Previously on Wild Arms 2: Five years ago, Brad Evans was arrested for seventeen counts of gem theft, gate damage, and the extinction of an endangered beehive-based creature.
But that’s all behind us, and it’s time to check in with Palace Village. Come for the village, stay for the palace (note: there is no palace).
This appears to be some village elders’ meeting regarding hiring a mercenary. Oh, wait, excuse me, “Merc”. That’s the deliberate term for hobos adventurers in the Wild Arms universe.
There’s some random crosstalk here, but apparently these guys need a merc for something.
And then a girl dropped in.
Without anyone even responding, Apology Girl realizes she’s in the wrong place. I guess the Valeria household would never have a carpet pattern on a dining room table.
The confused villagers ask the girl her name, and that’s when this familiar screen pops up.
So let’s take a moment to introduce Lilka Eleniak. Lilka is kind of an odd duck for a JRPG. She’s one of the first characters introduced (technically the first named character, assuming you choose her adventure first), and she will be with the party right through to the finale. However, Lilka has nothing to do with anything. Lilka is not the chief hero of the story, she is not the romantic lead, and she is not in any way related to the villains of the piece in any significant way. But she’s the magic user, right? That’s her whole deal, so she’s got to have some sort of mystical connection with the…. Nope. By the time we get into the whole “magical gods of Wild Arms” plot, Lilka will be ignored for a new party member that actually has connections to the spiritual side of this world. Sorry!
On one hand, this could lead to some interesting storytelling, as without a more overt Uncle Ben or supervillain for her superheroism, Lilka is free to be a hero just for the sake of being a hero. Unfortunately, in practice, as one of three (and eventually even more), she basically gets lost in the shuffle, and it’s really easy to forget Lilka is even there half the time.
(Incidentally, it’s possible Lilka’s relatively unmoored characterization is in response to Wild Arms 1’s Cecilia, who is a magic user, princess, god-whisperer, and chosen one all in one. Also, I feel this “problem” directly lead to Virginia Maxwell, Wild Arms 3’s lead who is the best.)
Anyway, as Lilka has nothing to do with anything, she basically exists to be the peppy, optimistic character that perks up every time the party acknowledges they’ve somehow gotten stuck on another suicide mission. Other than that… well, let’s watch and see if she ever does anything interesting.
“Oh, boy. I messed up again. But at least I came to a place where everyone seems so nice. I know I should hurry, but I guess there’s no harm in resting here for a while.”
So Brad has to flee for his life through the woods, and Lilka is going to chill at some village. I wonder which character makes a more significant first impression.
Welcome to ACTION DINNER CONVERSATION!
Okay, I’m going to talk about this again: I really love old school sprite animation. I played through Persona 5 shortly before starting this LP, and that is a game released in 2017 on the friggen Playstation 3 and Playstation 4. And, early in the game, there’s a moment when the characters have to pull a grate off a vent to make an escape, and the scene cuts to black, and then the grate is on the floor. Nobody wanted to spend the time animating a dude pulling a grate off a wall! Come on, guys! It can’t be that hard! And if you didn’t want to animate the grate-pull, why not just have the vent be open in the first place!? And don’t think I didn’t notice the same problem ten hours later when a blanket was pulled off a painting with a quick fade to black!
I realize that money and time and resources can be spent elsewhere in videogames. I realize that pulling off that grate means we get a slightly less detailed model for Mara. I realize all of that, but it still bothers me when no one decides to give Joker a “pulling” animation. It could be used elsewhere! You could use it all over the place! It might fun! But… no… the days when companies dedicated time and resources to “incidental” animations in JRPGs (and other games!) are long gone, and we might never see a witch girl reach for a hot cuppa ever again.
Bless you, pre-polygon JRPG cinematography.
Here’s your homework for the week: I want everyone to spend one day talking to other people like they live in the opening chapter of a JRPG. When someone asks what you’re doing, reply, “I am speaking like I am in the opening of a JRPG, a Japanese role playing game that traditionally takes place in a fantasy setting. I got the idea from reading a Let’s Play on a forum. You know, one of those online communication boards available on computers, the modern electronic devices that function like an advanced abacus.”
And then she burned down the village. The end.
And then I burned down the village. The end.
Practical magic is no magic at all! And I can never pick out my own name in a noisy room! I always get distracted by people screaming for their Goggle Mom.
This brief discussion on the nature of magic leads to a flashback. Unlike Brad’s sepia flashbacks, we’ll be “playing” this flashback (and it’s in color!).
We’re apparently in the Millennium Puzzle.
Diagram provided for clarity.
So I guess Lilka lost a d-d-d-d-duel, and now she’s stuck. But we’ve got a telepathic sister to help out!
Lilka’s Sister suggests chucking some magic at this big box.
But no effect. Lilka admits that she has the magical aptitude of Mailbot, the Mail Robot.
Uh… yes? I guess the statement here is that Lilka got herself into this box-based mess.
So Lilka decides to go for the gold and chuck another six fireballs at the box.
Remedial magic for dummies.
Lilka: the most appreciative mage.
“Well” isn’t an answer! “Well” is where you drop a rock and hope it opens a passage to the underground!
So Sissy suggests lobbing some fireballs at the smaller box.
Success! A crystal appeared!
Dungeon where you have to hit three switches. Got it!
Lilka starts the game with her “tool”. Like Brad’s boots, press the square button while exploring, and you can launch a fireball. The fireball has good range, and is used in a number of puzzles for general “hit that” purposes. Also, disappointingly, the fireball does not ignite everything you can find, nor does it barbecue hapless villagers. Lame.
Lilka doesn’t need a tutorial!
So here we go, Lilka’s intro dungeon starts in earnest. Basically, what we have here is one of those general “hub” dungeons. Here is the main hub, and there will be three different branches that all circle back so we can hit those currently inaccessible switches. It may be hard to tell from the shot there, but the three blue blocks are on a much higher plane than Lilka.
Make your way to the gem that Lilka summoned and Sister Gabby has more to say.
Or… she doesn’t.
The green gem teleports Lilka to her first challenge.
Oh, never mind, it’s just a save point. Unlike the other tutorial chapters, Lilka has ready access to saving at pretty much any time. It’s very easy to return to this point, so feel free to abuse this spot if you’re nervous about Lilka’s tiny HP pool.
This whole dungeon is basically a giant puzzle dungeon with an emphasis on movement puzzles. Hit the switch, see that a block moves, and then use that block in some way to move forward. Please see the above gif if that didn’t make any sense.
And, once again, we encounter HP restoring gems before our first battle.
There we go!
Brad had ARMs, Lilka has magic spells. That makes sense! We’ve got three basic spells to start (Fire, Ice, Cure… what do you mean this isn’t Final Fantasy?), and, once this dungeon is complete, we can customize the hell out of our spell list. We also… can’t use any spells right now.
Spells, like ARMs, require FP. FP, like always, is accumulated by fighting, whether it be taking damage or dishing it out. This means that Lilka is kind of a slow starter: at the beginning of the game, she never starts a battle with enough FP to cast spells, so she has to take some damage to get going. On the plus side, magic being powered by FP means you have effectively infinite “MP”, or at least a magic pool that charges without having to chug your ether supply. This means that, unlike ARMs, Lilka has a special command that she can use without fear of “running out” before the end of the dungeon.
Oh, also Lilka has the Mystic command at FP Level 1. This allows Lilka to use one item on the whole party. This can be really helpful (and downright game-breaking)… but fat lot of good it will do you in a party one.
So after a round of battle (that left the monsters still standing and Lilka down about a third of her HP), we have enough FP to launch some magic attacks. Eat fire, bug monster!
Unfortunately, this ain’t Pokémon, and these bug things are resistant to fire. A gray number means the attack was not very effective.
Another round, time to try some ice.
That’s the stuff! Red numbers mean super effective, and this is one stomped bug.
And here’s a win pose for Lilka. Have I mentioned that her melee weapon is an umbrella? Because it is, and I only know one tough cream puff that can pull that one off.
So, incidentally, the opening chapters technically have a listed difficulty curve. Blue Boy, the obvious protagonist of the story, has the easiest chapter, Brad is considered “medium”, and Lilka is saddled with the most difficult opening chapter. This is almost entirely because she’s fragile (you will note her HP count after a whole one battle), but it’s also because if you don’t pick up on the “use magic, hit weak points” thing going on here, you’re pretty much done. Heck, if I kept trying to use fire in that previous battle, Lilka would be dead after her first battle. This is something of a dramatic contrast from the other two characters, which I’m pretty sure can just use the fight command and never encounter an issue.
