Enchanted Arms has to start off a series of RPGs for the XBox360, a leader so to speak for a new strategy of Microsoft to lure Japanese gamers and PS2 RPG-lovers to their console. In the past the Box was after all little loved by the genre but with Oblivion and now Enchanted Arms, with Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey and more on the horizon, the future seems a lot brighter
In the search to please lovers of the JRPG-category, the makers didn’t want to take too many risks. The result is a game that has all the typical ingredients in the pan but in the end produces a weakly falvored result. Tastes familiar but hardly memorable.
The story is obvious: you’re Atsuma and have memory loss (oh no?) and are studying Enchanting, the last remaining form of magic of the moment. Other, more powerful types, got lost hundreds of years ago during the Golem War when the world almost got destroyed. Nowadays, the more powerful Devil Golems are locked up but of course something goes terribly wrong and they break out with you being the hero that can save the world!
This assignment can be fullfilled by winning fights, building your character, collect stuff and spend a lot of time going through way too linear roads between different locations (dungeons and open areas). Enchanted Arms also knows some conversations (sometimes literally minutes long) of which most is spoken, and the fun thing is that you can choose between the original Japanese tracks or a dubbed one which isn’t too bad if you don’t mind the over-acting. Also humour and all kinds of funny situations between the four main characters aren’t lacking and the game’s atmosphere becomes quite original due to this.
Very enjoyable are the CGI-cutscenes that accentuate the key moments and look truly amazing in HD. A reason as such to go through the random fights which unfortunately can’t be avoided but can be automated by the CPU per round.
The combat system is the best aspect of the game. You get 4 characters on some sort of chess board with your team on one side and the others on the opposite. Very interesting is the fact that you need to consider your lineup seeing every attack has a certain effective area and you really need to plan how and when who will do which attack. This creates quite some depth that also goes further in the choice of your fighters since you always need to find a balance between attacking and defending/healing men on one side and melee- and ranged avatars on the other.
In a few seconds you’ll know how the system is set up so both beginners and verterans will have no problems here. The opponents aren’t too difficult and your health and mana-equivalent (called “ether”) are automatically supplemented in between encounters. Your vitality-points however don’t undergo the same treatment and these need to be filled in specially developed stations that are only found here and there. Is the Vitality of one of your characters almost depleted then you’ll need to use someone else. You’ll have to consider this all the time and you won’t be able to base your strategy on a handful of characters.
Luckily there’s no shortage on characters since you can make them yourself! Golems can be brought to life and added to your party after collecting or buying the right ingredients and blueprints. Over 100 different ones are to be found in this game and each one has his own design and strong or weak points. Some sort of Pokemon in RPG-land so to say and you can also upgrade them in different areas, just like the human characters.
Graphically the game impresses during the first moments and also the cutscenes will make you drop your jaw, but after some time it becomes clear how unvaried the surroundings are. During combat you’ll have to have fun with the special effects as the animations are crap and also the textures tend to vary enormously in quality and inspiration, just like the empty, boring and repetitive outdoor parts that are in high contrast with the more fun parts like the carnival. Of course the difference with a current-gen game is obvious but we do expect more eye candy these days thanks to titles like Oblivion.
We already said something about the voices above and the soundtrack cannot be complained about. Without innovating you get good classic passages that support the action where necessary and go to the background when things quiet down a bit.
The lifespan of the game is respectable and with about 40 hours it’s long enough seeing the quite repetitive character after a while. Those that can’t get enough can spend quite a few more hours with collecting and building their Golems to afterwards have them fight in multiplayer through Xbox Live. This couldn’t interest me longer than a couple of minutes but for the freaks it’s a nice addition.
Enchanted Arms has become a typical Japanese RPG and that’s the cause of both its strengths and weaknesses. The game never gets truly boring but there’s just a bit too much cliché. Opposite to that there’s a fun, accessible but also challenging combat system the nicely uses the Golem-idea. Graphically you also don’t get really disappointed but only the spectacular cutscenes will be used to impress your friends with the power of the Xbox360. The fans will certainly love this game while the rest of the world can try a relatively safe gamble when buying.