zh666's Wild Arms 4 (PlayStation 2) review

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Wild Arms 4 had a fun battle system, but short and linear.

Despite a few Wild Arm-isms, if someone was to tell me this was a Wild Arms game, then I wouldn't believe them. There is a ton of changes in this game from the previous titles, some for the worst, but other for the better. I like the platforming elements to the game, the new Hex battle system is really fun, they added voice overs, these are all huge improvements. On the downside, I hate the new dot-to-dot map (it's still better than the 3rd game), it makes the entire game extremely linear, and the game also felt short. On the mix feelings, the story wasn't terrible or great, the characters were ok, there could of been more puzzle solving and longer dungeons but what was there was good enough. I liked the comic book styled cutscenes, but there could of been voice overs with them. I was surprised how easy this game was too, I was really expecting somewhat of a challenge out of this battle system, but it was way to simple.

Overall it was a decent game, but I would recommend games like Radiata Stories over this in a heartbeat. You can tell this was made on a low budget.

----------Battle System----------
Wild Arms 4 is a turn-based RPG. The game uses a somewhat-unique battle grid, called a Hex system. The battle has seven Hexagon grids, with 3 elemental grids lit up as the battle starts. Your characters and enemies are randomly thrown on the grid, your characters can share a space and enemies can share a space. If you attack a group of enemies or heal a group of allies then everyone will get the same effect. Overall, this pretty similar to a strategy RPG, but with a fast paced RPG feel to it. The battles are quick and usually pretty fun.

Each character has just one unique Force attack this time, but overtime your characters will learn joint Force attacks that you can only use if your characters have the required FP and are standing in the same Hex grid. The leveling up and skill system is pretty good. Leveling up doesn't really effect your stats to much, and you are listed from the very start every skill you can learn. If you gain a level, you gain 1 skill point you can put anywhere in that skill chart, and after each level each skill gains 1 permanent skill point. Overtime, if you gain 10 levels, and there's a skill that requires 10 skill points, then you'll automatically gain or master that skill and you won't have to use your other 10 skill points. It's a pretty fun system to work with, but over time it can get to be a hassle, but each time you distribute points you lose 50 HP, you can reset your points, but if you want to keep your HP on a high level then you won't even bother buying new skills with your current skill points and just wait until you master them.

The tools system has changes from the previous Wild Arms games, for example each character would hold various permanent tools required to answer puzzles in dungeons. In Wild Arms 4, Jude is the only character able to hold tools (and the only player you're able to use actually). Jude won't find permanent tools like in previous, so when he finds a Tool in a dungeon like a Sword, Staff, Box or Bomb then he'll probably have to use it within that room. Jude can move between rooms with tools, but he can't jump while holding a tool, so you'll have to drop your tool if you come to a platform. This is kinda cool, but it also makes puzzle solving that much easier, since if you do find a tool you know you WILL have to use it somewhere near.

Along with tools, Jude can jump, double jump, slide and knell. Jude can also slow down time, to run across falling bridges or to jump across moving blocks. These elements add to the puzzle solving, but this is still about the easiest Wild Arms game I've played. The dungeons and towns have two forms in this game, a free roaming form similar to a Tales of.. game when you're in a town. It's slightly restricted, but you can still run around in a 360 direction with go into houses. The other form is a "Side-View" similar to Radiata Stories, this form restricts you to Up, Down, Left or Right. This view is where you mostly do all the platforming and there's alot of platforming in this game.

----------Characters / Story----------
You play as Jude, a young kid born on an isolated research island. One day as he set out to pick berries, he stumbles upon an invading army. He get's curious and decides to sneak inside one of their ships, where he finds Yulie, a girl locked up inside. As he tries to free her, he finds another person locked up, Arnaud. Jude ends up freeing Yulie and Arnaud from their captures and makes a run for it into a new world and get into even more trouble.

The story wasn't terrible, but it was pretty generic, predictable and cliche for the most part. The characters are pretty unoriginal, including the main bad guys. They all have deep personalities though, so there's enough to keep you interested, and there's alot of bad guys in this game, but once you fight them you may never see them again. The story has a set pattern that ended up getting old half way through. You enter a new dungeon, a little dialog scene would pop up, then each time you enter a new area of that dungeon another dialog scene would pop up, you would get to a boss and watch the dialog scene, fight him and watch another. After you beat the boss, you then watch a scene from the bad guys hideout, then a new area would pop up, then repeat.

----------Graphics----------
The graphics are decent, a huge improvements over Wild Arms 3 but not quite on a Kingdom Hearts 2 level or anything. The full motion/in-game cutscenes do have a Kingdom Hearts / Radiata Stories cutscene feel to them but slightly downgraded. The level designs are similar to Radiata Stories aswell, but I think they look much better. So there's give and take with the graphics. The main dialog scenes are anime still-shots of the various characters. There's no fluent animation of these characters during the dialog scenes, but their pictures often change depending on their mood pretty often and the screen often splits up like a page from a comic book. The dialog scenes are fun to watch sometimes, but the lack of voice work over them kinda sucks.

----------Sound----------
There's voice overs! Finally! The only problem is there isn't much of it. You'll get catch phrases within battle and a victory phrase, sometimes before a battle there will be a cutscene and they'll have voices and during all the full motion/in-game cutscenes. Other than that, everything is pure text, that includes the majority of the dialog during the comic book-styled scenes, chats with NPC and everything else in between. The music has the classic whistle theme and some acoustic work that comes along with a Wild Arms game, and then some weird jazzy tunes and other weirdness that doesn't quite fit. It's not bad or great, but not nearly as good as the other games.

----------World Map----------
The world map is a Final Fantasy Tactics styled connect the dots map. Wild Arms 4 is an extremely linear game to begin with, and this map even makes it worse, as you can only move back to previous dungeons and towns while you're still linked within the same connecting links. Heck, sometimes they won't even let you go back to the only town that has sidequests if you go to far away from it. This annoyed the crap out of me. I pretty much hate this map.

----------Time to Complete Game----------
26:00:05

It saves after the credits and takes you back to the save spot before the final boss. The ending was pretty cool, other than that I don't know if there was anything special unlocked or not. I still never made it back to that town with sidequests.

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