Previously on Wild Arms 2: Everything. Every damn thing. It’s over now, but thanks to an Eskimo’s dying curse (I was unaware he would react so poorly to a hot cup of coffee), I am forced to spit out a few more words on the subject of Wild Arms 2. So let’s get to it.
Upon completing the game, Wild Arms 2 allows for the creation of a game clear file. This was fairly common in the Playstation 1 days… or at least it happened with Saga Frontier. I… can’t think of any other games that did that. Probably Chrono Cross? Hm…
This extra file is not a “playable” save file, though. This would likely make it first on the chopping block on your precious PS Memory Card that can only contain 15 save files.
The clear file is a way to “review” your final game data, and maybe rewatch a few cutscenes. Let me tell you: rewatching anime cutscenes was all we had back in the earliest 21st Century. Why, I remember when Lunar…
Here are the final stats on Ashley. And, incidentally, I’m going to use it an excuse to talk about Wild Arms 2’s Battle System.
Short answer: it’s not great.
Wild Arms 2 was the first title in the Wild Arms franchise to feature more playable characters than initially available in a battle party. Ashley, Lilka, and Brad form the preliminary trio, but Tim, Kanon, and Marivel eventually join the gang, and you can mix and match everyone at will. However, while options are always appreciated, it seems like no one had a practical idea of what to do with these “extra” characters. For their general differences, Lilka, Tim, and Marivel all effectively serve the same purpose with different means of acquiring skills. Lilka discovers Crest Graphs to create and utilize elemental abilities and buffs, Tim finds Guardians to utilize elemental abilities and buffs, and Marivel steals monster skills to utilize elemental abilities and buffs. In a heated battle, any one of the three can be swapped in… to ultimately do the exact same thing. Similarly, Kanon and Brad are primarily physical attackers, and your choice between the two seems to merely be strength or speed. Ashley is the boy in the middle of everything, ultimately, but he winds up being a Knight Blazer delivery system the moment that becomes available. Why would you do anything with Ashley save transform him into the monster-man that can do the most damage?
And, ultimately, that’s the other problem with the Wild Arms 2 battle system: it’s all about killing the monsters before they kill you. Okay, yes, that’s the point of pretty much every JRPG battle system, but WA2’s system is remarkably simple. As was exemplified during the big bonus boss battles, pretty much all WA2 has in its tool chest is throwing bigger and more damaging attacks at a player. In response, the only options available are preparing accessories that will mitigate or nullify that damage, grinding for higher levels/HP, or spending a lot of time guarding because an opponent might use a powerful attack this turn. Your mileage may vary, but practically all of those things sound anti-fun. Yes, preparing equipment and grinding are staples of the JRPG universe, but there are better ways to enjoy a battle, particularly in a title where battles are the only times there’s a “threat” (not like you can get a Game Over from talking to NPCs).
And the Force Point system is brilliant for making your mages actually useful without having to carefully conserve resources (and this should be lauded), but it’s rather trite in practice. No matter how much FP you have, you go for the attacks that do the most damage. You can figure out how much FP is going to be gained from your average attack about ten seconds into a battle, and, from there, it just takes a little math to determine if this is going to be a 25 FP encounter or one that requires 100. It’s a fun way to bypass the JRPG tradition of MP, but it’s still rather mindless once you get past the introductory bits.
And, yes, I might be a bit harsh on a title that was released approximately two decades ago, but we still see “throwback” JRPGs today. Learn from Wild Arms 2’s mistakes, designers of the future!
And the reason I am so critical of the battle system of Wild Arms 2 is because the monsters of Wild Arms 2 are awesome. The clear save file allows you to see a theoretically completed bestiary, and, man, it is good stuff. There is a lot of creativity on display in these monster designs, from bizarro cats to smoke monsters to whatever the hell was supposed to be the final boss(es). This is a breath of fresh air for someone that has been playing modern console JRPGs because, I swear to God, if I have to kill one more variant on a generic wolf, I am going to scream. And soldiers! I’m tired of common soldiers! Give me some weird frog creature any day!
And, yes, I am aware the only reason these monster designs are so ridiculous is that they don’t have to actually “operate” in a real 3-D environment. But, please, let me enjoy these tentacle beasts while I can.
And I actually mean that, by the way, as you can see I only completed 49% of the bestiary on a full playthrough. This sucks! There are so many creative monsters in this game, but very little reason to actually battle most of them. In fact, given there are very limited “rewards” for fighting these monsters (the usual experience, maybe a rare drop, at absolute most a skill for Marivel), cancelling the majority of monster battles is a perfectly valid way to complete WA2. And that sucks! You’re encouraged to miss one of the best parts of the title simply because it’s boring as hell.
See? That’s why I have an issue with a tiresome battle system.
Anywho, aside from rewatching the intros and endings again, we’re about done with this clear file. Wild Arms 3 would go on to iterate on this whole “postgame” menu in innovative ways, but, for now, smack that start button and head back to the title screen.
If you didn’t overwrite that end-game save file, you can reboot right before the final battle. At this point, you can grind around the final dungeon (it has the most powerful random encounters in the game), or you can make your way back to the surface to challenge those super bosses hiding up top.
Unfortunately, it is a long walk back.
While we’re heading up, let’s talk about Wild Arms 2 Puzzles. They’re… uh… there.
