Do you remember playing this game? No? Me neither. I was told by a good friend that I should play this game and it did not disappoint. If you did play this game when it came out or when you were younger, then you probably have some fond memories of it.
Note: There may be hints of unintentional spoilers of the plot although I shall try my hardest to keep them to a minimum throughout the article.
Yes, this game has two openings, this is because it has two discs, the fact that Media Vision made separate openings alone is awesome. Like any anime or game opening, it has hints as to what happens later in the story along with the characters and their struggles. Wild Arms 2 does this beautifully, especially with the second opening. That being said, the story is crazy, cute, inspiring, and deep. It is hard to follow at times, especially once you get to the meat of it in disc 2 but the intentions are clear and the ever popular “let’s go save the world, guys!” storyline still comes through but with a unique flare.
The game opens much in the same way as the first Wild Arms did with the three main characters starting out in different parts of the world with their own respective starting stories. There is Ashley, the hardworking soldier, Lilika, the aspiring sorceress and Brad, the strong-armed criminal. All three of these stories, again like the first game, take place at roughly the same time and all have a distinct feel. Of course, they all come together under the same flag but there is a large difference in the feel of the game compared to the last. Without going into too much detail, other characters are added to the roster, with one character only available through side-quests, for a total of six characters, each strong in their own way.
Wild Arms for the PS1 was a game that I enjoyed despite its graphical shortcomings in the early stages of the PS1’s lifetime. Wild Arms 2 however just plain improves on many of the things that the first Wild Arms did and adds a whole new dimension to the game with the puzzles.
The first notable difference was the fact that the battle sprites were not chibi! YAY! Instead, the character models in battles (still random encounters) were closer to what you would see in Final Fantasy 7 with full-sized human sprites. It was much easier to look at but still retained the pixel and slightly rendered world of the first game. Another huge difference was the added angles in which objects were placed. In the first game, everything was very linear and strictly North, West etc. Wild Arms 2 uses more Southwest, Northeast sorts of movements which adds a new dimension to the gameplay. Wild Arms 2, however, does give the player a on-screen compass that points to North and South constantly in dungeons and on the world map so while you might be lost, your sense of direction does not dwindle.
Like the first Wild Arms, Wild Arms 2 has many puzzles, and when I say many, I mean it. It felt like the entire game was a puzzle, with even the slightest challenges in small areas and dungeons. This was by no means unwanted as the game before it made great use of the puzzles to give a prolonged experience that made traversing dungeons just that bit more rewarding. However, after two discs I felt the puzzles to be tiring but this doesn’t mean that they got less interesting, in fact, if anything they got more complex and meaningful (for example the evacuation puzzle).
There are a ton of extra areas and side quests to be done as well. I was surprised at the amount really and tried out every one I could. The reason for all of these side quests is because of the Guardians. Guardians act like summons in the game but are able to be equipped to raise stats and, after a certain story point in the game, all of the characters once they get their Overlimit high enough can summon the Guardian they are equipped with. Needless to say that many of the higher level and better summons can be found only within parts of the map where you wouldn’t traverse in the main quest-line, therefore making some of them hard to get and valuable. There are even some that you cannot reach if you do not have the extra character, why is this? Because of the tools in the game.
Tools are special abilities that your characters have that are unique to them. Each character gets three different tools like in the first game but in this game you have five to six characters to work with. Like I said previously, you’ll need to have the extra character with her tools to get to secret areas with treasure or to get through certain puzzles. This places a huge dependency on the variety of tools that you have, so many puzzles, as a result, have you switching constantly from character to character to solve things. This can get annoying over time but it still remains the one thing that I have yet to see in other RPGs of the time.
One thing to be noted is that on the world map this time in order to enter towns or dungeons, you need to search for them with your over world radar tool. By pressing the square button on the world map, if there is a town or a dungeon nearby, it will reveal itself. These are commonly found by looking for a different colored patch of ground or open spots on the map.
Michiko Naruke does it yet again with a great score that will have you humming while you play and even weeks after you stop. Its fast and cheery guitar rifts coupled with rhythmic drums make for a unique style that can only be attributed to Wild Arms. The soundtrack sounds like a classic mix of old western and RPG elements that can only be described as awesome. The music changes so much from area to area that sometimes I wondered if I was playing a completely different game. There is not much else to say about the music other than you should go listen to it, some of the boss themes are great and the town themes are just so cute, like the one above.
I think that the replay value of Wild Arms 2 is actually higher than the average JRPG. This is because there are so many side quests that are easily missed when you play for the first time and for the story if you didn’t quite get it the second. This game also has a lot of replay value due to the fact that if you didn’t get all the Overlimits for the characters the first time, you can do a more if you wish the second time. Characters like Kanon especially take a bit of grinding to get her other Overlimit skills because they are luck-based and the summoner’s skills take a bit of grinding to unlock. If you couldn’t figure out how to ge better magic the first time, that is also a side quest that you can unlock if you hadn’t before. There are many more secret places to go in this game compared to the first so be sure to check everything.
Overall it’s a great game, one that is better played after the first, but is a stand alone story with intriguing characters and storyline all on its own. It is currently available on the PSN store for $5.99 and I recommend you play it if you are a fan of PS1 JRPGs.