Scheduled release date:

It seems as though 1997 is making a bit of a comeback. Square-Enix is readying some new Final Fantasy VII material. There's another new Castlevania on the way, even though it isn't a 2D game. We're also about to be treated to a remake (of sorts) of one of the PlayStation's earliest RPGs: Wild Arms. Yes, Agetec has picked up the publishing rights to Wild Arms Alter Code F, which is due in stores in May.

For those of you that might be late to the party here, Wild Arms was an RPG that had a Western flavor to it. Not Western as in a Knights of the Old Republic vibe, but Western as in cowboy hats, gunplay, and that sort of thing. Wild Arms followed the adventures of three characters as they traversed the lands of Filgaia in an attempt to—what else—save the world from all but certain destruction. Wild Arms was certainly no Final Fantasy VII, but it had a solid enough following to prompt a PlayStation sequel and a later PlayStation 2 sequel.

This remake allows players to again assume the roles of Rudy, Jack, and Cecilia; however, three more playable characters will be now available, and those who played the original Wild Arms will recognize them. There's Emma, who fixes the ARMs that Rudy and Jack use; "Calamity Jane" Maxwell, who's essentially a treasure hunter; and McDullen, Jane's brother, who is a solid swordsman and a perfect foil to Jane's greedy character. It will be interesting to see how these three new characters will figure into the retooled storyline.

Wild Arms was a turn-based RPG, and Alter Code F only deviates somewhat from that formula. Once players have a party of more than three characters, there will be an option to actively switch characters in and out of battle as needed, much like Final Fantasy X. Aside from this addition, there will be the standard options of attack, including physical attacks, special attacks (with either ARMs or magic, depending on the character), and Force abilities. Force abilities vary from character to character and can include summoning, support magi's, and more.

Most RPGs of this ilk have seemingly endless random encounters, and the original Wild Arms was no exception. Alter Code F, however, retains a feature from Wild Arms 3 in that random battles can be avoided by pressing the X button when an exclamation point appears above the party. This ability isn't infinite or foolproof, but it can keep the number of random battles down.

Along with combat, puzzles also make up a certain portion of Wild Arms Alter Code F. Each character has a "tool" that he or she can use in certain instances in order to get out of tough spots. Rudy's got bombs, which can destroy small obstructing objects, for example. Jack's got Hanpan, a magic rat with the gift of speed who can activate hard-to-reach switches. For those who might have missed playing the original Wild Arms, Alter Code F will demonstrate how a solid balance between puzzles, story, and combat can combine to form a solid RPG.

Most remakes tend to showcase new visuals and sound, and Wild Arms Alter Code F looks to certainly follow that trend. Instead of the blocky characters from the 1997 original, players will be treated to smoother character designs that appear a lot closer to anime than to the Polygon Man of 1995. The dungeons and towns have likewise received visual improvements, with better lighting and more detail, and instead of character sprites, the onscreen adventurers are in full 3D and smoothly animated. For fans of the original game, it's also worth noting that the music has been remixed but is still very faithful to the original score, which was above-average to begin with.

This remake has been delayed several times, but at this stage, it looks like it's definitely worth the wait. We're looking forward to covering Wild Arms Alter Code F when it arrives, and we'll be sure to give you the scoop when that happens.

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