Wild Arms 2 Part 01: Going to the Dogs

Are you ready for a Let’s Play so wild, you’re gonna need two arms to contain it!?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for a Let’s Play of Wild Arms 2: Second Ignition. Why WA2? Well, I’ll explain that in full detail much later, but, long story short, for the last fifteen years or so, I’ve felt like I owed Wild Arms 2 a favor, and now is as good a time as any to settle that debt.

We are starting a new game! Mostly! By the way, unlike Wild Arms 1, there is no secret cinema scene if you wait on the title screen long enough. Believe me, I checked.

But like Wild Arms, there is a rad introduction sequence when you start up the game. It’s not as good as the Wild Arms 1 intro, but then again, many people have described the birth of their first child as “not as good as the Wild Arms 1 intro.”

And the first glimpse of a character is ol’ Spineyhands McCloakneck. I’m sure he’ll be important later.

Each of the Wild Arms games has a… gun-sounding? Is that a phrase?… subtitle. Should I be abbreviating this game as WA2ndI? No.

Trudging through the desert is…

This guy! Ever notice how many JRPGs have heroes with blue hair? Is that, like, a thing?

Meanwhile, deep in a cave, some sulky guy looks over heavy artillery.

And sleepy girl gets some shuteye on a magic rune. That… is probably a bad idea.

Is maximum fuzziness offset by beady little eyes? Maybe we’ll find out!

And this is clearly some manner of Area 51 reject.

Back to wasteland traveling…

And now we get some (more) rapid fire action scenes. It’s our favorite alien on a rope bridge with the fuzzball. This is meant to seem dangerous, but has a bridge ever actually killed anyone important in fiction? And then some walking! And threatening! Or something!

And here’s a brief glimpse of the best character ever.

And some light incest!

Back to the desert.

And somewhere, a sixteen year old that dresses like a sixty year old is getting water while concerned.

Yes, this game will involve walking!

And the whole intro ends on a shot of blue-boy’s footprint. It is a weird thing to focus on for your finale.

By the by, in the Japanese version, this whole sequence is scored by a song that involves actual lyrics, but the vocals were replaced with a cool brass sound for us Americans that can’t stand to hear a Japanese voice. As a trumpet player, I’m not entirely upset.

Anyway, the introduction closes with a choice between three heroes. Do we choose “A young man ready for action”…

“A former hero now war criminal”…

Or “A sorceress just getting started”? You decide!

So we had a vote, and the former hero, now war criminal won!

So let’s meet the hero we all deserve! Time for… five years ago? Considering we have absolutely no sense of time in this game yet, this is an odd choice for an introduction.

Ah, here’s our hero now, hiding out by a cliff in the rain. For the record, despite the “time skip”, this dude’s sprite/look will not change in the intervening five years. This is Garr, not Nina.

And it appears he’s hiding from a pair of soldiers with really poor hearing.

Yep, they’re looking for him. And I guess rain makes people tired? Never heard that one before.

Wild Arms didn’t invent the monster “barghest” (basically a demon dog), but they are the creatures we’ll be fighting in this area. I guess these hell puppies are domesticated.

This is a flashback to “five years go”, so, naturally, we need…

Another flashback! We’re getting a narration of “hero” talking about his time with Shadow and Clyde or something or other.

These scenes are deliberately confusing, as, even if you played through the other stories at this point, you’re not supposed to have a damn clue what’s happening.

Though, given the current situation and the general tone of these flashbacks, I want to say nothing went according to plan.

Yeah, put the past out of your mind and start shooting stuff! Explosions are the only solution!

Yeah! That’s the perfect introduction for naming “Escapee”.

But, no, we actually get the name out of these soldiers out… wherever they are.

Great, on top of everything else, our hero dropped his wallet.

Here we go, our first name entry screen for the game. For whatever reason, you have the option of naming a lot of characters in Wild Arms 2. Well, “you” the player. You, reader, don’t get any options, because I’m dictator of an LP’er.

