Armengard, take a bow, as this is the last this site will need your services: December 4, Image Training Day. During lunchtime today, I got really sleepy so I tried to imagine stabbing myself in the leg to wake up from the pain. It didn’t work… So I gave up and continued to eat my soup, but my hand slipped and spilled soup on the leg I imagined stabbing earlier. Was it a mere accident or the product of my overwhelming imagination?
Previously on Wild Arms 3: Everything is wrapped up with the whole party surprisingly chipper for having just been framed for murder. So let’s talk about what happened.
If for no other reason than to justify one of the significant reasons I started this Let’s Play, let’s talk about Virginia Maxwell. This has been alluded to in other character writeups (eulogies?), but a significant way Wild Arms 3 separates itself from its peers (and even other Wild Arms titles) is that your protagonists stay 100% human throughout. Virginia exemplifies this: she starts out as a wide-eyed young lady that has never left her hometown but dreams of bringing justice to the wasteland, and ends the game as… a wide-eyed young lady that has seen/saved the world and still dreams of bringing justice to the wasteland. She is older. She is wiser. She literally knows more about Filgaia than anyone on it (and how close the whole thing came to nonexistence). But she is still herself. She has a smidgen of god power (oh boy she can cast a light spell), but she is still the exact same person that set out from Boot Hill. She has two ARMs, a surprisingly fancy dress, and the drive to make the world a better place. She owns a horse now. That is all she has, and all she ever needed to save the world.
And this is significant for her ultimate finale. Virginia gets her big damn character moment at Mimir’s Well, but she is also the focal point of the ending sequence. And what is the difference there? Well, back at the well, Virginia must literally and metaphorically pull the trigger on letting her father go by shooting him and the whole demon internet. It is something she absolutely does not want to do, but she must commit violence to save the world. Then, after an admittedly brutal battle against a wannabe god, Virginia has another challenge, and she chooses peace. Or… she at least chooses “peace” in so much as shoving over a bunch of cultist dorks is peaceful. But still! Virginia’s final action is not using her firearms to conquer her problems, it is hopefully using her courage to satisfy her desire to rectify a problem with love.
Oh, and she didn’t have to build a whole new universe to do it.
There have been a lot of complaints over the years about Beatrice in Wild Arms 3. The core of the criticism is simple: “The Dream Demon”, despite being lightly foreshadowed before Siegfried and the Prophets are even mentioned, is unprecedented as a final antagonist. Like your typical RPG “Giant Space Flea from Nowhere”, 75% of this plot is leading up to the “Blue Menace”, a demon from ancient times returning… and then he’s just gone. And in his place is a little girl that wants to create her own planet through dubious means. This has led many to claim that Wild Arms 3 was attempting to “redo” the finale of Wild Arms 2, and shove all the metaphysical nonsense about dimensions encroaching on each other into an otherwise straightforward tale of cowgirls and bad hombres.
But Beatrice brings something important to the Wild Arms 3 narrative: she’s not trying to hit anybody.
Janus Cascade wants to be remembered, and he is going to beat anyone in his path to do that. Wealth, fame, power: it all comes with the supremacy of his bayonet-ARM. After his first rebirth, he claims to subscribe to a sort of nihilism, but that is proven to be a feint when he dies literally fighting for his life. The Prophets have already died, but they still have desires, so they need to suck the life out of the planet to accomplish their various goals of mother revival and mother fucking (different mother). And Siegfried wants to rip and tear to his (demon) heart’s content, and he will kill everyone in pursuit of his goal of transforming Filgaia into Starship Death. But Beatrice? She literally cannot touch a thing about Filgaia. She has to worm her way into others’ thoughts, and she had to manipulate the likes of Lamium, Duran Bryant, and Shane to make any sort of headway. She wants to create a world that has no particular purpose beyond the fact that she can be tangible there. And, while she does pick up a god complex over the course the final battles, her objective is otherwise humble. She wants to change the world into one where she can just… be.
And not to accidentally echo Siegfried, but that makes her and Virginia the same.
It is confirmed practically from the beginning that Virginia is kind of a nerd. She is an avid reader, but her preferred periodicals appear to be Filgaia’s version of comic books (or comic book movies). Disaster Girl of the Wastelands is named, but Virginia repeatedly notes that she got her sense of justice from her father (known maniac) and “stories”. So, complete with the fact that Werner is literally an illusion by the time WA3 gets going, Virginia overtly believes in a world that is fictional. She is going to bring justice to the wasteland!… But she has barely left her own home. Virginia is trying to take her fictional world of justice, her dream world, and make it a real place for her and Filgaia.