Hm. I can probably do better than that.
By and large, most of the puzzles in Wild Arms 2 are generally… noninvasive. They are certainly a thing to do in dungeons, but none are particularly inventive or groundbreaking (save when Brad uses the Earthquake tool). Calling them “speedbumps” seems too reductive, but, in general, they’re just kind of around and take up a little bit of time before moving on to the new thing. And the new tools introduced in Wild Arms 2 don’t particularly add anything innovative, either, so… uh… it was nice throwing knives around?
Puzzles: won’t you?
Here we are. Back up on the surface, and, if you’re all for 100% Let’s Play completion, here is the start of the Pyramid Boss Round-Up from two or three updates back. May as well talk about Wild Arms 2 Optional Content.
Fun fact: I’m pretty sure Wild Arms 2 handles bonus content better than a lot of modern JRPGs.
To paste the list from earlier in the Let’s Play, the hidden dungeons are…
Wind Tiger’s Den
Thunder Lion Cage
Good Luck Zone
Fab Science Lab
And there are the optional “town” areas of Odd Headquarters and Island Outpost. That is a lot of optional content, which, considering modern games seem to push every last super-rendered room on a player (whether they want it or not), seems excessive. But it’s not the (welcome) excess that makes the optional areas of Wild Arms 2 great; it’s that the optional areas naturally progress with the player.
I did not save the optional content entirely for some final “round-up” update like I did during the Xenosaga Let’s Plays. This was deliberate, as Wild Arms 2 “locks” its optional areas behind actual exploring. You got a flying castle! Now see what you can find. Hovercraft? Let’s look around again. The hovercraft can now go even further into the sea? You better believe there are some hidden islands around. And the final dragon airship grants the ability to go practically anywhere, so you can find the last few secrets, and hopefully track down any spots you missed along the way. It’s an innovative way to hide the cavalcade of extra equipment and Guardians across all of Filgaia, and a constant reward for keeping the spirit of exploration in your heart (note: Spirit of Exploration is not a guardian).
And all without some stupid “marks posting” in a hub town!
Wild Arms 2 really hits it out of the park with optional content. And some extra bosses to test the limits of your own skills are just the cherry on top.
Speaking of, this eventually leads to the final battle with Ragu you’ve already seen…
And here’s our final, post-battle statistic: it took 23 hours to reach this point. That is with massive cheating, and practically fast-forwarding through the first third of the game thanks to a hacking disaster. What is a normal completion time for Wild Arms 2?
Well, conveniently enough, I have my original Wild Arms 2 save file right here. I never actually completed every last super boss on this save file (Angolmois is a jerk), but my original clear time is approximately 39 hours.
Gaze ye upon a party of characters named for people I was friends with during my senior year of high school. Tag yourself. I’m Bob!
On a side note, I am still happy that I completely accidentally named Lilka after my friend Elyse, a woman that has an inferiority complex with her overachieving older sister to this very day. Elyse, if you’re reading this, I am really surprised.
Also amusing: I named Tony “Izzy” because of a friend of mine actually named Tony who was, at the time, strangely obsessed with Digimon. This is some recursive, never-ending anime ouroboros right here.
As you can see, on a “legit” run of Wild Arms 2, I still only saw 57% of all monsters. Lame!
Funny. It looks like I never found Asgard 1 in my original playthrough. That one is hard to find.
Here are some legitimate stats on a non-hacked, Level 55 Ashley.
While I’m thinking about it, let’s talk about Ashley Winchester. Ashley, as the main protagonist of the title, is basically the living embodiment of the narrative’s central themes. He’s a well-meaning “average joe” that is thrown into an unusual situation and is arbitrarily forced to be a hero… but pulls back so he can lead a happy life with his girlfriend and eventual family. Or, at least, that’s what the plot tells us happens. This is a JRPG, so Ashley is supposed to be an average dude in unusual circumstances who incidentally routinely kills gods. Wild Arms 2 has a major disconnect between Ashley the thesis on a hero that relies on the power of friendship and Ashley the guy who transforms into an unstoppable monster man at 100 FP and squashes the King of All Monsters (title pending review) beneath his heel while the rest of the party is dead. This whole story about how heroes aren’t necessary is fun and all, but given the swath of dead monsters littered across Filgaia, and a healthy 75% of them were killed by one guy, that central theme doesn’t exactly ring true. Yes, Ashley managed to come out of his heroism better than Anastasia (dead @ 16) or Brad (a lengthy prison term followed by… did anyone ever remember to remove his bomb collar?), but the guy still definitely qualified for “chosen one” status when he was swinging that “chosen sword” around. Yes, he lifted that sword with the power of his friends, but I didn’t see them helping out during the final-final battle.
Look, Goku might have just collected the Spirit Bomb with the power of everyone on Earth, but you don’t see anybody cosplaying DBZ Extra #5,216.
The thesis of “no more heroes” is a fine one, but maybe a JRPG that focuses distinctly on one super-powered hero isn’t the right way to spread that message.
And that brings us to Ashley’s natural rival for the entirety of Wild Arms 2 (whether he knows it or not): Irving Vold Valeria. As for that friendly fellow…
Next time on Wild Arms 2: The final, extremely wordy WA2 LP update! And an explanation for why I always felt like I owed Wild Arms 2…