Previously on Wild Arms 2: Lilka solved the Millennial Puzzle! Kinda! And it got her sister killed! Maybe! You know, it was really unclear.
But no time for that now! Now we’ve got some manner of military vehicle shipping out. Did you know there were cars in the Wild Arms 2 universe? There are! Makes that guy who was saving up for a horse look like a chump.
Can you spot the main character?
“They are extra ruined ruins, thus the name.”
Musketeer B has worries about being chosen. But who is Musketeer B?
Zack? Cloud? … The other guy?
What? Britney wasn’t available?
Okay! Time to talk about Ashley Winchester. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t talk about Ashley Winchester, as he pretty much is Wild Arms 2. In the same way that telling the story of Ansem and Sora effectively summarizes the entirety of Kingdom Hearts (the joke is that there is no effective way to summarize Kingdom Hearts), telling Ashley’s story is basically telling the human side of the Wild Arms 2 story (the political side… is something else). So let’s just leave it loose here, and let his story unfold naturally.
I guess I should mention that he is a JRPG protagonist with actual agency, and isn’t just another mute kid with blue-hair that is meant to be the player avatar. He is Ashley Winchester, and not a generic stand-in for “you”, so try to keep that in mind.
Oh, also Ashley is the heroest hero that ever heroed, but, if you haven’t already guessed, “heroism” is a major theme of Wild Arms 2, so we’ll just watch and see how that plays out.
See? Ashley is going to showboat like it’s nobody’s business, and you’ll like it!
Time to settle down for the real plot: some kid has been taken hostage, and the kidnappers fled into the nearby Withered Ruins because, I don’t know, they like the smell of the place. Technically this whole team of Musketeers is being dispatched to rescue one kid, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that all those identical dudes are going to have a hard time getting anything done.
So welcome to the Withered Ruins. For a lot of people, this is the first dungeon in the game, and it is clearly the dungeon best designed to be that starting point.
You leave your ruins to rot, you’re gonna get monsters. The first couple of rooms in the Withered Ruins are monster-less, and you’ve just got a bunch of NPCs milling about that provide tutorial tips. Note, again, that nothing like this exists in the other two introductory segments.
“Hey, Ashley, shouldn’t we leave kidnapped children to die?”
You actually get to choose whether or not Ashley is a sniveling coward. This impacts nothing, but it does immediately encourage the player to see Ashley as the most noteworthy digital avatar in this game.
And if you choose to portray Ashley as more Allen than Ashley, you’ll learn that Ashley is pretty well respected by this one guy that believes kidnapped children should just rescue themselves.
Son of a…
This is the only introduction that explains…
The Gimel Coin. This is an item that you can’t buy, but is found in a lot of treasure chests. As long as you have a Gimel Coin, you can continue immediately after losing a battle. Unfortunately, if memory serves, you just restart the battle immediately, so if you’re underprepared for the fight in the first place, you’re still out of luck (though you may change equipment during any battle, if that’s a concern). WA2 is fairly generous with its savepoints, but it’s still nice that, in a time when most JRPGS punished the player for losing with a great big waste of time, WA2 introduced an item that makes life a little bit easier.
There are a few other treasures in the waiting area, so screw you, that one guy!
And there’s a “Health Official” that will automatically top off your HP any time you need him. Again, nothing like this exists in the other dungeons.
Finally, after talking to a bunch of other completely useless musketeers, we hit the dungeon proper. Ashley technically doesn’t see anything other than this dungeon for his entire intro, but he somehow still got a more populated “town” than Lilka.
Ah, the answer to this conundrum is obvious…
Don’t fall in the hole. Got it.
Exploring the dungeon while not falling into a hole like a big idiot yields some more random treasures that shouldn’t exist. Who puts a berry in a box in a dungeon?
And down some stairs, we find that poor idiot who couldn’t identify a big, gaping hole. Of course, he’s on a plane slightly above Ashley’s, so…. Dammit, this is going to be rough on the knees.
Yeah, there’s a locked door ahead. It’s pretty clear we have to deal with this doofus.
Oh, hey, a battle. Look, it’s a barely visible bat!
A… stirge? Roll a D20 to see if you recognize that word.
Ashley is not a musketeer in name only, he attacks with an actual (fantasy) musket. No rapiers for this hero.
Like Brad, Ashley is an ARMs user, so his basic attacks are stabs, while his FP-powered special attacks employ some bullets. Again, like Brad, he has limited ammo that can only be reliably restored in towns, so be mindful of your resources.
Ashley also has the Level 1 FP ability Accelerator. This is a Wild Arms staple that allows the user to move first during one turn, regardless of the speed of everyone else on the field. This is amazing, and allows for some ridiculous exploitation. For right now, just consider that Ashley can always use a healing item first thing in a round, assuming he’s got a piddling 25 FP.
