Wild Arms: Alter Code F - Staff Review  

A Remake that Needs a Remake
by Matthew Demers

Simultaneously too easy and frustrating
40-60 hours


Rating definitions 

   The original Wild Arms hit store shelves for the first time for the Playstation console. Now, nearly a decade later, Wild Arms: Alter Code F offers an opportunity for veterans of the series to explore the vast world of Filgaia once again, while also offering those who are new to the game the chance to experience it for themselves for the first time. The question is: Does the gun-toting, allegedly western-themed adventure stack up against other current series?

   Wild Arms: Alter Code F offers a turn-based battle system that appears at first glance to be very simple. The commands are basic; any of your characters have the typical options of attacking, defending, using items, or using special techniques. Generally, these are more than adequate to get the job done, as the game is, in general, extremely easy. In some cases, though, the FP gauge becomes a handy tool, and indeed, by the end of the game, it becomes exceptionally useful. The FP Gauge is a fairly simple idea; as a character performs actions or receives damage in battle, that character's gauge slowly fills; FP may then be expended to enhance other abilities or perform powerful new techniques altogether. In some cases, when more than three characters are in tow, it is possible to switch up in the midst of battle, though it is rarely necessary to do so.

   Unfortunately, battles themselves are usually extremely dull, though. In most areas, there are only a couple of possible enemy groupings that will attack the party; some locations seem to have just two or three possible battles that one can get into, and fighting the same battles over and over again help to make things feel quite repetitive indeed. To make things worse, monsters often seem to be constructed for no other purpose but to be absolutely annoying, even though the vast majority of the monsters are trivial to defeat when attacked in the right way. Damage and death is very rarely a concern, but monsters will often cause irritating and frustrating status ailments that, for example, prevent characters from obtaining experience unless an extra turn is taken to remedy the situation. The problem with taking extra turns is, of course, that battle length increases, and in a game with such a ludicrously-high random encounter rate, long battles can become very annoying.

   Fortunately, there is a way around this issue, and that is the blessed Encounter Gauge, which the player may utilize before any battle, save an ambush attack, to avoid it entirely. If the player is at a high enough Migrant Level, combat can be avoided indefinitely without penalty; if not, the gauge must be replenished over time by collecting small white crystals which may be discovered in any dungeon. Without this very welcome addition, the game would be an incredibly difficult one to sit through.

   Some solace comes from the fact that in bigger battles, a more strategic version of the same battle system makes itself known. Once enough magic and special techniques have been acquired, things become much more interesting, and the FP Gauge takes on a more important role. This manages to add an extra layer to the otherwise very typical, very bland battle system of the game.

   Graphically, Wild Arms: Alter Code F is exactly what one would expect from a Playstation 2 RPG, and not really anything beyond that. The graphics are nice, both in-battle and out, but never breathtaking. While there are a few movie sequences, they aren't spectacularly flashy or outstanding; the character models are adequately detailed, but not beautiful. All in all, while there are many better RPGs available from a graphical standpoint, there are many that are worse as well.

Caption Rudy, doing what he does best

   Musically, almost the same thing is true. Many of the game's themes follow a western-style soundtrack, while others deviate slightly from that; most of the music is fine, outside of a couple of well-overused dungeon themes. On the other hand, though, there are very few tracks that could be described as very good. Much like the graphics of the game, the music is just about what one would expect from a Playstation 2 RPG.

   Wild Arms: Alter Code F is not a difficult game when it comes to combat, but it can be challenging in many other ways. The game's dungeons are chock-full of puzzles that will test your wits, and sometimes, that will test how many details one can remember from earlier parts of the game. Most of the game's puzzles are enhanced by the presence of special tools, unique to each character, that the party will collect as the player progresses throughout the adventure. Using them effectively is easy, and often fun, making the exploration of areas more interesting and interactive. If these dungeons and puzzles aren't enough for a hungry RPGamer, many extra challenges can be discovered in aptly-named "Puzzle Boxes", scattered throughout the world. By and large, the puzzle and dungeon design is very well done in this game.

   Unfortunately, the game is made significantly more difficult in other ways, thanks, at least in part, to a terrible localization. At a couple of points during the game, the reader may find him or herself at a complete loss of where to go or what to do next, with not a coherent hint to be found. Indeed, unprepared players could easily find themselves backtracking to and fro across Filgaia for hours trying to figure out how to advance the plot. This could stretch the time it takes to complete the main quest to well over sixty hours, though it would be possible to finish the game in forty.

   As far as the story goes, first of all, don't be fooled into thinking that this is a strictly country 'n' western-themed game; it's really just a backdrop and nothing more, as the story deviates from what one might expect of a typical western story quite wildly. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily; the translation, as implied above, is where the game falls on its face and rolls backwards down a hill of newly-sharpened nails into a pit of sulfuric acid. The localization job is, in a word, unacceptable. Spelling and grammar errors occur quite regularly, and very occasionally the text will run right off the screen altogether. The translation is truly so bad that the plot is quite difficult to follow at times; characters will often make comments and interjections in ways that make absolutely no logical sense whatsoever. This is really disappointing, as it becomes quite difficult to take any of the personalities, antagonist or protagonist, seriously at all. The result of this is a storyline that could have been very great and epic in scope, but just can't be. When these translation issues are coupled with a major in-game glitch, what remains of Wild Arms: Alter Code F is a game that truly feels like it was developed by a couple of amateurs.

Caption Where's the bouncing sagebrush??

   And yes, there is one major glitch; occasionally, while walking throughout the overworld of Filgaia, entire polygonal sections of the map will disappear entirely, leaving only water and air behind. This is likely enough to occur at least a couple of times during any given adventure, but is thankfully correctable by getting into a battle or entering a town. The problem is that one can actually "enter" these glitches in order to cross normally intraversible terrain. For example, it is in fact possible to cross mountain ranges that would normally be impossible to cross with a certain vehicle if the glitch were to occur in the right spot, which would allow the player to actually get ahead of the story if taken advantage of. A glitch as noticeable and terrible as this one should definitely not have been able to make it to the final release version of the game, and further underscores the unprofessional feel of this remake.

   Despite the title's more prominent problems, some other little things are done quite well. The controls are fairly well thought-out, and the interface is intuitively designed, so shuffling through menus, checking party status, managing items, and changing special tools will be the last of a player's difficulties.

   At the end of the day, it is clear that Wild Arms: Alter Code F is the remake that needs a remake of its own. While many elements of the game are at least fair, and a few are even highly enjoyable, the title suffers terribly at the hands of an excruciating translation, a boring battle system, and an overall amateur feel. Wild Arms: Alter Code F had the potential to be a greater-than-average Playstation 2 RPG, but unfortunately it does not live up to that potential.

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