"During desolate times on the Sea of Sand, individuals known as drifters venture across the plains of Filgaia searching for fortune and adventure. Among the deserts lie cities erected from eroded rock and scavenged wood. Towns that a few call home provide rest and solitude for the many travelers of the barren wasteland. Tales of mystic creations possessing mighty elemental powers spread across the land. One object of mythical stature attracts four individuals: Virginia, Gallows, Jet and Clive, who venture across the plains of Filgaia as they roam the lands and unlock the knowledge and magical forces making their adventure their destiny." This is the story behind Sony Computer Entertainment’s new role-playing, adventure game for the PlayStation 2 called Wild Arms 3.
Wild Arms 3 is actually the third installment in the Wild Arms series. This installment was developed by the same team behind Wild Arms and Wild Arms 2, but they’ve brought in new characters, enhanced cell-shaded graphics, intricate puzzles and an all-new battle system. And of course, the game’s Western setting and soundtrack set it apart from most RPGs. If you think about it, Wild Arms 3 is sort of a cross between Final Fantasy and a good old-fashioned Western movie. You get the same gameplay aspects of a conventional Japanese RPG, but with the added twist of a traditional Western. Instead of swords for weapons, you get guns to fight with. Instead of far out lands, you get deserts and small towns to explore. But the mystical and magical aspects of most RPGs is still here.
You play the game by controlling a party of four explorers, each with their own unique personality, abilities and weapons of choice. Your party consists of Virginia Maxwell (the dual pistol dreamer), Gallows Caradine (the man who makes freedom his policy), Jet Enduro (the rebellious treasure-hunter), and Clive Winslett (the proud sniper). Virginia has always dreamed of living the life of a Drifter and decided to leave home to pursue her dream. Her weapons of choice are a Rapier Ez and a Bantorian 93R (a couple of six-shooter pistols). Gallows is a youth from the Baskar tribe (similar to an American Indian tribe) who carries the bloodline of the priesthood, but decided to avoid his destiny by running away from his village. His weapon of choice is a modified Coyote M17F (a sawed-off shotgun). Jet is a lone wolf drifter not used to accepting the help or company of others. He sports an Airget-lamb B/V2 (a machine gun). And Clive is a bounty hunter that helps preserve the peace by offering his services to fighting monsters and criminals. He never goes anywhere without his Gungnir HAG35 (a high-powered rifle with scope).
Like most RPGs, you’ll fight a variety of random battles in Wild Arms 3. And the battle system is similar to other RPGs. You fight battles as a group with each member of the group taking a turn unless of course, a character has reached zero hit points. Each character also has a variety of other expected stats such as experience points, attack power, defense rating, magic strength, reflex, aim, evasion, and more. These all correspond to the traditional RPG character attributes. There are even force points, which (when a certain amount is reached) allow a character to perform special abilities. Virgina can use multiple items to affect multiple targets. Jet can increase his reaction speed in a battle. Clive can increase his hit rate and power of an attack. Gallows can cast Arcana spells to affect multiple targets. In addition, force points allow characters to summon Guardians, which are powerful mystical creatures representing the four elements of nature: Moor Gualt (Fire), Schturdark (Water), Grudiev (Earth), Fengalon (Wind). Anyone who has played Final Fantasy will recognize all the similarities here. A distinguishing factor of the Wild Arms 3 battle system, however, comes in the form of evasion. This has nothing to do with evasion during battle, but rather the ability to avoid battles altogether. Through the use of an Encounter Gauge, you can determine whether or not your group will engage in some battles. This can help you get through some of the game areas more quickly if that’s your goal.
Every aspect of Wild Arms 3 is based on a Western theme, which definitely lends to its uniqueness when it comes to other RPGs. The graphics are still cartoonish, but in a rustic sort of way. Even the command interface sports earth-toned colors. You’ll notice plenty of detail in the game’s environments as well as the characters themselves. And the animations are smooth, colorful, and articulate. The music and sound also play a very big part in the game’s believability. The Western soundtrack really enhances the gameplay, especially when the musical theme changes to set apart different environments and situations. And the sounds of gunfire and other various Western acoustics provide a welcome break from the usual RPG audio.
As I mentioned earlier, Wild Arms 3 is basically a combination of Final Fantasy and an old-fashioned Western movie. You control a multicharacter party, explore various environments, search for magical items, engage in random battles, and solve puzzles to reach the end of the game. Its basic gameplay is similar to most RPGs. On the other hand, the characters, weapons, environments, graphics and sound are not based on the typical fantasy genre. The Western theme in Wild Arms 3 lends enough uniqueness to the game to provide players with an adventure that can’t be found in other RPGs.