Returning to the Wild
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It has been eight years in the real world since heroes Rudy Roughknight, Jack Van Burace and Cecilia Lynne Adlehyde saved the world of Filgaia on the original PlayStation.
When Wild Arms came out, it really sparked a revolution in what players expected from console-based RPGs. Keep in mind that this was before the much lauded Final Fantasy series. As such, the Wild Arms series became a sequel machine, turning out new games with Wild Arms 4 being the last title released.
And although the series has evolved, the cool mix of technology and firearms with magic remains a hot and interesting genre. Now however, its time to go back to the beginning.
Alter Code: F is a retelling of the original Wild Arms story. The developer's idea was probably to take the classic game and give it a fresh coat of paint, enabling it to run on a modern console platform. But along the way things changed a bit so that Alter Code: F, while certainly a retelling of the original story, is also a bit of an enhancement.
For starters, the 40+ hours of gameplay inside this time around puts a greater emphasis on who the characters are. We learn this mostly in perfectly rendered cutscenes, all delivered in stunning anime.
Rudy is a wander who happens to be one of the few people in the world who can wield and control ARMs (what these people call guns.) He strives to help people, but once they see him using his weapon, they grow fearful and even outright hostile, which makes him keep moving around the world without much of a home.
Jack is an over-the-top treasure hunter with a companion called a ghost mouse who can scurry through cracks and open some doors or throw switches from the opposite side. Jack is also extremely quick and deadly with a blade. But he is driven by the search for ultimate power, which he believes will help him settle an old score.
Then there is Cecilia, who is the daughter of a king, yet feels more alone than probably even Rudy. But she can wield powerful magic and can communicate with the planet's lost guardians. The guardians may be able to heal the land, if Cecilia can rescue them from their prisons.
The three compliment each other nicely and end up going on a long quest to try and save the world from the metal demons, who caused the ecological disaster the planet is suffering from. There are also several minor characters like Calamity Jane, who will join you as you travel.
The game is played in two major areas. First is the overall view, which you use to navigate the world and also to explore dungeons. Here you need to use each of the characters special abilities, or tools, to advance. You can use Rudy's bombs to clear blocked areas for example, or Jack's mouse buddy to get through doors or across spike traps.
The in-combat view is the second major thing you will discover, and you will discover it quite often. When your group runs into a wandering monster group, which are unseen until you encounter them, you may have the option to leave the encounter without fighting. As you travel the world you will increase in migrant levels, which improves your ability to avoid encounters. But since you need to fight to gain money and experience, I would advise against it most of the time.
Once you are in combat the game goes into a strategic interface where you can plan your attack. Doing smart things like having Cecilia cast a water spell against a fire creature will normally result in extra damage, so figuring out what each of your characters should do in each circumstance is a big part of the game. But thanks to the migrant system, it won't get out of hand has it did with several other console-based RPGs over the years. You still have to fight a lot, but not so much that you get numb from all the battle.
Of course the graphics and sound have been severely upgraded to work on the PS2, which is a quantum leap from games on original PlayStation. Still, some hardcore anime fans might be disappointed because the designers choose to give the world a more realistic look and feel. The cutscenes are still completely done in anime, but the game engine has a sort of hyper realistic look about it.
There is however a lot of cutscenes, so if you are looking for good anime you won't be left out. Also, the game ships with a DVD containing the first episode of the Wild Arms TV show, plus a few other goodies. Its worth checking out if you want to know more about the game world and the general animation.
Code F probably will appeal most to fans of the series, but newcomers won't be left out, since essentially they will be starting at the beginning. And with 40+ hours of gameplay, nobody will feel that they did not get their money's worth. The game earns 4 GiN Gems.
John Breeden II is the Chief Editor of GiN. While a forward thinking man he admits to a fondness for older video games. You should have seen him at Videotopia. John can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.