When the 360
launched, one initial question was in many people's minds;
would there be any non-Western RPGs this time around. After
all, the XBox was left with almost no Japanese RPGs that
actually made it to the US. When you toss in the fact that
the one that made it, Metal Dungeon, was so crappy that is
doesn't merit any mention, this question become particularly
From Software announced that they would have an RPG for the
360, around launch (in Japan, at least), people were left
with another set of questions; would it be any good, and
would it actually come to the US?
we had our answers. That is when Ubi Soft brought the
Western side of the world this Japanese RPG. However, the
reception had been only luke warm in Japan, and the initial
reviews all looked pretty bad in the US. How was it really?
What happens when many RPGs, along with fanboys of several
franchises, all live in one market. It's time to stop living
in denial, and to get real.
That is the one word most often associated with RPG plots.
Especially true for any RPG that doesn't belong to the
fanboy favorites (despite how they are some of the most
cliché on the market) like Phantasy Star, Dragon Quest, and,
of course, Final Fantasy. In fact, if you check out
descriptions of Enchanted Arms, one of the first words
you'll see is usually on how cliché this game is. Is it
Considering that almost everything in RPG plots has been
done before, it's hard to find one that is 100% cliché-free.
EA, however, comes pretty close to achieving a completely
before the game begins, armies of golems battled across the
Earth. Golems, which behave much like one would expect a
robot or a monster to be in other games, were machines
created to follow the order of their master, even after the
master had passed on. This meant that these massive armies
would be given commands to kill and would continue to do so
until all was laid to waste. At the front of this conflict
laid the three major countries/cities of the world;
Yokohama, London, and Kyoto. Each one created a "devil
devil golems were endowed with the power to constantly
regenerate, and each was given the order to destroy, and to
never stop. Eventually, these three masters of destruction
were sealed, but not destroyed. Life slowly was able to be
restored, and a sense of normalcy returned to Earth...but
all powers of arcane magic were also lost in this conflict.
The age of enlightenment and technology, on the other hand,
were just beginning.
yet? I didn't think so either.
as the only really cliché element of EA; Atsuma. An idiot to
end all idiots. You are a student at the school of
enchanting (which has the power to grant "life" to golems,
along with other nifty abilities...think of enchanting like
inventing new technology) in Yokohama. While you may be a
complete fool, you have an amazing power to destroy
enchantments with your right arm. This power, which is
initially a curse (since it makes you the least liked person
in the school devoted to what you can destroy) soon grows to
be the basis of a grand adventure.
you, along with your fellow school mates Toya (the token
genius and the school's most popular student) and Makoto
(...I'll get back to this character...) skip classes to
attend the Yokohama founding celebration in town. This is
basically a giant town fair to celebrate the birth of the
town long ago. All goes well, and you get your standard
issue RPG tutorial, until all of the town's golems go
berserk. Next thing you know, guard robots, pizza vending
golems, clown golems, and attack dog golems are laying waste
to the people of Yokohama. To further confound the problems,
it is snowing a dreadful blizzard that drains the life of
all the snow touches.
time later, after some dungeon diving, you end up being
responsible, via your special arm, for awakening the Queen
of Ice. This is Yokohama's devil golem from the golem wars.
In the process, you also manage to watch as your arm tries
to take control of our mind, Toya being taken as a hostage
by the fleeing devil golem, and Makoto suffering a sad
fate...all while Yokohama is completely destroyed in a
blizzard of ice and death.
sounds cliché to you, but you feel like FF games are always
novel and exciting (in the plot department), you sir...you
are a f#@%-tard. This plot is as fresh and new as any RPG
plot we'll see, outside of a Shin Megami Tensei game. Also,
it's one hell of an addictive plot, since you'll always want
to see just a little more.
Makoto...yes, he is gay. Yes, he likes to dress as a woman.
Yes, he is in love with Toya. Yes, it's true. Also, I might
add that he is NOT a pivotal main character, and his gay
antics do not last long in the game. I might also add that
there are plenty of gay people in modern American society.
I say all
of this since there is a lot of message board BS out there
of people avoiding this interesting game over one gay
character. If you cannot get over your homophobic
tendencies, then I will just say this; more good games for
the rest of us who have learned to grow up. Also, I'll add
that there is only one truly gay scene in the game, and it
is a simple kiss...assuming you even get the correct plot
devices to fall into place (it's in the uber-happy good
ending). If you want to skip this game, yet you're an RPG
fan, just because of the one gay character, you really need
to get over yourself.
here? The gay character didn't scare you away? Good.
hand, we have a very traditional turn based RPG. There is
the standard issue dungeon questing that will take you
through random battle plagued tunnels as you search out
bosses or new lands, along with some nice treasures. You
also face the standards of towns in which you play some
mini-games, talk to people, and buy your equipment.
side of things, I'll add that the random battles are
definitely not bad. They can happen a little too frequently,
at times, but the interesting battle system makes them fun
and quick enough to keep one still interested in the game.
