Wild Arms XF (Crossfire) turns it attention away from the traditional Japanese role-playing formula and adds an element of strategy to this Western influenced RPG. Now branded SRPG, Wild Arms gets serious inventing a new innovative gaming system while providing all the twist and turns you would expect out of a RPG. It’s time to saddle up with Clarissa and explore the brave new world of Wild Arms Crossfire.
Media Vision has been doing a good job keeping the Wild Arms series running since its 1996 debut on the Playstation platform. For me, the Wild Arms series has been one that has faded away from my attention ever since I enjoyed Wild Arms 3 released in 2002. I’m hoping the PSP edition of Wild Arms will give me a jolt to favour the series once again. In the latest release Media Vision has changed up the gameplay while staying faithfully original atmosphere. Wild Arms presents a unique blend of medieval science-fiction action with a Western setting. Like Final Fantasy the world is build from a combination of technology and medieval weaponry that sets the plate with overly dramatized storylines.
The new battle zone in Wild Arms XF takes place like most strategy RPG's, on a map. The twist in Wild Arms XF is that the map is hexagonal based and not a straight square grid. The combat isn’t as deeply rooted in strategy as other titles, but it has a lot of customization and a plethora of options to consider before engaging in battle. Initially Wild Arms XF can feel overwhelming with the amount of job classes and associated magic and weapons. I suggest that you just take it slow and it will come. After having a rocky start myself, I found my groove and Wild Arms became more welcoming when I wasn’t trying so hard. Media Vision does their best to ease you into the action. However the games options are open if you’re experienced or playing through the game multiple times.
The main confusion comes with the ability to change a characters class at any time. Unlike other games, you’re not stuck with a certain setup of characters and abilities. You can switch them up and attack the game however you please. The only thing you will have to do is re-equip your characters after you change their class and you are ready to go into the battlefield. A auto equip feature would have been a nice addition because if your experimenting with the job classes a lot, it can be a little tiresome to rearrange your equipment every battle.
Adding extra confusion, Wild Arms XF has come up with a whole new way of listing their character classes that make it confusion when learning the game... just take a look at a few Gadgeteer, Fantastica, Enigmancer, Elementalist... that’s 4 out of a list of 20. Another aspect that is puzzle while learning the game is the use of VP (Vitality Points). In XF your characters vitality points get used up when you perform an action, move, or wait. In longer missions you might run out of vitality that will cause you character to lose a percentage hit points per term. Vitality can’t cause your character to ultimately die, so it is important to keep an eye on this stat during battles.
If you are unfamiliar with strategy RPGs they are easy to understand, but hard to master. The SRPG formula basically takes the real-time combat element out of a RPG exchanged for turn-based gaming on a gridded map. The action is slowed down and each move you make is important. Like the classic game of chess moves must be planned out with premeditative thinking as you chase down a win. In Crossfire's case things are kept close to the standard definition with a few twists. XF adds an element called RFX (Reflex) that determines who turn and the frequency of their movements. In combat you can boost your own RFX to gain an advantage, or decrease the enemy’s movement time. Similar to magic skills like Speed, or Slow. Usually, these skills don’t have a major impact, but in Wild Arms XF having the RFX advantage usually helps turn the tied of a battle.
Besides all the technical gameplay aspects in Wild Arms XF, you will have a normal range of missions that involve all the usually RPG hijacks. Wild Arms XF covers 5 acts with variable amount of battles in each section of the game. This might not seem like an overly long adventure, but it is. On average I’d say Crossfire will provide a good 45-50 hours of solid SRPG gaming. For a plot, well, Wild Arms XF storyline is a little thin. Without spoiling any of the surprises, the story revolves around the lead character Clarissa Arwin and her half-brother Felius as venture across the countryside uncovering startling truths, saving the world and rebuilding kingdoms. Wild Arms XF wants to be epic, but feels a little overused and contrived to be held up as a classic story. Thankfully the quality work of the dialog in the cut-scenes and the support of a cast of interesting characters keep Crossfire interesting as you explore the world of Figaia.
Turning Wild Arms into a strategy RPG, rather than a straight forward RPG is an interesting turn that might have been influenced by the successful string of strategy RPG games that have come out recently on the PSP. Last year we marked out for Level 5’s brilliant strategy RPG Jeanne D'Arc as PSP game of game of year. Depending on sales, I’m sure Media Vision will be closely watching to see how to develop the next chapter in the series.
The quality of the graphics and audio in Wild Arms XF is well produced, looking great on the PSP. The mixture of still images and small spirits for combat works as expected. You won’t see anything new in Wild Arms XF, but the storyline and action will unfold as expected. I was pleasantly surprised to hear full voice-over work which is always a plus in an RPG even if it’s not using the best talent available. The soundtrack follows the same suit with some nice pieces that never become annoying. After a few hours of playing XF with the headphones on, I had to take a break from the music, but it could be that I just needed a break from nerding out over another RPG. It is also worth noting that Wild Arms XF supports both English and Japanese voice-overs for gamers concerned with having the original voice work presented.
Wild Arms XF has a certain charm to its mojo. Granted, it’s not the best game of the series and its nothing over impressive in the grand scale of Role-Playing games, however it is a good run at a standardized SRPG with a focus on customization, tactical action and a quirky western storyline. If there is a problem with XF, I feel like it didn’t draw me in like I expect out of a role-playing game. I was going through the motions on this one, but those motions never became a chore, or a bore. I believe Wild Arms XF will please the strategy role-playing fan to a certain level. The production value is certainly there, and the storyline has enough intrigue to keep the player interested over Wild Arms’ 40+ hour crusade. If you’re looking for a solid SRPG for the PSP, Wild Arms XF wouldn’t be first recommendation amongst games like Jeanne D’Arc and Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, but it’s another option to consider.
Gameplay: 6.5, Graphics: 7, Sound:7.5, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 6. Final: 6.8 / 10