Wild Arms Alter Code: F is a retelling of the original Wild Arms game for the Playstation back in 1997. It’s eight years later, and the game has been completely redone for the Playstation 2 and has had additional content added to it, as well as new playable characters that you can use.
Personally, I was really looking forward to this title both because it’s an RPG in the first place and also because it’s a chance to go back and take a look at one of the classic games and see how it’s held up over the past eight years as well as see what has been added.
Being that Wild Arms Alter Code: F is a remake and update of an RPG originally released in 1997, it’s expected that the graphics will be updated over the original’s Playstation version. This is true, but the thought one might have when starting to play it is, “We waited eight years for this?” The graphics, while passable, aren’t really much of an improvement on those in Wild Arms 3, which was produced early in the Playstation 2’s life cycle. Comparing it to Dragon Quest VIII or even Final Fantasy X graphically only points out the graphical weaknesses in the title.
True, for years graphics have never been the important thing in the game to the point where it has become a catchphrase to say, “Gameplay doesn’t equal graphics”, but in the past few years, that’s no longer as true. When in the field you’ve got a varying overhead view with the characters sometimes being so far away from the camera that there’s almost no detail to be discerned.
Combined with this is a sometimes-awkward camera. Granted, it’s easily rotated with either L1 or R1, but in many screens the other architecture can block the camera’s view. It’s more of an annoyance than a true hindrance, really.
The cutscenes show a fair bit more graphic power and depth of detail, but it’s still nothing compared to even a venerable title such as Final Fantasy X. The characters show a fair amount of emotion, but the hands have a certain blocky look to them and it really causes the overall look to suffer, espcially after seeing the anime opening for the game, much less the episode of the Wild Arms anime which comes with the game. All in all the graphics aren’t much better than late Playstation to early Playstation 2 in many cases
The music in a game, especially in an RPG, can sometimes make or break the game. Final Fantasy probably wouldn’t be the amazing juggernaut that it is today if the music wasn’t as incredibly stirring as it is. Luckily, the music in Wild Arms Alter Code: F is likewise incredible. As the world is western-themed, the music is as well. Additionally there’s simply a large amount of music in the game, throwing together the field music, various battle music as well as music suited to particular characters.
As a bonus, there’s a spot uncovered early in the game where you can go back and listen to any of the music that you’ve unlocked so far. It’s nice, and great for music to relax or listen to while doing something else, if you want to leave your PS2 and TV on long enough to do that. Also, you can go back and listen to something that you particularly liked from a different part of the game.
Outside of the music, there’s not a lot of other sounds involved. There’s the various attack and area noises which are passable but nothing to really draw you in. The one thing that was really lacking was the complete exclusion of voices. This is especially surprising, considering that the original Japanese release of the title had voices in battle as well as a voice file option which could be unlocked later. Perhaps either the time or cost involved in dubbing the voices was an issue, although they could have left the original Japanese voices in and it would have been just fine. However, it’s more of a minor quibble than anything else and some would rather there be no voices than some (in some people’s opinions) badly-dubbed character voices.
In most RPGs, controls are very basic and simple, and it’s hard to mess them up. The same holds true for Wild Arms Alter Code: F, as the game uses pretty much the same controls most other RPGs use. The directional buttons and left analog stick moves the characters and navigates the various menus while the right analog stick allows you to zoom in or out on the character. L1 and R1 rotate the map and change menu pages, while L2 changes characters. R2 turns a character in place, X executes actions and confirms commands and allows your character to dash while O cancels commands and closes the menu, while allowing you to tiptoe in the field as well as cancelling encounters.
The square button activates the search system in the field and uses a tool in towns or dungeons, the triangle button opens the menu and displays your help messages. Select displays the map while in the field and finally, the start button skips movies and switches characters and tools.
One nice feature of the game is that you can make changes to these default settings to suit your personal preferences. The only issue that cropped up with the controls is that it’s difficult sometimes to position a character to use a switch or item, especially when the X button both handles activating switches and dashing, sometimes causing your character to run instead of hitting a switch. It’s more of a minor inconvience and a frustration than a true issue, but it’s worth mentioning.
