Wednesday, June 22, 2011

THEPLAYGAMER3: WILD ARMS


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Wild Arms (ワイルドアームズ Wairudo Āmuzu?) is a role-playing game developed by software company Media.Vision and originally released in Japan in 1996 for the Sony PlayStation video game console and was later translated and released in North America in 1997 and Europe in 1998 by Sony Computer Entertainment. It is noteworthy for not only being one of the first role-playing video games on the PlayStation, but also one of the few to feature a Western American setting and motif. The game features 2D computer graphics for normal gameplay, while battle sequences are rendered in 3D.

Taking place in the fantasy world of Filgaia, Wild Arms follows the adventures of a band of miscreants and adventurers called Dream Chasers who scour the world in search of excitement and fortune. The player assumes control of a young boy named Rudy who has the ability to operate powerful weapons called Ancient Relic Machines (ARMs), forbidden remnants of a lost age that resemble guns. Along with his companions Jack and Cecilia, the group must use their respective skills to navigate through the vast wastelands and dungeons of Filgaia and prevent an otherworldly threat from reviving their lost leader and destroying the world.

In November 2003, an enhanced remake of Wild Arms titled Wild Arms Alter Code: F was released for the PlayStation 2 in Japan, with a North American version produced in 2005. In addition to enhanced graphics, Alter Code: F also features an expanded script, remastered soundtrack, new characters, and additional gameplay scenarios. On July 26, 2007, Wild Arms was made available on the PlayStation Network in Japan, through which it can be played on the PlayStation Portable and, as of Operating System update 1.70, on the PlayStation 3. On December 6, 2007 this version was released on the North American PlayStation Network.

Gameplay

Wild Arms is a console role-playing game that involves the player controlling up to three characters, Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia, as they progress through a number of environments, battle enemies, and solve puzzles. The game is presented in a top-down two-dimensional fashion where the player has an overhead view of all the action taking place on a particular screen. In order to advance, the player must overcome a number of story-based scenarios and sequences that involve navigating through dungeons while fighting enemies that appear randomly. Characters progress and grow by gaining experience points after a battle, gaining magical levels. This gives them better magic enchantments and spells, making them able to battle increasingly more difficult demonic entities.

Progressively more powerful armor and weapons can be purchased for each character from specialized shops in towns throughout the world, and new skills can be learned to help the player complete tougher challenges. Special devices called "Tools" unique to each character allow the player to transverse otherwise impassable situations while not in battle. These items are obtained at certain points in the game, and allow hidden areas or pathways to be discovered, as well as destroy objects and solve puzzles. Rudy's bomb tool, for example, can demolish large rocks and other impediments, while Jack's grappling hook allows the party to cross large gaps and chasms while avoiding traps.

Battle system

Unlike normal gameplay, where all character and background graphics are two-dimensional (2D), combat is rendered entirely in 3D. Wild Arms uses a turn-based battle structure in which the player inputs commands at the start of each combat round and the designated actions take place. The order in which each character and enemy performs these actions is based on their "response" (RES) statistic, which denotes how quickly a particular character can act. The higher a character's response, the more likely they are to act before an enemy. The player has the option every round to either use a restorative item from their inventory, use a special skill, run from combat, or attack. Enemy units are defeated when their hit points, a numerical representation of their vitality, reaches zero. Hit points can be reduced by attacking an enemy, either with standard attacks or spells.

Each of the three playable characters has a unique set of abilities that can be used to defeat enemies or aid party members. Rudy utilizes "ARMs", powerful yet limited attacks involving gun-like weapons that rely on a set number of cartridges, Jack's "Fast Draw" sword techniques can damage opponents in a variety of ways, and Cecilia's magic can either benefit the party by restoring hit points and raising statistics or damage enemies with harmful spells. Additionally, a character can equip special items called "runes" that allow them to summon powerful Guardians to aid them in battle. New skills are acquired as the main story progresses, completing side quests, or purchasing them from an in-game shop.

During combat, each character has a "Force Bar" divided into 4 equal-sized sections called levels. As the bar's level increases, the player is given access to one of four "Force Techniques", made available through different areas of gameplay. These techniques allow a character to perform a special action each time they attack or use a skill, adding to their overall effectiveness. Cecilia's "Mystic" ability, for example, allows an item used by her to affect all characters instead of one, and Jack's "Accelerator" gives him the option of acting first in the next combat round, regardless of his or the enemy's speed. The more effective the skill, the more Force Bar levels the move requires.

