Wild ARMs 4 - Staff Review  

Growing Pains
by Billy "madhtr" Young

20 to 30 hrs.


Rating definitions 

   One of the first big RPGs to come out for the original PlayStation was Wild ARMs, developed by Media Vision, and published by Sony. Since then, the game has had three sequels, one of which was for the PlayStation, and a remake of the original for the PlayStation 2. It has been three and a half years since the last game in the main series was released in North America and just a handful of months since XSeed Games launched Wild ARMs 4 in January.

   The game starts off by introducing players to the title's main character, Jude Maverick. He enjoys long sessions of sitting in trees and spending time with his mother. Yeah, so he's not exactly looking to get into a long relationship at this time, but he is looking forward to plenty of adventuring and saving people from certain destruction. Then it happens; the sky rips open and large airships burst through into his peaceful world. After these events, the world around Jude falls apart and his journey begins. During this journey to find his mom and friends, Jude and his teammates must learn to grow up and cope with many problems. Sadly, the story is the weakest part of this game, only holding its own due to the excellent character development.

   The best and most original aspect of this game is the battle system. The characters and enemies are placed randomly on seven hexagonal areas. Attacks are generally only to adjacent hexes, though some attacks go in a straight line while magic eventually can attack anywhere. As it turns out, Jude is one of the few people who can handle and use the Wild ARM, a weapon that was created to end war. These ARMs end up playing not only a central role in the plot of the game but also take center stage in the battle system. Making good use of weaponry goes a long way in ensuring that the characters will survive a battle.

   Losing in battle isn't as bad as it could be. Most battles can be won using a good strategy and dying gives the player the choice of loading from memory card or restarting that battle. This goes a long way in making the game easier but also adding to the strategy of battles in that trying different things isn't as punishing. Players will eventually gain abilities to allow them to move between any of the hexes on the battlefield, as well as attack after moving, adding that much more to strategy.

   Wild ARMs 4 isn't exactly the most original game on the market today; only its battle system really shines along the way. The added platforming areas in this game don't really add anything to the game other than making it a little more complicated and frustrating. The story itself may not be similar to others on the market, but it seems like the developers were really feeling they needed to push the growing up factor that the story focused on. This really made it feel like they were trying to force ideals down the player's throat instead of adding to the overall game.

Brionac Brionac

   Graphically, the game is actually quite pretty, using colors that remind the player of the wild west theme that the series is well known for. Ruins actually make the player feel like they are really exploring the world, while rocks and other distractions make the player feel like they are actually in the game. The character designs are all fairly original, and their in-game counterparts look nearly identical. If there is one big complaint here, it's that cutscenes are all done in manga style. It feels tacked-on that the story is told using this, and would have been more dramatic using actual pre-rendered cutscenes.

   In the music department, Michiko Naruke handled much of the soundtrack, and it was good, with a number of tracks standing out as excellent. It makes players think of the wild west when the time is right but still reminds them that the game has sci-fi elements as well. It's always nice when a soundtrack matches its surroundings, but in this case, the soundtrack seems to make the surroundings even more real than they would be otherwise. The characters in the game are voiced quite well though only during cutscenes in battle. This is disappointing considering all of the cutscenes that players encounter outside of battle. Sound effects are decent, in that they do what they were created for and nothing more. The problem is that not all of the music is excellent, and the voice acting, while great, is implemented poorly.

Battle Hex battles

   One thing that players might be interested in is that the story itself is quite linear, though there are quite a few sidequests for players to partake in. There are a few places that might seem impossible to travel back to, but almost all areas are accessible and open by the end of the game, so traveling back to these places when players have a chance is a good way to get stronger in preparation for the many bosses in this game, including optional bosses that can be unlocked. There are also extra treasure chests to be found if players load their completed save data from when starting a new game.

   Treasure chests play a huge role in the world of Filgaia as well. There are five different types if playing a normal game, and loading save data from Alter Code F unlocks a sixth. There are: regular treasure chests that can be opened with no problem, broken ones that need players to use bombs to dislodge the top to open, glowing ones that require duplicators to open, some that contain an automated shopping area in some dungeons, and last of all, a single black one that can talk will tell players how many treasure chests they have opened out of the total.

   As a final word, the only thing left to say is that while this is a fun game to play, don't come into it expecting a huge story that will draw players into it. Expect fun characters that have been thrown into battle by a war, and a battle system that will keep people interested in the story long enough to complete it. After that, there isn't much reason to pick the game back up and play it.

   It's a bit odd to be saying that the story isn't the most important part of this game considering that stories are normally a huge part of any RPG. It just doesn't seem to matter, however, as the game is still just as fun. Already, there is another sequel in the works though at this time, it's unknown if or when Wild ARMs V will be available in North America.

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