I’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
Dean 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!One 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. Suddenly, 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.This 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.When 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.Upon 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. Carol Anderson – a younger researcher who wishes to cure the planet and its people from an incoming calamity. And Greg Russelberg – A wanted man tormented by his tragic past.Each 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.
The 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.Filgaia 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.The 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,Rebecca, 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…One 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”.The 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!Something 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!
Like 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. Some 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.There’s also a force bar, which gives access to many special attacks and abilities, including team-attacks (with unique animations for each possible combination!)This 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.Exploration 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!
The 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?Instead 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.Each 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!
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!
I 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!
After 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!