Valkyrie Esker's Wild ARMs 4 Review
Email the author: Valkyrie Esker
Plot: You are Jude Valentine, a 13-year-old "Gene Driver" (their term for ARMs users, I guess) Who starts off trying to find his mother and other survivors when their village crashes (yes, you read that right.) Along the way, he finds friends and they have many adventures, where they learn about themselves, the world, and the human spirit. ...Okay, that sounded corny even to me. Frankly, the plot seems forced and contrived to me, since a lot of it can be summarized in "children rock because we still believe, adults suck because they think they know everything, and it's our job to prove to them that they're wrong and we're always right." That's about 80% of the plot, right there.
The Characters are so-so. We have the 13-year-old wide-eyed optimistic leader who's dumb as a brick and grew up in a small sheltered town, but gets through with the power of friendship; Yulie, the timid healer with a heart of gold and mysterious powers, who hates fighting but finds strength within herself just when she needs it; Arnaud, the 18-year-old Drifter who acts like he knows everythign and actually seems the most realistic and cynical of the group; and Raquel, your Swordswoman with a femenine side as well, on a quest to still find beauty in this dying world. As you can see, they aren't that special. I think the Villains are more interesting, but we don't get to see much of them.
Gameplay: Very trying at times. There are no individual tools anymore, which I thought was a very fun part of Wild ARMs. Just tools you can pick up in dungeons to complete the puzzles within - and they're not very complex puzzles. Think Zelda-style block puzzles or something, instead of the normal WA fare. And for those who were fond of exploring on the world map, don't bother. There is none. Just a marker to indicate the next dungeon or town. And there are far too few towns. In the entire game, there are only four towns. At one point, you need to fight through seven dungeons - that's right, seven! - to get to the next town. And exploring isn't much fun, since it feels like it takes too long to really travel, and you can't explore houses.
Battles:It's not the traditional turn-based system it's always been. It's more comperable to Final Fantasy 10, I'd say. Everything is positioned on a hexagon. Seven hexagons to make one larger hex, which you and the enemies can move on. if there are more than two enemies on a hex, then any attack done to that hex will hurt them all. The reverse works the same way, however, so be careful.
Graphics: They're pretty good. I wouldn't say they're mind-blowing, but for Playstation 2 capabilities, they did the job.
Music: If you are as much a fan of the music to Wild ARMs games as I am, then you'll be very disappointed by this game. Apparently Michiko Naruke, the Goddess who did all the music to the series up to date, was sick with something bad during the process, so "help" on WA4. I don't even remember the names of the other 3 or so composers. All I know is, none of the music really has much of the Wild West feel to it. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything special. Maybe this is some sort of way to balance out how mind-blowing the music to Alter Code: F was?
Side Quests: The Ex File Keys from WA3 and Alter Code are back... sort of. Instead of finding actual keys that you can use or do anything, you need to complete tasks to unlock them. It's complicated to explain without visuals, but it makes more sense if you see it. Anyway, besides those, you have some of the usual WA fare - optional bosses who are several times harder than the last boss and require luck and strategy to beat, an arena to fight monsters in, The Black Box sidequest... And a new thing, a 2-D platformer called Extra Challenge built in. If you like Mario games, this is right up your alley.
Final thoughts: I tried to be as fair as I could about this game, but frankly, it was one of maybe three games I truly regret playing. For most of the game, it just seemed mediocre, with stereotypical RPG elements. I could handle that, since I like cliches. but the ending is when you really realize that you wasted at least 20 hours of your life that could be better spent doing anything else. I cannot stress this enough. The ending is the worst I have ever seen, and I actually laughed, stared, and jumped to my feet to shout obscenities at the game while the ending was rolling.
Score: 2 out of 10.