I’m pretty sure he could cut down a tree with that musket.
Back up some stairs, and it’s time to take the plunge.
Falling allows Ashley to access that dork that fell down here in the first place. Luckily, Ashley does not land directly atop the hapless nerd.
Fall Guy reiterates the previously mentioned “Ashley wants a promotion” thing…
And then shows Ashley what a knife is.
Whoa, I’m totally going to hurl… a knife! (Do not try this at home)
So Ashley scores his first tool. This knife works almost exactly like Lilka’s fire spell tool, but with one tiny difference that we’ll cover later.
So Ashley moves on, and leaves Fall Guy to have a nice rest. Note that this poindexter isn’t dead, as he does appear later (and he doesn’t have a broken spine or anything).
Further dungeon exploration, further crap restorative treasures.
Also: a monster or two that may eat your baby.
So here’s a fun fact…
All ARMs have accuracy ratings. Even though ARMs are supposed to be high-powered attack moves that make short work of regular monsters and do extensive damage to bosses, they can still miss, and likely will miss pretty frequently. You can upgrade ARMs to have better hit rates, and Brad has a skill that guarantees 100% accuracy, but most of the time, there’s every chance that your super weapon with a mere seven shots is going to miss. This is particularly demoralizing when it happens immediately in the first dungeon, as a neophyte player may accidentally learn that ARMs are… kind of useless. They’re not! But they are useless when they miss…
So back to stabbing.
Back up some stairs again, we can use our newly acquired hurl knife to hit a switch and move forward. Thanks a lot, guy I left alone in a ditch!
Now we can really start our dungeon exploring. The next area has a high and low branch. The basic idea is that you may fall from the high area, and then have to retrace your steps through the low area… but since the low area is a dead end, you might accidentally choose the low branch first and waste some time. I hate wasting time!
Particularly when there are monsters about. I might be crazy, but Ashley seems to have the highest encounter rate of any of the starting chapters.
It also takes him the longest to see any life restoring gems, too. Then again, he does have that doctor at the entrance.
“If you fall down here to talk to me, you’ve already failed. Just a head’s up!”
For no other reason than an excuse to mock Playstation 1 graphics, here’s a shot of Ashley’s win pose, and confirmation that no one knew how to model a loose-fitting belt.
Watch out for falling rocks. In general, the shortest route is always the most booby trapped.
And the route outlined with pretty glowing crystals is perfect forever!
“Sure, I’ll take it slooooooooooooooooooooooow.”
The trick here is that you can pretty easily see the blocks that are about to fall (like right in front of Ashley in the above shot), and, ya know, just go around. Again, as ever in WA2, there is basically no penalty for falling. Additionally, fallen blocks will not respawn until you leave the room, so you can just mind the new gap and be okay.
Sneak your way to a treasure room and find a valuable Bullet Load. Don’t waste it on the intro dungeon!
There’s a block ready to fall just ahead of this switch, but no worries, we’ve got knife hurling to get us through.
Just past the falling block chamber is an obvious (and unnecessary) point of no return.
But the doctor somehow got here ahead of us, so no need to worry about healing.
And then we’ve got Ashley’s first save point. Since I technically tackled Ashley’s story first, this is where I first loaded up the “cheat” save we’ve been using for the other files.
Just for the hell of it, here are a few of the fabulous accessories that are now available to Ashley. That Sheriff Star is a recurring WA2 item that is your reward for defeating the Omega Weapon of the series…. And I’ve got 127. That just warms my heart.
Moving on… hey, why do we need crystals here? The doctor is like five feet away.
I guess they do indicate the way forward. Again, Ashley’s dungeon seems to go out of its way to hold the player’s hand.
Ah, here’s where we get to show off the specialty of the Hurl Knife. See, we’re on a different plane here, so any attempts to hit the switch with the knife (or Lilka’s fire, were that available here) go sailing overswitch.
But the Hurl Knife will fall if it hits another object, so the switch is easily switched by tossing the knife at the nearby wall. This eventually leads to a few puzzles wherein making sure there’s an object behind a switch is more important than anything.
And now we’ve got a room where Ashley can practice falling. Maybe I can actually score that treasure chest in memory of Brad’s failed cliffside adventure.
Rad! STR Apples permanently boost your STR (Strength) stat. There are other apples for every other stat available (and flowers for luck…. That’s not just an expression), and they’re obviously very valuable for maxing out your characters’ stats. On the other hand, like tabs in Chrono Trigger and seeds in Dragon Quest, I’m never going to use ‘em, because I’m neurotic about hoarding and claiming that I’ll eventually need them for… some reason. Lilka’s test of strength? I don’t know.
