Playthrough: Wild West

Box Art

The Starlight Megaphone is pleased to present the Spring 2012 feature: Wild West: A Wild Arms Playthrough.

Released for the PlayStation in Japan in December of 1996 and in North America in April of 1997, Wild Arms received positive reviews but was, unfortunately, overshadowed by the much wider publicity associated with Final Fantasy VII. Yet, Wild Arms stands as the bridge between the era of sprite-based RPGs and polygonal RPGs, and apart from its significance as a bridge between eras, is a solid RPG in its own right.

Following the adventures of three adventurers in a western style setting, Wild Arms chronicles the plight of a fallen humanity, beset by demons. The enormous technical achievements of humanity have been lost, as are the connexion which once existed between humans and the Elw, a mysterious race who have passed from history into legend. Now, references to the wielders of the feared and forgotten ARMs verge on myth. In such an age, three companions from radically difference backgrounds come together to defend humanity in its final hours.

This is the final week of our four-week playthrough, in which we will aim to complete the game. Use the comments thread to discuss where you are, strategies for battles, and your opinions about how things have changed in JRPGs since the original release fifteen years ago.

So, we now invite you to join The Starlight Megaphone as we go into the west with Wild Arms!


  1. “Magic casting requires a lot of energy. That’s why I’m always hungry after a battle. Plus, I love hamburgers. I learned how fun it was to eat through cooking and eating hamburgers at the abbey.”

    You know, in none of my research on medieval literature–which has been substantial–have I ever found references to hearty meals consisting of MANY hamburgers.

    Or, indeed, any.

  2. So far in the story we have:

    A guy who saves a town, while trying to cure a man’s illness. After he saves the town he then gets banished because the town doesn’t want him to be using his ARM ability.

    A deep darkness who is stalking a girl and calling her “Innocent one.” She then defeats a behemoth and then leaves her Abbey.

    And a treasure hunter.

  3. The tone is so scattered, but despite that, I’m having a really great time so far. Just went into the Mountain Pass. I’m getting used to the battle graphics.

  4. The thing I remember about this game is I got it and some other game I forget by trading in Ogre Battle for the SNES. And that on the world map the characters actually animated spinning around when they changed directions rather than just suddenly being that way. That, and the battle graphics are fuck ugly.

  5. @Reetin: I’m not sure you understand what this discussion thread is for. It’s not a place to simply summarise the plot. Rather, it is meant to be used to post your impressions and any issues/questions which may arise.

  6. @Ethos/EP: Do you feel that the battle graphics are a significant detriment to the game? I’ve found that–jarringly different though they are from the rest of the game–they don’t really hurt the overall presentation that much. And, as Ethos has observed, one becomes used to them after a while.

    It also REALLY helps to lock the camera into the angled view so that it isn’t flipping around all the time–but that’s just my opinion.

  7. The battle graphics are completely awful, yet somehow endearing. They certainly give the game a feel like no other, owing to the player’s surprise that such a 16bit looking RPG should have polygonal battles.

  8. Oh no, definitely not a detriment at all, I’d say. Just hilariously bad. An interesting comparison to how well 2D graphics age and how poorly 3D graphics age.

  9. Not sure how I feel about the game so far. I wish the menus were clearer about things instead of just using icons, but that could just be me getting too used to newer games and how they actually explain things to players instead of leaving them to figure out.

    I do like the opening sequence, though. Taking each character through their own little dungeon-y bit was cool.

  10. @Deimosion: This is a game from a different era. People were expected to read the instruction manual prior to play. The instruction manual covers what the icons are for and so on; though, they are fairly obvious, if one has played a lot of old JRPGs.

    @Ethos: A very good point. 3D has not aged as well as the sprites; nor will it, I think. When one is attempting to ape the reality of 3D, one is always going to be shown up down the road by something which does a better job of it–but the games that are interested solely in presenting a simple and stylised view tend to look fine years–even decades–later.

  11. Those WERE my issues with the game so far. There’s a creepy guy who calls a girl “Innocent one” and pretty much stalks her and there is a village that condemns the person that saves them. Seems like everyone in this game (other than our heroes) are douches.

  12. @Lusi I guess I need to track the manual down.

    @Lusithos Compare the first 3D games to the first 2D games (’70’s era), neither have graphically aged well. That’s just something that has to be realized with older games, though. What used to look amazing for the time is outdated now.

