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Reviewed: Wild Arms 5
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: October 5th, 2007
Page: 2

The Wild Arms series runs on a world called "Filgaia", a world based loosely on the stereotypical ideas of the American West. The backdrop for the world is post-apocalyptic, wherein a "golden age" of technology caused pollution. One portion of humanity took off in spaceships to run for the stars... the other portion stayed back and brought their technology level to nothing. Hundreds of years later, they're digging up the old technology, dusting it off, and trying to coexist with the returning spacefaring race that has dropped by to enslave them.

Enter the hero of the game, Dean. As you might guess by this point, Wild Arms 5 succeeds not by making its plot points radically different from other RPG titles, but by wholeheartedly embracing the stereotypes and porting them to a "Wild West" setting. Dean's been raised by his mother, no father around, hot girlfriend... and is ready to go take on the whole world, and all the monsters in it, armed with nothing but a shovel.

It's a good thing a girl is about to drop from the sky in a giant robot's arm and hand him a couple of decent guns.

Welcome to the old west...

Critical hits - nice when they happen.

Remember - magic targets the hex, not the enemy.

Alright, so the plotline is silly at times. The voice acting is a bit off at first in the American version, but it gets better as the game progresses. The cast of characters is easily as odd as any other game, including two party members whose "weapons" are a gigantic portable jackhammer and a backpack-mounted missile system.... and that's before we get to the secondary characters, who range from absurdly normal hen-pecked husbands to clearly insane, half-man half-robot homicidal maniacs and even a slightly deranged "Professor" who treats the most menacing monsters as if they were unruly schoolchildren in need of a timeout.

Pick your hexes carefully for an advantage.

All cutscenes are done in the engine - nice when you swap your clothes out.

Yes, you can go in guns blazing.

Where the game shines is in the "HEX" battle system - rather than targeting specific entities, the field consists of seven hexagons, three of which have elemental effects tied to them. Healing, attacks, buffs, all target the hex rather than the person - so if you pile your whole party into one hex, you can heal them all at once, but the enemy can beat them all down at once too. For most run-of-the-mill battles, the field is a straight circular arrangement with one center hex, but boss battles cause it to get more varied and entertaining.

Ok, so there are a few box pushing puzzles.

Stopping at a save point...

Enjoy your run!

Weapons and armor are pretty straightforward, and upgrading them is nice but not altogether necessary. "Alternate" outfits change your appearance, and it's even reflected in the game's cutscenes, which is a nice touch; there's even a side quest involving getting the right sets of outfits together. Battle roles are assigned by giving characters "Mediums", which set them up with various abilities - more equipment slots, healing and MP regeneration, and attack commands like "steal" or magic attacks. Switching these can be done at any time except during battle. Having one character with each "medium" is a pretty safe bet, since the system allows characters on the edge of the map to swap with characters sitting on the sidelines; if you see something with gear worth stealing, it's probably safe enough to swap your thief in for a round or two. It's also a good thing that characters sitting on the sidelines don't have their level progression slowed; players are free to pick a "main party" without having to go back and power-level their lower members for later sections of the game.

Characters have HP and MP, as usual for an RPG; there's also a third, shared bar that fills up for successful attacks and being attacked, which is burned for special abilities. There are also "team-up" attacks that burn MP from both users; they drop to a cutscene and do some rather flashy visual effects, and can be terribly effective in certain situations if you pick well. The team attacks are unlocked by getting characters into the same hex for a certain period of time, and can only be used by characters sitting in the same hex, so pulling them off has some minor (but not too much) strategy involved.

Visually and musically, Wild Arms 5 is superb - in its own cartoonish fashion, holding its own with just about any PS2 title. The musical themes are all very appropriate for the "Wild West" atmosphere, and even infectious; the visual appeal of the setting can't be denied, especially in some of the more panoramic landscapes. 

An added bonus was the packaging - since it's the 10th anniversary of the series launch, the game's been packed in with a rather thick art book showcasing characters and concepts from the whole series. If you've played the lot, it's a great start; if you're just getting in, it's a small peek back to where the series comes from.

If you're a fan of RPG titles, or just looking for a game that's a little different and lighthearted, you should pick this up and add it to your collection.


Added:  Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Score:
Page: 2/3

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