Malik (10/2/06)

Enchanted Arms (360)

From From Software

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 important.

So, when 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?

In August, 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.


"Cliché". 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 cliché?

F@#& no! 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 novel plot.

1000 years 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 golem".

These 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.

Cliche yet? I didn't think so either.

You start 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.

One day, 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.

A short 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.

If this sounds cliché to you, but you feel like FF games are always novel and exciting (in the plot department), 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.

As for 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.

Still here? The gay character didn't scare you away? Good.

Game Play

On one 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.

On this 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.

You 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.

Once you 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.

While you 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.

The 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.

The 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 wisely...

...but 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.

Also, if 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.

The one 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.

To restore 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 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.


Some 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.

Each 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?

When you 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 eye-candy whores.


A partly 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.

However, 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!"?).

In the 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.


In 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 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.

On the 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).

If you 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).