Like normal equipment, Runes can alter a character's statistics to make them more proficient in certain areas of combat, such as raising their strength statistic, increasing the damage they cause with normal attacks. Equipping these items has the added benefit of allowing a character to call upon powerful magic creatures to attack all enemies at once or aid allies with beneficial magic. Runes can be obtained either in hidden areas within dungeons, or simply whenever the story wills it. Most Guardian attacks, like Cecilia's magic, have a certain elemental designation that is more effective against certain enemies.

Setting

Wild Arms takes place in the world of Filgaia ("Fargaia" in the original Japanese version), a fantasy world modeled closely after the American Old West and Medieval Europe. The Wild West motif is present throughout the entirety of the game, and though several different landforms and climates exist across the entirety of the world, vast deserts, wide gorges, canyons, and sparse grasslands make up the majority of the landscape. A number of towns and villages exist, some containing old-world European architecture and castles, while others resemble early American frontier towns and trade posts. Technology at the time of the game is set around the early Industrial Revolution, with advancements such as motors first coming into use. A recurring theme throughout the game is destructive technology such as guns and firearms being seen as dangerous and therefore forbidden technology that is feared by the general populace. Since most of the world's most advanced technology existed centuries before the start of the game, archaeologists and engineers are essentially one and the same; rediscovering old technology as they find new applications for it.

Characters

In addition to several supporting characters and villains, Wild Arms features three playable characters.

Rudy Roughnight (ロディ・ラグナイト Rodi Ragunaito "Rody Roughnight"in the Japanese version and "Rudy Roughknight" in subsequent English translations) is a 15 year-old boy from a remote village who was orphaned several years before the beginning of the game when his grandfather died. Under the care of the town's mayor, Rudy worked as a farmhand for his neighbor until the day a local boy, searching for medicinal herbs to heal his ailing father, became lost in a cave just outside of town. Rushing to save him, Rudy eventually finds and rescues the child, yet inadvertently frees a demon sealed within the cavern. He is able to defeat the demon and save the village, but alerts the villagers to his forbidden ARM weapon in the process, causing him to be cast out of the village and forcing him to live on his own, adopting the life of an adventurer and Drifter.

After severing his own arm (by sword in Wild Arms, and by gun in Wild Arms Alter Code: F), Rudy is discovered to be a Holmcross—an artificial being designed to be a weapon that shares the basic physiology of the Metal Demons, which were terminated since they were labeled as being extremely violent and dangerous. But Rudy was adopted by a man called Zepet, who assumed the role of his grandfather and cared for him, giving Rudy a heart and the capacity to care and love, steering him away from being a weapon of mass destruction like his brethren. Rudy's character exemplifies the role-playing game archetype of the silent protagonist and is meant to act as the player's extension into the game, though he does have one line in the game.

Jack Van Burace (ザック・ヴァン・ブレイス Zakku Van Bureisu "Zakk Vam Brace" in the Japanese version)[14] is a treasure hunter and swordsman-for-hire who is searching the world for the "ultimate power" that will allow him to confront his troubled past. Upon the discovery of an ancient holographic device within a ruin, Jack learns of the long lost race of the Elw who had developed several forms of advanced technology. He sets off to the town of Adlehyde to find more information that will point him in the direction of his goal. Jack is accompanied by his partner Hanpan, a "wind mouse" who is able to speak and understand the language of humans, and often acts as Jack's moral compass. It is discovered that in his former life, an Arctica "Gauntlet-Knight", his name was Garret Stampede.

Cecilia Lynn Adlehyde (セシリア・レイン・アーデルハイド Seshiria Rein Aderuhaido "Cecilia Raynne Adlehyde" in the Japanese version)[15] is a young mage who has spent most of her life studying at the Curan Abbey magic school. Her 17th birthday at the beginning of the game marks her official ascension into the Adlehyde royal family and departure from the school. Before she is able to leave, however, she is contacted by a mysterious voice who beckons her to a hidden library deep within the abbey. It is there that she confronts and defeats a demon using her fledgling magic skills, and frees a powerful entity known as a "Guardian" from a sealed book. The Guardian informs Cecilia that her royal blood allows her to be a medium between the real world and the spirit dimension occupied by the avatars of all the world's elemental forces, and that she will be instrumental in securing the future and reconstruction of the barren planet. Throughout her life she has disliked being just a figurehead - being known as "Ceceila the princess" and not as "Ceceila the girl". One of her reasons for joining Rudy and Jack was so she would not be lonely. It is hinted that she may like Rudy, but in Alter Code F, it is more hinted than Jane is "in like" with Rudy.

