that creepy old guy Elvis, who annoyed the fuck out of me, seemed like an old Lolicon or something….oh well, heh. The game was hard, but somewhat fun and entertaining, definitely not the best game I’ve played but it’s worth another playthrough. Not perfect but it’s an alright game.

    • In the end, I think this is more a matter of taste. It’s true that I’ve never played other WA games, but I don’t think this would change how much I love this game, since I like characters such as Dean when they are done right! Yes! Even that part of his Golem obsession, which I find it to be a very unique trait (see that scene where he hugs the giant Golem’s arm? I LOVE THAT!). Also, the writer never forget about it, since this trait always plays an important role in the story as one of Dean’s main motivations during his journey. It makes pretty clear to me why he is in this adventure. It makes Dean more human than most protagonists, since he doesn’t want to “only” save the world, he also wants to have fun by doing what be loves while he’s at it! However, like I said in the review, I understand how Dean can sound a bit annoying for some people because of his explosive nature, but I think one of the main reasons why I like him so much it’s thanks to his voice-actor being so damn good!
      I also love all the other characters in the game! Yes! Even Elvis! He’s amusing! Maybe it’s because I play Eroges, but he never looks too creepy to me. He looks more like a father who cares a lot for his daughter, and THAT I can understand quite well!
      I did notice how Dean was the only character you could play with during world exploration and puzzles, but this never bothered me! It would certainly be great to control other characters, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Dean’s gun offers enough variety to make lots of fun and creative puzzles, so I’m ok with it!
      And, Yes! The origin of the Veruni clan is exactly as you remember. They failed to find another planet where humans could live and were forced to return to their home planet, but centuries of adaptation to space travels made their bodies evolve in such a way that some substances in the atmosphere rejected them (the uB substance, which means “unnecessary Beruni” in Japanese…wait a minute! “Beruni”? Oops!
      I watched my friend playing Wild Arms 2, It looks like a great game, but the beginning didn’t had quite the same charm and strong impact as WA5 did for me, and the graphics didn’t age well (to be honest, the graphics during battles were not that good even for its time).
      I also saw him playing Wild Arms 3, which I definetely want to play if it ever becomes avaliable at the PSN! I heard that the 4th game is the black sheep of the series (kinda like Star Ocean 3), but I still would love to play it and find why it’s so hated!

  3. GET WILD ARMS 2, 4 was shit though I’m not sure about 3 but the series is dead :<

    • What about psp game? never finished that one. It was a little boring SRPG with some very interesting missions and kickass music but I dunno about the story I wasn’t interesed at first.

      • Same here! Although I played just a little. I was not a big fan of that gameplay and the graphics got a serious downgrade! I don’t even remember what the story was about, though…

  4. Jesus guys. You didn’t have a good childhood if you didn’t play the first Wild Arms dude. They were far better than the fifth entry in fact I did like 5 a lot too but If I say that is my favourite in most boards of WA expert they would kill me is like an FF dilema but not being that bad. I do not know if to recommend WA alter code F the ps2 remake of the first one because I hadn’t play it yet and I heard they changed the characters perspective and added 1 character that didn’t fit much but I would like to think that the improved visuals/gameplay is for the best compared with the outdated psx version. Storywise WA2 and WA3 seems like the best to recommend but both had outdated battle mechanic.

    • I’ve heard WA5 is hated because of its ending, which is quite interesting, since a film recently released called “Predestination” has the exact same ending, and its being praised by everyone. Times sure change!
      I’ve also heard that the main problem with the 1st game remake is the long loading times, which should get a bit better if it gets a decent emulation on the PS3.
      I think what got more outdated about the first 2 games were not the gameplay, but the graphics. I already considered it to be really ugly back in the old days!

  5. Hi there. Is there an xbox version of wild arms? My ps2 has been completely trashed, since then I don’t have any means to play it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s