It’s about damn time the Xbox family of consoles gets some Japanese-style game love, especially in the RPG realm. Sure, a few good North American style RPGs have sucked the life out of thousands upon thousands of gamers on the 360, but it’s only recently with FromSoftware’s release of Enchanted Arms do gamers on this side of the pond get to experience the flavor from the East.
The big question remains though, is this title enough to sway additional Japanese gamers which will further entice developers to make the more unique games; and more importantly will we want to play it? In a nutshell; it won’t sway too many people – but it definitely does scratch that itch that has been building for games of this type — especially for those who are willing to invest enough time to get to a point where the story starts to get interesting.
Your main interface into this game is the slacker Atsuma, a bored student at university in Yokohama City who tends to get by thanks to his overachieving friend Toya and his flamboyant wanna-be suitor Makoto. Some will immediately be put off by Makoto due to his obvious desire for Toya, and some will likely get to the point where they stop playing the game altogether due to him. Get over it; he’s in the game only a short while.
The story takes at least 6 hours to finally growinto something interesting, and from there it continues to keep the player’s attention. However, that being said, if it wasn’t for the unnecessarily long and uninspired banter, the story could have been moved along at a much quicker pace. The story is told through in-engine cut scenes (that can be short-circuited) and thankfully relatively few CGI sequences which are also skippable. The story involves a war from long ago which involved robot-type beings which are known as golems. Excessively strong golems that waged war 1000 years prior to the game were called Devil Golems, and it’s the arrival of these Devil Golems and Atsuma’s enchanted arm that propel the story.
Being that this is a Japanese RPG, you can expect turn-based battles; a lot of turn-based battles. One of the biggest downsides to Enchanted Arms is the encounter rate for the random battles. There were times where Atsuma and company would literally move one step from their previous battle, and be forced into another. To ease the player’s suffering, the developers have granted each character in your party (four at any given time) the ability to completely regenerate hit points before each battle. “Where’s the fun in this?” you might ask? Well, they’ve linked another form of vitality called VP which diminishes with each battle, depending on the duration of the fight. Once this VP is reduced to zero, the character (or golem) loses the ability to regenerate HP and is essentially useless until you find one of the sparsely placed healing points, or use an item. You can, however, swap out a character with dangerously low VP for another character/golem in reserve and VP regenerate over time, which adds to the strategic part of EnArms.
The battles are in fact turn-based, but rather than allow any character free reign to attack any other, the battle screen takes place on a grid and each character has a limited range of movement and attacks. Once again, strategy weighs in heavily as you’ll want to place high HP party members on the front lines while keeping supporting members near the back.
While initially feeling somewhat limited by what can easily be perceived as a clunky battle system, perseverance does pay off. While it can be tempting to utilize the Auto Battle feature, doing so will only prevent you from learning the little tricks that make the larger battles much more bearable. Thankfully, the battles also feature a fast forward button, since all of your attacks are simultaneously coordinated – you then sit back and watch the show unfold. Though sometimes watching the large magic attacks form can be tedious, fast forwarding through them helps keep the pace slightly higher.
Another little piece of Japanese culture that slipped into this title is the method of obtaining additional golems to join your party. Some are earned by simply purchasing them from a store, while others are acquired by finding them in some out the way location and beating them in battle. Golems and weapons are not merely bought but what you actually buy is the core of the weapon/golem. To fully synthesize the desired item, you must have a set number of gems, and this number varies based on golem type. A supportive healing golem will require more mind gems while an attack golem will obviously need power gems.
In the audio/visual department, the game suffers from what is simply atrocious English voice work. The original Japanese track is available along with English subtitles, which is a welcome reprieve from the English voice acting. When the game is in wide open areas, it can look quite lush and does take advantage of the Xbox 360 hardware, but at other times, things look a bit blocky and jagged. Battle scenes can be quite nice to watch thanks to some very large bosses and some decent magic effects, but the game won’t win any “prettiest game” awards.
It’s very nice to finally have a Japanese style RPG on the predominantly American-targeted Xbox 360, even though Enchanted Arms may not be the ideal candidate to win over hardened players. The biggest detraction from the title has to be the snail’s pace that the game starts with. gamers who are new to the genre will be turned off early thanks to the game going nowhere, slowly. The other weakness is the random encounters system — as sometimes it’s nice to get from point A to point B without having to fight fifteen battles. The tacked-on Xbox Live mode really seems out of place in a title like this as well. If you’re planning on hopping online to take on other gamers in golem battles, get ready to see the same set of golems in every match, eliminating the possibility of fun online with this game.
- Overall: 7.2
- Not a bad game by any means, but the slow initial pace combined with horrible voice work make for a game that most players won’t want to make it past hour 5.
— Jeff Paramchuk