aka Wild Arms 4: The 4th Detonator
Shortly after XSeed Games announced that they would be localizing games for a US audience they picked up Wild ARMs 4. It’s been years since an original Wild ARMs title and expectations from fans are high. Let’s see if XSeed Games’ first localization project turns out to be a promising start for their studio.
Wild ARMs 4 is an all new story set in the world of Filgaia. The game starts out in village known as Ciel. This flying city is home to Jude Maverick who knows nothing of the war scared world outside of his hometown. That is until he sees the sky break and a strange ship enter his world. As Jude investigates the situation he spots Yulie, who’s been captured and a new friend Arnaud. When Jude rescues Arnaud and later Yulie he finds out that he’s compatable with a powerful, yet forbidden weapon known as an ARM. After Jude grabs hold of this mystical gun he loses control of his power and destroys Ciel. With Yulie’s help Jude gets a grip on himself, but it’s too late for the village. Everyone evacuates and Jude is separated from his Mother. When the trio arrive on the surface of Filgaia they run into Raquel, a tomboyish swordfighter. Now the group of four set their sights on escaping capture and finding their own identities in Filgaia.
On the outside world Jude and Yulie are terrorized by frequent random monster encounters. Instead of using the traditional turn based system Wild ARMs 4 has a unique HEX battle grid. You start out with monsters and your party randomly placed on the seven spaced grid. Monsters and party members can’t be in the same hex, but you can have multiple friends or foes in the same square. When you choose to attack you’ll attack all the monsters in a specific hex. So if you want to get tricky you can hit multiple foes in the same square. However, your foes have the same advantage so if you position all of your party into one square all of them are going to get hit. Moving to another hex costs a turn, but Raquel has a skill to move and then attack in the same turn. As you can see positioning is the key to mastering the hex system. The system adds in further thought because there are three elemental hexes on the outer ring. If you stand in a red colored fire hex your skills will change. Arnaud’s blast magic gains the fire element and fire damaged is halved. If Jude stands there his Ley Boost skill changes from recovering MP to increasing his attack power.
Besides HP and MP meters there’s the force point meter on the right hand side, which the team shares. At the beginning of every battle force points meter is empty, but it fills up when you act in combat. Force abilities are some of your most powerful skills. Yulie has the material ability that lets her summon guardian beasts to cure the party or if you’re on an elemental hex damage every enemy on the screen with element magic. Arnaud has the tactical jump ability which lets him teleport him and all the party members in the same hex to another square. If you have two party members in the same square you’ll learn even more powerful combination arts. Combination arts take even more out of the shared FP meter than regular force abilities, but they are much more damaging. When Arnaud and Raquel team up in their sword / magic combo you can do thousands of points in damage in one turn. The system is fresh and is bound to please RPG fans who want more thought in combat over just hitting attack over and over.
Beyond combat Wild ARMs 4 differs in the way it sets up dungeons. While you will spend time running around and exploring for treasure you’ll spend more time braving the platform gameplay elements. Levels are set up so players will have to jump over pits, climb pipes and crush crates by sliding into them. At times the camera even fixes itself into side scrolling mode, which is reminiscent of the 2D platformer golden age. On top of the ability to jump Jude can also pick up tools to help him solve puzzles in each area. Tools like swords can be used to hit switches and bombs can be used to blow up debris so the party can pass through. However, these tools cannot be carried outside of the dungeon. You can’t even jump while holding a tool, which often forces players to trek out in search of new tools. Jude also has another interesting ability called “accelerate” when used Jude goes into a Matrix-like slow time state. You can use this ability to run across bridges that are breaking. Accelerate also has another purpose, when it’s used hidden white orbs appear. If Jude grabs these he’ll gain bonus gella (money) and you can game even more gella if you pick up a bunch of these orbs in a row. An interesting note is that Wild ARMs 4 has the quintessential platform levels like a lava level, forest level and so forth.
The dungeons and combat graphics look pretty good. Wild ARMs 4 manages to take the classic anime style and bring it into 3D. This is best seen in the team battle animations and the cutscenes peppered throughout the game. Yet most of the story telling isn’t done with animated cutscenes. Instead Wild ARMs 4 uses stale hand drawn graphics and raw text. It’s similar to how a Game Boy Advance game would tell a story, but it’s not what we would expect in a PS2 game. It actually makes the story sequences rather dry. When there’s action going on you don’t want to just see the character sprites and text, you want to at least watch a scene or even better play it. Besides that the presentation of Wild ARMs 4 is fairly good. XSeed choose a solid cast of voice actors for the main cast. We just wish we heard them more.
Instead of the tired RPG formula Wild ARMs 4 offers a lot that’s new to the genre like platforming and the hex battle system. If only the storytelling mechanics were up to par Wild ARMs 4 would be a surefire hit.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0
XSeed Games has done US gamers a service by localizing the game in English.
Wild ARMs 4 was released on 06.01.10.
+ Pros: An interesting use of platform mechanics and an all new battle system separates Wild ARMs 4 from being “just another RPG”.
– Cons: Weak storytelling and uneven leveling can make gameplay frustrating.
Overall: Wild ARMs 4 brings some new ideas to the RPG genre in terms of gameplay, but the story isn’t as great as we would have hoped for.
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