So let’s take this moment to introduce Brad Evans. Here’s the short description: he’s basically the living embodiment of that one line from that Batman movie. No, not the one about not being able to get rid of a bomb. Although I guess that might apply, too…

To go into a little more detail, I’m not one to declare one character or another as “best” or whatever (this is a lie), but Brad is certainly the most complex character in the opening trinity of Wild Arms 2. Boy starts out as something of a well meaning blank slate, and Girl is pretty much just here to be peppy all the time. By contrast, Brad is a weary war veteran, and his general realism in the face of his firmly JRPG “genki” teammates is really appreciated. Brad is basically holding down the adult table for much of Wild Arms 2, and his more innocent comrades seem overly juvenile by comparison.

Unfortunately, Brad is also a victim of the translation woes that will become apparent as we go. Brad has a very complex backstory that may involve covert dealings and well-intentioned assumed names and… it gets a little difficult to parse at points, so I’m going to mention this now, so hopefully someone can keep an eye on things. Speaking of which, there’s also a strong implication that Brad is actually gay, which would be kind of amazing if it also isn’t the byproduct of a weird translation. Again, keep an eye out.

Other than that, we’ll get more important details on Brad as we go, but, suffice it to say, Brad really is the best pick from the opening trio.

And from a strictly JRPG party standpoint, he’s the “strong guy”. But you probably already figured that out.

Oh, and if you didn’t notice, all last names are hardcoded, so no “fully” renaming a character. Whether it’s Brad or Ivan or Pants, this guy still has the same surname.

Anyway, with that, we now have actual control of Brad Evans. Oddly enough, this scene starts with Brad coming from the right (North, according to that arrow on the screen), and you have to return in that direction to proceed.

So… walking. That’s fun, right? See those little gem dealies? They actually restore your HP. Wild Arms 2 doesn’t restore your health after every battle like some games, but picking up these crystals will bring back a little. In general, they’re a pretty cool idea, as it limits the need to open a window and heal after every damn battle. And the gems can work as “coins” in some dungeons, leading our Mario in the right direction. Or you can use ‘em like bread crumbs, and easily identify an area where you’ve already been. Look, I’m saying that the crystal gems will always save the day.

And, in case the crystals aren’t enough, there are a pair of chests containing heal berries in this area. This is the basic “potion” of Wild Arms, and we’ll get bigger, better berries as we go along. Wild Arms tries to stick to a “wasteland/desert” motif (we’ll talk about it more later), so the idea of healing items being a grown consumable (as opposed to a generic potion or other magical healing “object”) has always been thematically appropriate for the series.

Oh, and we’ll address why I already have too many Heal Berries in a moment.

But we got all those healing items before our first battle! Those crystals would have been totally wasted if I grabbed ‘em all early (not that I’m ever coming back…).

Welcome to the battle screen for Wild Arms 2! This is pretty similar to Wild Arms 1 (and Lufia before it, incidentally), and we’ve got five initial choices. The middle (and default) choice is “fight”, which opens up more options. Above that, we’ve got an option to change equipment mid-battle (always nice to see in a JRPG), to the right is your typical “run”, and below is the option of changing the party order (which is obviously completely useless right now). The left option allows you to cede control to the AI…. Which has never been a good idea. I don’t think I’ve approved of AI controlled allies since a few bad experiences during Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Stop wasting your White charges, Phoebe!

Choosing that center Fight command gives us some real options. The sword in the center is your basic “hit the enemy with whatever” command, so that’s going to get used about 99% of the time. To the right is defend, which, as ever, is situational and rarely used. The star below isn’t going to do anything for us right now, but let’s just call it the “special” command. To the left is items, and you all know how that works. And the green burst above allows you to use your FP for your character’s specialty.

So let’s look at that… assuming you can see it at all. Brad has two options for his FP: using his special gun, and using the Lock On command. As you can likely guess, the gun is going to do a lot more damage than a typical attack, and the Lock On ability grants that gun 100% accuracy. Unfortunately, we have a whole 1 Force Point (FP) at the moment, so we can’t do a damn thing. Where do we get FP?

From fighting! Let’s go ahead and target… Oh, see, those are the Barghests that were released earlier. There are apparently hundreds of them, as they’re the only thing we’ll fight in this forest.

As you can see, fighting fills the FP gauge pretty quickly. You gain FP for landing a hit, and you gain FP for getting hit. Considering Brad is the only party member at the moment, his FP will sail immediately.

Now we’ve got the FP to use that Bazooka! Hey, Brad said not to be skimpy on the ammo.

Lock on is great and “unlimited”, because it just requires an easily replenished 25 FP to guarantee a hit, and nobody likes to miss. However, the major disadvantage of the Bazooka (and all arms) is that it has limited ammo, and only a fairly rare item (the bullet clip) will fill it back up while in the field. Because Wild Arms 2 doesn’t offer any sort of dungeon maps or any easy way for a neophyte player to know the length of any given dungeon, this generally leads to bazookas and alike being saved for bosses… and that’s just as well. There are rarely any monsters in a WA2 dungeon that are worth “wasting” the ammo.

So, long story short, Brad doesn’t get to effectively expend his FP yet.

Incidentally, all characters start with FP equal to their level, thus Brad beginning this battle with 1 FP. Obviously that will get more useful as numbers go up.

And here’s our federally mandated victory pose. Most battles result in EXP and Gella (cash) gains, but sometimes you’ll earn an item as well. Pretty straightforward.

Since we just completed our first battle, let’s take a look at the menu. Full disclosure, I actually played through all the characters before Brad, because I wanted to make sure I could actually play this game before starting the LP (and thus before hosting the vote). That’s why we’ve already got 47 minutes on the clock down there, and some extra gella from other adventures, too. Brad is still at Level 1 regardless, and this is one of those nice JRPGs where you always know how far you are from the next level up. Only 7 more EXP to go!

At the right, we’ve got some basic choices, like items and equip. Auto determines how your computer AI works if you’re into that, and form is the same “rearrange the party” command from battle. Status is pretty straightforward, and I’ll tackle the System menu (basically “options”) during an update where I’m not already explaining the entire rest of the game.

For now we’re hitting the equip menu, so I can confess my sins.

I hacked the entire inventory into my game. Basically, I have an impossible 127 of every item in Wild Arms 2. This means that I can immediately equip all the “ultimate weapons”, and basically obliterate everything in my path.

Also technically hacked in some items that don’t exist. Considering this also means I have all the key items in the game… well, here’s hoping the whole LP doesn’t glitch out of existence at some point.

Incidentally, all gear (except accessories) are character specific, and, for whatever reason, each character is not noted by name in these descriptions, but “vocation”. Girl is, for instance “A crest sorceress”. Brad is “Prisoner 666”. … He’s #666?

Huh. I’m having second thoughts about this LP.

Sans cheating, though, Brad is simply known as “Deserter”.

Okay, back to escaping… or whatever Brad is up to. He’s getting away from those dudes that stole his wallet. We know that much.

The Wild Arms series has this weird, one directional run thing going on. It’s not just a matter of holding down a generic “go faster” button, and… Uh, does the GIF explain what’s going on here? It’s hard to describe running in this series.

A treasure chest behind a big rock? Guess we’ll be returning to this area at some point with some heavy artillery. It’s not like Brad has a bazooka on him or anything.

Crates? I can deal with crates.

Crates can be picked up and tossed by any character. They’re just boring obstacles in this dungeon, but sometimes you need to use a crate to hit a switch or something, so get used to the fixed arc of a crate toss.

Oh, and sometimes crates include items like heal berries, so go ahead and destroy every crate you ever see (until you realize that you’re in a room with a switch, and you just inadvertently destroyed all your ammo, and you have to reenter the room to reset all the boxes).

A little past the crates is a cliff.

There is also literally no reason to go backwards in this dungeon. Well, unless you suddenly picked up a giant rock buster.

Brad psyches himself up for breaking his legs leaping off a cliff in the rain.

So you’ve got complete control of the camera in Wild Arms 2, and I guess you’re supposed to swing that puppy around so you can effectively jump down to the treasure chest we saw a moment ago.

Buuut I screwed that up, and missed it completely. Whoops!

So you may have noticed the red exclamation point over Brad’s head at the start of our first battle. That red bubble actually indicates an unavoidable random battle. A white exclamation point means you can cancel the random encounter, and just get on with your life. Thus, each dungeon becomes a sort of resource battle between “do I take this battle and gain the EXP, or do I avoid it and save on healing items?” Also, I guess the fact that most random encounters in WA2 are boring as sin is a factor, too. Anyway, point is that you get a choice of battles most of the time.

Oh, also there is a green exclamation point, and I believe that means you are stronger than the enemy trying to fight you. And, additional fun fact, I think you encounter more red exclamation points while running, but that might just be confirmation bias, as I am always running. Gotta go fast.

Anyway, I cancelled that battle, and then smashed up some boxes. Yay! Another heal berry!

Moving forward, Brad is startled by…

A puppy! We have now confirmed that Brad is a good guy, because he is a friend to animals.

Whoops.

Brad hides behind a tree and shouts… “Namumi”? Uh… let’s just go ahead and assume that’s what he named the tree.

So Brad’s new puppy took one for the team and played interference for our favorite outlaw. Somebody has got some belly rubs in their future!

“Yes, I saved you, Human that Smells of Sausages. I had no ulterior motive.”

And he brings back another Heal Berry! It’s the thought that counts!

Now we’ve got puppy power on our side! Puppers will follow us through the rest of the dungeon, but he does not participate in any battles. He probably has objections to Brad killing every other dog in the forest.

Anyway, there’s a fork in the road, so we’re going to try going north.

I’m not going to show every random battle, but suffice it to say we’ve already missed a couple, and there are certainly a few more on this path.

And this path leads… nowhere. There’s a trolley car thingy or something…

But it ain’t helping.

Oh, guess I should note the difference in damage output between the default weaponry, and, ya know, cheating. I think I just knocked that barghest into orbit.

Back we go.

Let’s try the other fork.

Ah, an abandoned shed on a rain soaked night. This should end well!

Hey, it’s our first save point. There are two separate kinds of save points in this game, but the only real difference is that you only see these save rocks in dungeons, and we’ll encounter save “people” in towns. It’s strictly a cosmetic difference. And, no, this is not a game where you can save anywhere, or even on the world map. Sorry, we’re stuck with Dragon Quest rules here.

For the heck of it, here’s the save screen. Each save file is represented with a book, and an “active” save file is an open book.

… I’m sorry, every time I look at this screen, I’m reminded of the bad old days of memory card management, and how every slot on there better be used for something important, or I have to go spend another fifteen damn bucks on another damn memory card. God bless our hard drive based future.

Like Dragon Quest, you can “quit” from every save point.

Which will activate a little animation of Girl set to some soothing music. This, of course, activates whether you’ve played Girl’s portion of the opening or not.

Coupled with the opening that plays every time you boot up a save file, it’s like Wild Arms 2 is trying to present a sort of “episode” every time you enjoy a play session, complete with canned opening and ending. That’s clever! Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out that way, as it’s a lot more likely you’ll quit by powering down after a Game Over or similar circumstance. Oh well, it was a nice concept.

But we’re not quitting yet, because the next (and only other) room contains Kick Boots!

Kick Boots are our first “tool”: an item that may be used while exploring dungeons or towns. Note that tools have absolutely no impact on battles, and you’re not allowed to kick over demon dogs. Boo.

Kick Boots allow Brad to… kick stuff. As it says in the description, this “will cause all kinds of things to happen.” This is accurate! Try kicking stuff in your daily life! All kinds of things will happen!

NOTE: This LP does not condone kicking all kinds of things to see what happens. Please do not take any advice contained within this LP.

Hi-ya! Brad’s boots don’t look different at all!

