Enchanted Arms - Reader Retroview  

The game that sets the quality standard for this new generation
by Clix

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Xbox 360
35-45 Hours
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   When the Xbox 360 originally launched, Microsoft tried to cater to the Japanese fan base with games like /Dead or Alive 4./ However, another title was being produced for the Japanese launch, but it was ultimately delayed. The game was /[eM] -eNCHANT arM-/,/ /simply renamed *Enchanted Arms* for western audiences. Created by From Software, makers of the Lost Kingdom games and Armored Core series, /Enchanted Arms/ was the first JRPG for the 360 and was later ported to the PS3. However, first is not always synominous with "best."

   To start on a good note, /Enchanted Arms/ does have one thing going for it. While its battle system is not ground breaking, the system is solid. Random battles are held on a quickly loaded 4x6 grid. The grid is broken up into two separate sides. Both enemies and characters move around on their side of the grid in order to properly position attacks, which have a certain range on the grid. By positioning characters, both sides can minimize damage by using a cover system. Characters behind another character will take only a fraction of the damage. This adds strategic importance to both a player's attacks and attack formations. Furthermore, a six element system is in place: fire and water, earth and wind, and dark and light. Elemental attacks work well on their opposing element, but this is a double-edged sword as, after a fire element character has pummeled a water element character, the same water element character can return the critical attack damage. Other issues like status effects also make battles, particularly boss battles, feel very strategic.

   Yet the battle system is flexible. While random battles are frequent, the game provides a few saving graces to make sure battles do not drag on too long. The first is a fast forward button, which can be used to speed through the cinematic yet repetitive battle animations. A second feature is an Auto-Turn command. The Auto command has the computer control the party for one turn, and the AI is smart enough to make decent attacks patterns. While many will ignore this feature, the Auto command is useful for grinding or when a player simply becomes fed up with encountering the same enemies over and over. The Auto command is not advisable for the more challenging boss battles, but it is a saving grace for random battles.

   During the course of the game, the player will build up a team of Golems. To anyone familiar with monster collecting games, Golems will be nothing foreign. Each Golem has a unique move set, which unfortunately can not altered. However, Golems can be augmented stat-wise with SP points earned in battle. This causes players to constant weigh the importance of their Golems as the game progresses. The player can have eight Golems in the party at a time, though only three can be brought into battle at a time, and all Golems not in the party are sent to the store and can be exchanged for later. However, Golems are mostly optional. About ten hours into the game, three human characters will join the main human character. The difference between humans and Golems is the amount of customizable options. Human characters can be augmented like Golems, but humans can also learn new abilities and swap out skills at anytime. Ultimately, the Golem system can be skimmed over. For those that do like the Golem system, Golems can be used in the casino to earn extra TB (the game's currency) and can be battled against other players over Xbox Live.

Princess, check. Princess, check.

   In the sound department, /Enchanted Arms/ does not exactly stand out. The soundtrack is nothing to write home about, but the music is not terrible. It is merely forgettable. Other sound effects are present, like footsteps. The sound effects are accurate and perform their function well. /Enchanted Arms /also starts out with the option to choose either English or Japanese voice acting. While most would choose English, Japanese voice acting would be a wiser option. The English cast is terrible. The English voice actors uses odd, often offensive, stereotypical accents, and many names, such as Karin, will be pronounced differently from one line to another. While the Japanese cast is not great, it is preferable over the low quality English cast.

   To be frank, /Enchanted Arms/ is not original. While some of the features do feel fresh, the whole package is more than cliché. Anyone that has a background with anime will quickly recognize most of the character archetypes present in the story. The characters are not only archetypes, but they are also exagerated to great extremes. The story falls prey to being predictable as well. Most players will quickly figure out the gitz of the ending half way through the game. Over all, the creative aspects were all used for the gameplay.

   As mentioned, /Enchanted Arms/ has a pretty mediocre story. The game starts out in the city of Yokohama, one of the three major cities in the world. Atsuma, the main character, attends Enchant University with his friends Toya and Makoto, but unlike the other students Atsuma can not enchant but instead absorb ether through his mysterious right arm. As the game progresses, the evil Queen of Ice, a Devil Golem, is awoken, and Atsuma becomes part of a larger-than-life plot to stop the Queen of Ice and save his friend Toya. Atsuma becomes the generic hero in the quest from point A to B, assembling a team of humans and Golems along the way. While the story picks up at the end a bit, most fans of JRPGs will find the over all plot something seen elsewhere and pulled off with more style.

Balrog... check? Balrog... check?

   As a new generation game, /Enchanted Arms/ does not fail in creating eleborately detailed character models or backgrounds. Each human and Golem looks quite sharp, rendered in a semi-realistic style. Backgrounds also show rich texture, but the environments themselves are static. Though beautiful, the world of /Enchanted Arms/ is very boring. For most dialogue, two character models talk to each other on a splitted screen with a dialogue box running across the bottom with a generic background of their environment. The models are still rendered in their richness, but they are stilted by the limited range of emotions the models use. In /Enchanted Arms/ this old style of dialogue truly feels archaic. Meanwhile, most major scenes are preformed in high-quality FMVs, which feels like an odd contrast to the way dialogue is handled.

   For most fans of JRPGs, /Enchanted Arms/ will not present much difficulty. Even those unuse to JRPGs will find the game to be managable. Random battles are rarely challenging, though the game will through the occasional fastball. Boss battles are easily the most difficult part of the game, but the strategies for bosses are never really outside of the box, and most players will realize quickly the necessary methods to win. /Enchanted Arms/ is also not very long when compared to several other console RPGs which can absorb months of gameplay. However, this is by no means a bad thing. /Enchanted Arms/ will last a litle less than 50 hours, and this length fits the game perfectly.

   Overall, /Enchanted Arms/ is a mixed package. Half the game feels well polished, but the other half leaves something to be desired. In the end, the good and bad equal out, leaving a balanced but lack-lust experience. However, /Enchanted Arms/ does get the job done. It helps set the standard for JRPGs for this new generation, and it is by no means a regrettable experience. For RPGamers with a 360, /Enchanted Arms/ is a decent addition to a player's library. While it can't beat its predecessors (Blue Dragon, Eternal Sonata, or Lost Odyssey), /Enchanted Arms/ is not a bad game.

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