|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Media Vision||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Xseed Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 11, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Ever hear the old saying less is more? If you have then you'd probably wager that the statement is incorrect over 50% of the time. Yet, it seems to fit so well when talking about the class system that resides within Wild ARMs XF. Giving a nod to the classic Final Fantasy V, as well as class-centered MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars, XF contains a class (job) system that allows you to customize the heroes in your party. Over thirty different role options are available to your characters, and range from a spell shooting Elementalist and pole-arm wielding Halberdier to the ever necessary Gadgeteer.
Though each character has stats that would naturally make him or her better suited to a particular class, there are several moments in the game where you will be forced to mix it up. And this is where the title falters. The main detriment with constantly swapping abilities is that you have to have "the" perfect balance to pass certain missions. So, if you have an objective to keep a certain number of allies alive and forget to bring a healer, you will fail. If the boss you are fighting is weak to a certain element and you forget to bring a mage, you will fail. Get the picture? Though I do admit that a class system is solid for this type of SRPG, it's just that the constant role switches rob the protagonists of their uniqueness. Several times throughout I just began identifying my team by their class name rather than their real one; sad I know.
I think it'd be unfair to say the game is a complete disappointment. Wild ARMs XF does have a few high points here and there, primarily in the character development department. Leveling is done primarily through missions and key battles, with little to no experience available when traveling the open world or visiting towns. This forces players to actually use strategy in combat, rather than just grinding up and mowing down the baddies. Speaking of which, the title gives you plenty of options in the way of weapons and magical abilities, with many of them looking downright impressive.
Apart from the lighting of magical powers, Wild ARMs XF won't go out of its way to stun you with visual splendor. The battle fields and towns look deceptively good from a distance, but once you use the camera to scout the area you will find that most of the buildings look the same. Valleys, mountains, oceans, castles - pretty much everything looks as it should, which ultimately isn't a bad thing; its just that it would've been nice to see a bit more going on in the background. Also worthy of mention is the anime-derived drawings that make up virtually every citizen in the dying world of Filgaia. While undergoing conversations, you will see a motionless caricature of the particular character you are addressing, with actual interaction being saved for the stunningly vivid video clips.
Ultimately where Wild ARMs XF shines is in the audio department. Taking full advantage of the advanced hardware of the PSP, the composers from the previous installments in the series returned to provide the score for XF. Though long battles can make some musical tracks a bit repetitive, this wasn't the case the majority of the time. From funky, upbeat battle music to calming melodies present within parts of the over-world, the game contains some of the best music I've heard in an RPG to date. Sound effects sound crisp and believable, whether it is the clanging of a sword or the explosion of a particular fire attack. What also surprised me is that XF contains some very nice voice acting to accompany the well-written dialogue. It also helps bring out the personalities in particular people, from the giddy Clarissa to the hilariously quirky Labyrinthia. The game offers options between the Japanese voices and an English dub. Both are great, but I'd definitely recommend the first of the two; nothing beats the original. Also notable is the inclusion of the Music Room, which is an unlockable feature that lets you play up to 20 selective themes anytime you want. So if you were thinking about turning down the volume, forget it. It is definitely the most impressive component in the game.
In the end, one has to give credit to the makers of Wild ARMs XF for what they had in mind for the game. Adding a strategic element, a robust class system, and varied mission objectives were all great ideas for the franchise, but unfortunately they fall short due to poor implementation. Though difficult, Wild ARMs XF is challenging in all the wrong ways, with emphasis on repeating missions due to flawed play mechanics rather than tough opposition. The class system is fun to play around with but is just too open-ended to really be a strength. Where Wild ARMs XF succeeds is entirely in its presentation, from a well-written story to music that adds both charm and immersion to a rather flawed gameplay experience. Nevertheless, if you are in "dire" need of a role playing game on your PSP, then Wild ARMs XF may be worth your time. Rent at your leisure; buy at your discretion.
CCC Freelance Writer