Many will remember Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy VII (1997) as the first great Japanese Role Playing game for the PlayStation. However, a few months earlier, April 1997 to be exact, Wild Arms arrived on Sony’s debut system with a great JRPG experience for fans to enjoy.
Wild Arms holds an 83 Gamerankings (The 90s Metacritic) rating. While that might not seem impressive, WA was developed specifically to appease the hardcore JRPG crowd. Reception by mainstream media was good, but not as great as the reception that specialized JRPG sites held for the game.
Featuring some of the best 2-D graphics around, WA took more after SNES era JRPGs when it came to world and dungeon exploration, than most AAA JRPGs during the 32-Bit Era.
WA did best FFVII out the gates, by being the first JRPG to feature fully polygonal 3-D turn based battles, the characters were super deformed and blocky in contrast to Square’s better models for FFVII.
Gameplay wise, what made WA stand out from the rest, was its perfect blend of Traditional RPG battles, with action RPG puzzle solving elements during world and dungeon exploration.
Each protagonist had a set of “Tools” that helped the player to progress through the game’s dungeons, figuring out the right tool and character for each puzzle was key, and it added much depth to what at time can be stale exploration in traditional JRPG’s conventional gameplay design.
WA offered a magnificent story filled with plot twists, and charming characters. WA’s setting at the time was refreshing. A blend of medieval, and wild west elements forged its world, with more modern advancements such as fire arms being key to the world’s “ancient technology being unearthed” lore.
Wild Arms was the game that tied many of us over until FFVII came around, and as such it was a pretty amazing experience for those looking for an epic adventure of Final Fantasy VI’s proportions on the PlayStation.
The game spawned a long running series that saw new entries all the way up to the PS3 era. Unfortunately, every subsequent game after the original was progressively of lesser quality, and subsequent low sales marked the end of the series.
Wild Arms positively compared to its contemporaries, the game was truly, at least to me, a more fun experience than Suikoden and Suikoden 2. It was definitely much better than Sony’s first effort in Beyond the Beyond.
3-D was the rage at the time, and many might have passed on WA because of it. As a 2-D RPG, it is one of the most polished experiences that I have ever played. I have yet to sell, my original copy as it remains one of the my favorite JRPGs of all time.
While getting a hold of an original copy these days might end up being a pricey investment, the game is absolute must play material for JRPG aficionados. A good option to experience this classic first hand is to acquire it through Sony’s ‘PSOne Classics’ service for $5.99. Again, a true must play experience for anyone interested in the genre.