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Developer:
Media Vision
Publisher: Xseed Games
Platform: PS2
Release Date: January 10, 2006

by Josh Ferguson




On January 10, 2006, Xseed Games brought the fourth installment of the Wild Arms series into American stores. This latest chapter is actually quite different from some of the previous games in the series, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Or is it? Well, read on to find out!


The story of Wild Arms 4 begins in a rather unique town known as Ciel. This is not just your average town, but is located in a large floating sphere thousands of feet above the surface of Filgaia. Ciel is a rather peaceful town, isolated from the many dangers of the outside world. However, that all changes one day when a young boy named Jude Maverick witnesses a few aircrafts appear through a tear in the sky. Unaware of what's going on, Jude decides to go and investigate, where he discovers many soldiers holding captive a young girl by the name of Yulie. Oddly enough, this is the first time that Jude has laid his eyes on a girl his age. Jude is determined to rescue Yulie, and in doing so he discovers that he is one of the gifted (or cursed?) who are able to wield one of the legendary powerful weapons known as an ARM. However, the powers of the ARM seem too much for Jude to handle, leaving Ciel completely destroyed. Luckily, before its destruction, Jude and Yulie, along with a "Drifter" known as Arnaud, survive the destruction, but find themselves in the war-torn land of Filgaia.


One of the more noticeable changes from previous Wild Arms games has to do with the combat system. Rather than having straightforward turn-based battles, Wild Arms 4 features an all new HEX battle system. This HEX battle system adds a whole lot of strategy to the battles and allows the player to be a little more involved with the combat, instead of frequently pressing only the X button to attack. When a battle begins, the participants will be placed on one of the several large hexagons located on the field. Each hexagon is able to support a number of characters, and rather than actually targeting a single character, your attacks, spells, and other abilities focus on the entire hexagon. In other words, if you use a command on one of the hexagons, all of the individuals located on it will feel the effects. There are also certain colored hexagons known as Ley Points that have certain elemental attributes added to them. When a character is located in one of these colored hexagons, this will normally add some sort of elemental attribute to some of that person's skills. Also, some characters' abilities will be completely altered depending on what colored hexagon they are standing on. For example, when Yulie uses her material ability, this will summon one of the Guardians to attack your enemies. The Guardian which Yulie will summon all depends on the Ley Point that she is currently standing on.


Aside from their normal attacks, each character has three different types of abilities, the first of which is a character's Personal Skills, which are a number of different passive skills. Players really can't determine when these abilities will take place, but occasionally one of the abilities will be triggered. Characters also have another ability type that is known as Original Commands, which takes up a certain portion of your MP to use. The third of these is known as Force Abilities, which deplete a certain amount of force points to use. On the right side of the battle screen, a large blue bar will feature the amount of force points that your party has. Of the three, Force Abilities is the only one that cannot be obtained at the start of a battle, but instead can only be used as the battle goes on. Over time, force points will slowly accumulate as your characters perform certain actions or are attacked by the enemies. However, if all of the force points are not used in a battle, they will deplete before your next battle, taking your points back down to zero.


One of the biggest problems I've always had with strategy RPGs is that much of the time characters only obtain experience by killing their enemies, which can be very difficult for mages and healers. Sadly, Wild Arms 4 features some of those same characteristics. Characters will obtain experience for being in battles, but the ones who did the killing will earn a larger amount. While it isn't much of a problem for a few of the characters, it can be a problem for Yulie, the game's healer. With all of the attackers gaining a larger quantity of experience, this can cause Yulie to have much lower levels, that is unless you constantly use some of her most powerful attacks, like her Material attacks.


Like most RPGs, when your characters obtain a certain amount of experience they will gain a level. Once a character levels up, they will obtain a point that can be used on the GC Graph. The GC Graph is filled with several different abilities that your characters can obtain. In order to obtain one of these abilities, you must first have enough points, and then place them into earning one of these abilities. Each ability requires a certain number of points, but once you have them you will be able to continue using them. Using the GC Graph, players can also determine the ratio of HP to MP for each character. Also, players can even go ahead and change the actual names of some of their characters' abilities. It might be easier to leave some of this information at the default, but it still shows that Wild Arms 4 gives the player a lot of customization.


This latest installment also features a different sort of world map than some of the previous games. Earlier in the series, characters would travel across a world map, using a search system in order to discover towns and other locations. Personally, I was never very fond of this idea, and I found it to be a little ridiculous that you can literally be on top of a town, but unless you used to search command, you would have no idea. Well, luckily Wild Arms 4 no longer features this type of world map, but instead has, well... an actual map. When your team leaves a town or location an actual map will appear, showing different locations. Once a location becomes available, it will automatically appear on your map, and is easily accessible by moving the cursor to the location and pressing the X button. Your party will then travel to that location and continue to go from there. This idea makes it very nice because no longer do you have to go around searching for towns and you know exactly where to go.


As your party travels through dungeons and villages, there are also some new action moves that are now accessible. For the most part, the moves can be used at almost any time, and include double jumping and a short slide dash. With the new moves, the game features several platforming-type puzzles that add a unique feeling to the game. Many of these abilities will come in handy in certain situations around the game, such as avoiding detection by certain enemies, traveling under small spaces, or to discover hidden chests. Another new ability, called Accelerator, allows the player to manipulate time, which will come in handy during certain situations.


Graphically, Wild Arms 4 is well done and is far superior to any of the previous installments in the series. Similar to Wild Arms 3, the characters are all cell shaded, but still continue to look great. While limited, the game's cinemas look very well, but like I said, they are limited. It would have been nice to see more of these great visuals, especially considering how well they are done, but at least what we've been given is great.


The sound department is another area in Wild Arms 4 that is pretty well done. Wild Arms 4 features a fair share of voice acting and, for the most part, is fairly strong. Oddly enough, it seems that most of the voice acting comes from actual battles, rather than throughout conversations and other areas of the game. I personally would have enjoyed a little more voice acting, but what's there is done fairly well. Similar to previous installments, Wild Arms 4 also features a very strong musical score. While I wouldn't say it is done as well as last year's Wild Arms Alter Code: F, it is still done well and shouldn't disappoint fans of the series' great soundtracks.


Overall, Wild Arms 4 is another exciting chapter in the popular RPG series. With an interesting story, innovative combat system, customization, and fairly strong sound and graphics, Wild Arms 4 makes for an exciting adventure into the world of Filgaia. Wild Arms 4 is highly recommended for fans of the series, but is also a title that newcomers to the series could grow to love.


Final Grade: 81%




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