Reviews// Enchanted Arms (Xbox 360)

An enchanting tale of adventure, battles...

Posted 6 Sep 2006 14:05 by
Enchanted Arms is touted as the ?First True RPG Adventure Exclusively on Xbox 360?. An impressive claim, until you look at those qualifying adjectives. Without them though, and specifically the ?exclusively?, the claim is a little disingenuous, because the Xbox 360 already has Final Fantasy XI, but not exclusively - there was also a PC version. Of course, Final Fantasy sets the standard that others have to match when it comes to Fantasy Role Playing games. Fans of the genre are unlikely to be unaware of Final Fantasy's existence. So what does Enchanted Arms have to offer users who have probably already got Final Fantasy XI? Well, mainly it offers another slice of RPG fun. Beyond that though, it's difficult to say. Final Fantasy bestrides the market so completely that other games are almost inevitably also-rans, but this does not mean that they are necessarily bad, and Enchanted Arms certainly isn't.

In the game, you take the role of Atsuma, and one failing of the game compared to FF is immediately apparent - you can't rename your character. But in fairness, there's a good reason for that. As well as the subtitled speech, Enchanted Arms has a good deal of voice-acted dialogue, so retaining your given name is vital for this to be feasible. Atsuma is a student at a school that teaches Enchantment - basically your common or garden RPG magic spells; sort of a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Hogwarts. As the story progresses, the game goes to some lengths to differentiate between Enchantment - as practiced in the ?modern day? - and Magic, a lost skill of the ancients from before the Golem Wars. Atsuma's not one of the top students academically, but he has a spectacular skill that is, it seems, unique to him. He can nullify enchantment with his right arm. This power makes him none too popular at a school full of enchanters-in-training. Atsuma has two friends - Toya (pronounced like, but spelled differently from the diminutive 80's pop star of recent facelift fame) and Yakoto. This pair are - and pay attention here, because this is one of Enchanted Arms? real points of uniqueness - a homosexual couple. Yes, that's right. Toya is a man (unlike the diminutive 80's pop star, who was a pixie) and so is Yakoto - difficult to tell with those names, but they are, believe us. Now, there's nothing wrong with gaydom, and statistically, there should be more gay characters in computer games, but this pair's sexual preferences do not seem to add anything to the game except to give the developers the opportunity to include a ridiculously camp character. So while the inclusion of gay characters in a computer game is to be applauded, perpetuating false stereotypes reduces the significance of the move somewhat. But since the nature of Toya and Yakoto's love for one another is not explored graphically, the use of extreme camp might be to avoid confusion over their sexual alignment. If Yakoto's voice were more manly, they could easily be construed to be just very good buddies.

The storyline in most RPGs is very similar. In the past, some cataclysmic or apocalyptic event happened. The references to these events are invariably obscure at first, and become more specific as the story progresses. As the game unfolds, what happened in the past is revealed as new drama transpires, and somehow the two are related. In Enchanted Arms, the past event was a huge war in which Golems ? robots, basically - were involved. Super-powerful Golems evolved incredible regenerative powers that made them almost immortal. They then destroyed most of the planet before having their power cores removed and being locked away - supposedly for good. Now, for some unexplained reason, these Demons are being released, and the planet faces disaster once more.

As is typical for these kinds of games, much of the action is tied to the elements, Fire, Air, Water etc., and certain weapons or battle moves are associated with a given element, as is each playable character and enemy. Battling like with like will result in lower damage being inflicted, while opposite elements result in greater damage. You must bear this in mind when battling, as it will become an important part of your battle strategy if you hope to win some of the more difficult battles. There's all the normal collecting of stuff along the way - stuff you'll win for beating opponents in battle, or stuff you'll just discover in the many barrels and crates you'll encounter as you explore the game world. A swift tap on the 'A' button will smash the crates, and on about 20% of occasions, reveal a collectible item. These items range from Tablets or money to Golem Cores. Golems do ?man things? in the game world, such as perform security or sell pizza, but they can also be used as members of your party and can fight alongside you in battle. Once you win or discover a Golem Power Core, you can synthesise the golem. They then look and behave just like one of the playable characters in your party, and you can swap them in and out of your battle group. You can also collect weapons upgrades for members of your group, but once you have collected them, you have to remember to manufacture the weapon and equip your player with it. The same is true of skills. Weapons upgrades and skills have a cost - either TB (tablet) or SP (skill points). So far, so like every other RPG you've ever played, and much like recent Final Fantasy games in particular. But the battle sequences, which are fundamental to any Fantasy Role Playing game are Enchanted Arms? real strength.
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