After greatly enjoying several of Media.Vision’s iOS offerings, I began to grow more interested in their earlier games—especially the Wild Arms series that they’re apparently (according to wikipedia) primarily known for. Wild Arms was said to be a western-themed jRPG, and the whole thing sounded unique enough that I put other games on hold and tracked down a copy of the first game. After all, it’s a game for my beloved Playstation 1. What could possibly go wrong?
It’s not western
Seriously, it’s not. Sure, every so often you’ll hear of a sheriff star or something, but this is the most vanilla of generic fantasy jRPGs, featuring kings/town mayors, broken bridges that impede your progress, and every other trope you’d expect from a phoned-in entry in the genre. “Phoned-in” doesn’t even adequately describe just how generic and dull this game’s design is, either; if bland design had a president, it would be Wild Arms. It really is that bad.
Wild Arms is awful outside of nostalgia
I’ve seen a lot of praise for this game, and all of it has one thing in common: an appreciation for the game when it first came out. I’m sure that nostalgia makes Wild Arms seem like some kind of magical, one-of-a-kind experience, but for the rest of us who can only judge it against other games of its kind, it simply hasn’t aged well. It’s mind-numbingly repetitive, the puzzles are purposefully unintuitive, combat is slow, the encounter rate is too high, and you’ll frequently be forced to hunt around on the map for a location rather than being able to just warp to it (which even Breath of Fire allowed you to do years earlier). This game is a mess.
What do people see in the story?
A lot of the reviews I see about this game focus on the story and characters as though their struggles are believable and presented well. They’re not, though—character dramas are ham-handedly crammed down your throat before any effort is made to make the characters worthy of your emotional attachment, with the end result being that you sit around watching a bunch of whiny characters doubt themselves, slowly realizing that you have no impetus to care about anything that’s happening to anyone.
There’s poor grammar, too!
There are so many spelling errors and instances of strange phrasing that’s completely detached from how real people speak that it’s amazing to me that Wild Arms even got released. At the end of this article are two pictures, the first being a small collection of spelling errors that all happened within the span of an hour or so. For examples of strange phrasing, see my collection of Wild Arms screenshots. You won’t have to look far.
And the second picture?
The second picture is an example of how just about everyone in the game is presented; within minutes you’ll realize that everyone in the entire world is “beautiful,” with no ugly people anywhere to be found. There are even more examples of people being referred to as good-looking, but I wanted to keep the picture from being too large.
A note about the story/writing
There are a lot of ideas in Wild Arms that could have made the game worthwhile and interesting. None of them are ever explored satisfactorily, though, only being touched on briefly before being used as a springboard for yet another awkward character drama (usually delivered with a hilarious amount of “mysterious” ellipses). The entire game suffers from the writing’s laziness, with every character and story development being so poorly thought-out that there’s never anything pushing you as a player to continue playing. It’s basically as generic as generic can possibly be, and the only thing more disappointing than its utter blandness is the wasted potential.
The puzzles suck on purpose
In the picture above, you see four boxes and four floor switches. This is one of the game’s many puzzles, but unlike games that do puzzles well, Wild Arms exists solely to frustrate you by being intentionally vague and unclear. For example, in the picture above, it probably looks easy enough to solve, but what you don’t see is that there’s actually space below the lower switches that you can push the blocks into. What this means is that despite not being able to see the (extremely small) extra area, the switches don’t actually work if you push the blocks all the way down.
There are puzzles like this all throughout the game that are intentionally unfair toward the player, designed to frustrate with cheap catches rather than challenge with clever design.
Battles are generic and slow
Battles play out like every other older jRPG you’ve played, with turn-based combat and character-specific special abilities. There are no surprises there and you’ll know exactly what you’re doing if you’ve ever tried a jRPG (seriously, any jRPG).
Combat is so slow, though. I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels like everyone attacks in slow-motion. It makes the random battles—of which there are too many—feel even more cumbersome than they should.
Also, there are fetch quests up the wazoo
It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that this entire game revolves around fetch quests. You get sent to a dungeon, find something, are forced to run back to town to tell someone about it, then have to find your way back to the dungeon again. This is never automated when you want it to be and there are no “teleport” items or spells to make this constant running around less of a burden, so most of the game is just you running around between various places.
Most of the game revolves around a bunch of fetch quests that exist solely to pad out the length of the game. When you’re not doing that, you’re either in battle (which is slow and awful) or engaging in dialogue that’s written so poorly that it doesn’t even succeed at being campy and entertaining like Breath of Fire 2’s dialogue. What is there to like about this game?
The answer is “nothing.” This is a jRPG with absolutely no redeeming qualities. How it ever received sequels while vastly better games such as Legend of Dragoon were overlooked will forever be a mystery to me.
Even for a PS1 game, the graphics suck
It’s hard to explain just how dated the graphics are. Many 2D games manage to be timeless because they had a great art design to begin with, but Wild Arms isn’t one of those games; even the main characters just kind of blend in to the world, the world itself being equally uninspired. Things become exponentially worse in battle, with weird little 3D representations of the characters that were no doubt ugly even when the game was originally released.
The music is awful, too
I can’t remember a single song in the entire game, and I just stopped playing it. The music was just… present. I wanted to turn it off on several occasions because it struck me as being every bit as uninspired as the graphics, but I kept the volume on in the hopes that a standout track would jump out at me. Instead, all I got was a headache. Strangely enough, I could swear that I recognized several of the instruments from various Super Nintendo games, so a lot of the music is bad even by Playstation 1 standards.
Here’s what you should do:
And now, a compilation of spelling errors!
Nothing says “professionalism” quite as effectively as egregious spelling errors and miscellaneous language weirdness:
Also, everyone is beautiful!
Every single one of these is referring to a different character: