Date: November 3, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams
It’s not very often we are treated to an RPG on the Xbox, but Ubisoft has come along and brought a popular Japanese hit to our shores. You are the enchanter Atsuma, who unwillingly has an arm filled with magical powers. Of course, it only makes sense that it’s his destiny to save the world.
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.
Speaking of dialogue, the voice acting in the game should be touched upon. It’s some of the worst I’ve seen in any RPG. Lame, if you will. The voices don’t seem to fit the actual scheme of the game that well, and they are not exactly a joy to listen to either. Even the text itself is not that well written. This could be due to poor translation, I am unsure. Japanese games are not well known for their intriguing dialogue in games either way.
Some of this text is overused to the point of being annoying. Raiger, a Knight who protects Lady Karin with his life, says “As you say” at least one hundred times throughout the game. Yes, this is in his character, people in real life can also have such repetition. This just became annoying after so many times, though.
There are a total of 9 characters that you will either come in contact with, or party with. Each one has a unique style, in attitude and in fighting style. Yuki for instance, is a young girl with a whiny voice, who only cares about money. Then there’s Raigar as we mentioned, who is a true hard ass when it comes to enjoying anything. Toya is Atsumas best friend, and proves to be one of the smartest people in Yokohama. Then there’s Toyas homosexual friend Mokato who wants to marry him someday. Toya doesn’t “swing that way”, however. All of the characters are well done though, none are boring to learn about.
That aside though, the story is nothing really new. Atsuma is out to save the world from an evil being that wants nothing more than to wait for the opportune time to hand out her evil deed. Even still, I enjoyed the actual storyline quite a bit. Besides the poor voice and dialogue, the story was intriguing and things were kept fresh. Some aspects were predictable, but FromSoftware did a good job of keeping things interesting, and throwing the player for a loop.
Because the game is for the Xbox 360, you’d expect amazing graphics, right? Well Enchanted Arms does not deliver, and could almost be an Xbox or PS2 game. I should make clear though, the graphics as a whole are full of eye candy, and the EA world is a blast to explore. It’s a rich world that does not get boring quickly. This is primarily due to the fact that each area in the game tends to be completely different than another, and is small. So, there really is no time to get bored of anything.
The images in the review well represent what the game really looks like, but nothing is here that would earn the game high marks in the graphics department. In some parts, there are blatantly bad textures that are unavoidable. At one point you will reach a large set of stairs that are part of the gameplay… not a side quest. The buildings on each side of this stairset have such poor textures, it boggles my mind how it got through development without being noticed or touched upon. In some games, you can see buildings in the distance, and know that they don’t have crisp textures applied to them simply because as a character, you cannot reach them. Well here, it’s the same premise, except you are right beside them!
If you enjoy RPGs that are straightforward, then you will love Enchanted Arms. The gameplay is very linear, with little in way of side quests. There are a few exceptions, but I won’t touch on those in order to not spoil anything. As it stands, the game should take around 40 hours to beat. Myself, I took my time and leveled up my characters enough to get all of the possible skills. My final time was 51 hours, and that would be inflated even further if I had taken the time to play around with all of the Golems in my possession.
Enchanted Arms is not going to get a high rating from me, but even so, this was a great game that I do not regret playing through. As I mentioned in the intro, there are not that many Xbox 360 RPG games out there, so when one finally does see the light of day, you want to look into it deeper. If you don’t have a Playstation2, then this is one reason to pick up this game. Where it lacks in graphics and sound, it makes up for in gameplay and storyline.
I am awarding Enchanted Arms for the Xbox 360 a 78%.
Pros & Cons
+ One of the few RPG’s for the 360
+ 40+ hours of gameplay
+ Over 100 Golems to collect
+ Interesting storyline
+ Ability to save at any time and fast forward battles
– Graphics are not “next-gen”
– Voice and dialogue are poorly done
– Many points that will truly stop you in your tracks if not well prepared
– Very, very linear gameplay
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