Story

A thousand years before the events of Wild Arms, a war raged between the inhabitants of Filgaia and the Metal Demons seeking to turn the planet into their new home. After a fierce struggle, the humans managed to capture the demon's leader, "Mother", and sealed her deep within a castle in the tundra of Arctica. Unable to completely destroy her constantly regenerating body, the people of Arctica removed her heart and tore it into three pieces, imprisoned her within a cocoon, and sealed the pieces of her heart inside three stone statues which they spread across the world. With their leader gone, a majority of the demons disappeared, with only a few remaining in seclusion over the next few centuries, eventually launching an attack on the castle to reclaim the incapacitated body of Mother.

Succeeding in their mission, a small band of demon warriors known as the Quarter Knights kept watch over the body of Mother in their fortress protected behind a powerful force field, and began gathering information as to the whereabouts of the guardian statues with the hope of one day reviving her and claiming Filgaia as their own. As time passed, talk of the ancient invasion began to dwindle, though stories of demonic weaponry such as "ARM" guns and robotic soldiers still persisted in the minds of many. When a mysterious child named Rudy was left in the care of the mayor of the small town of Surf, he came with an ARM at his side. The mayor, fearing for the child's safety, hid the weapon and raised him as his own. Until he was 15, Rudy lived a quiet life in Surf until it was discovered that he had the ability to psychically link with and operate his forbidden weapon, a trait only attributed to a few people, and was cast out of the village from fear of misfortune.

Making his way to the city of Adlehyde, Rudy meets Cecilia, a magician-in-training and successor to the Adlehyde royal family, and Jack, a headstrong treasure hunter. The trio teams up for the first time to help a local engineer named Emma, who is researching ancient technology in a nearby tomb and believes a remnant of the Demon Wars may be inside, but they came across the monsters inside the tomb. Upon discovering the object, a deactivated robotic creature called a "golem", the three adventurers escort Emma and their discovery back to Adlehyde to exhibit it at the town's Ruin Festival. During the event, where several other golem creatures are on display, a small army of demons led by the Quarter Knights precede to burn the town, steal the golems, and mortally injure Cecilia's father, the king. In order to spare the remaining people of Adlehyde, Cecilia gives the Quarter Knights her family heirloom, a pendant called the Tear Drop that has magical properties which the demons believe can be used as a catalyst for reviving their leader. When the invaders recall from the town, Rudy and his friends make a pact to stop the Knights from taking control of Filgaia, and to restore balance to the weakening elemental forces of the world that have been in decline since the demons' initial invasion.

Traveling across Filgaia, the heroes make their way to the long-abandoned Guardian Temple to gain the alliance of the mystical guardians who maintain the forces of nature across the planet. Once befriended, the Guardians tell Rudy and his companions that the demons have already begun to revive their leader, and have only to lift the seal on her cocoon-like prison by destroying the three scattered statues that lie across Filgaia. Utilizing ancient Elw technology in the form of teleportation devices, the group travels the world to stop the Quarter Knights from destroying the statues, but they fail in each attempt. The consequent resurrection of Mother occurs, yet the demons are informed by their leader that it is her intention of destroying Filgaia rather than subjugating it and tells her followers that their own deaths will follow soon after.

Realizing that the only way to defeat the demons is to confront them in their stronghold, the Photosphere, Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia gather the necessary materials to enter the tomb of the last remaining golem, the Earth Golem - Asgard. Convincing him to aid them in their struggle, Asgard neutralizes the protective seal around the Photosphere, granting Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia access. With the aid of a mysterious hooded figure, the heroes are able to re-acquire Cecilia's Tear Drop, now acting as the power source to the entire fortress, and confront a weakened Mother directly, destroying her body just as the Photosphere sinks into the ocean. Thinking the worst to be over, the trio begins to depart for Adlehyde when they are confronted by the Quarter Knights, who inform them of their plan to take over Filgaia in their maniacal leader's absence, and the mysterious hooded character who assisted them was Ziekfried, the leader of the Quarter Knights who betrayed Mother.

The demons attempt to destroy the Ray Line underneath Filgaia—a last resort by the Guardians to connect their remaining strength together and maintain the planet. These plans are temporarily thwarted at the last moment, with Zeikfried being thrown through a dimensional rift in space when the three confront him. Finding himself transported to the underwater wreckage of the Photosphere, Zeikfred is met by a deformed visage of Mother, who consumes him. However, the remaining Demons find another way to disrupt the Ray line by creating their own tear drop designed to destroy rather than create life and using the Elw teleportation system distribute it all over Filgaia, throwing the forces of nature into chaos. It is also revealed that one of the Quarter Knights was not originally a demon, but Jack's lost love Elmina, fueling his quest for vengeance.

