Cidolfas's RPG Reviews: Wild ARMS: Alter Code F (PS2)
Codger alert: Because this is a remake, this review will be heavily influenced by the differences between the original and the current, as well as the differences between this and its spiritual predecessor, Wild ARMs 3. You've been warned. If you want to take a gander at WA3's system, look here.
You Are: Rudy, the silent hero guy; Jack, a snarky swordsman with a mysterious past and an even snarkier Wind Mouse named Hanpan; and Cecelia, princess of Adlehyde.
Your Goal Is: To beat the evil demons. Duh.
General System: Most of the general system is swiped right from WA3. Gone is the equipment from the original. *sniff* Why's equipment so bad? Huh? I LIKE finding new armors and stuff! Geez. Anyway, leveling up is the main way to gain power in this game. Each of your characters (at the end of the game you can have six) has specific skills and techniques to take advantage of. Generally they each have one Force ability and several techniques. Cecelia uses good ol' Crest Graphs to "bind" spells (there are a limited amount, so some picking and choosing is necessary); Jack learns new Fast Draw skills by finding them in dungeons, and he can level them up to cost less MP by using them against higher-level enemies; Rudy finds new ARM weapons in dungeons and can increase the number of bullets each of them uses by using Alter Parts (found around, and dropped after battle). Other characters can "download" skills from enemies, or buy them. Rudy (and another character) can also change the stats of his weapon by modifying it, with a limit to the total number of modification, same as in WA3.
The main difference between this and WA3 is the use of Personal Skills. You basically equip them the same way as regular equipment, with the caveat that you can only equip one "type" of skill at once. E.g. there's Defense 1 and Defense 2. You can only equip one of each, but the end result is 3 points towards the "Defense" skill. Like in previous offerings, each PS uses a specific number of points, and you can only equip as many points as your current experience level. Unfortunately, most PSes are useless; status and elemental PSes take up so many points that it's not pragmatic to use them at all. The very useful ones are really rare (and it's even more rare to find duplicates to use for multiple characters). The system could have used a bit of tweaking.
The map is, again, identical to WA3. You walk around and "search" for items and locations. The encounter system and Migrant Seals are also back from WA3, with the exception that there are no more Booster Kits. It's far better than the original system where you kept fighting everyone all the time. However, I found that the developers seem to expect you to fight much more than you do. The vast majority of dungeons are in a spot in the game where you rarely (if ever) have to fight. In other words, the amount of Migrant Seals you get are often tailored to someone at a much higher experience level than you are. The end result of that is a quite high challenge quotient for most of the middle of the game.
The Millenium Puzzles are also back (now caled Puzzle Boxes) and - thank god! - you can't run in them any more! They're pretty neat, and range from a cute challenge to absolutely sadistic. The numerous end-game side quests are also back, and overall they're a lot less annoying than in WA3. Still, a lot of them are hard to find without an FAQ, and even harder to find in the right order (do it out of order and you'll be pulverized).
Battle System: Very similar to WA3's as well. The only real difference is that most characters don't use ARMs and don't have to reload. It's nice to be able to swap characters in and out of battle (they use their VIT gauge to heal when they're not in front). The only downside is that this is the first WA game where you can't change your skill setup on the fly (which can really bite). The loss of a character who can use Mystic also hurts for most of the game.
Gimel Coins are even more useful this time round, because when you die and use one to continue, you instantly recover all your HP, MP, status, and VIT! The downside is that you won't get any EXP or Gella from the battle you're in. Smart people simply look for a tiny fight before a big boss, die in it, use a Gimel Coin, then are all raring to go for the big guy. 8-)
Graphics: Excellently done. The strangeness of WA3's cel-shading is gone, and the looks are at once cartoony and realistic. The character models don't move quite believably, but the expressions are pretty good. Probably the best reason to play the game - to see your old friends in glorious 3D.
Music: It reminds me of the annoying kid in a choir who has a good voice but insists on making his solo too complicated and dramatic. The music is nearly all taken from the original, but it's all remixed, often to entirely different genres. There was a simplicity to the music which worked very well in the settings. The remixes are often unnecessary and detract from the mood. This is possibly the first game I've played whose music sounds better when listened to as a CD than in the game itself.
Story: Still the best of the series (though that's no big achievement). The characters are likeably, colorful, and fleshed out. Many scenes have been made longer and given us more chance to see the characters themselves - even Rudy, whose personality comes out as people describe him. Some scenes (such as at and after the Gate Generator) were better done in the original, but overall it's quite nice. The downside (and it's a biggie) is the absolutely godawful translation. Honestly, this is the worst I've ever seen text since... well, Wild ARMs 2. Besides all the spelling and grammar errors, it sounds dry, corny, and silly. Some text actually runs out of the text window. This story doesn't deserve that kind of treatment. What really gets me is that this game spent TWO YEARS in localization - WA4 came out a scant two weeks after it! What the heck were they doing in all that time?
Length: About 40 hours, with several sidequests unfinished
My Thoughts: It's hard to revisit a classic, and even harder to give it an entire makeover. WA:ACF has managed to take a lot of the good things from the original and yet spin them into a game which is markedly different from what it used to be. Generally that's a good thing, but I do find myself yearning for the simplicity of the old gameplay. As mentioned, there are some major detractions to my enjoyment of the game (the translation, the remixed music, the slightly too-hard challenge) but I still had a lot of fun with it.
Overall Rating: 7/10