Wild ARMs – Alter Code: F

In the mid 90’s, before Final Fantasy VII saw the light of day, an RPG called Wild ARMs was released for the Sony PlayStation. Most of the game was in colorful 2D graphics, except for the 3D battles, and it’s safe to say that this was one of the first 3D engines ever made. The battles may not have been pretty to look at, but you got the job done. Wild ARMs came with an appealing set of characters, great music, challenging puzzles and a good, solid plot. Approximately 10 years later, here comes a remake for the PS2.

Plattform: Playstation 2
Utvecklare: MediaVision
Utgivare: agetec
Släppdatum: 15 november 2005 (US)
Köp här: eBay

Alter Code: F was actually released in Japan in November 2003 and after a 2 year long wait, here it is – fully in 3D, but after only five minutes of this game, I felt greatly disappointed with the character design. You’ll know what I mean once you see the opening sequence. All of the characters in the game look so simple, even ugly sometimes, as if they were put together in a big haste. The character art looks good, but the game does not do it justice. Also, the graphics on several occasions don’t blend well. In battles, the monsters look good, like they did in Wild ARMs 3, but that does not go for the characters. The surroundings look neat though, so it’s not all bad, but it just feels weird to have such a mixture of bad and good graphics for a game released in 2003. But then again, you get used to it, and besides, graphics is not what makes an RPG worth playing anyways.

ACF does not feel as a remake, in fact it reuses many things introduced in Wild ARMs 2 (Gimel coins) and WA3 (Migrant seals, puzzle caves and the white and orange gems in dungeons). The chance to cancel a fight when an exclamation point is visible over your character’s head has also been added. In WA you could not plant anything in the elw’s garden, but at the secret garden in WA3 you could, and ACF has brought in this change as well. All of these things place ACF further away from its original. A remake yes, but does that have to mean changing almost every original game feature? What I would have wanted to see change though is our silent hero. Rudy should be able to express himself like the rest of the crew. Too many times have we seen this in games, for example in Chrono Trigger and it just seems so old-fashioned nowadays. I so wish that they’d given poor Rudy a “voice” this time around, it would have given him much more character.

The battles are very much in WA3 style, with the characters and enemies running around the battle field. In ACF you can now recruit a few people that had supporting roles in the original game, which means our party of three as we know it is no more. This also brings a change to the battles; there are those characters that are in the front and those in the back and you can switch characters as you fight. The system gives a nice touch to the fights and as usual they are fun and over pretty quickly.

When walking around dungeons or towns, you’ll notice that the camera is sometimes very far away from your character, making him/her look awfully tiny. But there is a plus side not having the camera so close; as you rotate the camera in search of treasures or pathways, you get a good view of your surroundings.

There are no voices in the game – and there’s no need for those really, gamers have played “silent” games for a long time, up until recently. Voice acting is not always a good thing either; a lot of them are so poorly done you can’t stand it. Had there been voices to this game, I bet they wouldn’t exactly have made the game any better.

The score has been remade though, there are many new songs (WA OST had 36 songs, ACF has 92) and I really like these country/folksong tunes that Michiko Naruke creates. Most of it sounds as good as always but there are some exceptions of course. Like the world map theme Lone Bird in the Shire – it sounded much better in the original game. Speaking of the world map; in WA cities and dungeons were visible on the map, but now you use a search radar to find both of these. Sound familiar? Many people may not find these “enhancements” as a bad thing since they worked so well in WA3 for example, but personally, I did not expect to see so much of Wild ARMs 2 and 3 in this remake. Another thing I didn’t expect was some heavy glitch that struck at random in the snowy regions of the world. Suddenly parts of the world would disappear and you would be trapped as if behind an invisible wall. Only solution possible was to save my game with a Gimel coin and press reset.

The Wild ARMs series’ biggest strength is the puzzles that permeate the dungeons. Your main characters have many different tools at hand, but sometimes it’s not as easy as it seems and quick reactions can be a must. But without the puzzles the game would be too easy and it’s nice to face a bit of a challenge when you play.

If you missed the first chance to play Wild ARMs almost 10 years ago, I suggest you take this opportunity, even though it comes with many changes. If you have played the original, then don’t expect to become overly nostalgic through this game. I get the feeling this remake was done just to make the wait for Wild ARMs 4 easier. Nevertheless it brings a good gaming experience, it’s difficult not to enjoy it and I played more than 8 hours in a row on some occasions. After all, this is Wild ARMs.

Skriven: 2005-11-22

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