Review by LoneShelby
A Worthy Entry in the Series
Wild Arms 5 is the latest in a series that has undergone much change over the last few installments. Is it worthy of the Wild Arms label?
The graphics in this game are done pretty well. Attack animations are decent, and your characters will learn combination attacks and summons that are pleasing to the eyes. Both player characters and some bosses will also have occasional animations they perform before executing their turns. In addition, you have the option of skipping most animations during the game if you wish, which is a nice touch. You will, however, see a lot of repetition of area textures, and the world map has the same appearance in most areas.
This section is mixed bag. The story is very intriguing, and combines the Wild West with pseudo-science like its predecessors. However, where the game truly shines the most in this area is the cast of characters. This game truly excels in making a very interesting set of both player characters and villains that you will not soon forget. However, character development is a bit limited, which is truly a shame for such an excellent cast. Also, at the end you will have to use your imagination to discern quite a bit of what happened to the characters, which is really what makes this a 7/10.
The music, as always in this series, is quite exceptional. Expect the usual whistling, with the occasional rock mixed in. If you liked the music in the previous installments, it will certainly not fail to disappoint in this one. Sound effects are also pretty good.
To portray this in detail, each gameplay section will be reviewed and discussed separately:
BATTLE SYSTEM 9/10:
This game uses the same Hex battle system present in Wild Arms 4, with some adjustments. For those not familiar with the system, battle starts out on a grid with seven hexes. With the exception of boss battles, character and enemy placement on these hexes is randomly done at the start of each battle. All actions taken by both characters and enemies are hex-based. For example, if you have two enemies in the same hex, attacking that hex will do damage to both of them, and if you have three allies in the same hex, casting heal on the hex will heal all three of them. Likewise, status effects are hex-based. If a hex is poisoned, everyone in that hex will take damage each turn. Also, characters can perform combination attacks, but only if they are in the same hex. The HP of your allies is also fully restored after every battle. There is a good deal of strategy involved in this turn-based system, and it is a fresh change from the standard turn-based system used in Wild Arms 1-3 and Alter Code: F.
There are a few changes from Wild Arms 4. First of all, every character can move to another hex and then attack, every turn. Also, battles in this game are slightly easier than they were in Wild Arms 4. However, you can still expect a nice challenge from many of the bosses in the game, especially the later ones, and most especially the final one, as well as the optional enemies in the game. In addition, you are able to switch allies in and out of battle as needed. Finally, in addition to the usual statistics, DP and EP have been added. DP is your ability to delay your enemy's turn with an attack, and EP is the ability to repel your own turn being delayed.
The battle system is also complemented by a wide variety of badge accessories that you can equip on your characters. Your selection is a little bit higher than what was present in Wild Arms 4. Badge selection can become crucial during boss fights, and they have a wide variety of effects that can greatly assist you. For example, you have the Violator badge, which cuts your power in half, but enables you to attack 2-5 times each turn.
This game uses the same encounter cancel system present in Wild Arms 4. Each region, including continents on the world map, has an enemy you can fight to turn off encounters in that region, if you wish. The encounter rate is roughly the same encounter rate that was present in Alter Code: F. During most puzzle rooms, however, encounters are turned off, which is a plus.
DEVELOPMENT SYSTEM 9/10:
First of all, you recruit six characters over the course of the game, but you can only fight with three at a time. All characters gain the same amount of experience after battle, regardless of whether or not they participated. In addition, the more consecutive turns you are able to achieve during battle, the more bonus experience you will gain after battle.
Although the stats of your characters are varied, for the most part, none of them have to fall within specific roles as in previous installments. This allows you to choose which party members you like to play with, rather than being forced to choose certain ones if you need a magic user or other class. Each character, however, has a unique skill that may influence what class you make them. For instance, your main character, Dean, has the Double Critical ability, which allows him to do double-damage with all critical attacks. Therefore, you might be inclined to make him primarily a physical fighter.
Commands for your characters consist of Original Commands and Force Abilities. Original Commands are specific commands your character has at their disposal, such as Heal. Force Abilities have a variety of effects, such as guaranteeing a critical hit with the Attack command. Force Abilities require Force Points, which are gradually accumulated during battle. Which abilities your characters have at their disposal is determined by which Medium you have equipped. There are six different mediums in the game, and mediums grant ability trees similar to what was in Wild Arms 4. You get a bonus to your stats based on which Medium you have equipped, and each character can only equip one at a time. You will, however, have the ability to copy Mediums, so that you can equip more than one character with that Medium, if you wish. In addition to Original Commands and Force Abilities, you also abilities that are always in effect for your character, such as Penetrator, which ignores the defense of your enemy when you make a critical hit. Finally, you also have the ability to summon the Guardian contained within each Medium when you have the Force Points to do so. Since you have six Mediums and six characters, you have the option of equipping each character with a unique Medium. Since you can switch out characters during battle, this puts a plethora of abilities at your disposal, and really adds a level of strategy to battle.
Finally, you also have the option of using Dragon Fossils on your characters to increase their attack, magic, and force point accumulation. Dragon Fossils can be reallocated at any time, and each one enables all of your characters to power up, so they can be used to add a unique touch to each character.
This game has a plethora of side quests, such as several optional dungeons. The enemies in these dungeons can pose a significant challenge, and there are some items within these dungeons that you cannot find anywhere else. The game also has sealed monsters, a standard feature of the series, which pose serious challenges. In addition, this game has a lot of cameos from the Wild Arms series, and many of them have side quests for you to accomplish, which is very enjoyable.
This game also has Ex. File keys like previous installments, which grant you a lot of different rewards, such as character galleries and extra game stats. Obtaining the keys is done by fulfilling certain requirements, such as defeating half of the monsters in the game. Obtaining all of them can take you a good while. Puzzle boxes also make a return in this game, and are fairly challenging, as well as rewarding. The Badge Synthesis Shop and Black Market return in this game, and offer you plenty of incentive to use them. Finally, characters have costumes in this game. Finding all of the costumes will take you quite a while, and many of them are cameo costumes.
REPLAY VALUE 9/10:
This game does offer an Ex. New Game feature, which enables you to carry over quite a bit of what you've done to a new game. There are many things that cannot be accomplished in your first playthrough, such as some quests that require you to choose one option over another, and completing the monster book. In addition, the game does reward you for completing another playthrough, such as increasing experience and money earned, and even changing the battle music if you meet the requirements.
Also, maxing out your characters levels can take a little while, and obtaining the best badges for them can take quite a bit of time. This game also offers you the choice of purchasing stat upgrades for your characters, which carry over to a new game, so the potential there is quite large. Obtaining all of the items in the game will take you a very long time, as will completing the monster book, which can only be done on your third playthrough.
Finally, this game does offer you the convenient Teleport and Exodus Orbs after a time, enabling you to teleport around the world and exit dungeons at will, making all of these quests much easier to accomplish.
As far as game time goes, the game will take an average player around 45-60 hours for the main quest. The remaining time depends on how much additional you do. This game can easily take 80-100+ hours to accomplish everything for your first playthrough.
If you are a fan of the series, this game is a must buy. If you are not a fan of the series, it is worth a rent, at minimum.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Wild ARMs 5 (10th Anniversary Edition) (US, 08/28/07)
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