The Wild Arms RPG series has always been a solid franchise that has never really done enough to vault it to the same level as many of its competitors. Personally, I never really dug the first two on the original PlayStation, as the western theme just never really interested me. Well, the western theme is back, and its even more western-y than ever. Though Im still not a very big fan of the theme, in terms of the game itself, I actually found it to be rather enjoyable. Still, many of WA3s aspects are very traditional and only serve to hold it back from the leading pack of PS2 RPGs. Its seems, sadly, that yet another Wild Arms hasnt been able to break the series trend of mediocrity.
Im extremely impressed in the direction that WA3s visuals have taken. Featuring a very unique, almost cel-shaded style, the characters have a hand drawn look to them. Complementing this are some really cool character designs, all of which are the best so far the series has seen. The four main characters especially feature some really unique designs, and fit the atmosphere of the games world perfectly.
Sadly, the rest of the visuals arent on par with the characters. The environments are very brown and bland, and while this lends itself to the theme of the west, more variety would have been extremely welcome. The battle effects as well are merely average, and while occasionally sporting moments of beauty, often end up being ho-hum at best.
What held back the first two Wild Arms games were their distinct lack of anything remotely original or unique during gameplay. Both games consisted of a whole bunch of RPG mainstays that are tried and true and unoriginal. 3 is no different. Now, this isnt exactly a bad thing, in fact its much better than if WA3 tried something new and failed horribly, but this is exactly what binds 3 to the same fate as its predecessors. This game is very run-of-the-mill, and anything you do in the game has pretty much been done before elsewhere. However, what helps WA3 is that it does everything it does rather well, just not really well. The story is solid and filled with some great characters; however there are quite a few questionable plot points. The battle system is solid and fun, however its horrendously slow-paced and simplistic. Also, the main quest is long and full of great twists, however progression is so repetitive (leave town, go to dungeon, go to new town, repeat) it gets damn near annoying half way through. See a pattern?
What ultimately saves WA3 though is its target audience, as anyone whos looking forward to playing this just wants a solid, fun adventure. And that is precisely what WA3 delivers. Nothing fancy, but a solid, above-average romp through the wild, wild west.
Aurally, WA3 hits and misses. Where it hits, it hits rather well, in its western-inspired soundtrack. For the first time in the series, the composers have captured the feel of the west perfectly, which really helps in nailing the whole western theme. The effects are average, and for every decent effect, there is another decidedly sub-par one. Where the game misses is actually more of a disappointment to me than a flaw. The complete lack of any voice acting, which normally wouldnt be a problem, I found hurt this game. The localization is decent at best, and the lack of voicing reduces the cut scenes into unemotional, detached drivel. Words dont always have the same effect in a visual-narrative, and in Wild Arms its painfully evident.
WA3 offers a load of value, even if you just count the games main quest, which clocks in at over 40 hours. On top of that are the numerous side-quests that could easily add quite a few more hours to your total play time. But the kicker is that its a Sony game, and that means its only $60 ($40 U.S). An RPG for significantly cheaper than most other games is great, but an RPG with WA3s length significantly cheaper is awesome.
Im still not sold on the Wild Arms series nor on its questionably enjoyable western theme, but I did enjoy playing WA3, at least for the first while. Fans of the series shouldnt hesitate in picking this up, as its clearly the best the series has to offer. Others however, should heed the traditional nature of WA3, and be aware that this game is nothing more than solid, seen-that-before RPG adventuring. Id recommend this game more if there werent other, more superior RPGs available at the same time, but with Suikoden III and Kingdom Hearts, its hard to see WA3 as anything more than above-average.