Wild Arms 4
PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 12/24/2005


2006 will be the tenth birthday of the Wild ARMs series. It will also be when Wild ARMs 4 sees a North American release. Series fans and RPG players in general would be doing themselves a favor to honor the occasion by picking up Wild ARMs 4 when it is shipped on January 10.

The primary reason for such a recommendation would be the new battle system. The combat takes place on a board of hexagons, shown here, which grants players the option of taking action or moving to a more strategic location during each character’s turn. Status effects, rather than being cast on a character, instead affect the hex one is standing in at the time. Additionally, actions done to the hex affect everyone in it. Balancing that out, a number of skills can only be used with multiple characters in the same hex. Thus we see the the importance of carefully planning one’s location and movements.

Each character learns new “originals” and “force moves” through the game. Originals can only be performed by the given character and consume MP. Force techniques draw points from the team’s pool, which is built up by using regular moves. Both of these can be learned with Growth Customization points earned after level-ups. When characters learn certain Originals on their respective Crest Graphs, and are standing in the same hex, they can learn special combo Force moves, such as the one in this movie. The fact that the fighting is so different makes it fun for the duration of the game. While saying it requires just as much strategy as a tactical RPG could be lofty, this reviewer had a few experiences where sloppy play resulted in a Game Over that was easily avoided on a repeat attempt with a different battle plan.

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The way the story is told is constantly entertaining.

HP are regenerated after every battle, but in compensation, enemies tend to do more damage than foes of past games. The game is not “hard” per se, but it’s not overly easy either.

Wild ARMs 4 is about a normal boy named Jude with an abnormally hot mom and the equally uncommon ability to control–you guessed it–ARMs. He discovers this ability through a series of events in which he felt obligated to protect his village. In typical RPG storyline fashion, this sets things on a crash course full of mystery, betrayal, unexpected love, chase scenes, and gunfights. …Okay, so it’s not the most original plot ever conceived. But the power of Wild ARms 4‘s story doesn’t lie within is basic components so much as the way it is told. For the majority of coversations, the player will see the screen much like s/he would a page of manga. During the conversation, the “page” setup may change as other people enter and leave the conversation, or even if they simply change poses. In a normal RPG, reading lots and lots of text or just watching long movies may get boring, but this interesting take on storytelling turned out to be the perfect way to keep normal plot sequences more entertaining. For “bigger” moments, cutscenes with in-game graphics are used.

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Phantom Line: Skill that just doesn’t give a frick who you are, makes you dead.

And while it may start off stereotypical, the plot does gradually get better and better. This is helped by the fact that the characters of both the main cast and supporting cast are well fleshed out.

All cutscenes and battles, as well as parts of the normal dialogue sequences, contain voice acting. While some of Yulie’s lines occasionally sound a bit odd, the voice work is overall well done. On a similar note (heh), the music is the best the series has been treated to; and with Wild ARMs, that’s saying something. The team of Masato Kouda, Michiko Naruke, Nobuyuki Shimizu, and Ryuta Suzuki combined to deliver a wonderful score with all the right stuff. Like most everything else about the game, it shows evolution in the series while not getting too crazy.

This series has always had a signature dungeon style consisting of interesting puzzles. Playing through Wild ARMs 4‘s dungeons will mostly feel as a series fan would expect. Instead of tools, however, this installment give the players a set of platforming abilities and skills within the main character. While the same types of puzzles (Where to move the boxes? How to fix the bridge? How to knock down the door?) are still in place and use a lot of the same elements as previous games, these new additions are where the difference lies. It’s not a platform or adventure RPG, but jumping is often involved. For the most part, this worked well. It still feels like a Wild ARMs game for sure, yet nothing got too stale. Difficulty in these areas ranges from ridiculously easy to quite challenging.

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Small cutscene subtitles require one to have the volume up. Note that this is a capped screenshot, but it gets the point accross.

What is dissapointing is an occasionally bad setup for a series of jumps that must be performed. It doesn’t happen a lot in the game, but players are sure to run into times of serious frustration with the game’s jumping system, or rather, the setup of a series of jumps. It seems like a select few of them were made by someone who’d never previously played a decent platform game–things that aren’t the player’s fault. These situations are not impossible, and not the prevalent part of dungeonplay, but they sure do piss one off while they are occurring. Media Vision met its goal here, but should never design a platform game.

Wild ARms 4 is visually pleasing. The in-game graphics are very good–a noticeable step up from Alter Code: F. The animations shown during dialogue scenes are nice, as well. A great camera that automatically moves and is always giving players a good view. What players won’t have such a good view of is the subtitles. You’d best be playing with the TV turned up, because reading the subtitles during some of the cinemas proves to be a difficult task because of how small and scrunched-together they are (see screenshot).

In all, Wild ARMs 4 is a great RPG. Occasionally frustrating sections of jumping may turn some people off from the game, but it has so many strengths to counteract that. Namely, its fantastic battle system, top-quality music and sound, clean graphics, entertaining story, likeable characters, and Wild ARMs-style dungeons make it highly worthwhile.

-Heath Hindman

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Great
Story Excellent
Graphics Great
Sound/Music Excellent
Replay Value Good
The Verdict: 8