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RPG Review #29: Wild ARMs - Alter Code FNuMetalManiak Well hello there! It's been quite a while. I've been trying to figure out what to play lately, and decided to try out my first PS2 game! You'll notice that Old isn't a part of this, I don't consider the PS2 an old system, YET. Anyways, my first PS2 RPG played happens to be a remake! Yep, I've made myself a fan of the Wild ARMs series due to it's interesting battle schemes as well as brilliant stories, that I decided to play Alter Code F, a PS2 remake of the original Wild ARMs for the PSX.
Gameplay: With the whole game now rendered in 3d, none of the towns, landscapes, dungeons, etc. resemble the original game. There are all new puzzles, dungeon layouts, and helpful items to progress through this very long RPG. Some dungeons, such as Pleasing Garden and Tripillar, were removed entirely, and new places like Gento Soen are around. Equipment now is no longer, as skills have taken its place. These are hit or miss really, as they up status resistances, add blockers against physical attacks, add elemental resistances, add defenses or counters. Basically, they stack, but even at full stack the stat resistors aren't 100% effective. All of the skills use points, and the max being a character's level. That being said, the Sheriff Star, the most prized Wild ARMs item staple, became a skill, usuable only for a character at level 100 but giving that character loads of boosts. Another change in the remake is that it's really hard for replenishing ARMs ammo for Rudy or MP for other characters. You'd have to rest at an inn or find special gems in dungeons for replenishing them.
Other new things? Well, world map sometimes has items on certain coordinates that can be found via an item called Item Scope. Also, there's things called Puzzle Boxes that can be found. These are loads of fun, pushing and pulling colored blocks, requiring nice thinking. I enjoyed these, and rewards aren't too bad. EX file keys allow you to view weird stuff in the game once you completed it, and by god, are these the hardest items to find in the whole game. Some of the requirements include leveling up characters to 100, beating optional but incredibly tough bosses, or spending the maximum amount of money at a certain market. Heck, conquering the optional ultimate dungeon known as Abyss means going through 100 floors.
Battles are more or less the same. With the abilities to change characters, as well as turn order, there's a little more freedom. Rudy can reload his normal gun by defending, but not his special weapons. Jack no longer has to use a Fast Draw over and over until it triggers, but if he wants to do more damage, he's gonna need to use it over and over in order to increase its skill. There's no more advanced spells, so Cecilia can only use single-target spells most of the time. As for enemies, every skill they have can be unique, and many of the monsters have counterattacks too. The encounter system is similar to Wild ARMs 2, with the exclamation mark and the color denoting what type of attack you'll get. Ambushes can be a standard one, a back party attack, or worst, the dreaded trouble one where one character takes all the hits. New in this game is the ENC gauge, which, if you cancel encounters, it goes down, while battling makes it go up. Collecting items known as Migrant Seals can nullify some battles. Also new is the VIT gauge, which has you restoring health after battle. Both gauges have respective gems in dungeons for taking. After battles, sometimes you'll find treasure chests, but sometimes they're rigged with traps. Characters with good luck should be the ones to open such chests.
Gameplay Grade: A-
Characters: My review of Wild ARMs already covered Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia for playable characters, but Alter Code F provides up to five more, three of which can be permanently playable.
Emma Hetfield: She functions very much like Marivel from Wild ARMs 2. Some enemy skills can be downloadable and used by her in battle, making her quite a character. Stat-wise though, she's not too good. Bad attack, horrible speed (worse than Rudy), and rather low HP count. But some of those downloadable skills are very nice. Her force ability is Alchemic Bomb which does damage based on the number of downloadable skills she has.
Jane Maxwell: The fastest character in the game, faster than Jack even. Jane's sort of a gimmick character, as she's not particularly strong overall either. But she has some unique skills. She's the only character that can steal enemies, and her "Follow Me" skill has other members of the party directly matching her speed and going at the same time. Her force ability is Cecilia's old Mystic (she keeps the guardian summons for this game), which allows Jane to use an item for the whole party effect.
Magdalen Harts: Originally known as Mcdullen in the first game, this butler fights alongside Jane for several plot moments. Combat-wise, he's similar to Jack, with sword techniques and good power. He's not a permanently playable character though.
Mariel: The Elw girl tags along for a very brief plot point. She is very weak as she starts at level 1 unlike other characters and she is definitely no fighter. Raising her level to certain amounts can give you some awesome items when she leaves the party. Mariel's ability is using certain items as magic, and she's the only character in the game that gains these skills by leveling up. Other than being playable, Mariel also holds the Secret Garden quest, where you can grow healing items (as they're hard to come by).
Zed: YES! The goofy Zed is a playable character in the game. But you'll have to work about halfway through the final dungeon and have a certain item, then come out to get him. Also you have to fight him too. Gotta say it's rough. Zed comes in as the strongest attacker with some excellent speed and defense. Most of his other stats aren't too great though, and the fact that he's so hard to get and very late in the game probably makes him not as worth it as I imagined. His ability is using Piled Shots. They're hard to upgrade, and they actually are similar to Rudy's weapons in that they use bullets. Some of his skills could actually hurt him if misused though. Full Power is his force ability, and you can easily guess how that goes.
Character grades: A
Plot: Other than a few dungeon changes the plot remains almost entirely similar to the original Wild ARMs, so this section is delightfully short. I guess one notable difference is naming, as several characters were renamed, like the aforementioned Magdalen, as well as Berserk, originally known as Belselk. He's the first of the Quarter Knights to die, but in this game gets an unexpected revival towards the very end. Other NPCs actually have unique names as well, not just plot-important characters. Most of the optional stuff here doesn't really play much in the plot, but reading books and things helps you figure out where they are. Grade: same as the first game
Music: Well, although one NPC functions as a jukebox of sorts, I prefer the original game's music much more. The remixed tunes are cool, but I'm retro and all. At least dungeon tunes are diversified. Grade: C+
Overall Grade: A-
A worthy but certainly taxing remake of the original Wild ARMs. Prepare to spend a lot of time on this game if you want to get everything. But you'll likely enjoy what you see.