If you own an Xbox and are an RPG fan like I am, then you realize the painful fact that is the overall lack of titles available. Yes, the original Xbox was scarce with RPG hits, whereas the Playstation2 was literally thriving. The 360 has been out for almost a year now, and the situation is not any different. In fact, the first “real” RPG was Oblivion, but that was also available for the PC also.
Welcome to the Japanese developer FromSoftware, who recently brought us Chrome Hounds for the 360 and soon Armored Core 4 for the PS3/360. Known as “Enchant Arm” in Japan, the game is focused around Atsuma, a kid from Yokohama with a poignant and naive attitude.This is not your everyday RPG leading role, if it can be considered “leading”. Atsuma is not the brightest from the bunch, and that’s quickly evident within minutes of playing. Throughout the adventure, you will meet a slew of characters that will steer him, and your posse, in the right direction. A recipe for success!
This is an RPG that’s unique in many ways, and I will be touching on all of them. Golems play a huge role, but they may differ from your own concept of what Golems should be. In Enchanted Arms, Golems are the remnant of a war that took place over 1,000 years ago. They are creatures that come in many forms, but none have a mind of their own. They will kill you on sight, if you don’t defeat them first.
Golems are scattered throughout the entire landscape, but are not only for you to defeat. In a Pokemon-esque fashion, you have the ability to earn them for your own use by various means. Some you will have to defeat during your quest, and others may just fall into your lap. If you are wanting to try different Golems and have cash on you, you can head to any of the store stops and purchase them there. If you can’t tell by now, the entire game is based around these Golems, which blows the doors wide open for customization and tweaking.
As you go through battles, any of the monsters you are fighting will be available as a collectible Golem. It’s just up to you to find out where to find them, if that’s your decision. Each Golem has it’s own style and skill set, albeit small ones. Each also is associated with a certain element, so if you are up against an ice creature, then fire-based Golems will help you out well there.
That said, although Golems are a massive part of the game, you are not required to include them in your own party. For the majority of the game you will be in a team of four characters, all human. You can swap out one of the humans and replace with a Golem that has a specific purpose, or just play with the leading characters. The game is designed for you to take advantage of the Golems, but I will admit something. I beat the game with the primary four characters and no Golems at all. I simply did not enjoy testing out each Golem to see who was effective where, but if you are a diehard player who loves to find the most effective way to slaughter, then you will be in a heaven.
The overall gameplay is simple and should only take you about fifteen minutes to fully understand the game and also the fighting system. When not in a town, you will always have the ability to run into a random battle. You will not see the enemies roaming the landscape (bosses you will), so it’s complete “surprise” when you find yourself in a battle.
Enchanted Arms sticks to the tried and proven turn-based style of fighting. If the opponents are not much higher in level as you are, then you will always be permitted to choose your attacks first. Once you execute your string of attacks, the enemy will take his turn. Of course, each side will have their turn until the opposers are all perished.
FromSoftware wanted to make things a little interesting though, and added a pinch of strategy. Each side of the battle will have a 3 deep and 4 wide grid that they are constrained in. By default, all of the characters will be able to move in a fixed pattern. Depending on where your character is standing, if you wish to move, a total of five squares will light up showing you where you are able to go. In effect, this adds a lot of strategy, because sometimes it will take you two moves to get to the other side of the grid, if you so need the ability. This can become difficult at times where you do not have an attack skill capable of reaching an enemy.
Personally, I was not keen on the style at first, but it grew on me. Once you figure out how to properly set up your characters and execute the battle properly, you will do fine. But that leads me to another aspect of the game that I found to be an annoyance. Each one of your characters will have a VP (Vitality Points) meter that will degrade after each battle. Atsuma for example, has a total of 100 VP and Karin has 50. If you finish a battle in the very first turn, then there is no penalty. Depending on how many turns the battle required and whether or not a character died, it will all affect how much of your VP is taken away. If the battle simply required 2 turns, then you lose 1 point for each character, and 3 turns would take away 2. If one of your characters died, it could take between 6 – 10… harsh.
How VP affects your characters though is not evident until you lose it all. Once at 0, the character will be unable to fight, until one turn has passed. You do -not- want to go into a battle with any of your characters at 0 VP, I can assure you. This leads to some complicated parts in the game, so you will want to make sure you bring along potions that restore your characters points.
As you progress, whenever the characters must speak to each other, you are brought into a cutscene. An avatar of each character is shown, and there is actual voice if it’s an important part of the game. Voice or not though, subtitles are always shown at the bottom. If you are bored of what’s being said, you can easily rapid tap the A button to skip through it in a breeze. If you, like me, tend to read the bottom instead of listening to the voice, then you will easily be able to read the dialogue faster than they speak it.
At some points during the game, there will be a lot of these scenes. I recall one lasting just over an hour, with about three minutes of actual walking around in between. If you are not the type of player who enjoys an equal amount of gameplay as you do story, Enchanted Arms may annoy you.