Beatrice is, at her core, an existential threat. And Virginia needs that, because the finale needs to see how Virginia has, over the course of an adventure that involves about 40 hours of shooting, also learned how to solve problems without violence. Janus, the Prophets, Siegfried, and even Beatrice all had to be fought. But the confused followers of the Ark of Destiny? Or Dario and Romero? Not today. Not every question has to be answered with the same set of ARMs. Her final act is not omnislashing the shirtless manifestation of her own self-doubt, but discarding her ammo. Virginia dreams of a just world, and she is going to get Filgaia there with violence and pacifism. It sounds like a contradiction, but it is a contradictory world. Nobody ever said this would be easy.
And speaking of things that are not easy…
Let’s Plays are complicated beasts. I started my first picture-based Let’s Play on November 15, 2015. It was a complete examination of the entire Xenosaga franchise (including its auxiliary games). It wrapped up on January 13, 2017. It was 10,410 pictures (3,448 for Episode 1, 2,487 for Episode 2, 4,306 for Episode 3, 169 for “extra” content) across the entirety of the Xenosaga franchise. And I can tell you that I made that Let’s Play for myself as much as anyone. I genuinely wanted to replay every one of those games, but I wanted such a “time sink” to mean something. I knew Xenosaga took forever, so I wanted to share the experience, and force myself to analyze what happened there. As I outright stated in the LP, I was once obsessed with that franchise, and my own memory of finally completing it was not so much about the game, but that I was moving into my first “solo” apartment. Shion and KOS-MOS were up to something involving Jesus (?), but I was busy putting my childhood room into boxes. Something important was happening, right? May as well revisit it with an audience to separate the memory of my “reality” from the game…
My second picture-based Let’s Play was Wild Arms 2. It started on June 9, 2017, and ended on June 26, 2019. I took a significant hiatus there, but the whole project would have been long even without the break. That Let’s Play was assembled from 6,146 pictures all on its own (and you will note that that is more pictures than any individual game/episode of Xenosaga). As I revealed in the final post of that LP, a significant factor in deciding to Let’s Play Wild Arms 2 was that I once used the main plot of Wild Arms 2 as a primary reference for a college paper. That meant that I felt that, on some level, I “owed” Wild Arms 2 just as fair a shake as Xenosaga. I had lasting memories of Wild Arms 2 as the game that got me an A on a report, and I felt that warranted further examination now years after a college grade ever mattered.
But, separate from the memories that made me make the Wild Arms 2 Let’s Play, I now have substantial memories of the creation of that Let’s Play. I distinctly remember penning Part 3 of that Let’s Play while I was waiting for the internet to be hooked up at a new office. I remember thinking to myself at that moment that this Let’s Play was crazy: I was looking at a brand new and potentially challenging professional experience with that new office, and I knew I was going to have to dedicate a lot of time to “work” going forward. Did I really have time to focus on a silly Let’s Play, too? Couple that work upgrade with an upgrade in my social life (I started goin’ steady), and it is no wonder I took a year off from that project with a meager 25% of it to go. I could not do it anymore, and I had to take a break. And I hated myself for it! I did not want my Wild Arms 2 Let’s Play to be yet another abandoned Let’s Play! I could do this! And it was only after I took that rest that I was able to return to wrap everything up. From there, I told myself I would not do another Let’s Play again, because you cannot imagine the level of time sink involved here…
And I type this at the end of a Let’s Play that has updated consistently every week (minus vacations), lasted 569 days, and comprised of 9,244 pictures.
So let me talk about why this happened.
Back before revisiting Wild Arms 3, there was a meme going around where you filled in the blanks on your favorite videogame thingys. Here was mine:
(You can make this one bigger)
It is worth noting that nearly every one of the games there I have written about previously in some capacity (except Solitaire. I hate Solitaire). The only title I did not have a plan for was Wild Arms 3, home of (apparently) my favorite heroine, Virginia Maxwell. I always had it in my mind that WA3 was going to appear in my musings in some capacity, but, aside from Virginia, what did I remember about WA3? I haven’t (re)played Mother 3 in years, but I could still hand you an essay off the top of my head about how it made me feel and how some of the characters stick in my brain to this day. What was in my head regarding WA3?
· Virginia is awesome
· The Abyss sucked
· It was the final Wild Arms title I shamelessly enjoyed
· Man, did it take Wild Arms: Alter Code F forever to come out after WA3
That was all I got. And that last point wasn’t even strictly about Wild Arms 3!