  13. @Dan: Early 2D games remain eminently more playable today than early 3D games do: A game of Pac-Man or Spider Fighter is far more visually tolerable than a game of Final Fantasy VIII.

    Also, video games as a whole were a pretty weak medium in the early days of 2D, and I suspect that, far more than the graphics, contributes to the weak report of some titles. E.T. for the Atari 2600 would be intolerable no matter how it looked, despite not being one of the first 2D titles.

  14. Advice: SAVE OFTEN. Seriously. This is an old-school JRPG. Do yourself a favour and use those save points. You probably won’t die, but if you do, you’ll wish you had saved.

  15. I’m sorry, Pac Man is not more visually tolerable than FFVIII. VIII might be a steaming pile of crap, and the graphics certainly do have their flaws, but it is a far more attractive game than Pac Man!

  16. SN, ladies and gentlemen, wrong again.

    Pac-Man’s graphics are clear, direct, and serve the purpose precisely.

    By contrast, FFVIII’s twittering, gibbering abominations are often unclear. It is difficult to find things, difficult to see things, and difficult at times to even know what I am looking at–other than a fucking mess.

  17. The case can easily be made for 2D game visuals holding up better than VIII, but Pac Man is not the game to do this. If viewed on a screen of the right resolution, VIII remains a very attractive game, with some utterly amazing use of FMV to produce moving backgrounds. I still prefer the look of VIII to that of many current gen games.

    By contrast, Pac Man’s visuals are supremely basic and bland. Yellow flappy head on black background chased by coloured blobs; the only reason to argue for the supremacy of Pac Man’s visuals is on the basis that it almost doesn’t have graphics, just a clutter of pixel symbols. But while such crude visuals do not age like PSX graphics, they are not as visually appealing either. They are workmanlike, getting the job done with no visual frills whatsoever.

  18. They work, which is more than be said of FFVIII, whatever you may claim.

    “If viewed on the right resolution,” which means if you have it emulated and rendered at a high enough quality. Even when that game came out, it looked terrible on my television. Time has only made the visuals more stunningly awful.

    At least I know what I am looking at with Pac-Man. Graphics that get the job done are supremely better than flash which doesn’t.

  19. No, I mean quite the opposite. The game looks horrible upscaled. What I mean is that when hooked up to an SD TV set it remains very attractive.

    Viewd in this manner the graphics certainly do work (which is more than can be said for other aspects of the game), and it is not at all difficult to see what you are looking at.

  20. I had an SD TV set with SD Cables for my PS1 when this game came out, and it STILL looked terribl– as I said at the time, in broad defiance of people who were only intent on praising it on the basis of its FMV sequences (which were quite good relatively). The rest of the game (i.e. the other 98% of it) is an ugly fucking mess.

    So, no. Wrong.

  21. But this is a Wild Arms discussion!

    Dan, which version are you playing? If you play it on your PSP (and likely PS3), there is a digital manual included! I had a hard time with the icons too, but the manual cleared it up.

  22. The game looks no better or worse than any of Square’s other pre-rendered games at the time, though I do prefer the stylistic choices made by other Square games of the era. The character models aren’t as pleasing as their super deformed counterparts, but they are fine nonetheless – and the backgrounds are beautiful, provided you are not viewing them on a modern LCD TV.

    Presentation certainly wasn’t chief among VIII’s failings.

  23. I find the music in Wilds Arms to be a mixed bag. When the game opened, I was floored. At this pace, I thought, it will be one of the greatest gaming soundtracks ever! Unfortunately, it does NOT keep pace. Nothing has been BAD so far, but it’s been a mix of mediocre and good with a little sprinkling of excellent.

  24. @SN: Nope, but it’s up there!

    @Ethos: Good point. All of the PSN versions of WA come with the instructions in the PSP/PS3 overlay.

  25. @Ethos: I think it grows on you as you go? I love the soundtrack: every town has its own (wonderful) theme, the overworld is brilliant, and even the dungeon music I find broadly acceptable.

    If there is a downside (and there IS a downside), it’s that the soundtrack is so limited, so much use has to be made of many of the tracks. But don’t worry, if you find yourself a little let down now, I personally feel that the soundtrack kicks it up again as you get farther in. The airship music, for example, is brilliant. There’s lots of good stuff to come!

  26. Also @Ethos: In this season’s WILD ARMS playthrough, find out why FINAL FANTASY VIII is terrible and why PAC-MAN is the seminal visual experience of its generation!

