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Hands-on Preview -
Wild ARMs 5
Previewed on 8/6/07

Wild ARMs 5, developed by Media.Vision and published stateside by XSeed, will be released in just a few weeks. So far, the game is pretty solid.

The game will appeal to many RPG fans, in large part thanks to its excellent overworld. Akin to Dragon Quest VIII, the overworld Filgaia is sprawling, expansive, and seamless. With how much delight is brought from exploring this overworld, it's a wonder why more RPGs these days opt to not have one, or cop out and go with the point-and-click world maps (here's looking at you, Final Fantasy X and Wild ARMs 4). Wild ARMs 5's overworld is an absolute blast to explore; it's pretty to look at; it's rewarding to discover things in the overworld; it brings warm feelings reminscent of yesterdecade's epic RPGs; it warrants using a semicolon, dammit.

The only bummer about it is that the game uses that item search system also found in Alter Code: F, where pressing square send out a wave to look for hidden items, so the experience of exploring can sometimes be diminished by having to spam the square button or risk missing good treasure. Also minorly noteworthy is that there's no jumping in the overworld. Being able to jump by pressing O in towns and dungeons, the player might instinctively try to hop over a gap or something in the overworld, but won't be able to for some reason. Oh well.

Wild ARMs 5 starts out simply enough, introducing players to the main character Dean and his simple lifestyle. Dean realizes one day that in order to be an interesting video game character, he must get his ass on an adventure, fast. His hotpants-wearing female costar Rebecca tries to stop him, but Dean, being 16 years of age and clearly an adult now, is set on leaving the village. So he does.

Thus far in the game, having seen the cartoonish supervillains, consistently lighthearted dialogue, and utter predictability, it doesn't seem that storyline will be the reason to play Wild ARMs 5. That's not to say it hasn't been mildly entertaining--it has--but it's not a highlight feature and it won't be remembered as one of the greats. No matter, though, because the rest of the game is superb.

The excellent Hex battle system makes a return from Wild ARMs 4, as do other things such as equipping badges and mediums to customize characters. All that there was to love about the system before is back now; even better, with boss fights, the usual Honeycomb™ shape of the battlefield is broken up, so players will need to think about each boss battlefield differently than a random battle.

A difference in battle is that all characters are allowed to move, and then act in each turn. In Wild ARMs 4, it was considered a special ability to be able to move and attack within the same turn, but in 5, each character is allowed to do both, in every turn. The only catch is that the move must be done before the action, so players can't attack and then move away, such as might be possible in a tactical RPG.

Dungeons in Wild ARMs 5 have very similar DNA to its immediate elder. In the early going, most of the "puzzles" just consist of jumping on switches or pushing boxes on top of things. From there, things keep evolving, and so far in the game, it looks like dungeonplay will be a rewarding aspect of WA5. For this installment, the main character's special tool is the ability to pull out two ARMs and shoot all kinds of stuff. Some of this is used well within the dungeons, but some of it also just feels sort of forced in as something to distract the player from the fact that there's nothing else in a certain room. As of yet, not much platforming action has been needed in the dungeons, other than a simple slide here and there.

Whiney bitches complained about Wild ARMs 4 not being "Western" enough. Well, bitches, Wild ARMs 5 delivers a much more Western-looking Filgaia, complete with old-ass trains, six shooters, saloons, mines with people being all like "I work in the mines," public hangings, well-placed gallows and probably other stuff.

The music is great, and every track played has really fit its setting and scene. Plenty of stumming guitar, wailing harmonica, and of course, the signature Wild ARMs whistling.

In screenshots, the graphics looked good, but on an actual TV screen, they look remarkable. (The screens in this preview do it no justice.) The world is vibrant and beautiful, and the character models are some of the smoothest-looking ones on PS2.

With technical splendor and gameplay that delivers, Wild ARMs 5 is sure to please anyone who enjoyed Wild ARMs 4, and probably anyone who's ever liked a Wild ARMs title. Those who have been turned off by the series before, and have not played or didn't like part 4 specifically, might be advised to hold off on this one, as it is quite similar to its series elders in areas that matter. Look for Wild ARMs 5 to shoot you in the face on August 28.



-Heath Hindman