On the other hand, you do get a cure spell, so I guess that’s something.
And that cure spell doesn’t work outside of battles, because of the whole FP thing. Oh well, at least there are a few HP-granting gems around.
Those roaches are the primary enemies here, but there are also malevolent books floating around. Just to be annoying, bugs are weak to ice, books are weak to fire. It makes a certain kind of sense…
The earth element attack spell in Wild Arms is Break. This is not the second enemy in Lilka’s game attempting to turn my sole character to stone.
Anyway, moving on with the dungeon portion of our adventure (and, by the way, I reequipped Lilka so she is now practically a tank), more blocks spells more… spells.
The Millennium Puzzle does not have guardrails. Technically, you can fall off a whole lot of places in Wild Arms 2 (back in Brad’s chapter, you could fall off that cliff by the trolley), but there isn’t much of a disadvantage to falling: you’re just teleported back to the entrance of the room. In some rooms, falling is even advantageous, as it’s faster than walking back to the door. However, it is kind of a pain in the ass if you fall inches from the exit, so, ya know, exercise caution.
Lilka can use her fireballs for a diagonal blast. Note that Brad’s kick rarely has a reason to go diagonal.
Some of the “puzzles” require the player to properly rotate the camera. Probably a good practice for finding treasure, too.
Each of these subareas ends with an elevator to a higher location. I guess teleporters only work horizontally or something?
We’re back in the central hub, and it’s time to take out Box Numero Uno.
Another teleport crystal, and another conversation with sissy.
So Lilka is stuck in a garage door opener. Noted.
The second area has a number of switches that require a little forward thinking. It’s difficult to become “trapped”, but you can loop around this area a couple of times if you hit the wrong switches in the wrong order.
And I guess there are ghost squids around, too.
Sometimes you even have to fall down to a lower level to proceed. Be sure to rotate that camera as necessary!
Overall, the second area seems to go by the fastest… assuming you don’t get lost.
Box Number Two is in the can.
That… is not a short title. I’m sticking to Sissy.
“Lilka, I’m a phenomenal success, and you’re…. you.”
“You need to believe in yourself more. Lilka, from now on you need to believe in the magic that is yours alone. No matter how hard things get, you’ll be able to overcome it with your magic.”
“Huh? What? Finding faults now? Later! Leave it ’til later! If I can do things with my magic, I’ll listen to anything!”
Lilka understands… about half of what she’s told.
Third and final area… Hm, this spot seems a little more filled out than the other narrow paths.
So there are these blocks that rise when you stand on them.
And I guess the solution to the puzzle isn’t to stand on the blocks until they’re all three blocks high. Damn, could have saved us all a lot of time.
Okay, let’s backtrack a little and check out these lil’ teleporters.
Ah, here we go. Each of the four teleporters in this area features a different column of blocks. Match the number of raised blocks to the appropriate color back in the main room, and we’ll be all set.
So after hitting four different rooms, here’s the solution. The biggest challenge here is just remembering the right number sets while also engaging in random battles. … Or checking Gamefaqs (also available in 2000).
That puzzle is the only obstacle in the third area, so now we can knock out the final block.
Hooray! We reset the door or something! Let’s blow this popsicle stand!
“Hey, you wouldn’t shut up earlier. Where’d you go?”
I suppose the Lilka sisters were not brought up in a barn.
Ah, now Lilka’s getting it.
Lilka, tune your sister in a little bit more.
Just turn up the volume!
Aaaaand that’s it. Say good-bye to Lilka’s unnamed sister. Speaking of which, this brings us to the first edition of…
BAD STORY OR BAD TRANSLATION?
We’ll get a scant few more details later, but Lilka’s sister was apparently a magic user of some renown. We’ve already seen that Lilka holds her in high esteem, but we’ll eventually find out that Sissy was fairly legendary in the mage circles, and was apparently the Magic Johnson of magic.
Emphasis on “was” though, as she’s apparently dead now.
Sissy is a disembodied, helpful voice for the entirety of this dungeon, but we never see her at all. Then, after one or two random bits of hesitation on Sissy’s part, she seems to disappear forever when Lilka exits the Millennium Puzzle. And that, basically, is all we will ever know. Lilka’s Sister does not appear again, and, when asked about it, Lilka says shes unavailable. We eventually hit Lilka’s hometown later in the game, and, at this point, it’s just noted that Sissy was lost in an accident.