Back out in the rain, let’s see what kind of thing happens when you kick an old gate. … Well, just about what I’d expect.

There’s a Big Berry hiding in the back room. This will provide better healing than a typical Heal Berry, and is probably best saved for later, more intense battles. Well, in games where you’re not cheating your way into a hundred of the lil’ buggers.

Also in the backyard is a Bullet Load. This is the item that will refill an arms’ ammo, and these should be horded like precious gold. Otherwise, the only way to refill an arm is to hit an ammo shop in town. Even inns won’t do the job!

Oh, have I mentioned that all firearms in Wild Arms are called arms? They might even be called ARMs, but I may have to use that denotation for something else later.

Fun fact: kicking crates does nothing. All kinds of things will happen my ass.

Okay, now that we’ve got kicking power, this tower suddenly becomes a lot more useful. Jump with me, puppy!

Right past the man and dog zipline course, Brad decides it’s time to be stealthy again.

Gee, I don’t know, maybe it’s that guy you’re supposed to be capturing.

I wonder, what does being an NPC pay?

Oh, guess not much. These dudes are conscripted locals trying to bag the Brad reward for… a horse? Wow, aim high, little bandana dude.

Brad realizes these two nimrods were recruited recently, so there must be a town nearby where our hero can at least get out of the damn rain.

But out of nowhere, a scary monster appears. Well, I mean, that’s “out of nowhere” assuming you don’t live in a JRPG world.

And Brad blows his cover to save these two strangers that were literally discussing what to do with the “capture Brad” prize ten seconds ago.

I think he knows who he is, stupid.

And Brad rushes into danger!

Every boss in Wild Arms 2 gets a dynamic intro. Time to meet the Gremalkin! I’m not sure if they were going for “Grimalkin”, but that’s an old word for cat… and this ain’t no cat.

Brad starts the battle by talking to himself.

Are you talking to your arm, or the two guys that have inevitably already fled to the next county?

Strike a pose!

So it’s some kind of purple monster with a bee hive for a chest. I’m moderately certain this creature was part of the Real Ghostbusters toy line.

Here’s Wild Arms 2’s big contribution to JRPG boss battles: every (big) boss has multiple targets available, and, assuming you kill the “optional” targets, you’ll get bonus EXP/Gella. The downside is that, aside from just plain wasting turns on draining the HP of an optional target, bosses generally get more powerful without their extra parts.

Case in point, Gremalkin will attack with its Chest Buster attack as long as its belly is intact.

And will only use the more powerful Roaring Burst rarely. Once you defeat the belly, it will use Roaring Burst every turn, and this will drain Brad’s HP much faster.

Of course, this is still basically a tutorial boss, so it’s not like he’s that difficult. Use a few of those healing berries and lock-on with the bazooka a few times, and you’re golden.

Gremalkin had so much to live for! He was going to get new glasses next week!

As you may compare to earlier shots from after the barghest fight, you get a whole lot more EXP and Gella after a boss fight. This is kind of important to maxing out level ups, and we’ll talk about it more later.

Post battle, Brad appears to be limping. I guess punching straight into a belly full of bees isn’t the best idea.

Wow it is like he is some manner of hero.

The Possee Leader, whom you should imagine talking like that one guy from that one scene from Space Balls (you know the one), makes the scene.

Of course, he stands around discussing geography while a wounded Brad escapes.

Welcome to the world map!

Brad, you can’t live in a sign. Unless… No, no, bad idea.

The sign has directions to a place where we can rest! Brilliant!

This is the only opening chapter with the world map, and we receive a brief tutorial on Wild Arms 2’s other big change to the JRPG formula.

