Wild ARMs 4 - Reader Review  

Justice couldn't grow older than this
by Solon

Very Easy
20-30 Hours


Rating definitions 

   The Wild ARMs series seem to follow a certain pattern. The first game was by most of those who played it considered original for its time, and a very entertaining game overall, with its western theme and original puzzles. Wild ARMs 2, on the other hand, was by most pretty much bashed. Its review scores throughout magazines and websites everywhere were usually much lower than its predecessor's. Then a few years later, Wild ARMs 3 came out, and turned out to be a successfull entry in the series. Great story, huge playtime, cel-shaded graphics and an unforgettable soundtrack. Following this pattern, Wild ARMs 4 is supposedly a straight out bad game. While I wouldn't go that far, it's closer to 2nd Ignition in terms of quality than any other entry in the series.

   The biggest letdown of the game is without a single doubt the plot. I was personally delighted over the change we saw between 2nd Ignition and Wild ARMs 3, where the repetitive "hero theme" was removed and was replaced with a mixture of ingredients, like friendship, war, mysteries, the story of the drifters, the background behind Filgaia's fate and more. Don't get me wrong here though, a game needs to have a solid theme in order for the story to proceed. However, if this same theme is used to such an extreme extent that the player can almost read the dialogue out loud for him/herself before the characters have even said a word, something's wrong. Such is the case with Wild ARMs 4. Towards the end of the game, I felt like the game was trying to teach humanity the same lesson over and over through the characters' repetitive conversations. Also, not only is the same thing being repeated over and over throughout the entire game, but the theme itself is just one big cliche. Young boy, Jude, lives in peaceful village cut off from the outside world. Village gets attacked by mysterious soldiers. Boy gains mysterious power. Boy goes on journey to save the world. On the journey he'll face various predictable villains, whose goals are about as original as Bowser's. If you've played RPGs since the NES era, or even before that, there is nothing in this package that you haven't seen before. With series like Shin Megami Tensei, Shadow Hearts, Fire Emblem (to name just a few) on the market, this one leaves a lot to be desired.

Stealing from an enemy Stealing from an enemy

   The other aspects of the game aren't nearly as bad as the story, but we've unfortunately seen better even in this game's own predecessors. The soundtrack still has the catchy western touch, but lacks deeply of Michiko Naruke, and it just isn't the same without her. This reminded me heavily of how the Suikoden series lost a part of its soul after Miki Higashino left the team. WA4 also suffers from the same mistake the developers made in the first game: every time you enter a battle and come out on the field after winning, the dungeon theme starts over from the beginning. And with an encounter rate that is pretty high (higher than in any other WA), I don't think I've heard more than the first minute of some of the themes. The voice actors weren't horrible like they usually are in the North American localizations, but they weren't that special either. Most voices fit their roles.

   Perhaps the strongest thing about Wild ARMs 4 is the battle system which, aside from most parts of the game, is rather original. Battles take place in a hexagon, which naturally consists of five hexes. Your party and the enemies are placed out randomly within the various hexes, but allies cannot be placed within the same hex as an enemy. You can waste a turn in order to move a character to another hex if you want, as long as there's no enemy or obstacle in the way. The various hexes can also be of a certain type of element. For example, if a hex is red, it's fire-based. If you stand in a fire-based hex and an enemy tries to damage you with fire, the damage will be heavily reduced. Now, to inflict damage upon your enemies, you must attack the hexes in which they stand. This also goes for buffs/debuffs and support spells. If you, for example, cast Protect on the hex Jude stands in, and you later on move him from that hex, Jude will no longer be protected by that spell. If an enemy were to move into that hex after Jude left it, the enemy will be protected by the spell instead. This is an interesting system, and provides lots of different tactics, especially in boss battles. Unortuantely, with some of the spells you acquire it's easy to exploit this system. Characters gain more power through leveling. Also, each time they level they acquire a bunch of skill points which are used to learn new skills and abilities. This is similar to the Personal Skill system that we saw in Wild ARMs 2. The most lacking part of the battle system is how easy the game is overall. I never spent any time leveling to grow stronger, but I still only died once throughout the entire game. And it's not even over when you die, all you have to do is press continue and the battle you were in will start over from the beginning.

   Outside of battle a few things have changed from the previous games. The individual Tools that served the party when solving puzzles are now gone, and have been replaced with temporary tools that only Jude can use and are found scattered around the various dungeons. The tools are discarded once used to solve the puzzle. Another thing that's new in this area is the Accelerator gauge. When activating this gauge, everything goes in slow-motion except Jude himself, which is essential when solving certain puzzles. The gauge lasts for only a few seconds, and is replenished again after a short amount of time. The interface and such is very similar to the one in Wild ARMs 3 in terms of style and speed. There are no delays whatsoever within menus and such, and everything's explained through detailed tutorials. My biggest complaint here concerns the controls of Jude. In many puzzles you have to aim with projectiles or slide in a certain direction within a small window of time, and it can be immensely frustrating to point him in the right direction within such short notice. Looking at the translation, I really have no complaints. The same font was used in WA4 as in WA3, and it works wonders (I bring this up because of my horrible memories of the so called font in WA2). There are no signs of spelling or grammatical errors anywhere. Overall, XSEED has done a good job with their first localization.

Detailed character models win, for various reasons Detailed character models win, for various reasons

   Graphics-wise, Wild ARMs 4 is slightly above average. While the art style doesn't appeal to me that much, it's not badly done in any way. Both the characters, effects and surroundings are very colorful and detailed. There's a small bunch of CG movies throughout the game, but at first it's hard to tell if it's actually CG or in-game graphics you're watching.

   Overall, Wild ARMs 4 takes about 20-30 hours to complete, but there's more to it after the main scenario is finished. As with the previous installments, there are several optional bosses and a few sidequests. The EX File keys are back from WA3 too, which are used to unlock various bonuses.

   In conclusion, I must say I'm disappointed with the fourth installments of Wild ARMs. I was hoping we'd see more of the awesome effort that was put into Wild ARMs 3, but apparently someone came up with a different idea, an idea that certainly didn't appeal to me. Characters that I could barely stand, a plot with more cliches than the most standard Good vs. Evil story you could ever find and a lacking soundtrack. All of these are major factors that made the score fall. Much like I have with Suikoden, I'm losing faith in this series as well. In fact, this goes for a lot of series nowadays, and it's really unfortunate. If a fifth Wild ARMs game is announced, I'm not sure how I will react. I'll be sure to look into it carefully before even considering a purchase, and I suggest you do the same.

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