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Wild Arms 4 PlayStation 2

Published by 505 GameStreet
Developed by Media Vision Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Wild Arms 4, an introduction.

Many reasons have been given for the PlayStation 2 being the biggest selling console of all time. Personally I think it comes down to the number of RPG’s that are available for the console. The PlayStation 2 has a vast library of RPG games and when you compare that to the rare few on the Xbox and the GameCube it’s no mystery as to why the console has done amazingly well especially when you consider the RPG genre enjoys huge popularity the world over. Whilst I have played many RPG games on the PlayStation 2 I hadn’t encountered the Wild Arms series so Wild Arms 4 represented a belated introduction to this popular series.

What’s the story about?

In Wild Arms 4 you’ll play as the young boy, Jude Maverick. Jude has been raised in the secluded village called Ciel. Ciel is no ordinary village as it is enclosed in a large sphere that floats high above the surface of Filgaia. Ciel’s is a peaceful village but that tranquil existence soon comes to an end when Jude sees what appears to be a hole appear in the sky and through this hole come many spacecraft. These intruders set up a base not far from where Jude lives. On examining the base Jude finds a kidnapped girl named Yulie Ahtreide and with the assistance of a Drifter named Arnaud G. Vasquez he rescues her. The girl may have been rescued but the invading force has damaged the sphere that protected Ciel and the village has to be evacuated. Jude, Arnaud and Yulie leave in an escape pod and land on Filgaia. With the help of another Drifter, Raquel Applegate, they set out to find the reason for Yulie’s abduction.

What’s good about the game?

A solid combat system, a fairly interesting story and of course anime style characters can all be found in Wild Arms 4.  Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the game is the HEX (Hyper Evolve X-fire sequence) battle system. Battles take place on seven hexagons. The characters are randomly placed onto the hexagons and can only move between them during a battle. A number of characters can stand on each hexagon and it’s important to point out that attacks are made on the hexagon and not individual characters. All those characters on a hexagon will take damage and suffer from status effects. Most hexagons have a white border but some have coloured borders and these are known as Ley Points. There are four different types of Ley Points (water, wind, fire and earth) and characters standing on these will have elemental attributes added to their appropriate skills. There are seven types of battle commands that can be issued. Characters can move, attack, analyze (to reveal enemy attributes), use items, original (which allows you to use the special ability of each character) and force (which allows you to take force points from the force gauge to perform powerful attacks and moves). You can also access the system menu to change various game settings and it’s definitely something you may wish to do. Some of the movies for the more elaborate attacks, such as Yulie’s material, can be a little boring when you have to watch them over and over again. Thankfully you can turn off these movies, which really helps to keep the battles moving at a pace. Of course there is much more to the battles (too much to go into detail here) but suffice to say the battles are enjoyable and quite unlike anything you’ll have experienced in an RPG before.

One of the main strengths of Wild Arms 4 is that it’s very accessible, even for those who haven’t played an RPG before. The tutorial messages are short, yet informative. Health is replenished after a battle. Should you lose a battle you have the option to simply continue beginning the battle again rather than having to back track to your last save point. One of the later abilities you’ll acquire enables you to turn off random encounters. The story may not be the most impressive we’ve seen in an RPG but at least it’s not a heavy one that bogs you down in all kinds plot threads. Those new to the genre will certainly appreciate that.

What’s bad about the game?

Wild Arms 4 contains a fair few platform game elements that may annoy those simply looking for a straight RPG. It’s not just a case of running and jumping. Jude has a special acceleration ability (usable only outside of battles) that allows him to slow down the environment. This allows him to cross crumbling bridges, which would otherwise crumble under his weight, and also find items that would otherwise remain hidden. Whilst we’ve certainly no objection to finding hidden items, the jumping puzzles can become tedious. Another aspect of the game some will find tedious is the random encounters that occur. Thankfully you can turn these off later in the game but I would have preferred a system where you could see your enemies. The camera angles are fixed and at times this can make viewing your character problematic. The camera should have remained fixed behind the main character.

How does it look?

Wild Arms 4 actually looks quite good and is the graphical equal of most RPG’s on the PlayStation 2. What I really like about the game is the comic book style conversations that the main characters have. The character art in these conversations is quite impressive and a nice change of pace from the epic cutscenes that you find in most console RPG dialogues. What I found strange though is when you enter most buildings you simple trigger a dialogue rather than being able to walk around inside the building. The battles don’t look that great and in fact could have done with spicing up, in a graphical sense. Loading times are actually quite good, as is the frame rate which never faltered throughout.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Wild Arms 4 is subtitled and the subtitles are enabled by default. When you talk to characters outside of a cutscene you’ll see character art and their name displayed alongside the text. The text is shown in a dialogue box making readability excellent. You’ll also need to press the X button in order to further the conversation meaning you’ll get all the time you need to read the text. During the cutscenes the text is simply displayed in white text, with no character portraits or names displayed, and progresses without requiring you to press the X button. Occasionally the text can be difficult to read because it clashes with the background and it’s a real shame the text wasn’t placed in a dialogue box or over a darkened background. All tutorial messages are shown in text. Occasionally you’ll come across objects that can be examined and these will display an exclamation or question mark icon to highlight the fact. Comments made by the character during a battle are not subtitled. There are no captions in the game. This doesn’t appear to be problematic, although you’ll be unaware that Jude’s stomach rumbles rather a lot when he’s hungry. The game is said to have a Western flavour to it and it’s fair to say that most of this Western ambience comes from the music which deaf gamers will be unaware of. It’s not problematic in any way though.

Final thoughts.

Whilst it wouldn’t be right to say Wild Arms 4 is one of the best RPG’s on the PlayStation 2 it’s certainly quite good and will appeal to most fans of the genre, especially if you don’t mind a liberal dose of platform game elements. It’s not a game I would recommend to those who don’t enjoy platform games as the jumping puzzles can become irritating from time to time. It’s also a shame that we have a game that still uses random encounters when many RPG’s have moved away from this system. The HEX battle system works well and helps to make the game feel different from other turn-based RPG titles. The quality of the story is also quite good and it manages to remain interesting throughout. It may not be the best RPG on the PlayStation 2 but as long as you don’t mind the jumping puzzles it’s certainly worth a purchase for fans of the genre provided you’ve already played the better games in the genre.

Overall Game Rating: 7.7/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Wild Arms 4 is actually quite an enjoyable RPG that's not only slightly different from other games in the genre but is also rather accommodating for RPG newbies. Some may be turned off by the platform game elements that have been included though.