Wild ARMs 4
All it takes is entering Guara Bobelo for the first time and watching the game go from a simple 2D side-scrolling affair to a deeper, almost 2.5D look, and finally into full 3D-on-rails view to see how well the developers can craft a level. Watching the cool aquamarine glow of the battle arena pull your eyes towards the ornate symbols orbiting the dome off in the distance is honest-to-goodness breathtaking stuff.
Again, just listening to music in the same level that goes from a Benedictine-like chanted intro into something a bit more industrial and finally into a rich, powerful, sax-driven jazz backdrop, it's obvious there's a little more than whistled Western themes going on here. Not all the tracks are great, and series composer Michiko Naruke's stuff stands out far more than newcomers Masato Kouda and Ryuta Suzuki, but the new songs feel more updated, without the same set of synthy high-energy progressions that Naruke's work.
The sheer amount of translated dialogue, though, is what really stands out. As you control the main character Jude around, double-jumping and sliding all over the place, he'll almost never utter the same words twice in a row, and they rarely occur so often it becomes annoying. Even more impressive are the responses each of the characters have after a battle, commenting on how they won or nearly died or worked as a team. It's awesome stuff, and keeps things aurally mixed.
So after all the bitching and moaning about stuff a few paragraphs up -- not the least of which is the story, a key part of any RPG -- why is the game getting such a high score? Because it's a blast to play through, plain and simple; this is one of the best turn-based battle systems ever made for a game. A simple set of hexes allows for tons of strategy, a confined but flexible set of guidelines for movement and attack and some really, really fun battles.
On top of all that, the platforming elements never feel out of place or forced, and the skill system, little tweaks like being able to custom divide your health and magic points at any given time, and the toggled encounters, all of these things rise above the crap story and small little problems I had with the game. This is a game worth playing for any RPG fan, especially if you can handle an all-out assault of clichÃ©s.