STAFF REVIEW of Enchanted Arms (Xbox 360)

Saturday, September 16, 2006.
by Adam Rivard

Enchanted Arms Box art If you've played any other Japanese role-playing game recently, you'd immediately recognize Enchanted Arms as one of them. You can tell the game's visual style takes cues from the Final Fantasy series, especially parts VII and VIII. Similarly to Final Fantasy VIII, the game begins in sort of a futuristic school, and things start pleasantly enough as the game's main character, Atsuma, makes small talk with his professor, friends, and fellow students. Atsuma isn't just a wise-cracking, headstrong kid, though. He's got special power in his right arm, which lets him drain away enchantments and more (I don?t want to ruin it for you) but it has something to do with golems (Devil Golem to be exact). Between the game's strong story line and its unusual turn-based combat system, Enchanted Arms is a very addicting game that makes you play deeper and deeper into the experience. On average about 40 hours to make it threw this game.

One thing that's rather off-putting about the game is the English voice acting. While not necessarily bad, it's delivered in the over-the-top fashion typical of a lot of anime, and at least one character in particular comes across as a little too much. He's Makoto, one of Atsuma's companions, and he's very clearly infatuated with Atsuma's intelligent, handsome friend Toya. Makoto is probably the most flamboyant video game character I've ever seen, if his flowing blonde hair and midriff-bearing doublet weren't enough, his voice and dialogue are about as stereotypically fitting as you might possibly imagine.
The game is quite chatty overall, at least in the beginning, and a lot of the dialogue is delivered in full speech. You get a pretty good sense for Atsuma and his friends early on, and while our hero seems a bit dopey at first, we know going in that he's going to have to undergo some transformative experience that takes him from zero to hero. Oh, and if the English voice acting does rub you the wrong way, rest assured there's a Japanese-language option available as well. It's great to have the option to play games like this with English subtitles but Japanese speech.
Only part of the game's early sequence involves hearing Makoto complain about how Atsuma ate all the delicious lunch he lovingly prepared for Toya. There is also, in fact, combat. The combat system in Enchanted Arms follows a turn-based structure that can be likened to Final Fantasy or other Japanese RPGs, but unlike in most such games, your characters' turns aren't dictated by their speed ratings; it's yours to decide who moves in which order. The battlefield is divided up into a chess-like grid, but many characters' attacks will affect a number of different spaces on the grid, which makes positioning important. Even the very first attacks you have access to will ravage your foes with explosive elemental attacks; some of the later attacks in the game fills the screen with spectacular effects. Since this is going to be a lengthy game that has you seeing lots of combat, Enchanted Arms does offer a "fast forward" feature in case you want to see a battle resolve more quickly. You can also make your characters auto-attack, but where's the fun in that, right? Enchanted Arms' combat seems to revolve around using your characters' attacks in wise combination, while also using different golems' powers to aid you. There are over 100 different golems waiting to be discovered in this game.
So, what are the possible outcomes of combat? There are only two options, victory or defeat. Ok, that is a bit simplistic, why don?t I explain in a little more detail what happens in both of these situations.
Why don?t we start out with the not so happy one? defeat. When your hit points reach zero you do not immediately die, you have three turns to revive the character, if not done so in that time then they will be removed from the game. Even if your entire team succumbs to the enemy forces, all is not lost. Falling in combat is not the end of all life as we know it; you can select to ?Retry? the battle you have just lost. Of course, you can also get frustrated, throw the controller across the room, turn off the system and try again later from your last save, but it just seems so much easier and less dangerous to bystanders of your anger to retry the single battle.
I mentioned that one of your options if you fell in combat was to simply start over from your last save. Well how far back that is will be completely up to you. The game lets you save whenever and wherever you please? so if you lose a lot of ground for a power outage, a brother tripping over the power cord or whatever, you have no one to blame but yourself.
That?s enough of that depressing stuff; let?s talk about the happy joy feelings you get from victory. When you successfully emerge from battle not only will you be rewarded with all kinds of points that will help you not only gain levels for your characters (the staple of any RPG), but points that can help you enhance your character on the spot as well. There is vitality, special skill, experience, hit points and more.
Finally, one of the things that distinguish this game the most is the fact that Enchanted Arms is an ONLINE RPG! Yep, I said online! If you are the type of person that likes to brag that you are the greatest gamer in the world now it is time for you to put up or shut up. Log onto the Xbox Live online gaming system and challenge others to Versus battles. Choose your best characters, because how well you do will affect your online ranking. Fight party to party and see who has the best Golems.

The designs of the main characters are pretty poor, but the Golems all have a unique look to them and a very distinct anime/manga style to them. The environments are also really spectacular, as some cities like Kyoto look just like feudal Japan, with water stepping stones and beautiful cherry blossom trees. The lighting in the game is the most impressive part of the art. There are different light sources all over the world; and the shadows casts from them are very impressive. That is not the best part about the lighting in the game though. The skills you unleash in the game have some great visual effects with them. The best part has to be the EX skills. Here you will be presented with a spectacular visual display, along with the devastating attack. However beautiful the lighting may be, it does not make up for the lackluster artwork during conversations in the game. Conversations are still framed images of the two people talking to each other? no animation at all. The cut scenes that present the story to you do have some fantastic design though. In the end, the graphics are decent, but I did expect more on my Xbox 360.

Atrocious! The music is okay and the sounds are very pedestrian, but the voice acting is horrendous. A word of advice: play it long enough to see how bad it is, then switch to the Japanese voice acting to make your play through a bit more tolerable. I'm not usually a stickler for bad voice acting, but here it simply cannot be helped ? it is bad! And for the replay value? due to the linear nature of the game, the reapply suffers. However, because there are no character classes in the game, you can customize each character however you like. You have an army of Golems to choose from. Each time you play the game, it could be a very different experience. When you add on the ability to challenge other gamers online, this game has some decent replay value.

As the first Japanese role-playing game for the Xbox 360, Enchanted Arms automatically fills a BIG void. From the very first seconds of the game, you'll know you're not going to be in for anything at all like Oblivion. The apparently complex combat system and intriguing game world set up some solid groundwork for Enchanted Arms to continue to keep you entertained for a long time.

Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 8.8 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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