i loved this series and it looks like it's improved
http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3162408Reviews: Wild Arms 5
We review the ecstasy of old in this RPG sequel.
By Andrew Fitch 08/29/2007
> Reviewer's Blog > Review Crew Profile
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Longtime Wild Arms aficionados like myself felt like takin' No. 4's developers out back, Zell Miller-style, for a good ol'-fashioned six-shooter duel after they inexplicably put one of the series' biggest selling points -- its rootin'-tootin' gunslinger setting, unique among Japanese role-playing games -- out to pasture in favor of a mundane postapocalyptic wasteland. This move was made all the more intolerable due to a whiny, unappealing teen cast and an insulting "grown-ups suck!" storyline. Thankfully, Wild Arms 5 won't inspire a similar call for frontier justice: It plays like one long apology to old-school fans of this decade-old franchise, recapturing the Wild West motif, energetic characters, spaghetti Western-inspired fanfares, and surprisingly compelling storytelling of the beloved first three titles.
Like most well-crafted RPGs, Wild Arms 5 smartly gives the player immediate emotional investment in its world -- a simple premise, sure, but one far too many titles fail to execute. The story opens as Dean, a naïve, carefree amateur archaeologist, infiltrates an ancient ruin in search of lost technology. Back in town, he meets up with childhood friend Rebecca, an aspiring carnival crackshot in the vein of Annie Oakley...though I don't believe any 19th-century gun-totin' lass wore the extremely low-cut shorts Rebecca favors. From the beginning, it's clear she's got it bad for our hero, but any romance between the two will have to wait: It seems that he's the only red-blooded male in history unaffected by a girl in hot pants. Dean and Rebecca decide to visit one of their childhood haunts for old times' sake, where they run into Avril, a mysterious young lady to whom Dean immediately takes a liking. So, do we have a budding love triangle on our hands? Er...seems Dean might be a little thickheaded for that. Sure, the setup's a bit clichéd and nothing that hasn't been done before, but it's cute and little heartwarming -- and it's done right thanks to clever writing, well-delivered voice acting, and excellent story pacing.
[Click the image above to check out all Wild Arms 5 screens.]
As Dean, Rebecca, and Avril set off on their adventure, though, it becomes clear that Wild Arms 5's seemingly innocent first act belies its somewhat mature core. The Wild Arms franchise is loosely inspired by American history, so it's appropriate that this entry's overarching plot is based on our continent's (rather messy) history of colonialism. Some of the names scattered throughout the game spell this association out rather clearly: Terms like "Johnny Appleseed" and "pilgrim" may read as clever allegories in Japanese...but in English, they play with all the subtlety of a George Washington musket blast to the face. Still, Wild Arms 5 balances the personal and the political as well as any RPG this side of Suikoden. While the story doesn't quite match that series' masterful levels of nationalistic intrigue and diplomatic chicanery, it's definitely refreshing to see multilayered villains that, in some cases, come across as quite sympathetic.
While the game's combat is based around random battles (that bane of RPG aficionados everywhere), that's not as painful as it initially sounds. For one, the innovative "HEX system" from Wild Arms 4 -- a honeycomb-shaped battlefield made up of seven hexagons -- returns. Each combatant in a given "hex" is affected by all actions against that particular space; if you have three enemies in one hex, for example, they can all be attacked at once. In Wild Arms 5, the system's been streamlined a bit; characters can now move and attack in the same turn, which speeds combat up considerably.
You also have the option of deactivating random battles in each dungeon by besting the regrettably named Sol Nigers (yeah, I know that means "dark sun" in Latin -- something tells me most people won't, though...). And while dungeon exploration still includes the action-platforming introduced in Wild Arms 4, these elements are emphasized far less this time around.
[Click the image above to check out all Wild Arms 5 screens.
Though Wild Arms 5 is a welcome return to form for the franchise, it certainly isn't without its flaws. The expansive overworld is nice, but it's bogged down by a choppy framerate -- especially when contrasted with the supersmooth 60 frames per second seen in dungeons. Save points are also few and far between, though the option to continue from your last battle mitigates that issue somewhat. Finally, a greater variety of special attacks would've been welcome -- hearing Dean and Rebecca scream "Trigger...RONDO!" the thousandth time wears a little thin. Still, that's one of the nice things about the game's customizability: You don't have to suffer through repetitive attack animations and voiceovers if you don't want to.
Nostalgia certainly played a role in my enjoyment of Wild Arms 5, since it's impossible to completely remove biases based on fond memories...but at the same time, that only goes so far (see the disastrously disappointing Dawn of Mana). Also, don't think that only series fans need apply: Wild Arms 5 doesn't merely capture the classic magic of its own franchise. For me, it also brought back feelings of a simpler time, before games like Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears apparently convinced Japanese RPG developers that their games either had to be depressingly emo or pretentiously epic. The other major RPG released this week, the disappointing Blue Dragon, promised to transport players back to those beloved days. Wild Arms 5 is the game that actually delivers.
Hmm, ever since the end of Wild Arms(1st one), I never followed throughout the series. Hmm, I might check this one out.
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