Wild Arms, Wacky Feet, and Cross Dressing.
Gender confusion and cross-dressing is rampant in the world of role playing games. What if I renamed every boy character in a RPG with a girl's name and vice versa? Kind of an interesting thought. Who wouldn't want to hear about the exciting exploits of Squallina and Rino?
If you like that idea, you'll be all for Tim Rhymeless of Wild Arms 2. After all, he wears girl's clothing. He's even got a little red bow and a fuzzy friend named Pooka.
The first Wild Arms was an average game that was released right before Final Fantasy 7. It had its moment of charm, but was quickly overshadowed by the behemoth that is the Final Fantasy hype engine. Nonetheless, a second Wild Arms was created. Wild Arms 2 carries on most of its predecessor's ideas and adds some new techniques, but in the end fails to break the mold of mediocrity.
It starts out with a beautifully overblown animation sequence, one of those anime openings that flash quick shots of all the characters but doesn't really go anywhere. Actually, there is a second opening that only some Playstation owners will get. That opening is PSX's mod chip lock out protection. Doh!
The world of Filgalia is in trouble once again. The terrorist group Odessa is seizing power, and Filgalia's last hope is ARMS, an independent group of fighters and magicians who fight for freedom, justice, and good stuff like that. It's like a hodgepodge of traditional ideas duct taped together.
Wild Arms 2 features all the standard character archetypes: The confused and unwilling hero with the wacky hair, the withdrawn and silent big guy, and the cute, talkative girl with a staff (or in this case, an umbrella). And when the tough guy occasionally laughs a "hee hee," you know that more thought should have been put into the translations.
Each character has up to three tools. These tools are actively used during the game to solve puzzles. Lilka, the umbrella girl, can shoot fire, setting off certain switches. Brad the tough guy can kick things. Security device not working? BAM. Brad kicks it and it works again. My favorite tool? Ashley, the blue headed hero, employs a "booty call" which scans the screen for hidden treasure. Shiver me timbers!
The puzzles, while working off traditional objects such as switches and crates, require a degree of thought. They dance that thin line between easy and frustrating, allowing the player a momentary feeling of reward once they've been solved.
Battles, however, are just too easy. Wild Arms 2 uses a traditional, straight-ahead turn based system. It's slow and uninvolved. Far too often, I'd enter in my commands and then watch some Jerry Springer before turning back to see how things turned out. Later boss battles become slightly more interesting (Than Jerry Springer? What a game! - Ed.)
Some battles can be avoided. Right before you enter the fray, an alert bubble pops up over your character's head. If it's white, you can cancel the battle and continue your exploring. A smart idea, one that hopefully will be included in future games.
The traditional MP system has been scrapped in favor of the Force Point system (FP). FP is similar to a Final Fantasy Limit Break meter; as you get hit, your FP is built up. You can then expend your FP to do force attacks. It works in terms of checks and balances, though not as well the standard MP.
Another innovation is the search system. Rather than dotting the countryside with little town and dungeon icons, you have to search them out yourself. This system is less passive and requires more exploring.
The first Wild Arms had fair 2D graphics. Wild Arms 2 has fair 3D graphics. The areas are sharp and vibrant, but with a dated look. Suggestion to Sony - next time, pick a CLEAR and READABLE font.
In addition to the main graphics of towns and dungeons, there are the battle graphics. Like the original, battles are in 3D. There isn't a significant improvement from the first. The characters are more detailed, but still have a deformed look. The biggest problem is the lack of clarity. The floors are grainy, causing the whole image to look messy. I'd rather have it simpler and less detailed than sloppy.
Musically, the game is severely weak. Repetitive, boring and lacking, the tracks do nothing to convey the intended emotions of the game.
Wild Arms 2 is a slightly above average RPG. Despite smart elements like good puzzles, the search system and character customization, there simply isn't enough to bring it all together. The story doesn't hold your attention, characters aren't interesting, and the battle challenge isn't there. This is, in the end, an appropriate sequel to the average original.