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Enchanted Arms Review

Developer: From Software Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: August 30, 2006 Also On: None

Swimming pools. Thin-crust pizza, preferably from Pizza Hut. The Indiana Hoosiers football program. These are all things that I like that aren’t too deep but I still manage to enjoy. You can tack the Xbox 360’s first traditional RPG, Enchanted Arms, onto that list. It’s not the game that’ll have you investing dozens of hours into menial side-quests, leveling up your entire party of heroes, or collecting items for hours to create an ultimate weapon–but it’s a game that RPG fans should enjoy, and it’s a good start for the eventually-be deep library of Xbox 360 RPGs.

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Enchanted Arms won’t woe you with a sweeping history or love story (although it marks the first time I’ve seen a blatantly obvious homosexual attraction in a video game). In fact, it doesn’t provide very much background for its main character Atsuma until much later in the game. It instead thrusts you right into Atsuma’s dunderheaded mind. Atsuma quickly finds himself in a jiffy when he and two of his friends unleash the Queen of Ice, a powerful “devil golem,” on the world. Queenie shows what a devil golem is capable of by turning Atsuma’s hometown into a winter wonderland and capturing his friends to boot, leaving poor Atsuma in a world of trouble with no one there to help him out. The story, at times, is very grim and morbid–something I found rather entertaining. The pacing isn’t slow thanks to the game’s linear push-but-don’t-shove environments. You’ll find out all about Atsuma and his strange powers, the devil golems, and more within about 30 or 35 hours of gameplay.

Unfortunately, Enchanted Arms’ storyline is often bogged down by some of the worst dialogue and acting I’ve seen in videogames. Atsuma is truly one of the most ridiculous characters I’ve ever role-played; he’s got the IQ of a corpse and the wit of one, too. One of his best lines was, “That was a whole new dimension of disgusting!” Indeed, your dialogue is quite disgusting, chap. The supporting characters are equally bad or worse, with the exception of the reserved and generally strong character found in Raigar. Yuki, one of the game’s few supporting female characters, is worthless. Both in battle and in the storyline, there isn’t a single time I ever thought, “Yuki is assertive to this game.” Why, From Software, why?! I’ve had my fair share of annoying, cliched RPG characters! As Karin would say, “Keep this up, or it’ll be a Kick to Heaven and Hell Combo!!”

I already used the word before, so I’ll throw it out at you again by saying that this game is extremely linear. This factor is what makes it so shallow, and will likely turn off fans of deeper RPGs like Suikoden and Dragon Quest. There are hardly any sidequests throughout the world, and the most side-tracking you’ll usually do is forced in order for you to proceed through a dungeon or town. There are only three main cities in the game, and the world map is so restrictive that you actually walk on a thin path with very, very little ability to stray away and explore. Besides the main quest, you’ll find a few dungeons and towers once you’ve become a powerful team near the end of the game, but it’s too bad that there aren’t smaller, easier dungeons at the start of the game to get the player started. Moving on, the game is so linear and Atsuma is so stupid that you’ll even be prompted with a conversation with your supporting characters to “learn” how to climb ladders, swim, activate enchanted structures, and throw switches. All of this is, of course, done with the handy-dandy “A” button. Do these restrictive factors make Enchanted Arms a bad game? No! But it definitely makes it a game where you’re constantly looking forward and rarely looking elsewhere, both literally and metaphorically.

Onto greener pastures, the battle system, in conjunction with the golems that I’ll describe momentarily, is a lot less straightforward. In fact, it’s great. Rather than stand in a line take a beating from head on, you’re thrown into a grid environment where you can move your four party members around and attack enemies. The best way to compare this battle system to another game is to put it next to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. I know, we’re comparing an Xbox 360 and a Game Boy Advance game, but bear with me. Once you move your character into a spot on the grid, you can select an attack to hit enemies on the other side of the grid. Different attacks have a different range, and obviously they have different strengths and weaknesses. If you see where I’m going, the battle system is slightly strategy-based. Depending on the player’s skill and patience, Enchanted Arms’ battle system could be extremely involving, or it could be a mindless, traditional RPG system with a mobile front line, where, as Raigar would say, “I’ll cut you down without thinking.” Either way, it’s fun and quite easily the best part of Enchanted Arms.