Incidentally, SOR is Sorcery, for magic power. VIT is Vitality, aka defense. And RES is Resistance, basically your magic defense. LCK is your lick stat, which measure how effectively Ashley can taste the rainbow.
And now that I’ve got Ashley loaded down with his end game weaponry, these kobolds don’t seem so threatening.
Just a few more steps, and there’s a doin a-transpirin’!
Kidnap child, stow ‘em in monster-infested ruins, and then profit. Tale as old as time.
Ha ha, stupid Zook. Gangal sure does have that Zook’s number.
“Hey, Greg, what’s a good fantasy name?”
“I don’t know… How about Gerg?”
“Brilliant! Now we’ve gotta work on those lizard guys’ names.”
“That’s what all hostages say! Why, by the time your parents hear about…”
Well, this was a poorly researched caper.
Ashley plinks a knife against a nearby torch to get the kid’s attention.
“There were like twenty guys with me, but they’re all hanging out in the foyer for no apparent reason.”
Please introduce yourself, victim.
The kid is named Tony. According to the Wild Arms Wiki, his full name is Tony Stark. Wait… what? Seriously? Let me just corroborate…. Yes, apparently the kid in red and yellow is named Tony Stark. I… I’m frozen with the sheer number of ways I can utilize this knowledge. I think I have to lie down…
Call your warg! Wait… wrong Stark.
Kidnapping 101: Don’t just bind their hands, also remember that hostages have legs.
Given the hairstyles, I think these guys are legitimately supposed to be based on the three stooges. I don’t care if Moe is wearing a hat!
In retrospect, there’s really no reason Tony couldn’t have rocketed over to Ashley, as opposed to backing into a corner atop a glowing switch.
A glowing switch that is apparently opening a door emblazoned with dragons.
Fin Fang Foom in the house!
Oh, no, it’s just Kalivos. A weaponized monster? That’s gonna smart.
So Tony is untied, and everyone runs away from the rampaging Kalivos. Good plan!
Wouldn’t want anyone to hurt themselves!
Well, except that guy.
This leads to a vaguely Indiana Jones-esque scene of Ashley narrowly escaping the clutches of Kalivos while the rest of the dum-dums run on ahead.
Stooges to the left, Tony to the right. Ashley chooses to go right, and Kalivos goes with the bigger group on the left.
“Which one of you is the tastiest? It’s okay if you don’t know, I’m willing to run some trials.”
But Ashley is a hero of heroes, so he distracts Kalivos while the trio escapes.
Tony! Use a repulsor blast!
Meanwhile outside, we get an explanation on that whole “monster weapon” thing. Apparently this thing bleeds (or spits?) liquid nitrogen. This is similar to how sometimes sharks explode. I saw it in a nature documentary once.
“Nuke it from orbit.”
“Yep! Hey, you seen the lunch cart around here?”
“People are going to die!”
“I said I’ll take responsibility. Now get me a hoagie.”
And that is why you chill at the entrance while the kid with the blue hair does all the work.
But Ashley is TOO MUCH HERO to risk anyone being lost in an easily avoidable explosion.
“The needs of the who cares outweigh the needs of the gotta kill a monster now.”
If this were an 80’s movie, a really rockin’ ballad would be kickin’ in about now.
But I guess we’ll just get a boss fight instead. Since this is (technically) my first boss battle, there’s a quick explanation on how bosses (almost always) work.
Oh, the other two bosses so far only had two body parts, but Kalivos has a whole three. Will that impact the battle?
Dude, you’ve got two perfectly good claws, use your hands!
Hey, finally got that ARM to hit. Kick ass.
Stop touching me! This boss works just like Brad’s bee-based bad boy: keep the claws alive, and things will be easier, but when Kalivos is less handy, he’ll focus on his much more damaging laser breath.
And when you win… well, what did you expect would happen after fighting the monster made of bomb blood?
This is exactly what we were trying to avoid!
But everybody made it! Together, for some reason! I guess everyone stood around watching Ashley fight as opposed to actually escaping.
“I had a blast.”
Ha ha, Ashley is grounded.
“Any objections, lady?”
“And that is how this extremely long day ended for me, the new recruit. I did what I thought was right, but it was a violation of orders. I don’t believe I was wrong. No one wants to see anyone get hurt. Even though the destination is the same, different people choose such different routes. I don’t understand. I just don’t understand it. Oh well, with my sentence, I have plenty of time to think.”
And that’s how we leave Ashley. He saved the child and the bad guys, and only got a little singed for his troubles. He’s a hero of heroes who heroes around. I think he just might be our main character.
Next time on Wild Arms 2: Black cat boogie.