So obviously I was going to have to replay Wild Arms 3 again for the first time in twenty years (!) to get anything real out of the experience. And, if I was going to replay Wild Arms 3 in its entirety anyway, may as well do one of those Let’s Play things. The last one only damn near killed me (or at least gave me a strong case of the sleepies), what is the worst that could happen with yet another Let’s Play based on an RPG that is openly recognized as being one of the longest games on the Playstation 2?
And here at the finale, I can say this: I am glad I made this Let’s Play, because Wild Arms 3 showed me that the most important thing about these Let’s Plays are the memories.
Wild Arms 3, Xenosaga, Wild Arms 2, and even that World of Final Fantasy video Let’s Play all happened for the same reason: I wanted to revisit those games. And I wanted to revisit those games because my memories of them were hazy. My memories of playing those games were conflated with real life events that had nothing to do with how those games affected the thousands of players that finished those titles, so I wanted to separate the wheat from the chaff. I wanted to analyze them from a more global player perspective. But the confusing thing? I would not have replayed those games if they were not associated with “reality” memories. I am likely one of the few people on Earth that ever cited Wild Arms 2 as a reference on a paper, so here it was on the to-do list. I would not have revisited Xenosaga if I had not played that franchise across my confusing college years, and I would not have reconsidered World of Final Fantasy if I had not initially played it at a time that it was vastly overshadowed by other parts of my life (and… uh… Pokémon Moon). It sounds like juvenile RPG dialogue, but the memories made these games memorable!
And, in much the same way that the act of observing an outcome changes said outcome (something to be uncertain about), creating these Let’s Plays has irrevocably changed my opinions and memories of these games. I will always remember dicing up screenshots of Xenosaga Episode 3 while watching the conclusion of the horrifying 2016 election. I will always remember when I finally returned to the Wild Arms 2 LP, game already played and recorded a year earlier, and setting to work on banging out another thousand images to finish the whole thing. I will always remember playing World of Final Fantasy with a screaming skeleton in my ear. These are experiences that never would have happened without these Let’s Plays. As much as I still feel shame regarding Wild Arms 2’s mandatory pause, I also remember glorious pride at crossing every single finish line in those projects. Not going to lie: I still beam ear to ear when I look at a complete index for any one of those Let’s Plays.
And now Wild Arms 3 is at a close. It was the story of Virginia Maxwell and her friends saving the world from a monster that was trying to eat everyone’s memories. I understand the premise of that threat…
This Let’s Play reconfirmed that Virginia is one of my favorite protagonists in gaming, but now I am going to remember so much more. I have discovered that a long, weekly Let’s Play is vaguely brain-breaking, as it means I have not gone any longer than a week without thinking about Wild Arms 3 for over a year. And, given how much effort goes into playing the game, recording the game, chopping up screenshots of the game, writing about the game, and then proofreading everything about the game (including checking FAQs to confirm what you are saying is actually accurate [mostly])… Well, it is probably not erroneous to say I have spent the last 500+ days thinking about Virginia ‘n pals daily. And I note this for the purpose of observing that when you are thinking about one “thing” daily, inevitably that gets tangled up in your memories. If you really want to get technical, the first I played Wild Arms 3 for this Let’s Play was January 10th, 2022 (recordings are conveniently dated), so I know the “let’s do this” of this Let’s Play has been percolating for a while. And, in that time, a lot has happened in my personal and professional life. A number of things I will remember forever! And, oddly enough, I may be telling future generations about these life experiences while noting, “Sure, that was important, but at the time, I was considering the drinking habits of one Gallows Caradine…”
Memories are everything. That is a central thesis of Wild Arms 3, but I don’t think I fully understood that until penning this Let’s Play.
Virginia’s adventure is about her battle against Beatrice just as much as her relationship with her father or Maya. And, in the same way, Wild Arms 3 is a fun game with a cool plot that is also about whatever was happening when you played it. A videogame isn’t just about what objectively happens in the battle system, plot, or overarching character arcs. It is also about how you share it with others. It is also about what you think of when you look back on it twenty years later. The internet coming to a consensus on the best game in the world can be nothing to you if it means nothing to you. Astyanax could be the most important game you ever played thanks to one Hallmark-esque Christmas that occurred right before your family was eaten by gobs. It is memories that make things matter. Remembering a game or an entire world as a dusty sack of crap means that game/world is a dusty sack of crap. And that isn’t good for anybody…
So I close another Let’s Play on one simple statement:
Wild Arms 3, thank you for the memories.
And thank you all for being a part of these happy memories.
(… unless any of you are trolls haunting the demon internet. If so: forget you.)