Enchanted Arms
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It usually takes a while for new consoles to acquire videogame libraries that make them worth a purchase, particularly if a player favors a specific genre, in Yours Truly’s case role-playing games. Among the first RPGs released in the seventh generation of game consoles was the From Software-developed [eM] –eNCHANT arM- for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, the title ultimately seeing a port to the Sony PlayStation 3 as well, with a foreign release as Enchanted Arms. While neither version received stellar reviews from mainstream videogame reviewers, the game does have plenty of aspects going for it that make it worth a look.

The core of any solid role-playing game experience is its game mechanisms, and Enchanted Arms mercifully does well in this aspect, despite retaining the dated mechanic of randomly-encountered enemies. In the game menus, the player puts together an active party of up to four characters including protagonist Atsuma. Each of the many acquirable characters is of one of six elements: fire, water, wind, earth, light, and dark, with the voluminous cast of allies chiefly coming in the form of golems the player can assemble with the right items, including a golem core.

After an encounter, the player’s characters and their enemies appear on separate but adjacent three-by-four grids, with a random placement for the former upon the commencement of combat. Sometimes the enemy might catch the player’s party off guard, in which case all foes move around and/or execute their attacks. During the player’s turn, they can move around their characters and/or select commands with ranges to execute against the enemy, after which all allies attack, with the enemies all retaliating afterward, a more favorable structure of battle than the often-random turn order of traditional turn-based battle systems.

Elements play a key role to triumph in battles, with fire and water beating one another, earth and wind doing the same, and light and dark having the same oppositional relationship. Winning a battle nets all of the player’s characters experience for occasional level-ups and money, with the battling party also obtaining skill points that the player can use outside battle to learn new skills (some of which the player must first buy from shop points) and increase character parameters. Status point increases can in some instances be the difference between victory and defeat.

All characters that fought also experience a reduction in life points that the player can luckily refill at special stations. If a character’s life points reach zero, than their life will not recover after a battle and be at 1 HP, although fortunately, the main playable characters will rarely run out, and the player can get through most of the game without using the countless spare golems. In the end, the battle system works well for the most part aside from the randomization in characters’ starting positions, not to mention the difficulty of reviving dead characters, with enemies able to kill them again the same turn of revival.

Control is just as solid as combat, with an always-welcome ability to save progress anywhere except in battle, along with generally easy menus, shopping, in-game maps, and good reminders on how to advance the main storyline. Pretty much the only flaws are the inability to skip cutscenes (with players only able to fast-forward through them via scrolling through the dialogue), as well as the sometimes long loading times.

One of the weaker aspects of Enchanted Arms, however, is its narrative, which follows an often-tread route of battle against elemental beings that threaten to destroy the world, among them being the Queen of Ice. One perk, though, is two different endings, with the player luckily not having to start the game from scratch to see both. The translation doesn’t help the plot, with dialogue such as “My name is Queen of Ice” and plenty unnatural combat quotes. Overall, the story is hardly a reason to play.

The English voice acting doesn’t make the characters any more likeable, with its quality horrendous enough to earn it a page on Audio Atrocities, although mercifully, players can switch to the Japanese voices. The music is enjoyable at times, if often ambient, and ultimately, the aurals are only slightly above average.

The game fares better visually than aurally, with a realistic style for the character and enemy models and environments, the latter of which often appear blurry and pixelated when seen close-up. The game models look significantly better, however, with cutscenes often featuring two character models conversing imposed against the current scenery, a style that luckily keeps players from noticing the sometimes-ugly environs close-up. In the end, a decent-looking game.

Finally, the game takes about thirty hours to complete, with only a few sidequests, and a feature that at first looks to be a New Game Plus, except that players simply return to the last town instead of starting the game over with retained stats.

In conclusion, Enchanted Arms, despite the relative lukewarm reception it garnered from “professional” videogame reviewers, was actually a good start to seventh-generation role-playing games, what with its solid combat and control, although it does have things going against it such as its run-of-the-mill storyline and weak English voice acting. Nonetheless, those that prefer the gameplay of RPGs to story will be in for a solid experience that proves that even mainstream game journalism can be somewhat unreliable.

The Good:
+Solid tactical battle system.
+Convenient save-anywhere feature.
+Decent visuals.

The Bad:
-Weak English voicework.
-Run-of-the-mill plot with spotty localization.
-Not much replay value.

The Bottom Line:
A possible “Final Fantasy killer.”

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 5/10
Music/Sound: 6/10
Graphics: 7/10
Localization: 6/10
Lasting Appeal: 4/10
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Playing Time: 25-40 Hours

Overall: 6.5/10

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