I am a moderate fan of the Wild Arms series. The first game was okay, if a bit dull, and while the second was not too much more entertaining to me, I did really, really like the way it so carefully and fully analyzed every aspect and characteristic of heroism and its ideals. It's probably the biggest and most complex examination of the idea of the hero that I've seen yet in a game, anime, or anything save boring crap like term papers and stuff.
But the fact is that both of these games are immensely disappointing. Since day 1, the Wild Arms games have been promising a Wild West-themed RPG experience, and the first 2 in the series just fail miserably at it. Oh, I do grant you that WA1 has a few locales remniscient of the old west, and some of its music fits that theme nicely, as do several of its items. But for God's sake, it stars:
1. A summoner-princess-sorceress. Not very true to the promised theme.
2. A talking rat.
3. A guy who takes the idea of the Fast Draw fighting style that cowboys are famous for in those old shootouts and all and rapes it by applying it to a katana. I mean, seriously, that defeats the fucking POINT of saying it's Old West-ish. Hell, it makes it just your standard samurai deal and removes all cowboy-ness entirely since you see those indescribably stupid scenes in anime where they run at each other and you never see who gets who but you get to know once they're done running and have their backs to one another and it takes no less than 2 minutes of silence for one of them to realize they died.
4. An android whose idea of using old-west guns is to bombard enemies with missiles, grenades, and fucking lasers.
5. A bunch of metal demons armed with medieval weaponry and The Power Of Science.
(As a note I guess I just precluded all possibility of my doing a WA1 cast sum-up rant in the future...woulda been too short anyway, I guess)
This is not the cast of a Wild West RPG. Them taking a magical journey around the world at the behest of magical creatures and doing so using a future-tech plane and encountering alien elves also does not quite fit.
Wild Arms 2 is even LESS devoted to the theme it promises. You encounter heavy artillery-wielding political prisoners, happy little witch girls, happy little summoning boys, vampires, magical creatures, lizard aliens, nuclear dragons (what the hell, seriously), lots of crazy technology, adventures in space, adventures in time sorta, evil dimensions, and nice guys possessed by ancient demons. There are even fewer locales than ever that feature any resemblance to the Old West--they seem like they're thrown in there as an after-thought than anything, like the developers made them before they forgot their own theme entirely.
And, from what I am told of the 4th installment to the series, it's more like some random anime and less like its promised premise than ever.
WA3, besides being the best game thus far just in general, finally delivers you a WORLD, not just 3-5 locations, that is like the Old West. Its characters, with the exception of Jet the Naruto-dropout with a machine gun, finally almost all fit in, both hero and villain and antihero. As do their weapons. Hell, they even make some of the series's staple non-western elements finally work for the theme as well--no longer are the world's magical creature Guardians just there to add a fantasy aspect, but now they actually are treated in a fashion somewhat like Native American spirits, worshipped and spoken of by a Native Americanish tribe. There're horses to ride, showdowns to see, trains to protect from robbery, and stupid bandits. It's the first time, and so far the last time this series has lived up to its promise, and it kicks ass.
(As a note, this isn't to say it doesn't have its crazily non-Old West elements (what is WITH this series and aliens?), but they're meshed into the theme and plot rather than dominating it)