Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review #391: Wild Arms - Alter Code: F

 What a missed opportunity...
 Wild Arms is pretty darn mediocre. Wild Arms 2 was pretty great. Wild Arms 3 was bloody fantastic. The original game is more of a case of having aged relatively poorly, particularly in comparison with its sequels, which only got better and better. Alter Code: F is Wild Arms 1 running on Wild Arms 3's engine, what could go wrong? A lot.

 The story is pretty much the same as Wild Arms 1, which I wrote about previously, so there's no point for me to write the same blurb. That said, the remake's strongest feature is the new retelling. Sure, the translation is as bad, sometimes even worse, as the original game's, but they added more dialogue which adds more depth to villains as heroes alike, as well as better explaining some of their motivations and ideals. The plot twists are better set up as well, making them more impactful and interesting. The new facelift also does wonders to how the game tells the story. There's no denying it, as far as the story goes, this one's got beat the original by a landslide. The game also makes playable Jane and Emma, as well as a certain other character, but the only join the party at the end of the game, so you'll only use them for the bonus boss fights, if you decide to tackle them.
 The first thing that will catch you by surprise is that they did away with equipment. Equipment is one of the most fun aspects of an RPG, the promise of finding rewards inside dungeons, or buying new equipment and growing stronger. That's gone. Sure, Wild Arms 3 didn't have equipment either, but you could equip guardians with abilities and then equip these Guardians to your characters, plus, you could customize all four characters' weapons, so they grew stronger as you went along. The only way to increase your attack power is by leveling up. You can customize your characters by finding and equipping Skills, but they are not as varied as Wild Arms 3's(None increase Attack power!) or as rewarding to use. You must farm for repeat Skills if you want to increase its level on a character. Laaaaaaaaaaaaame.

 No way to increase your attack power means that you'll be underpowered pretty much all the way throughout, which means that random encounters can take a while. You can use spells and abilities to do more damage, but these run on limited resources, and pretty much the only way to replenish them is by sleeping at an Inn or leveling up. Eventually your level will grow so high that counting on level ups will be impossible, so get ready to tough it out! The cherry on top is that the encounter rate in this game is ridiculously high.
 The game borrows WA3's Migrant system, so you can dodge random encounters at the cost of some gauge from the migrant seal. Problem: Encounters are plentiful, so it will run out, and if you decide to skip too many of them, enemies will simply ambush you, which is unavoidable. You can equip a few items to prevent ambushes, but EVERY single member of the party needs to equip it, else it won't work. Oh! And you CAN'T RUN AWAY FROM BATTLES. Well, you can, there's a spell to escape, but that means wasting a precious Crest on such a dumb spell. Basically, the game wants you to fight lots of random encounters, since the encounter rate is so high and enemies will eventually ambush you, but that means spending MP and cartridges, so you'll run out of resources for bosses. And while you can count on level ups, once your level reaches 40 this won't be such a simple commodity. It's so stupid!

 Let's talk about the enemies for a bit. While this game is a remake of Wild Arms 1, most random encounters are borrowed from Wild Arms 3! Oh, and enemies LOVE inflicting status effects on your party, luckily you have spells. Wrong. For whatever reason, YOU CAN'T USE SPELLS OUTSIDE OF BATTLES. What where they thinking?? If I have the goddamn MP, let me use the goddamn spell! At least items are relatively cheap, but run out of them, and you will since it seems as if enemies only want to inflict status effects on you, and you're screwed. Brilliant. Don't even let me get into the fact that every area of the game features 3 enemy types at most. AT MOST. I'm absolutely speechless.
 Now let me segway into Wild Arms 3, a game I've mentioned a lot and the game it shares an engine with. It's true, you can't use healing spells outside of battles as well... But Wild Arms 3 has an excuse: Everything runs on FP, a limitless resource that's gained and spent during battle. There's also the fact that you can increase your attack power pretty easily, so you can make short work of random encounters: They don't take nearly as much time nor resources. I popped Wild Arms 3 for a bit in order to compare, and even the Encounter Rate is more lenient.

 Back to Wild Arms Alter Code: F, did I mention that they kept some of the most annoying parts from Wild Arms 1? Remember all those moments in which the game basically told you to 'Go explore every town and hope to find your next objective'? They kept them. And this game uses the Sonar/Radius system from Wild Arms 2 and 3, so you have to find towns yourself on the overworld, and they won't show on the map until you talk to the single right NPC on the correct town that will tell you about its location. Fun. At least in the original game you could come across dungeons and towns by yourself.
 As not to end on such a negative note, I can at least praise the new puzzles. As per Wild Arm's norm, while inside dungeons you will have to do a lot of puzzling while using various different tools, four for each main character, for a total of 12. In the original game, these puzzle felt more like obstacles 'Oh, a flame, put it out with the vase', this time around they are proper puzzles, and some will put your brain to the test. The combat was kept more or less the same, it's still turn based, and characters can use items, perform normal attacks or perform spells/shots(Shots consume cartridges and spells consume mana). There's also the FP mechanic, which increases as you deal and take damage and lets you use even stronger skills.

 Wild Arms - Alter Code: F started oh so promising, but it quickly turned into a tedious borefest. It's hard to have fun with it when the game is constantly trying to waste your time with continuous, endless amount of needlessly taxing random encounters, marred with poor design choices that work only to vex the player. I wish I could tell you that this game was the way to go with Wild Arms 1, but I can't.
 4.5 out of 10

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