I may have played Sonic 2, but to me, Wild Arms on the PS1 was the first game I ever actually played. Back when I was seven, the whole fantasy world and the like really appealed to me, and I fell in love with it. Eleven years on from that, and I finally get my hands on it’s American-only remake, and get to go on my own little journey of why I loved this game so much.
For starters, the plot is like…sixteen years old, and it’s still a deeply engaging and riveting plot, putting standards of games nowadays to shame.Screw tsunderes and angst-filled emo male leads, this game features actual characters! With actual character development! And here’s the most shocking part…there’s a romance in this game that actually makes sense! Take a deep breath to clear your mind, because i’ve just destroyed everything you’ve believed in…and read on to see why this game is easily one of my favourite RPG’s to this date.
Jokes aside, this game does actually feature some really strong characters whilst managing to stay away from the same old tropes that plague the JRPG genre, and it manages to involve the character development into the story itself, not just something that’s been tacked on to make the story better. In that sense, I can say that ACF is a game which features a character-orientated plot, something which I don’t see often enough, sadly.
But anyway…the game’s main character is a wanderer (someone who travels the world) with the unique ability to use an ancient weapon left behind from a 1000 year old civilization, and he’s not angsty! Infact, putting aside the fact that he doesn’t talk, he’s actually a really likeable male lead, never acting stupid or annoying and generally being himself. Accompanying him is Jack, a mysterious man who’s highly skilled in the art of swordsmanship and his wind mouse companion, Hanpan. Finishing the trio of main characters is Cecillia, the princess of a royal family in the world that Wild Arms takes place in.
The premises of the characters aren’t what makes the game good, admittidly. By todays standards, that’s a pretty average trio of heroes and the like. But that’s okay, it’s the exection of the characters and how well the script is written that makes the characters good. It sucks, but there is a tsundere in the game, as one of the new characters, but she’s one of those acceptable tsunderes who’s been developed well throughout.
Yeah, Wild Arms: ACF has new characters in it. Whilst you used to play as your trio, you now have a total of six, with Calamity Jane, the treasure hunter, Doctor Emma, the eccentric scientist and the Super Secret Character as recruit-able people. However…the moment they join your team, they stop being involved in the story. It’s a lame cop-out, but they weren’t party members in the first game anyway, so it’s understandable why they have trouble rewriting the script to include them…yet it doesn’t improve the fact that it’s utter laziness :L
Brilliant characters, brilliant plot…and being a JRPG, there’s one hell of a plot to unfold. Full of backstory on three different races, Elw, Demons and Humans are a recurring theme in the Wild Arms saga. This game is essentially the first look at it all, and finding out how it all began and the like. Plenty of backstory on the guardians, the planet and the Elw…more backstory than you get in most of the other games, surprisingly. The story is huge, and it’s actually something which I wouldn’t mind reading as a novel format…it’s just that good; albeit a little cheesy.
I don’t have any complaints with the battle system, either. By this point, turn based battling has been pretty much perfected, including having all the characters function differently. It’s impressive just how much and depth has gone into the six characters, none of them feeling like a clone of each other and all of them having that one thing that sets them apart from the others.There’s the speedy hitter, the slow heavy hitter, the summoner and her spells, the thief…all the characters have that one unique trait, yet they all manage to avoid being a direct clone of any existing characters or doing something an existing character can already do.
The enemies and bosses that you fight during your adventure are pretty nicely thought out too, not having overpowering ones or underpowered ones, and the levelling system is handled rather well. Unfortunately, the majority of enemy encounters provide so little EXP they’re almost worthless, but that’s irrelevant when you consider how much EXP it’s possible to get from the bosses with some clever battling.
So, i’ve pretty much reached the end of this review, yet there are two subjects left to touch on. One is the tagline for the remake of the game; “An extended plot”. It has been extended, with several new scenes and new characters added here and there, but at the cost of making the scenes very hit or miss. Some of the scenes are brilliant, and make the game even better…yet some of the scenes are competitors for cheesiest scene of all existence, whilst the other new scenes are amazingly emotional and powerful to witness, bringing the world that the game’s set in to life.
Finally, there’s the use of tools. In a very Zelda like fashion, your character get 12 tools in the progress of the game, and end up using them to travel the dungeons with ease. This makes some really interesting and engaging puzzles, even though they re-use some puzzles a little too much. With the encounter system, the tools and the dungeon design itself, there’s enough to enjoy in them.
Wild Arms: Alter Code F has become one of my favourite games, and probably my favourite RPG. Yes, the story may be special to me and I may be biased, but I think that regardless, it’s an amazing story and an amazing game, and something any RPG fan needs to play. It’s just that good.