So what was that accident? Well, it appears Sissy may have sacrificed herself for Lilka’s sake. We do not know how Lilka wound up in that Millennium Puzzle, but we do know that Lilka didn’t have the juice to open the door the real way (with that giant block at the start of scene), and, since the door couldn’t be left slightly ajar, Sissy had to do something… and maybe got forever trapped in the process. The brilliant Witch Girl had to sacrifice her life for her bumbling sister, and now Lilka has to live her life knowing that it came at the cost of the “better” sister.
Except… that isn’t ever made explicit. Lilka makes a big point of holding her sister in high regard, and later characters will comment that she was “lost in an accident”, but… that’s kind of it. This is arguably the most important event in Lilka’s life (and that includes everything that eventually happens in this plot), and the audience never gets a clear picture of what happened.
Was it because of a bad translation or bad plotting, though? You decide!
Back to reality!
In case you forget, Lilka was reimagining that entire dungeon from the safety of some random town. And now daddy’s home!
Lilka is all about the helping.
This… is remarkably straightforward.
Lilka is objecting to a subtle jab by the kid and… she can speak emoji?
Okay, back in the driver’s seat! This is technically the only (usable) town in any of the prologues, and we can now explore at will. Our goal is to gather data on the recent monster attacks.
Wild Arms 2 is one of those JRPGs where you can investigate a bookcase and read one book that is like four paragraphs long. I have never quite understood how that works. Regardless, we can learn important science facts here, and I bet the difference between a comet and a meteor will never be significant to anybody. (For the record, a comet orbits a celestial body, while a meteor is the natural enemy of the vegetarian)
Okay, back to the town. It’s nighttime, but we can still explore and…
Aw, nertz. Yeah, we’re in a town, but everything (except “our” house) is locked, so it’s just window-dressing. Fake town! Boo!
But we can meet our first Memory Service Lady. In dungeons we have save rocks, in towns we have the Memory Service, a group of identical women that have been dispatched to every town to record memories. She’s just here to listen to your memories. So… Wild Arms 2 features a world that involves universal, free psychiatry?
Also, if you try to leave, Lilka psyches herself up with memories of her sister. No running away to wherever you were supposed to be in the first place!
So all we have to do here is talk to three or four townsfolk and gather enough information to trigger the flag to move forward hunt the monster.
I’m not going to showcase the “talk to everyone” here, because it boils down to…
That. Just that.
See if it can recognize its name in a crowd!
Oh, turns out it’s just one monster. Meet Olivier! Please sir, may I have some more… pain?
What a lovely night to kill some weirdo bug monster.
Olivier enjoys traditional activities like eating grain and puking all over magical girls.
This battle is pretty easy (even if you’re not cheating). Lilka effectively has unlimited charges for her heal spell, and she always goes first. Assuming you can ration your HP correctly, you’re never in any danger.
… Which is good, because if you save within town, you have no way to revisit the dungeon and grind on weaker enemies for EXP.
Olivier is weak to fire, but his legs are weak to ice. What a complicated guy.
What a dead guy.
And the day is saved!
Lilka is… kind of surprised at her victory. Aw, first battle without sisterly backup.
“Way to summon fire from Hell and destroy a human-sized insect!”
Lilka is into it!
The next day, the village decides to see Lilka off to her next destination.
“Thanks for letting me level up both physically and mentally! And the coffee!”
The town offers Lilka all sorts of prizes, but she only takes a single teleport gem. Once item shops open up in this game, teleport gems are sold for 100 gella.
“Big Sis, will you come visit me again?”
“Of course! I promise!”
Cue laugh track. Let’s get out of here.
Teleport gem activate!
A black cat wanders into town in Lilka’s absence. I think that’s supposed to tell us everything we need to know.
“I tried to be cool about it, but I might have blown it. I don’t think I’d have been cursed if I had accepted a bag lunch. That reminds me… I still haven’t had breakfast yet. I’m so hungry! I’m sure it’ll be OK! If I get to the Valeria home. I’m sure they’ll feed me! Now that that’s settled, I’ll be fine, just fine! …at least that’s what I thought.”
Brad ends his prologue being carted off to prison, Lilka wraps things up slightly hungry. Hers is a hard life.
Next time on Wild Arms 2: Boy Blue and the exploding goo.