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  -Part 1 :: [10.24.04]
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"At that moment, Samara yells for her mommy and runs off, disappearing along the way. I can't say I'm too upset about that."
     -Jeanne, Grandia II Part 6




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Wild ARMs : Part 1
By Ben
Posted 10.24.04
Pg. 1 : 2 : 3 : 4
Ah, Wild ARMs. The self-proclaimed Wild West-themed RPG which actually has few Wild West influences to speak of. Oh well, let's not fret over this blatant example of false advertising - I'm sure the game's riveting, original plot, innovative gameplay and complex, fresh characters will be more than enough to redeem it!

And if you believe that, you're more gullible than the average RPG princess. Anyway, I don't want to snark too much before I've even pressed a button, so let us march onward!

We plunge headlong into the gorgeous anime intro as we see the pages of a large book turning by themselves. I wonder if it's the Big Book of Clichés - if so, the game designers clearly read it from cover-to-cover a few times, bookmarked several pages, cross-referenced multiple chapters and kept it in a handy place to refer to during every ten minutes of the game's creation. But more on that as events warrant.

As the pages continue to turn, the shot of the book is interspersed with quick images of a blue-haired young man wearing a red bandanna, the ends of which flutter artily in the wind as he stands atop a cliff. He's also wearing a sticking plaster on his left cheek. I have no idea why. The screen pans across the cliff area to show that it is littered with wooden grave markers. What looks like a ruined castle overlooks the cheerful little graveyard, as two - yes, TWO - moons shine in the night sky above. One moon looks like our traditional moon, while the other one is dark and ominous-looking. I'm sure that has no significance whatsoever.

As the intro unfolds, some nice music is playing. It sounds like someone whistling a tune, accompanied by various instruments. The whistling part sounds vaguely Western. Notice I said "vaguely". Hanging from one of the crosses is some kind of necklace/amulet made from what looks like a shard of glass. Yeah, I'm sure a chick would be overjoyed if her boyfriend presented it to her. I bet the surgeon would have to spend an hour trying to remove it from his unfortunate skull. Light reflects off the cheap-ass glass necklace as we see RedBandanna standing in front of the grave, which is situated rather precariously on an overhang of rock. From this angle, I'm not sure if it's even a grave or not - the ground doesn't look deep enough. Now I'm confused, and we're only 10 seconds in! This does not bode well for the rest of the game, folks.

Now we have a full-body shot of RedBandanna, we can see that, in addition to the fetching red bandanna, he's also wearing a white t-shirt, a sleeveless red shirt and a pair of jeans. I'm sure these items of clothing weren't fashion must-haves in the Wild West, but then again, I'm sure dragons, giant steel golems and cocooned demon queens weren't too popular either. Let's just go with it.

Now we finally see some other characters. A long-haired blond man, who strikes an odd balance between being rugged and a prettyboy, smiles as a blue rat scampers from underneath the collar of his long brown jacket. I guess the rat is his pet or something. I know I wouldn't be smiling if a random rat suddenly emerged from the folds of my clothing. We see yet another shot of the wooden-cross-and-glass-necklace, with the Twin Moons of Ominous Significance looming overhead. Now a droplet of water - or it could be a tear, it isn't exactly obvious - drips from the tip of the glass shard and turns into a blue orb held in a pair of mittened hands. The mittens belong to a young girl with a blonde braid and large ears. She clasps her hands together and appears to whisper, or something, to the orb, before raising her hands and opening them to reveal that the orb has turned into a cloud of purple sparkles. Um...okay? I have a suspicion that the game designers saw more than their share of coloured sparkles during this game's creation, if you follow me. Drugs are bad, mmmkay?

The music swells dramatically, with the instruments taking over from the Phantom Whistler, as the cloud of purple sparkles floats outwards and upwards into the sky, filling the screen with the little sparkly things. Now we see another blonde girl wearing a floaty yellow dress and clutching a book to her chest. Apparently this girl is simply magical - and a Mary Sue, no doubt - as the ground beneath her erupts with blue magic shockwaves. Of course, whilst all this is happening she remains a picture of elegance and grace, even though her flaxen hair is flying wildly around her face and her dress is blowing in the wind. Just how do these Sues do it? Place them in the middle of a warzone and they'd still maintain their angelic expression, innocent beauty and perfect posture.

BlondeSue is suddenly swept up in the gigantic hand of a huge metal golem. The camera follows her as she is swung about a hundred feet in the air, yet she still clasps that fucking book to her chest as if it's a baby. She doesn't seem at all fazed by the situation - from her reaction, I get the impression that this scenario is as mundane to her as walking her dog or shopping for groceries. We get a close-up of the golem's face and see that it appears to only have one eye. Insert your own joke about a one-eyed-giant here.

Now we see yet another blonde - where are the damn brunettes? - holding another book. Upon closer examination, this blonde looks rather like BlondeSue with a shorter haircut and a change of clothes. There are some more assorted magical effects but the intro moves so quickly that it's hard to figure out just what's going on. Shame the rest of the game won't move at such a fast pace.

We see RedBandanna trying to climb a cliff, but not being too successful. As he tries to heave himself up, his puny muscles are exposed, allowing the fangirls to collectively sigh over how dreeeeeamy he is. I bet they wouldn't be saying that if they knew he was a ro-...whoops, almost spoiled it there.

