zh666's Wild Arms Alter Code: F (PlayStation 2) review

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Wild Arms: Alter Code F is easily the worst Wild Arms game so far

I beat the original Wild Arms game at the 28 hour mark, but this one took me 49 hours. Between each game, they have the same amount of towns and dungeons, but Alter Code F was a MUCH longer game because of the slowish battle system and drawn out storyline and dialog scenes. If Alter Code F was 20 hours shorter, I think I would be less harsh on it, but it quickly worn out it's welcome.

Ok, this game was just WAY to long. Not only that but the graphics were horrible, there was spelling errors and glitches all over the place. The storyline wasn't good, and the characters were dull. Boss fights felt WAY to easy, and I never felt any danger.

Like most Wild Arms games, the dungeons will make you want to continue playing, but that's about the only excuse I could come up with. This package comes with a DVD with the first episode of the Wild Arms TV show, and I must say that those 18 minutes of footage on that DVD was far more entertaining than anything this game could offer.

----------Battle System----------
Wild Arms: Alter Code F is a turn-based RPG. Each turn is presented in rounds, so you have to set each character's moves and then watch the results. The characters with the best speed will move first, and each character gets one move per round. You can only fight with three characters at a time, but during some quests you'll get a 4th or 5th character that will join your party (this is different than the original Wild Arms). You can change those extra characters in and out of battle during fights without a pentalty. Near the end of the game you can recruit some of these characters permanently.

The thing I hate the most is how they totally screwed up the weapon system. Just like Wild Arms 3, you can't buy new weapons. You also can't equip armor either. You can only equip accessories, and this is even a step down from Wild Arms 3. How accessories work is a little awkward. Say you have 50 levels, that means you'll have 50 skill points, and with each new level you'll gain a new skill point. Accessories cost skill points, and you can equip as many accessories as you can as long as you can afford the points, however, you can't equip the same accessory twice. Each accessory has a level though, so lets say Poison Guard is level 1, that will cost 2 points, and a level 2 Poison Guard will cost 4 points, and so on. Accessories can only go as high as level 4, and if you equip each level, then you can max out that skill, but you'll never have enough points to really worry about that.

Rudy is the only character that can strengthen his weapon, but after about 10 or so hours in the game you'll have that maxed out and it will be completely forgotten. He can add bullets to his special attacks by going to a shop in town. Which reminds me, why are there ARM shops in towns? ARM users are treated as Heretics, there's only TWO ARM users in the entire game, yet there's ARM shops in almost all the towns. It makes no sense to me.

Anyways, Rudy can gain new special attacks by finding them in treasure chests. Cecilia can find new magics by finding Crests in chests, and then binding them at shops in town. She can make whatever spell she wants, as long as she has the crest to make it. Jack finds his special attacks in dungeons. Jack's special attacks strength and level up each time he uses them. Jack has little magic power, but the more he uses a special attack the less that attack will cost in Magic points after it gains a few levels. Which is another annoyance in the game, YOU CAN'T BUY MAGIC POTIONS! Argh frustrating.

The random encounter rate is rather high, but they combat this with a "Migrant" level. This allows you to cancel an upcoming attack. When you're about to be attacked, a green exclamation point will hover over your head, you can cancel or choose to fight it. If a red point hovers over you, then you're forced into a surprise attack. One thing I hate about this game is you can't escape battles. You can save just about anywhere, including within dungeons by using Gimel coins, while they're "semi" rare, it's still a useful item.

Dungeons are purely 3D and in the same vein as Wild Arms 2 and Wild Arms 3. The dungeons seem a little easier compare to any previous WA game. They completely change each dungeon to conform to the new 3D style, the puzzles are completely different, but some of the ideas are the same. For example, there was a dungeon where you had to scare a kid with Hanpan the Wind Mouse, so you could talk to a Nun, they kept that whole scenerio in this remake, but the entire actual dungeon is completely different. One other change was the creative puzzles where your team got split up and you need to work together from afar to complete puzzles, ala Lost Vikings. There was one dungeon where you teamed with Jane similar that, but only one real dungeon where your team is split completely.

