skrutop's Wild Arms 3 (PlayStation 2) review

WA3 is great for RPG fans, but not memorable for anyone else.

Wild Arms 3 is an RPG set in the Wild West. It borrows heavily from other RPGs, but has its own style and was a fun game to play.

The art style of Wild Arms 3 is what makes this game stand out. Most RPGs are either set in fantasy worlds, cyberpunk futures, or some combination of the two. WA3 is set in a wild west-type desert world that has some touches of technological advancement, but is primarily comprised of old wood building towns and horse paths. There's an undertone that the world used to be more advanced than it was, but that technology was lost. It's an interesting premise that gives you a variety of locales and enemies throughout. The characters are cell-shaded and interesting, if not very realistic looking. What's nice is that the developers tried something new with the environment and made it work. Unfortunately, there is no voice over in the game, so you'll have to read a lot of text. The story's pretty much forgettable, so I wound up skipping through a lot of it to get the meat of the story and move on.

The dungeons in WA3 are puzzle-based. The puzzles are never very hard, but change up the pace a bit from just dungeon-crawling through enemies. Each character has their own tools that they can use, and you'll need to switch through them in order to get through.

Combat is the meat of RPGs. WA3 does a good job with its turn-based combat system. You assign actions to your squad of four, such as attacking, using magic, defending, or using special attacks. Over the course of battle your special meter fills up, allowing you to do different actions, like attacking twice or using items that will affect the whole team. Since your characters are packing heat, you'll also have to reload every now and again. This makes you use a bit of strategy to your battles, though reloading becomes less of an issue as you get more powerful. Also, Wild Arms features four different types of fighting. You'll fight primarily on foot, but you'll fight on horseback when mounted, in your sand tank when traveling through the "ocean" of sand, and in your airship. Except for battling on horseback, which is just like fighting on foot, the combat changes up a bit and keeps things fresh. Combat can also be avoided by using the Migrant system. Before a random battle, you'll have an "!" appear above your head. You can hit a button to avoid the battle. You have a meter that depletes when you do this, so you can't avoid all battles. It's a good system, and one that keeps you from constantly battling when you just want to get through a puzzle.

My biggest complaint about the combat system is that you only ever recruit four people to your party, and I found two of them to be less useful in combat. Your main character is serviceable as a healer, and another is a passable magic user. However, the other two are good in combat, so I relied on them to wipe out the enemy. Whenever one of them was killed, it was a major blow to the team. I would think that such a small party would be better rounded.

WA3 looks very different than most RPGs, but pretty much sticks with the conventions of the genre. This isn't a bad thing; WA3 is a good game. If you're a fan of RPGs, I would highly recommend this game. If you have a passing interest in RPGs, I'd go with Final Fantasy X or Suikoden III.

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