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"The 'This is really fucking sad' music starts playing as everyone stands around, staring sadly at Odessa. At least, I think they're staring sadly at her -- it's kind of hard to read the facial expressions on the sprites. Gremio could have a lustful look in his eye over PUGGY!!! for all we know."
     -Jeanne, Suikoden Part 3

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Wild ARMs 3 : Part 2
By Ben
Posted 02.17.12
Pg. 1 : 2 : 3
Seriously, game designers -- I know you probably wanted to do something a little different with the dialogue system, but don't feign interactivity by having me press another button just to be able to understand what the hell a character is talking about, or, even worse, to result in redundant information. The fact that the ASK system was quietly dropped for the sequels and never mentioned again should speak volumes about its overall success.

These guys are screwed.

After yet another pep talk from Sophia (shouldn't she be off snarking at somebody or poking a few children with her cane?) the party is finally free to roam the Colony and extract mostly-useless information from its inhabitants. The majority of them rag on Gallows for being a deadbeat and turning his back on the old traditions, because we apparently hadn't heard enough of that already. Shane follows his granny's immersion-breaking lead by telling me that NPCs will say different things depending on who's currently leading the group, but -- surprise! -- none of the villagers have anything interesting to say, regardless of who addresses them. Without further ado, Vagina and her merry men head back into the wilderness to travel to the Sanctuary of Many Names.

Once inside the ruin, I'm immediately assured that this trip won't be a retread of Gallows's flashback sequence -- instead, the group's destination is a large staircase leading to the roof. I'm just thankful I won't have to endure another fight with the creepy-ass Kaseran Paseran monsters.


The first thing I notice on the roof is, naturally, a circular formation of eight phallic pillars. Vagina seems naturally drawn to the penises, too, especially when she discovers that there's some kind of altar between each pair of pillars. "It's different than I imagined," she gasps. "It's hard to explain, but..." It's OK, honey. We all remember the first time we saw a phallic pillar; seeing eight at once must be a real shock to the system. "You thought it'd be a lot more beautiful and glamorous?" Gallows dumbasses, because apparently everyone was expecting a place in the middle of the wasteland called the Fallen Sanctuary to be some kind of mecca. Clive admits that he, too, is a little disappointed by their surroundings, because one does have certain expectations of the Guardians' dwelling place. I'm not quite sure why the Guardians' décor is the hot topic here when the gang are about to risk their lives facing them in battle, not to mention the entire world possibly being in danger from an imminent threat. I guess all that unimportant shit fades into insignificance when faced with traumatic sights like eroded brickwork and dusty stone floors.

Like a child excluded from an adult conversation, Jet barges between the other characters and declares that the sanctuary suits him just fine, because it's "Just like [Feelgayer]...empty and barren with only the dry winds blowing through..." Also like the contents of the party's heads, save for Clive. Ignoring Jet's emo analogy, Vagina grips her Cock Scepter microphone-style and yells that it's trying to tell her something. The others follow suit, and the heads of all four Cock Scepters glow with a strange light. Jet wonders what they're supposed to do with them, prompting me to scream something vulgar at the TV. And no, I won't repeat it here, lest I be accused of having an irrational hatred for a fictional character.

So, what should they do with the Cock Scepters?
Play Singstar, of course!
Vagina, Clive and Gallows should beat Jet to death with them.
Well, they do look rather phallic. Just sayin'.
Use them to converse with the higher beings, as stated in the Baskar legend. Which certainly isn't a euphemism for smoking crack through them or anything.


Player 1 sings first, dumbass.

Vagina, Jet and Clive look to Gallows for answers -- you know, the one person in the group who ought to have an inkling of what to do in this kind of situation -- but as usual, he's even more confused than the rest of them. "Wouldn't you be the one to know?" Clive bitches, evidently growing exasperated at the dunderheads he's being forced to babysit. Luckily, it appears the Cock Scepters don't need an instruction manual when their holders are standing on sacred ground; they suddenly emit a blinding white light, causing Vagina to scream that "something's beginning to swell up". Of course, only someone under the age of 13 would take that sentence out of context for their own immature amusement, so I'll let it slide.