Each character uses tools to get around puzzles, kinda like Zelda. Rudy can use bombs, magic gloves, grenades and radar. Jack can use Hanpan, jump, grapple hook, and rock out on guitar to summon monsters. While Cecilia can use her magic wand to spread fire, teleport, talk to animals and create wind blasts. With all of these tools at your disposal, puzzle solving can get kinda fun since they give you little to no hint, although they tend to be obvious at times.

----------Characters / Story----------
You play as Rudy, the dull silent protagonist of the group. Rudy is wanderer just trying to find a place for himself, until he enters a forbidden cave to save a small child. The townsfolk eventually evict him from the town. This is where he meets up with Jack, another wanderer, and his pet wind mouse Hanpan. Jack is an expert swordsman / treasure hunter. They meet up with the princess Cecilia, a magic student on a quest to save the Guardians of the world. When Cecilia's kingdom is attacked by an evil alien race and her precious Teardrop herilom is stolen. She decides to fight back with the help of Rudy and Jack and the power of the Guardians.

I really really hate how these three meet up and why they decide to band together, it makes NO sense at all. It made even less sense in the original, but whatever. The storyline seemed oddly paced and poorly edited. The dialog is often bad, and the characters are downright boring as hell. The secondary characters like Emma and Jane are far more entertaining.

The original Wild Arms had an almost timeless 16 bit quality to it (if you are willing to forget about the UGLY 3D battle system). Alter Code F puts everything into 3D, the character models are now celshaded, with a gritty filter over the colors, I like the style they're going for, but my god are these graphics UGLY. The character models look worse than the ones in Skies of Arcadia, a Dreamcast RPG from freaking 2000. The models look poorly designed and slapped together at last minute. Cutscenes use the game engine, but they slap a huge coat of blur over them to make them seem special, but it mostly looks like they slapped vaseline over the lens of a camera.

The game is also full of errors, glitches, bugs and various other things that tell me this game was hardly tested. Within the world map a BIG chunk of the world would just plain disappear, leaving a huge empty space within the world. Graphics would pop in and out during encounters on the boat. The screen would violently shake while looking at the world map on occasion. Sometimes Text would run OFF of the dialog box. Not only that, but there were a bunch of grammar and spelling errors, for example they would use the word "His" instead of "He", or even within the final cutscene they said "There're" instead of "They're". How could someone miss stuff like that?

Wild Arms games are known for their great music, and this doesn't stray from that myth. I wish it was a little more folky, like in Wild Arms 3 or even the original, but it's still good stuff. My biggest beef with this is the lack of voice overs, or anything voice related. There are NO voices in the game at all, no battle cries, no grunts, no groans. This makes the battle system even more boring to play, and cutscenes boring to watch.

----------World Map----------
The world map is a standard 3D overview map quite similar to the early Final Fantasy games. The biggest change from that standard is the Radar feature. This feature, which was introduced in Wild Arms 2, forces you to search for your destinations on foot while constantly hitting your Radar button. When you hit the radar button, a green sphere will search the ground for towns, dungeons, or items. Towns and Dungeons won't show up on your radar until a person tells you about that town, so you could technically be walking over this town or dungeon for hours, but if this, often times, random person doesn't tell you about this dungeon or town, then you'll never find it on your radar.

While I totally despise this feature, I think they improved it a little bit, but at the same time fall into some of the same traps as the previous two games. The only improvement really is when that random person tells you about the town, they will mark it on your map. In Wild Arms 3, these characters would only vaguely tell you about the next town or dungeon, so you had to go out and explore endlessly while finding boring random encounters. That was frustrating, but they fixed that part. Some of my biggest griefs however is finding the random person to initiate the next mark. Atleast half of these characters make no sense within the storyline. Why do I have to travel to a town I haven't been to in 10 hours, to talk to a random orphan kid thats hiding in a house full of other orphan kids so he could tell me my next destination? It's downright stupid and just lags the game up for needless running around chatting with every NPC until one of them mentions something.

The original Wild Arms game didn't include a world map, you actually had to look at the map that came inside of your booklet with no town markers or anything. I prefer that method over this stupid radar junk.

----------Time to Complete Game----------

After the battle, you are treated with a lengthy ending sequence, and then another lengthy anime cutscene and finally credits. You get to save your game after all of that, and you can then load whatever Ex Files you found into your profile. Ex Files are rare items you find within the game that will tell you stats or other things.

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