The XSEED logo appears on screen and a solemn flute and guitar tune begins to play. A vision of a desolate land rises up, and the face of Jude Maverick stares out, inviting the player on a journey with him across Filgaia. The camera suddenly races alongside a barbed wire fence toward an unknown destination, and from that moment on, an entirely different kind of Wild ARMs adventure begins.
"By integrating tactical and platformer elements...[Wild ARMs 4] transforms the way players journey through Filgaia. "
For all of his life, Jude has lived in the peaceful village of Ciel, skipping his sword lessons and playing in the nearby forest. Everything is tranquil and verdant, until one day while playing hooky in the forest, Jude sees a huge hole tear open in the sky, and military aircraft fly into his small world. Later, soldiers invade his village and uncover a box that was hidden there. In the chaos, Jude knocks over the box and spills its contents – a secret weapon known as an ARM. Suddenly, Jude synchronizes with the weapon, causing it to discharge and damage some important machinery, and the truth about the village breaks out. It is really a small environment contained in a sphere floating high above the desolate war-torn land of Filgaia, and the ARM in Jude's hands just destroyed the sphere's generator. Everyone scatters in escape pods, and Jude is separated from the other villagers. He emerges into the harsh reality of Filgaia, the world that will force him to grow up.
One of the harsh realities of Filgaia -- or more accurately, of nearly every RPG -- is combat. Wild ARMs 4 introduces a new kind of battle system to the series. When the characters are pulled into a battle, seven hexagons appear on the field. Three of them will have a random elemental property while the rest will be neutral. These hexagons give the battles a fresh tactical twist. Characters and enemies execute one turn at a time, and they can move to different hexagons or use their elemental properties for special abilities. While familiar elements like Mystic and FP remain, this battle system differs greatly from the standard Wild ARMs format. In this case, fortunately, different is good.
More changes await in the field. The standard arsenal of tools for solving puzzles is missing. Instead, Jude must solve puzzles with whatever he finds lying on the ground. Wild ARMs 4 also introduces platform jumping to the series and adds an Accelerator mode that slows down time around Jude and reveals hidden objects. Solving puzzles is still a part of WA4; the only difference is in the methods.
The aesthetics of Wild ARMs 4 seem to be a mixed bag. Visually, Wild ARMs 4 has the same clean anime style seen in Wild ARMs 3 and Alter Code F. The major difference is in cutscenes. Instead of having polygonal characters act out the events, the screen blurs and still images of the characters appear in the foreground. The images change to reflect the emotions of the characters as they speak, and bold black lines separate multiple characters. The music suffers from a lack of Michiko Naruke, but at least the voice acting is above average and in-depth sound options allow the player to reduce them or even tune them out.
So far, Wild ARMs 4 is intriguing and unconventional. By integrating tactical and platformer elements, it deviates from the traditions of the series without becoming an abomination, and it transforms the way players journey through Filgaia. It remains to be seen whether this new approach to Wild ARMs will make it an excellent game in the end. Keep watching RPGamer for a full review later this month.