Basically, you can’t really “see” any landmarks on the map. It is your responsibility to activate this sonar-like circle to “find” your next objective. This allows the game to “hide” important locations until it’s time for them to be properly unlocked by the plot or a friendly NPC. Regrettably, this is kind of ridiculous, as you may spend a half hour wandering around a clearing trying to find your next dungeon, and it turns out to be a gigantic tower that should have been pretty easy to spot from about ten miles out. Oh well. I suppose this whole thing is supposed to be less “realistic” in relation to the world map, and more a simulation of exploring unknown territory in a wide-open expanse. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

And there are random battles on the world map, and they work exactly like they do within dungeons. Incidentally, the on-screen map is not normally seen at this point in the game, but, ya know, cheating.

Here’s an action shot of our sonar discovering… another sign. In addition to the obvious towns and dungeons, you may also find signs and treasures on the world map. This will lead the average WA2 player to activate the sonar command about every other step.

Almost there!

Incidentally, the world map provides our first non-barghest random enemy. These balloons are basically the slimes of the WA series, and it’s good to see their return.

They are not creatures made for hugs.

Here’s T’Bok Village, right where I guess that sign said it would be.

Time for a nice rest.

Unfortunately, Brad’s cutscene malady is acting up again, and we’re back to limping. Puppy is fine, though!

Brad is not.

“Didn’t I have like a hundred Heal Berries? Couldn’t I have eaten one?”

Aaaaand we’re back.

So Brad Evans is down on the farm?

It’s kind of amazing that we don’t wind up naming lil’ Merrill here.

… Yes?

Oh, we actually get a choice? Look, I’d love to pick the contrary choice, but, come on, how can we not be a friend to a puppy?

Little girl can talk to puppies. Noted. Also, considering Brad passed out like six inches from a house, I guess nobody looks out their windows at night.

And we get to name the dog? Okay. Rassyu is a stupid name and I hate it. And here I thought Dr. Light was the worst at naming dogs.

… What would #666 name his dog?

There we go.

It occurs to me that Brad is barely conscious at this point. Be glad the puppers didn’t get named “Incomprehensible Grunting”.

Anyway, gotta go, Dog Whisperer, kind of an escaped convict or something.

Nobody will notice a you taking breakfast to an abandoned barn.

Not pictured: the half hour it took a little girl to drag a fully grown adult into a barn. At night. In the rain.

I always like how people that can talk to animals immediately trust said animals. I guess a puppy would be pretty transparent, but have you ever imagined a conversation with a cat? I bet they lie all the time.

Uh-oh, sounds like something is going on outside.

This is an obvious as lie, as Merrill leaves all of a second later.

See! Also, Merrill’s twitter status immediately announces her web of lies.

So Brad decides to wander outside.

Stay cool, Brad.

“Dude, I found your wallet.” “Really? Rock.”

I fucking miss situational JRPG sprite work.

Brad makes the point that he will wreck these soldiers, but oh ho ho, you wouldn’t want anybody to get hurt, would you, Brad?

So Brad surrenders peacefully. Do it for Alby, Brad!

“Look, I’d just really rather not shoot my dad this morning. We’re watching Orange is the New Black together, and… Oh never mind.”

And so, Brad is taken away to… did you see anything that looked like a jail on the way here? Wait, what’s stopping Brad from going nuts after he’s like thirty feet away from innocent bystanders? Does he just like those mooks in the bandanas that much? Bah, trying not to think about it.

Merrill, come on, you already know the answer to this one. The dog told you he was fine.

“Can you hear me adding quotes to the word ‘hero’? Good.”

Yes, let’s all have a hearty laugh about it.

And let’s close this puppy out with some good ol’ hero soliloquizing.

“Perhaps its… better this way. All I know is fighting. If I kept on going, all I would find is more blood and death. There are few places for someone whose only true home is on the battlefield. I’ll consider this a vacation. After all, heroes aren’t needed once the shooting stops. If peace means a world that needs no heroes, then that has to be better.”

And that’s the end of Brad’s introduction. Five years ago? Not a good time for Brad. Guess we’ll find out what he’s been up to in the interim later.

Next time on Wild Arms 2: Little boxes made of ticky tacky.

One Response »

  1. Pingback: Wild Arms 2 Part 13: You’re a Wizard, Timmy! | Gogglebob.com

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