The first, second, and third Detonators were eaten alive by penguins. So now you know, don't mess with penguins.

User Rating: 8.1 | Wild Arms: The 4th Detonator PS2
Wild Arms: 4th Detonator is the fourth game in the Wild Arms series [duh..]. This particular RPG franchise has been at a war within itself for some time now. Since the second game was released on the Playstation 1 the series as attempted to breathe new life into its very old-school RPG format with various innovations. The second game brought us the bothersome search feature, and the third game relieved us of our weapons, armor, and accessories opting for the ability to customize and upgrade each characters ARM.

This latest entry into the series is no exception and brings with it numerous changes which will be gotten out of the way right now.

The search system is gone...

...and it took the overworld with it. Wild Arms 4 now uses a map instead of an overworld. Towns are blue dots, dungeons are red dots, and you move from one to the other by confirming your destination and moving an icon that represents your current location over dotted lines connecting various destinations on the world map.

Weapons and armor are back...

...and they brought the item shops with them. You can now purchase weapons, armor, accessories, and healing items in stores now. There are a vast amount of weapons for each character and in Wild Arms 4 they don't get progressively stronger per se. One weapon may hit really hard but only hit once, while another may do less damage but hit multiple times with more accuracy. The same goes for the armor, do you want more physical protection and less magic defense, the other way around, or would you settle for a even middle defense of both?

The PS Skill system....

....has been raped. You can now view every ability your characters will learn and at what level all the way up to level 100 in their status menu. These abilities can be bought ahead of time if you have enough PS Points, and you still get 1 point per level gained. So if you're at level 10, you've got 10 PS Points. Spend all of those points at once and you can bridge the gap between your level and that tasty attack learned at level 20.

Whenever you spend this points, you also are spending your HP and MP. For example, spending all of your 10 points for a level 10 character will lower your HP and MP back down to what you had at level 1, but you'll still really be at level 10. None of these changes are permanent however, you can go into this menu and get your points back whenever you want. Also, even if you spent them all and learned that level 20 ability you'd still level up normally, and when you eventually reached level 20, you would master that ability you spent the points on and get all of your invested points, HP, and MP back. Consider the HP and MP loss a trade off for getting to use an ability much sooner than you normally would.

If the HP loss thing is still bothering you, you can also change the ratio of HP to MP any character in your group has. They start off with the ratio balanced in the middle and by moving a little cursor underneath their HP and MP totals either left or right you can increase their HP by decreasing their MP or the other way around. For example a normally balanced character may have 4000 HP and 300 MP. Max out the bar on the HP side and you'll get something like 6000 HP and 200 MP. Doing this can make up for a substantial HP loss when investing all of your PS points into abilities.

There's a brand new battle system...

...that is a blast. The battles take place on a group of 7 hexagons that form one large hexagon themsevles. At the start of random battles your characters and the enemies are randomly placed on this field [boss battles are an exception, and are not subject to random hex assignment]. Enemies and allies cannot occupy the same hex nor can they traverse through a hex occupied by the opponent. You can have all of your characters in the same hex, and enemies [subject to size] can have up to 4 in the same hex.

When you attack, heal, cast a spell, or use an item you're action is directed toward a target hex, not the characters in it. So if you attack a hex with 4 enemies in it, you attack all 4 at once. If the enemy casts poison on you, they're poisoning the hex and a quick way to cure yourself is to simply use your turn to walk from that hex to another one. The unoccupied hex will remained poisoned and any enemy that steps on it will be poisoned as well.

Out of the five magic types in Wild Arms, 4 will be present in any given battle and represented by colored hexagons. Red for fire, Blue for water, Green for air, and yellow for earth. Three of the hexagons will be colored in each battle which means they are attuned to their respective element. The hexagons that are not colored are regulated to Non-Elemental. Hit an enemy standing on a water hex with a fire spell and you'll do double damage, hit them on a fire hex with a fire spell and you'll do half damage. To run from battle simply move off of the hex field completely.

The Migrant Seal system is gone...

...and replaced with "Break Points". Every dungeon in WA4 has at least one save point that refills your MP everytime you touch it. Each of these save points can be purified by either completing a puzzle somewhere in the dungeon or fighting a group of over-powered monsters at the save point. Once a save point is purified you have the option of toggling random battles in that dungeon on or off at whim by pressing the R2 button. This is permanent, so if you find yourself having to traverse a particular dungeon a second time to fight a hidden boss or locate a hidden treasure you can hit the R2 button the second you step inside it and have a nice battle free trip.

Ex-File Keys are still around...

...but they are a bit more of a pain to use. Their are 9 keys altogether in this game and if you fullfill a requirement for one you won't know it until you've beaten the game and watched the credits. You'll never get a notice informing you that you have one, and they don't show up in your inventory. Also the rewards they unlock are set up in a three by three grid. You have to get either all three keys in one row vertically or horizontally to unlock the whole row all at once.

You can't simply unlock these things one at a time. You'll pretty much get the standard set of rewards just playing the game. These rewards include the movie theatre and the New Game+ option. You've got to beat the game, fight over 300 fights, and play more than 25 hours to get them. Easy as pie right?

Where'd the rest of my game go?

...yeah. I asked myelf that one as well. Wild Arms 4 can be easily beaten in underneath 20 hours. It's that short. You do get a +Game in which all of your items and equipment are carried over and the enemies will give double experience, beat the game again and play third time and I believe they'll give out triple experience and so on. [Rockman hasn't tested this yet, but he's heard it mentioned around the WA4 Board]

There aren't really any sidequests in the game either, just a bunch of optional bosses to fight and a sidescrolling platforming mini-game that is very Mario/Mega Man esque.

Mario/Mega Man esque?...

... That's right, portions of this game have fairly extensive platforming elements. Jumping, climbing, hanging, sliding... you'll be doing it all and it's all really fun.

So in closing...

... Wild Arms 4's battle system finally gives the series something of its own and unlike the search system of 2, 3, and Alter Code F it doesn't completely suck. The game is on the very short side, but the difficulty of the extra bosses and the added experience you get on each additional playthrough are meant to keep you playing the game multiple times. If you're a Wild Arms fan, then this game is definitely worth a rental because of it's short length and then afterwords you'll be able to decide if it's worth purchasing to you.