Wild Arms Alter Code: F is the story of the world of Filgaia (and not Phil Gaia, as Penny Arcade astutely points out in a comic in the strategy guide). Over a thousand years ago, demons from another planet invaded Filgaia. After many years of battle, the once-green world had been turned into a brown, desert-like planet, with people banding together in small towns for mutual protection, rarely leaving their homes.
Those who chose to explore, who didn’t settle down, were known as Wanderers. WAAC:F is the story of three of these: Rudy Roughknight, a young man who inherited an ARM from his grandfather. Unfortunately, most people consider ARMs to be the legacy of the demonic invaders and basically the cause of the world’s destruction, which keeps him on the move. There’s Jack Van Burace, a treasure hunter with a sword who is searching the world for ‘Absolute Power’ and his wind mouse, Hanpan. Finally, there’s Cecilia, who begins as just a girl helping Jack and Rudy on a quest to explore ruins and turns out to be the princess of Adlehyde, joining the other two on a quest to repel the return of the demons who destroyed her home and killed her father as well as took her heirloom, the Teardrop.
One different thing about WAAC:F is that each character has the use of tools which are often necessary for getting through puzzle areas. Rudy starts with bombs, Jack with Hanpan, which can be controlled mid-movement with the analog stick, and Cecilia begins with a magic staff that shoots fire. Outside of this, though, there’s a lot of solid, basic RPG action. The only indicator that there are enemies approaching is a white exclamation mark over your head. At that point, if you want to avoid battle, you have to hit the circle key and use a Migrant Seal. Unfortunately, as with many older RPGs, there are a large number of random encounters, and its very easy to run out of Migrant Seals. Granted, this isn’t truly a bad thing, but it can get annoying when you’re trying very quickly to get somewhere to heal, for example.
Being that the game is a revamp of the original Wild Arms from 1997, one might think that if they’ve played Wild Arms, then there’s no need to play this. Fortunately, that isn’t the case, as numerous changes and additions have been made to the title. For one, the prologue chapters can be done in any order instead of being forced to do Rudy’s, then Jack’s, then Cecilia’s.
Another change is the addition of three new playable characters. Unfortunately, this is a minor change at best as the three cannot be unlocked until near the end of the game once the final dungeon is entered. So, approximately 95 to 99 percent of the game will be played with the same trio of characters. There’ve been changes to many areas and additional optional areas as well. One example is the Abyss, which has been modified into a massive 100 level dungeon that you cannot leave for most of the dungeon’s length. There are also new puzzles to explore with new treasures to discover as rewards. Even the map is different, as it is a mirror image of the original Wild Arms world. Also, advances from later games in the series make appearances here, inclduing the search mode from Wild Arms 3.
For those of us who are interested in game length, a straightforward runthrough of this game is a hefty forty to sixty hours. If you do all the sidequests, hit the Abyss, do the puzzle boxes and everything, you can easy lose eighty or more hours in this monster game.
The only reason I can really offer for not buying this game as soon as possible is if you already own Dragon Quest VIII and are playing it currently. This is only because graphically Wild Arms Alter Code: F suffers in comparison. If you’ve already beaten Dragon Quest VIII or don’t have it, this game is definitely worth the $50. Even if you’re part of the group who is playing DQ8 right now, still get this game in a couple of months.
The game is so huge and the music and story are so wonderful that it’s a crime to miss this. Of note is the fact that the upcoming Wild Arms 4 will use the save game from WAAC:F in some method. As far as gameplay for the money, in this time of ten hour games costing $50, it’s definitely worth it for a solid 40 to 80 hour game.
Also, for those who are into such, there’s a bonus disc with the first episode of the Wild Arms anime. Unfortunately, it’s only in English with no option for the original Japanese track with subtitles and the disc has no menu or features at all.