Later, the demons learn of a giant structure on one of the moons orbiting the planet, Malduke, that was designed to be a space station for residential and military purposes, possessing a powerful weapon that could destroy Filgaia. Inside the demons' newly-arisen tower Ka Dingel that connects with Malduke, Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia confront what remains of their adversaries before reaching the teleportation device to take them to Malduke. Within Malduke's deepest sanctum, they confront Zeikfried, who transforms into a revived Mother. This new being, Motherfried, confronts the heroes with the intent of using Malduke's primary weapon to destroy Filgaia but is defeated.

However, even after defeating the last of the Demons, it seems too late to stop Malduke's weapon from destroying Filgaia, but the Guardians are able to pool together their strength and revive the world. Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia board the teleportation device to be transported back to Filgaia, only to be stopped in mid-voyage by what is left of Zeikfried's body and his sword. The weakened Zeikfried launches a last desperate assault on the heroes, and, though defeated in the end, the energy released in the battle destabilizes the portal. Narrowly escaping through the portal to Filgaia, the trio arrives at Ka Dingel just as it collapses, with Asgard arriving to shield them from the falling debris, but the sheer strain causes great damage to the Earth golem, and he dies. With the demons defeated and nature beginning to recover, Jack and Rudy set off on a new journey while Cecilia remains in Adlehyde to fulfil her duties as ruler. In a letter she writes to Jack and Rudy, she tells them that she will send them the item they forgot to help them on their future adventures and shows up shortly after to join them on a new quest.

Development

Wild Arms was developed by Japanese software company Media.Vision and initially released in Japan in late 1996. New to the role-playing video game market, Media.Vision had previously released the "run and gun"-styled shooter game Rapid Reload for the PlayStation a year before Wild Arms. Under the direction of producer Takashi Fukushima and game designer Akifumi Kaneko, Wild Arms was developed to be a traditional console role-playing game that would incorporate an American Old West theme with anime-styled story elements and action sequences. Character designer Yoshihiko Ito was responsible for all major character designs.

First appearing as a video demo on the promotional PlayStation Jampack vol. 1 in January 1997, the full English version of Wild Arms was made available three months later in March 1997 by Sony Computer Entertainment America. Being released just before the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) updated their video game ratings system, the game thus received two separate North American ratings: first, "Kids to Adults" (K-A), and later "Everyone" (E) for copies released after January 1, 1998, though both versions contained the same software and catalog number. Wild Arms was later translated to both French and German for its release in the PAL region in late 1998, published by Sony Computer Entertainment's European division. Wild Arms features an opening sequence by Japanese animation studio Madhouse, with accompanying music by game composer Michiko Naruke titled "Into the Wilderness". The song was arranged by Kazuhiko Toyama and features melancholy whistling by Naoki Takao.

Audio

Wild Arms' soundtrack was composed entirely by Michiko Naruke and is heavily inspired by American westerns, featuring instrumentation from mandolins, acoustic and electric guitars, finger cymbals, trumpets, and whistling to produce an Old West sound to fit the game's setting and stylistic approach. A classical theme is also present in many tracks, with the melody being provided by string instruments and deep drums to heighten the mood or increase tension. The game's overworld theme "Lone Bird in the Shire", contains the melody from Ennio Morricone's "The Ecstasy of Gold" originally from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Also, the melody that plays while Mother is reawakened sounds very similar to the melody of the song "Farewell to Cheyenne" from the popular western, Once Upon a Time in the West. The Wild Arms Original Game Soundtrack was initially released in Japan on January 22, 1997, and was re-printed two years later. This version contained only a one-disc sample of the game's music, and after the release of the enhanced remake Wild Arms Alter Code: F and its arranged soundtrack, a complete version of the original Wild Arms soundtrack containing all of the game's music titled Wild Arms Complete Tracks was released on April 6, 2006.

Wild Arms Alter Code: F

Wild Arms Alter Code: F (ワイルドアームズ アルターコード・F?) is an enhanced remake of Wild Arms for the PlayStation 2. The game features entirely new 3D environments, five new playable characters and many other improvements. The game's North American release was postponed several times until it was finally released on November 15, 2005. The North American version comes with a bonus DVD featuring the first episode of the Wild Arms anime series, Wild Arms: Twilight Venom. It was never released in Europe.

The game features more characters than just the original trio. Other characters such as Jane Maxwell, Mcdullen Harts (called Magdalene Harts in the remake), Emma Hetfield, Mariel, and Zed will be able to join and the player may switch them into the battlefield. All of the dungeons have completely different puzzles and layouts.

The game has been graphically overhauled and now has 3D graphics both in and out of battles. The soundtrack has been heavily remixed or replaced entirely with new music. Numerous FMVs have been added at key points in the game and for the guardian summonings. The encounter cancel system from Wild Arms 2 and 3, which allows a player to skip a random battle, is present.

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