The light emanating from the tips of the Cock Scepters continues to pulsate until it eventually fills the entire screen, sending dozens of white orbs shooting up into the sky. After this colossal money shot, we cut back to the gang staring dumbfounded at their now-empty hands. Apparently, the Cock Scepters automatically vanishing once they've shot their load means the characters have officially been accepted by the Guardians as worthy bearers, a theory backed up by the sudden onset of a collective psychic headache. "My hangovers were never this bad!" whines Gallows, as Clive compares their current pain to a severe migraine. As a migraine sufferer, I can actually empathize with them here, not least because I might actually be spared another ten minutes of this cutscene if they all went and lay down in a dark room.

Suddenly channeling Cesuelia, Vagina gasps that a voice is speaking into her heart. I guess it was inevitable, really. We don't get to hear what the voice actually says to her, but presumably it causes her to turn towards one of the altars between the penis pillars. When examined, the altar releases the first of the Guardians -- the Earth dragon, Grudiev (formerly known as Gurdijeff), and the party is dragged into the first of four boss encounters.

Don't worry honey, those feelings are perfectly natural.

Now, I'll be honest here -- the first time I played the game, this series of battles completely owned me. In an "Oh my God, I've spent an entire fucking day trying to beat these guys, and if I don't accomplish that goal within the next ten minutes I'm throwing the PS2 out the window" kind of way. During the dozen-or-so attempts I made, I tried in vain to come up with some explanation as to why my characters were going down faster than Shion at a job interview. I considered that I maybe hadn't leveled up enough against the shitty Balloon monsters outside the shrine, or perhaps there was some battle mechanic I'd missed that would enable me to fight on equal ground. However, as is usually the case when I hit such a roadblock, the truth of the matter is that my own stupidity proved to be my undoing. It turns out that fighting the Guardians in a specific order weakens them considerably, and if I'd actually paid attention to Sophia's dialogue I would have stood a fighting chance. Oh, how I cried hot, bloody tears laughed when I discovered where I'd gone wrong.

Of course, none of this really matters in a New Game Plus, when the entire party is above Level 75 and can one-shot all four of the Guardians without breaking a sweat, but I thought I should fill you in on the "fun" I had first time around. Hey, if my decision to start a New Game Plus means you guys miss out on all the battle-related frustration I usually subject you to, you can listen to me rant about my first painful playthrough instead.

How does he even know what the Menu is?

With two blasts from Vagina's PENIS, Grudiev screeches and disappears, leaving behind the Terra Roar medium. For the ensuing cutscene, Gallows once again actually remembers some of the Baskar teachings and takes a page out of his granny's book by instructing me to equip the medium through the menu. And there was me thinking I'd gain its power by sticking it up my arse! After a lecture on the dangers of equipping too many mediums, Gallows hands the Terra Roar to Vagina, who equips it (obtaining Earth magic arcana) then examines the next altar to release the next Guardian.

If he's speaking from experience, it explains a LOT.

The Water turtle, Stoldark Schturdark, goes down just as easily as Grudiev and relinquishes the true Aqua Wisp medium. I equip it on Gallows, for two reasons: it makes sense to turn the character with the best magic stat into the group's healer, and I'm hoping getting his preciousss medium back will shut him up for a while.

Next on the agenda is the Wind tiger, Fengalon (apparently the only Guardian whose name was translated properly the first time around). Though fast and agile, he still proves no match for the overlevelled Drifters, and soon drops the Gale Claw crest (which goes to Jet, playing to his only positive attribute -- his speed). Christ, if only things had been this easy the first time I fought the Guardians, I'd have saved a blood vessel or two.

The last Guardian is the Fire bird, Phoenix Moa Moor Gault. Upon expiring, he hands over the Fiery Rage medium, which gives a nice boost to Clive's already-superhuman attack stat. Yes, I know I skimmed over the battles, but really, there's only so many ways to say "The party with an unfair advantage annihilates the all-powerful magical beings" without sounding repetitive. The important thing here is that the party now has all four elemental mediums in its possession, meaning that it can now call upon the power of the Guardians (read: use the Summon ability).