  27. @Blitz: That’s down to the samples as much as it is to the compositional structure.

    For example, I love the soundtracks to FFVII and FFIX, and I think they are compositionally superior, but I wouldn’t for a moment argue that their samples are better than Wild Arms. I think it has the FF games licked, there.

    But again, that also is a matter of scope. Wild Arms has one style of music, and the samples (which are always a narrow selection) could be chosen to fit that particular style without having to worry about anything else. IX and VII have a much broader selection of ‘styles’, and consequently need a sample selection that works well enough in all of them. Consequently, those samples aren’t particularly exceptional in any regard, though Uematsu’s compositional capacity is without peer.

    To put that another way: given the same mediums (orchestras), Wild Arms wouldn’t compare as favourably to a golden era FF score. But, luckily for WA in this case, the mediums differ due to the scope of the soundtracks.

  28. That’s a good way to sum up the music, Lusi. Whenever there is guitar, it sounds excellent. I adore the Dali theme, but its guitar sounds so little like a guitar that I hesitate to even claim that it IS supposed to be a guitar.

  29. This game is surprisingly easy … battle-wise I mean. I think I’d have to try really hard to die.

    I miss the boss battles from Wild ARMs 2. The cool intro graphics and the way you can defeat bonus sections to gain more XP. :(

    My boyfriend took one look at the battle graphics and asked if I was seriously gonna play this. :P

    I’m still hving lotsa fun, though. =D

  30. @Epy and everyone else, why not: My first and last hands on exposure with this series was with Alter Code F…..I gave it an ugh out of 10. I’m sure I’m missing out, since I’ve read that this was one of the worst in the series, but it’s left a bad taste in my mouth. Kinda like how I once got sick on white cheddar cheezits, and even though I love them I haven’t had them since.

  31. I’m very grateful that I came into this series knowing practically nothing about it. I knew the series existed, and I knew that it was tinged with western elements, but I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t know characters or concepts. I didn’t know the style of battle system. I didn’t know how the series was generally received or which elements were specifically praised or panned. I think my brother has played the games, but I never watched him or talked to him about them.

    So even the things I don’t like have been pleasant surprises!

  32. Well, I didn’t honestly know much going in aside from the same things you did, ethos, and after tooling around in Alter Code F for a while, I slowly began to think “hm, this might actually just be a crap game”. It’s like that transition moment when you’re thinking “is this movie just really weird and offbeat or just awful”.

  33. The problem with Alter Code F is that it takes some of the most traditional stuff about Wild Arms, and then it junks it. It also takes some of the really good ideas, and then it junks those, too.

    Traditional equipment and weapons upgrades go out the window along with the way that Cecilia’s Crest Graph system works. The excellent little puzzles are replaced, primarily, with 3D mazes. The battle system is slowed down, somehow, given that it wasn’t very quick to start with. Moving on the world map is made more cumbersome because now everything has to be searched for with a radar before it can be seen. And so on.

    The only thing they improved was the translation. Even the attempt to improve the soundtrack backfired. Alter Code F is such a different game from the original Wild Arms that they really don’t compare. The plot is broadly the same, but in all other regards they are quite different, and it is the original which shines.

  34. That makes sense, then. Because I like Mel’s comparison, I just don’t think it applies to this title. Even if people don’t like Wild Arms, I’d be hard pressed to find a good argument stating that it’s not a solid title at the least.

  35. Oh I’m sure Wild Arms is great. It seems to be. But my time for it has passed, I feel, and I’ve been putting off XIII-2 like a dope so I still have to finish that.

  36. I’m really enjoying Alter Code F so far, not only because I don’t have the original game to compare it to but because it pretty much runs on the WA3 engine in every single aspect, and I loved WA3. Its a shame that they removed the battle voices in the localized version, it would have put a little more oomph to the battles.

    Had I known about the playthrough earlier, I would have chosen the original but as of right now I am pleased with how things turned out.

  37. I’ve found the first thing that really, really bugs me! The overworld music starts at the beginning after every battle. Such a great tune shouldn’t leave its greatest parts for only those who sit around and wait for it.

  38. Tomorrow is WILD ARMS day for me!

    Also, check out Thea’s post, which is ALSO about Wild Arms!

    @Ethos: Most old RPGs (including early FF games) do that, unfortunately!