Plus, there are the standard set of non-random encounters
from both bosses and special golems that you must kill to
add to your party.
is also a little interesting. You will find, at most, four
human characters to fill your four person battle group at a
time. These four people are usually the same four and are
almost always with you after you recruit each member.
However, if you want to spice things up, you can bring
golems into the battle group. These are the same golems you
will fight in random battles and some of the bosses. So, if
you thought that the hydra boss (every RPG has a hydra, so
it's no spoiler) was cool, you're in luck; you'll be able to
create it after you slay it. Some golem cores will be
obtained from boss battles, and some must be purchased.
have a core, you simply must combine the right basic
ingredients (which you find after all battles and from
random treasures, as well as being available for purchase)
and you will have it. This is also how you create, via
enchanting and a shop, your weapons....well, you buy or find
these cores instead of fighting for them. The only rule is
that the better a golem or a weapon is, the more ingredients
it will consume to make.
must always have Atsuma in the battle party (he is the
protagonist, after all), you can use any mix of three other
golems or humans as you want in about 98% of the game's
fights. This allows a similar level of customization that
one might find in Pokemon...and Pokemon may be RPG-lite, but
it does have customization down nicely.
difference between these human and golems is what they can
do. As you play, humans will get new skills and abilities,
while golems will always keep the same abilities, but still
gain power as they level. Also, while the battle group is
four people, eight others can wait in reserves, and these
eight will always receive the same level of experience
points after a battle. The difference is that skill points
are only obtained by the active four. These SP can be used
to purchase new skills for humans, and to boost any
attribute (HP, EP, support, direct, and ranged damage, or
agility) on both humans and golems. You can literally
customize a healer character into a fighter, assuming you
find the offensive skills to buy for this person.
uniqueness of EA truly shows in combat. First off, all
skills, including basic attacks, consume EP (ether points).
A weak attack with limited range will consume very little,
but powerful attacks that hit many will take a lot out of a
fighter. This means you will need to plan you actions
this is more apparent when the battle takes place on two
three (deep) by four (wide) grids. One grid is for you, and
one is for the enemies. Each skill will cover a given range
and area of effect, and each character can only move a
certain number of squares each turn. Also, any direct
attacks will be weakened if it hits a target closer to the
attacker before it hits another target (if monster A is in
front of monster B, and they are both hit by a direct line
attack; A takes more damage and helps to shield B). Also,
each character/enemy will have an elemental alignment, and
opposite alignment attacks will be extra brutal, while same
alignment attacks will be soft and pathetic. What does this
all mean? You will need to think out your actions carefully,
as well as you'll need to pick what characters and skills
are brought into combat ahead of time since each human is
limited to about 5 skills being equipped at a given time.
you're not the type to want to finish the game, or if you
want to hurry the final round of a battle (when only one
enemy remains with few HP), you can select auto battle. This
will take all of the thinking out of combat...but at a cost.
If you use it too much later on in the game, you will
die...a lot. The AI is never as smart as you, and it will
become evident rather quickly. However, while strategy is
involved in the battles, the simple fact remains; no battle,
besides a boss battle, should last more than 30 second. Toss
in the ability to hold the Y button to speed up all combat
animations and the battles will fly by.
other change from typical RPG battle controls is in the VP
system. Each character, human or golem, has a set number of
vitality points (VP) that never increase. They can range
anywhere from about 15 (for over powered golems) to up to
100 (for Atsuma). As you battle, you will always start with
full HP and EP, assuming you have at least one VP. However,
your VP will decrease as you take damage or as time passes
in a battle. If you win on your first round, and the enemies
didn't attack first, you will lose no VP. However, a wasted
turn will lead to a loss of 1 VP, and any damage will result
in further lose of vitality. If you flat out die in combat,
that character will be returned to life with a large VP
loss. Once your VP hits 0, you character will start all
combat at 1 HP and 1 EP.
VP, you must go to a recharging station. Each town has one,
and many dungeons will have one or two depending on the
length of the dungeon. You can later on purchase VP
restoring items for a large cost. They will restore full VP,
but you can only carry 9 of any item at a time, so usage
requires some strategy, as well.
So, in the
end, you have, with Enchanted Arms, a nice blend of the
old-school RPG mechanics (random battles, towns, dungeons,
shops), and some rather fun and innovative battle mechanics.
This creates, ultimately, a very fun and addictive game to
play. Best of all, the difficulty remains balanced
throughout the entire game, with only a few boss battles
pushing the limits of difficulty one way or the other.
