Wild Arms Alter Code: F
Wild ARMs rocked the RPG scene pretty hard when it was released back in 1997. Not only was it appearing on a system that had very few RPGs at the time, but it was an original, innovative title that had all the right stuff. Years later, Media Vision remade the game, upgraded to the standards of the PlayStation 2 and subtitled Alter Code: F.
The story has stayed largely the same as the original’s, but with a rewritten script. This is a good thing because there is a considerable increase in the amount of characterization shown among the cast members. Some scenarios are somewhat reminiscent of Skies of Arcadia in their overall feeling–certainly a good thing. Additional scenarios and sidequests are also packed in. Books scattered across the world of Filgaia give the player even more storyline info, should they choose to delve into it. Said story would lose a few points for being on the clichÃ© side, but one must remember this tale was told over eight years ago, so that’s excusable. Overall, players get a more complete, more satisfying telling of the Wild ARMs tale this time around.
With the fully 3D environments and new camera tricks, new dungeon layouts were required, and Media Vision rose to the occasion. Wild ARMs games have a bit of a reputation for having dungeons that feature puzzle after puzzle–much more than a series of straight paths and throw switches. The dungeons in Alter Code F will not disappoint, as they stay in familiar Wild ARMs territory. Initially, this reviewer was turned off by their simplicity, but in the long run, that turned out to just be part of Wild ARMs Alter Code: F‘s perfect learning curve. The dungeonplay starts out very straightforward and easy. Gradually, more tools and techniques are introduced that make them slightly more and more challenging every time, all the while becoming more fun to play.
One downer about the gameplay is the sometimes-awkward control. As per series tradition, the game has no run button, but instead a straight “dash” done by pressing X. Where this becomes a problem in Alter Code F is that X is also the action button, and many things require standing in a very small spot in order for the game to give the character a go-ahead to hit X and perform the action. So sometimes, if one is in a hurry (or just plain impatient), the player will end up walking to where a chest should open, hit X, and dash right past the thing…or into it. And when one desires greater transportation speed, all that’s available is a straight motion for it, which makes for some awkward stopping, slightly turning, and dashing again. It just doesn’t feel right sometimes.
Battle has changed up a bit. For one thing, if the player has more than three characters in the party at once, it’s possible to battle with two different rows of combatants, much like Breath of Fire IV or Final Fantasy X. Characters in the front row are the ones that act and are acted upon, while ones in the back recover HP at the end of each turn. This works well, when the player is able to use it. The game sure does take its sweet time in introducing it. After getting a brief taste (which is optional) early on, the player has to wait upwards of another 12 hours until the two-line battle can be experienced again. This is not a big deal though; I just thought I’d let you know now.
Another neat new thing in battle is the experience bonus system. When a character gets attacked (and is not guarding), uses certain equipped skills, or defeats an enemy, a bonus amount of EXP is given at fight’s end. If the player desires, s/he can think up a few tricks to try and squeeze some extra EXP out of the more valuable enemies, or maybe give a bonus to someone who’s close to a level up, and so on. It’s a good addition.
|This girl is part of a neat sidequest.|
In technical specs, the game is competitive. The graphics are fine; the characters and scenery look good, the camera can rotate 360 degrees in most places, and there’s never any slowdown or ugly overlapping. When considering this game is a revamp, the developers deserve all the more credit for this, as it may have been tempting to slack off in this area. That fact still in mind, the nostalgia involved with seeing the newly redesigned areas and characters can be tickling.
The music is praiseworthy, featuring a combo of Western-style tunes and choral vocals that give it the Wild ARMs signature. What is kind of a downer is the removal of the Japanese voices in the soundtrack. Those songs were great in their original forms, but the North American localization lacks the Japanese lyrical versions. Perhaps complaints would be quelled if Mac Dre had done the soundtrack instead, but as it stands, there’s no Japanese and no Mac Dre, and this simply will not do. Character voices have also been removed, but that’s no foul.
|Reach for your piece in order to keep the peace.|
The game’s presentation is quite awesome. After going through the three prologues, players are treated to an all-new intro anime set to the exact same tune as the original. This, a certain [avoiding minor spoilers] funeral CG sequence early in the game, and the ending credits video stand out as particularly memorable. One minor thing this writer would have appreciated would have been a larger font size chosen for typing the name of the speaker. The game is voice-free, and features no character portrait on display to tell who is speaking. This means that in a small handful of scenes that don’t involve a whole lot of communication gestures, one must rely almost exclusively on the small, white-on-light orange text that is half the size of the dialogue text in order to tell who is speaking. This is rare, but seriously, just two points bigger would have made a world of difference.
If the first three Wild ARMs did not exist and Alter Code: F were released now as the start of the series, would it have been as monumental a title as the original? The short answer is no, if for no other reason than the fact that the American market has so many more RPGs on it now than it did in 1997. It would and does, however, provide rewarding gameplay, lively characters, a noteworthy soundtrack, and an entertaining story. Remake or not, genre milestone or no, Wild ARMs Alter Code: F offers everything we play RPGs for. One can’t ask for much more than that.
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
|The Verdict: 7|