The golems do a little bit to flesh out Enchanted Arms and its battle system. Similar to collecting Pokemon in the dozen different Pokemon games, you can collect golems in Enchanted Arms by defeating them in battle. Then you can arrange your team and include them into your strategy. Just like the other characters in the game, golems have different attributes like elemental alignment, skills, and support abilities. Using the golems alongside your other characters is crucial in going through Enchanted Arms’ storyline. Finding the best golems in the game can be very addictive, but like I normally do in Pokemon games, I stuck with a few certain golems until I was more than 50% through the game, when their stats simply couldn’t compare to the golems I was fighting against. More or less, I chose the golems that looked the coolest and had attacks that could hit a wide area of space on the enemy grid. As great as golems are, they’re very limited to what parameters can be increased. With Skill Points, or SP, their parameters can be raised just like the human characters in the game. However, unlike Atsuma and his fleshy comrades, skills can’t be learned or leveled up. If a golem has a weaker attack with limited range, sadly, it’ll always have that attack with limited range. There’s very little that can be done to increase the utility of your golems.

The battles are quite fun, but the balance is thrown off quite easily because you’re fighting bosses almost every 30 minutes or so. This kind of boss battling makes each one less elusive and very routine, so each boss fight is much less epic than it should be. By the time you’re halfway through the storyline, you’ll have fought more boss battles than most RPGs throw at you in total. The way that Enchanted Arms presents its different stat points and commodities is very confusing, as well–you’ll manage HP, EP, SP, VP TB, FP, Combo and EX Points. This is a lot of stuff to think about for such a shallow game. As Atsuma says, “You really are high maintenance!” Random battles are also rather frequent, and backtracking the game’s environments can be a chore if you’re into fighting battles every 15 seconds. Fortunately, the battles are normally pretty quick, and a powered-up team can go through an entire army of enemies with ease.

Other than the 25-30 hour main quest, there are two attractions in Enchanted Arms. The first, a casino, is found in the main quest. The casino offers Roulette, Bingo, and Slots as well as something a little more interesting, Golem Battle. Here you can gamble your party’s skill and win chips to use for prizes like special golems, attacks, and items. The casino is quite addictive (particularly Roulette) and I found myself putting about five or six hours into the casino mini-games alone. There’s a benefit and a trick to the casino–one can re-sell earned casino prizes for a high price at the game’s stores and earn more money (TB). Doing this will make it possible to buy items that make your party even stronger, making the casino a very worthwhile distraction, albeit a very cheap way to cheat the system. The other distraction is Xbox Live competitive multiplayer, where two players can take their party of golems and duke it out online. The golem battle isn’t any deeper than a normal main quest battle, but it’s still fun to compete and strategize against another person. Despite the linear quest there’s plenty of non-story stuff for you to get lost in, giving Enchanted Arms a feeling of depth and longevity that most RPGs lack.

Enchanted Arms is a mixed bag in terms of presentation. The texture detail is pretty good and the character models are well drawn and animated, and the cityscapes are quite impressive but there is a feeling of unevenness in the empty, stoic world in which Enchanted Arms takes place. The magic effects are hit-or-miss, with some of the special attacks (called EX attacks, similar to Limit Breaks from Final Fantasy games) being rather impressive. Other attacks are slightly boring, and I didn’t like the blur effect that most attacks used. It seemed like a lazy way for From Software to show the element of power of certain attacks. The music is extremely disappointing, with only a few different battle themes and boring, repetitive background music. An epic score similar to most other RPGs would have went very well here, or even electronic music that is often found in other games. Anything would be better than what is offered here. I already mentioned how god-awful the dialogue is, but the English voice acting that is used makes everything even worse. The high-pitched shrill of Yuki’s voice and the whiny, childish voice of Atsuma are both low points. Thank any higher power you want for the ability to use Xbox 360 Custom Soundtracks! Overall, more attention should have been paid to the visuals and audio.

With Enchanted Arms, you’ve got a good battle system, worthy distractions, an above-average storyline, and an interesting and addictive golem collection. There are a few big weak points that make even the infamous “giant crab” look shielded–awful voice acting, boring music, and linear gameplay definitely rupture this Japanese RPG’s path to being a great game. While Enchanted Arms might not be “great,” it’s definitely good. If you’ve been craving a traditional RPG or an Xbox 360 game that will keep you entertained for more than a weekend, consider checking out Enchanted Arms.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 4.5
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 6.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 6.8
Written by Cliff Review Guide