RedBandanna seems ready to give up until he sees the purple sparkles float past him, giving him the inner strength needed to climb and finish his arduous journey, or something. He triumphantly reaches the top of the cliff, where BlondeSue (with shorter hair) and BlondRuggedPrettyboy (plus rat) are waiting for him. RedBandanna smiles as the camera pans out, giving us a lovely shot of the sun rising over the cliffs while the three friends check that their hair is still OK.

 
'Come on, be honest. Whose hair looks the best?'

And thus, the glorious stream of gorgeous random anime scenes comes to an end. But before we can actually begin the game, we dive straight into the second intro. Yes, there's two. Try to contain your excitement until the end. Fortunately, this one actually has a plot, although it still makes about as much sense as Final Fantasy Trainwrecks Tactics.

Black screen. Lots of white dots flying into the camera. I'm confused again - are we flying through space? As the screen lightens it turns out that the 'stars' are in fact snow. Hmm, I've never seen snow that falls horizontally. I guess we're supposed to be in a blizzard, as there are lots of whistling wind sounds accompanying the Magic Horizontal Snowfall. It looks really weird and unnatural, which is bound to happen when the game designers try to use 3D effects in a 2D game. As the screen lightens further we see a castle in the distance. Fade out, and fade back in (this time in normal gameplay mode, with sprites and everything) to show the castle interior. It seems that there's a fire somewhere as the screen keeps turning orange and red. Or maybe I really need a new TV. Either way, there are a group of people walking down the hall, and it looks like they mean business. The graphics are very nice, but the sprites seem kind of blurry and indistinguishable. Maybe it is my TV.

Now we see the blurry sprites riding an elevator down to a lower floor. Hmm, I'm sure industrial-sized steel elevators such as this one weren't around in the Wild West. Medieval castles don't really match the setting, either. But then again, having the blurry sprites walk into a saloon to kick some ass probably wouldn't have been as dramatic. One of the sprites (the speaker isn't specified) randomly says "I'm exhausted! Can't we slow down?!" Someone else (again, unsure of who) replies "There's nothing we can do as long as we are in the dark about their intentions." Wha? Who is he talking about? I'm certainly "in the dark" here. I really hate it when an intro drops me into the middle of something without explaining what the hell is going on. Sadly, after all these years of playing RPGs, I'm accustomed to it now. Someone chips in with "Our duty as Fenril Knights [now re-christened Fenril Sprites] is to protect the king." Well, now at least I know who the fuck these people are...except not. Someone else replies "Preposterous! I am the king, now that my brother has fallen! With or without a crown..." See, this seems quite important, so it would have been a good idea for the game designers to indicate who is actually talking. But I guess that was too much like hard work for them.

Another of the Fenril Sprites, a blond guy, spits on the ground and mutters "...Huh! Then try to get out of here on your own!" Finally I can place a name to a face, as someone else replies "Stop that, Garrett! We are in the presence of the king!" So, now I know the moody blond guy is Garrett. One down, three to go. It's fortunate that none of these random Fenril Sprites are going to meet an untimely end within the next two minutes. Certainly not.

Suddenly, three winged demons appear and attack the Sprites, only to be vanquished with ease. Only the guy in the middle neglects to fight, so I assume he's the king. See, everything is falling into place now. "Bravo, Fenril [Sprites]! Bravo!" he cries. "A surprise attack within the snowstorm..." one of the other Sprites says, "Maybe they're after...?!?!" I don't know what "?!?!" is just yet, but I do know which game is now trying to outdo the Suikoden series and Breath of Fire III in terms of punctuation abuse.

It turns out that Random Fenril Sprite 1 was referring to "the cocoon", whatever that is. He also refers to two more of the Sprites as "Chief Coldbird" and "Ryan" (unfortunately, this Ryan is apparently the owner of said cocoon, and not a super-snarky recapper) but still doesn't indicate exactly who is who. It's fortunate that most of these fucktards will never be mentioned again after the next few minutes anyway, but come on. It's as if they're trying to confuse me as much as humanly possible. I swear, this hits about a 9.0 on my Pointless Shit O-Meter, and I haven't pressed a single button yet. I hope the alcohol cabinet is well-stocked.

Ryan pleads with Coldbird not to let "them" take his precioussss cocoon, before Garrett spits on the floor again (I think this is supposed to emphasise the point that he's a moody badass). The elevator judders to a halt and the Fenril Sprites leave the vicinity, emerging in a large room. There are burning torches on the walls, and there's a nice burgundy carpet, and there are knight statues in the corners of the room, and why the hell am I even mentioning this crap?

"Good...my cocoon is safe..." Ryan (who, it now appears, is the king - I hope you can keep up with this, because I certainly can't) says in what I imagine to be a creepy voice. We can't actually see the cocoon, which appears to be just out of shot. I think this is supposed to be all suspenseful and mysterious. The camera swoops to the right to show a pink-haired woman (finally, a non-blonde chick!) emerge from a side door and join the main group. I guess she's a Fenril Sprite too. Garrett rushes over to her and cries "Elmina!", giving us a clue that they're fucking each other romantically involved. Gee, I'm absolutely positive nothing bad will happen to either of them.

Apparently, Elmina has injured her leg. Man, only five minutes in, and a female character has already injured herself, becoming a liability to the rest of her team. That must be some kind of record, and I'm sure Shana is seething with jealousy right now. "Now I'm holding you back? Me, the Sword Princess?" Elmina barks...at least, I think it's her. Again, there's no indication as to who is speaking, and for all I know Garrett could be a transvestite. We all know that isn't uncommon in RPGs.

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