Wild Arms Was the PlayStation’s First Truly Great JRPG

Wild Arms

When the Sony PlayStation first came out in North America (way back in 1995), no one really knew what to expect. Unlike its competitors at Sega and Nintendo, Sony hadn’t yet showed us what sorts of games their console would host. They certainly had no Mario or Legend of Zelda or Sonic that would guarantee a day-one buy-in from longtime fans. Crash Bandicoot, which many suspected would grow into a mascot character of sorts for the PlayStation, wouldn’t show up until the following year.

In fact, when I first bought a PlayStation, it was Wipeout that sold me. That seems so strange in retrospect, especially since I never ended up buying the game (in fact, I wouldn’t own a Wipeout game until the PS3, and even then it was only because Sony was giving out Wipeout HD as one of the free games to compensate users after the big hack of 2011).

It was impossible to know in 1995 — and for most of 1996 — that the PlayStation would go on to be a JRPG haven, home to titles like Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, and Xenogears, just to name a few. But the very first glimpse into that glorious future was Wild Arms.

Wild Arms

Wild Arms had just about everything you could ask for in a great JRPG. It had an amazing anime-style intro, a grand, sweeping fantasy story, loveable characters, puzzle-heavy dungeons, and some of the best music of its era. The opening hours of the game — in which you take control of three different protagonists on independent journeys — sets you up for what seems like a disparate experience before the three heroes meet up and the real game finally begins.

Wild Arms is a treasure, packed with adventure, late-game plot twists that actually feel surprising, and an incredibly imaginative world. The setting was this steampunk-western-meets-high-fantasy blend where gunslingers and spellcasters could befriend one another. Filgaia was a world where anything could happen.

I’ve replayed Wild Arms several times, and it’s one of the very few JRPGs that I always feel glad to return to. In a console lineup jam-packed with incredible JRPGs, Wild Arms was one of the best.

Wild Arms

Wild Arms wasn’t the first JRPG on the PlayStation in the United States. Beyond the Beyond beat it to North America by several months, for instance. However, I do think there’s a very strong case to be made that Wild Arms was the first truly great JRPG on the Sony PlayStation. With Wild Arms, the greatness of the PlayStation’s JRPG era would officially begin.

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