When I first learned that one of my favorite RPGs of all time, Wild Arms, was being revamped for the PS2, I was skeptical. What would happen? Would it become the victim of endless CGI, bloated dialogue, bad voice acting, bastardization of the western flavored tunes WA fans love, dumbed down puzzles for the ADHD crowd? Or, would it be a loving representation of a great game, simply “remastered” for a next gen console? 10 minutes into the game, my fears were put to rest. Read On-fans will certainly not be disappointed.
The player is introduced (or reintroduced if this isn’t your first time at the rodeo) to the world of Filgaia, which is suffering the after effects of an all out war between the occupants of Filgaia and creatures from another world, hell bent on claiming Filgaia for their own. The Guardians of Filgaia were able to drive off the attack, however so much of their power was taken in the battle, not much was left to sustain Filgaia’s ecosystem. Filgaia is dying. Enter-our heroes:
Rudy, an outcast wanderer who has the ability to use ARMs, Jack and his sidekick wisecracking HanPan (the brains of the duo), on a quest for the Ultimate Power, and gentle Cecilia, royalty in hiding who can commune with the Guardians of Filgaia.
The story begins as you guide each of the heroes through a story sequence, which leads each of them to the place where the quest as a group begins. It also doubles as a tutorial of sorts, as you use each characters unique abilities and tools to progress. Rudy can use bombs to reveal hidden doors and clear paths, Jack can throw HanPan to hit switches and retrieve treasure, and Cecilia can light torches and such by the use of a flame staff. If you’ve played Wild Arms before, then you know you must use each characters skills/tools to clear dungeons.
First and foremost, the most noticeable (and obvious-) change is graphically. A complaint many have had is that MediaVision scrapped the super deformed “cartoony” look of the characters in the original for a more realistic looking characters in the remake. Personally, I like the change, and that it suits the remake of the 3D environments. Yes, the graphics of the latest iteration of Wild Arms will be compared ad nauseum to “another developers’ who shall remain nameless RPG graphics”, for not being eye popping enough-which is unfortunate. The environments aren’t a WOW factor of WA:ACF, the roaming environment has a feeling of sameness of color and design, however what is there is capably done. Sure, the characters movements are a bit schlumpy at times, but they are also well drawn and expressive.
While we are on the subject of characters, another difference between this and the original Wild Arms is the availability to recruit an additional characters, one of which is an old favorite (I won’t spoil it here) and one of reasons I couldn’t wait to play this game, as he was a favorite of mine in the first WA. Also, many side quests have been added, such as Puzzle Boxes, finding Witch Books, faking a wedding, hidden boss battles, and a massive optional dungeon.
On to another main ingredient for RPGs-battle system. And WA:ACF certainly doesn’t disappoint here either. Another difference between the original Wild Arms and Alter Code F is that you have more than 3 characters to choose from (if you choose to go after the extra characters). By using the Form function before battles, you can choose the person best suited to the situation. Keep in mind, the back row characters do not attack, however you can switch during battle between front and back row characters if you need to.
Battle is turn based, and the character can either use a regular attack, special ability (Rudy’s ARM, Jack’s Fast Draw/Sword, and Cecilia’s Crest Magic), and force abilities, or I should say Ability, there is only one force ability per character, another bone of contention for Wild Arms veterans-I however didn’t mind this. The ability assigned to each character is sufficient, in my opinion. A character’s personal skills (this in lieu of equipment) are activated automatically, however you must equip them. They can prevent status effects, improve defense, increase attack, etc. Combination attacks are also possible, however I never activated one.
While on the subject of battles, a complaint of many RPGers is too many random battles. WA solves this early on with the inception of the Migrant Seals and the Encounter Gauge. When a battle is about to occur, an exclamation point will appear above the character’s head. You can opt not to fight; however doing so causes the ENC gauge to go down. The amount it goes down depends upon your Migrant Level and the level of the enemy. Overuse of the avoid battle option will cause Rudy and Co. to be ambushed..ie: you can’t avoid battles. The ENC gauge can be recharged by finding white gems, or by fighting battles. Oh, and once your in the battle, you can’t run, so be prepared! (Cecilia can get a spell later in the game that does allow escape from battle.)
Since equipment management isn’t a factor, WA:ACF allows for the weapons of the characters to be upgraded. Rudy’s ARM can be changed using Arm Meisters, who are located throughout Filgaia. The ARM can only be ugraded 15 times; however you can undo changes if you like. Jack’s Fast Draw upgrade is an improvement in my opinion over the original. You no longer must use the fast draw over and over again to learn it, once obtained it can be immediately used. The more it is used; it increases in Mastery, reducing MP cost. Fast Draw upgrades are located in chests scattered throughout Filgaia. Cecilia’s learns spells by gaining Crest Graphs, and combining them. People in towns will do this for you, and as with Rudy’s ARM, if you need a different spell, you can “undo” spells to make new ones.
Another aspect of WA:ACF is the use of Gimel coins for on the fly game saves, very convenient of you are stuck in a large dungeon and need to save in a hurry. Overall, WA:ACF is a faithful remake of a PS classic. It retains enough of the classic charm to keep the veterans of the series happy, while adding enough of change to peak the interest of newcomers.