On a final
note, there is a multiplayer portion to this game.
Essentially, it's one on one golem battles. I have not
played this part of EA, but from the sounds of it, it comes
down to the same basics of Pokemon duels...you get the most
powerful golem, overly level it, and try to pwn everyone.
Nothing complex or exciting...but a good diversion for those
who love to min-max.
people will say that the visuals look sub par for a 360
game. Those people are full of shit. To start things out,
the locational foreground and background visuals are amazing
to behold. The visual style can go from Phantasy Star Online
style cyber-tech locations to rustic Japanese villages, down
to dirty and decaying caves and dungeons. The visuals always
match the location you are meant to be in.
Additionally, the characters are all uniquely designed to
look appropriate to their purpose. The golems can range from
bizarre (like the pizza serving golems who have heads made
of giant pizza looking circles or the cute maids and nurses
that serve to heal and assist) to brutal and grizzly (like
the mutated dog, Cerberus, and the battle mechs designed for
military patrols). Each golem has a background story for
it's purpose, and the visuals will never disappoint these
backgrounds. This also applies to the humans as well. The
elder of an ancient Japanese village will look like he fits
in there, while the denizens of the enlightened Yokohama
will all carry a more studious and futuristic look.
character is designed with great detail and massive polygon
counts. There is some blandness to the visuals, in the lack
of some texture, but this is not a problem in the game. The
slightly "smoothed" out textures will serve to remind the
player that the game is fantasy, and not reality. Why should
fantasy look 100% realistic, after all?
round things out with some really nice particle effects from
smoke and snow, the visuals form a very amazing final
picture. Played on a good quality HDTV, this game should
take a few awe-filled glances from all but the most jaded of
mixed bag on this side of the game. The audio effects, to
start things off, are wonderful. Things will sound
realistic, despite the visuals trying to keep things more
fantasy based. This is great, since it will keep enough of a
fantasy balance to keep things interesting, but enough
realism to let one know, from a simple hearing, that fire is
fire, wind is wind, and explosions are from shit blowing up.
the background music will leave you with nothing to take
away from the game. It's not that the music is bad...but
rather that it is non-descript. You will not once walk away
from EA with a song stuck in your head that was attributed
to this game. The music will never even come close to being
bad...but it just never comes close to greatness either.
As for the
final part of the modern trifecta of audio, the voice work
is a toss up. The Japanese voice cast is definitely better
than the English cast. Best of all, you can select at any
point to change the voices. However, both have good and bad
actors. In particular, the American voice of Raigar (your
tank of a fighter who was once a knight captain) is greatly
voiced with a strict and serious undertone. Also, the
Handsome Man (all you know him by for 90% of the game) is
wonderfully voiced...despite an interesting fact that
keeping this review spoiler-free will not let me say. On the
other hand, Atsuma and Makoto both are voiced by some of the
worst you could imagine. In particular, Makoto is played to
the full gay stereotype...I won't say much more, but you've
been warned. The same warning applies to many of the golem
voices. Not to mention that some are just confusing (why
does Executor keep shouting "Richard!"?).
end, the audio does it's job, but it doesn't do anything
you'd hope from the first Japanese RPG of the new
generation. No amazing epic musical scores, there's no solid
voice cast on either the Japanese or English audio, but at
least the effects are nice.
conclusion, there are some flaws in this game that don't fit
into any real area of this review. For one thing, some of
the written dialogue has not been translated...at all. There
are a few times when Japanese character will fill the bottom
of the screen. On top of that, some things received multiple
translations (Marlin Glave, Merlin Grave, Malin Gave? Which
is it?), and some of the text is not properly formatted to
fit the text boxes (words run off the screen at times). This
will not effect any plot-related text, but it will amuse or
annoy the more thorough of players.
same note, voice actors for the American version seem torn
on pronunciations. Maybe if they didn't know each other, it
would be so bad when Toya and Atsuma both keep changing how
to pronounce Makoto (or Makato, as they sometimes call him).
Also, no one is sure of Karin's name in actual pronunciation
(not even Karin, herself).
push these minor flaws aside, you are left with a very solid
experience. The game could be longer, but it might then have
overstayed it's welcome. In reality, this game balances
length, challenge, innovation, nostalgia, visuals, and
auditory quality with a true sense of skill. While some of
the plot could have delved a little deeper, the plot is
still confluent and logical, with enough plot twists to keep
one interested. So, despite what many reviews would have one
to believe, this non-Final Fantasy is actually a very
rounded and entertaining RPG. So,
I happily give Enchanted
Arms a 8.75/10
(it would go a little higher if the plot went just a little
deeper and if the challenge didn't suffer the occasional
skew to easy or hard).