After yet another fourth-wall breaking tutorial, Vagina clasps her medium to her chest and rhapsodizes all over the power it contains. As she and the others walk back down the stairs, the camera pans up above the penis pillars to show -- wait for it -- Anus Cascade and his two bitches spying on them from a nearby clifftop. Those dastardly rogues! "Hey, boss! Shouldn't we go after 'em?" wonders Dario (he's the bear-type with the bushy beard and open flies, remember?). Anus replies that he's content to let them go for now, so clearly he has some nefarious masterplan he's preparing to put into motion. Or maybe he just has cramp. Romero (the blond with the neckerchief and fashionable eye-scar) suddenly points at something in the sky and cries "B-b-boss, look!"

We see what he's freaking out over, and it's just some kind of bird (hey, this is WA3; one of them was bound to show up sooner or later). This is no ordinary bird, though -- according to Anus, it's a Watchbird, a species sent to spy on Drifters by the petitioners of their contracts. I'm not sure how the Watchbirds actually relay information to their masters, but since the issue never comes up, I won't even begin to speculate. Anus doesn't seem surprised that he and his men are being watched, musing that they'll have to face the consequences for not retrieving the Cock Scepter back on the train. "Sooner or later, I'll have to come through for them, or they'll have my head for sure..." he enigmatically finishes before we fade out. It'll be a while before we discover who "they" are, but now we know Anus and his butt buddies are working for a higher power. Get used to this reveal, because it's going to happen a lot.

Back at the Baskar Colony, Sophia congratulates the gang on retrieving the mediums then asks Vagina to hand them over for a moment. "Hold up, granny!" Gallows screeches. "You're not planning to secretly switch those with imitations, are you?" For the love of God, someone slap him. Sophia basically tells him to cram it, then crowbars yet another immersion-shredding tutorial into her dialogue, this one involving something called the Personal Skill system. The long and short of it is that the mediums allow their wearer to expend "PS Points" on perks such as status immunity, elemental resistance, and so on. As I secretly wonder how many PS Points would be required in order for me to never have to sit through another tutorial again, Sophia "activates" the mediums using some kind of shamanic power and then hands them back to the party.

I think the game designers are regular customers of Roykman.

And that's the end of that scene. Abruptly dumped back outside, Vagina gathers her bearings and decides to stock up on some medicine from a traveling salesman named Roykman, who's dressed in a very...festive green outfit. After eagerly parting with a few grams of "Pixie Dust" (I wonder if it's anything like angel dust?), and some "Seed Powder" (probably cut with bicarbonate of soda), Roykman casually mentions moving on to the next village, a place to the southwest named Jolly Roger. Seriously? Like, I know it's not the worst name in the world (take a bow, Penistone), but hearing of a town called "Jolly Roger" just makes me think of a haven for gay pirates. Well, we've already had gay cowboys, so I guess it isn't that much of a shock.

At the entrance of the village, the party discusses what to do next. Jet predictably wants to go his own way, but instead of hastily replying "Oh, that's a shame. Try not to get yourself killed out in the wasteland. Be seeing you!" the others try to convince him to tag along. Ugh, these people ask for all they get. "I suggest we head down to the bustling port town of Jolly Roger," Clive announces. "I'm sure we can obtain some leads about further missions, and means of transportation." Translation: "I hear a boat just came in, and I want to be first in line to nab me a swarthy seafarer."

You speak as though you actually had anything to do with that.

Nobody has any objections to this, though Jet continues to insist that they should go their separate ways once they get there. Gallows seems to agree, declaring that they should have their "goodbye party" at Jolly Roger. Right now, I'm in favour of a 50/50 split -- Vagina and Clive can carry on with their journey of discovery, while Gallows and Jet attempt to cross the desert in search of riches, tragically drowning in quicksand in the process.

While the others continue to discuss their objectives, the camera pans to Sadface!Vagina, looking like somebody just murdered a kitten in front of her. The screen darkens slightly and we're treated to an internal monologue: "A goodbye party? Whose? Ours?" No, Sophia is enrolling as a mature student at the University of Feelgayer, majoring in Apocalyptic Studies. Jesus. Vagina tries to dismiss the pangs of sadness she feels at the prospect of saying goodbye to three people she's known for all of a day, reasoning that they're not an actual team or anything -- this was bound to happen sooner or later. Of course, even the five year olds among us know that they're all going to stick together for the rest of the game, but let's just play along for now. This scene is so emotional; it would be a shame to ruin it.

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