  39. @Lusi – I know, but usually not the PS1 era ones! Before it was a result of technology holding them back, but no need with the Playstation. FF7, 8, and 9 all didn’t restart. Oh well. The encounter rate is actually fairly reasonable (most of the time), so I’m able to hear most of a full loop sometimes before battle. Especially if I tinker in the menus.

  40. Heads-up! After climbing the Cage Tower, there is a boss which can, rarely, instantly kill party members with its attack.

    But this is mitigated by the three Goat Dolls that you find just before the boss. Much better.

  41. Oh God! The translation in ACF is awful!! I can’t believe I had to look up the script of the original to make something of the nonsense these people say. Almost half through the game so I can’t go back but geez…

  42. In the first week I was able get up through the end of Mt. Zenom. A few things I have come to realize 1. The encounter rate is probably the most balanced I have seen in a long line of RPG’s of that age. 2. Boss’ have a bit much in the way of HP. 3. The story is very forgettable.

  43. I like that when you punch the demons they meow like a cat. Also, book burning is fun.

  44. Jack’s opening reminded me of the opening from Lunar 2; pretty funny actually.

  45. The trouble that I have with the traditional Wild Arms openings is that JRPG battle systems never work properly when you don’t have a full party.

  46. This game definitely feels more like a Super Nintendo RPG rather than a PS1 RPG. The need to save all the time is definitely an annoying RPG feature of the past that I do not miss, dying and having to do certain events over again is tedious as fuck.

  47. @SN – Good point about JRPG battle systems. I mean, I kinda like it in Wild Arms because it gives a challenge in a game that I’m otherwise finding pretty easy (where are you dying, RBK?), but the system is definitely not what it is supposed to be when it’s just one character.

  48. A fairly serious scene, followed by a dungeon-crawl with little motivation, followed by a fake wedding. The plot in this game is a wreck.

  49. @RBK: It’s definitely built on the principle of SNES JRPGs. Remember when we used to have to SAVE ALL THE TIME? Things today are far more forgiving.

  50. Near constant checkpoint-style autosaves are actually a product of this generation. There were many PS2 JRPGs, not to mention PS1 (cough), that required frequent saves. Maybe some of those had retry options for major battles, but I can’t think of many that did at the moment.

    I do recall, however, going back to play some RPG on the PS2. Then it got late, I yawned a bit and simply turned off the system. Then stared at it in disbelief that I had done such a stupid thing.

  51. I’m sitting at the entrance to the Giant’s Cradle at about 13-14ish hours. Bleh, party split-up dungeons. Party splitting works if and only if the player can make multiple full-size parties, like in FFVI (and it wasn’t great even then). For games like Wild ARMs or Legend of Legaia, where there are only a few characters who are always in the party, splitting up into multiple groups just does not work. :/

  52. In this game’s defense, though, the party is at least assembled early and all the split-up dungeons so far have been pretty short. At least this isn’t Lufia 1, where like half the game is spent assembling the party.

  53. Still enjoying it (I really like how you can choose how to upgrade Rudy’s ARM). However, I think the towns are pretty poorly designed. There’s no way to really remember areas and it’s easy to forget which houses you’re been to if you’re trying to be thorough.

  54. @Ethos I can never remember where anything is in any of the towns. Now that I have Teleport, I just do all my ARMs upgrading in Adelhyde, since the shop there is right by the entrance.

    Anyway, just got the upgraded airplane. The plot in the second half of the game just sorta falls apart.

  55. yeah the plot kind of loses its edge after a while. Before, the gameplay made up for that with me. This time around it’s a little harder. For some reason when I thought back to this game I remembered the graphics being more 2D than 3D. Eh, at least the characters aren’t totally unlikeable. Poor town designs and less than stellar graphics aside, I am still glad to be playing through this again.

  56. God willing, I will this week:

    Finish my first paper on Thurs.
    This will allow me time over the weekend to devote myself to Wild Arms, excluding podcast time, Ashley’s visit, TF2 on Saturday, and my raid on Sunday.


  57. Wild Arms is done! The ending…was not very good. The game as a whole, I feel neutral about. It was not bad, and the gameplay was solid, but the story was forgettable and the overall experience was okay. Not bad, not great. Okay.

  58. I have no time to devote to Wild Arms. I’ll definitely finish it, but it will not be this week.

    Has anyone other than Deimosion made it?

Comments are closed.