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ups: HEX battle system, gorgeous art, sound, story feed
downs: A few text glitches, some plot & character corniness

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Wild ARMs 4 Review
game: Wild ARMs 4
four star
posted by: Amanda Bateman
publisher: XSEED
developer: Media Vision
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ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 11:30 AM Sun Feb 5th, 2006
last revision: 11:24 AM Sun Feb 5th, 2006

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Click to read.Almost as soon as I finished reviewing Wild ARMs Alter Code: F, I received another addition to the series for review: Wild ARMs 4. This is the first release from XSEED and I think they really started off with a bang by releasing this title. I wasn\'t certain about the series when I began to play Wild ARMs Alter Code: F. But now that I\'ve had that experience, I was able to approach Wild ARMs 4 with less fear.

The series returns with yet another new set of characters and a new spin on the traditional style of plotline to go with it. This time the ARM wielder is a boy named Jude Maverick, who has been living a very sheltered life. And when I say sheltered, I really mean sheltered. Jude has been the only child living in a sky colony called Ciel, where a group of former scientists exist away from the troubles of Filgaia below. One day while looking for a snack, he finds a huge rip in the sky (doesn\'t this sound familiar...), and later discovers some strange soldiers who have infiltrated his world, along with their precious cargo; a girl named Yulie. It is then that Jude makes a promise to himself to protect Yulie (the first girl he\'s ever met), and by doing so he gets involved in the plans of the Brionac Army. Jude, Yulie, and a Drifter named Arnaud escape Ciel and soon find themselves on Filgaia, where they travel the world in an effort to avoid the Brionac and try to discover their true selves.

Wild ARMs 4 may sound a lot like the past titles, but this one was a lot more enjoyable. First off, Wild ARMs 4 introduces the HEX Battle System, where fighting takes place on a series of hexagons. Using this turn-based system, the player must maneuver the characters around the field, taking advantage of elemental ley points, avoiding monster attacks, and effectively finishing off enemies using magic or weapons. It doesn\'t sound all that exciting, but it\'s something you have to experience to understand.

Because of the HEX system, status effects and buffering skills do not affect characters; they affect the HEXes. So if your HEX gets poisoned, for example, you could use an antidote...or you could simply walk out of the HEX into the next one. The HEXes are also affected by items; if three characters are standing in one HEX, and a healing item is used, everyone will be healed as well. It\'s a really nice way to avoid trouble if you\'re low on healing items. At the same time, you\'ll have to be careful. If a single enemy attack hits a HEX with multiple characters in it, all characters take damage.

Using your characters effectively is also important to strategy. Jude is the ARM user, while Yulie can be relied on for healing and Material summoning. Arnaud is a spell caster, and Raquel (who you meet early in the game) is a very powerful physical fighter with her sword. Characters can also join together and perform powerful attack and healing combos so long as they are within the same HEX.

Tools also come back in WA4, but they don\'t travel everywhere. If a tool is required to solve a puzzle, you can find it in the room, or in one that\'s adjacent to it. This adds a new challenge to the use of tools sometimes: getting that pot, bomb, or sword from one room to the other without breaking it or destroying it. I feel that it gives you a better sense of accomplishment after solving a puzzle. Sure, the puzzle was easy, but you had to drag that pot of fire across two dungeon areas without getting burned to a crisp, falling into hot lava, or knocked aside by a volley of fireballs. (Rudy and his crew? Meh, they had it easy.)

You can always rely on the Wild ARMs series to supply you with extras galore. Wild ARMs 4 has secret bosses, an Arena challenge, special items to collect, side quests, and other fun surprises. Players who have played Wild ARMs Alter Code: F will be delighted to know that their save data can be transferred to Wild ARMs 4 and used to unlock several bonuses and features. You don\'t even have to clear Alter Code: F for it to work, but the more you have completed, the better the bonuses.

Unlike Alter Code: F, Wild ARMs 4 is fully voiced. And I have to say that overall it\'s a really good dub, if a little corny at some points. The audio is great, with a good balance between SFX, dialogue, and background music. The soundtrack is also very fitting and fun to listen to. There are very few errors involving on-screen text, but it\'s nothing too bad in my opinion.

The graphics are also an improvement over Wild ARMs Alter Code: F, and we\'re treated to some great illustrations, too. The main characters as well as all the NPCs have their own cel-shaded illustration, so it\'s fun to talk to everyone even if only to see the art.

The characters are a lot easier to fall in love with as well. They\'re all well-developed, and you really do see them grow and change as things progress. The story is constantly fed to the player little by little as you travel, instead of bombing you at key points with oodles of plot. But there are still lots of surprises.

I really do encourage you to play this one. It may not be a blockbuster wonder sprinkled with hype, but it\'s traditional light-hearted fun and worthy of a spot in your gaming collection. So give it a try.

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