Enchanted Arms

Enchanted Arms advertises itself as the first “true” RPG for the Xbox 360. This is likely to raise a few eyebrows; haven’t these people heard of Oblivion? The confusion arises because, for some people, RPGs are narrative-based games that involve a linear story and turn-based battles: Japanese RPGs. And Enchanted Arms is indeed the first Japanese RPG for the Xbox 360.

And because it’s the first Japanese RPG for the Xbox 360, it has the market to itself. Consequently, it’s likely to sell to 360 fans that are thirsty for Japanese RPGs. In the past, you’d be considered mad if you liked JRPGs and only purchased an Xbox. But the 360 looks set to be a different story; Trust Bell, Lost Odyssey, and Blue Dragon are some huge names coming to the 360. However, they’re a while off yet, and Enchanted Arms is here now. It’s a good job then that it’s an excellent Japanese RPG, especially if you’re new to the genre.

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The reason Enchanted Arms is such a great example of the genre is because it ignores most of the genre's negative clichés. Oh sure, you’ll still find plenty of familiar material here. The main protagonist is a lazy youth unaware of the fiendish strength that is housed within him. The enemy is an ancient evil that has finally been unleashed after years of slumber. The quest is to rise up to the challenge and save the world from this evil and over kinds of corruption encountered along the way. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here.

But that’s not actually a bad thing. The reason people like Japanese RPGs is because they do Japanese RPG things. After all, why would you want your dog to meow? And things are pretty decent as far as the story of Enchanted Arms goes. The dialogue is surprisingly fluid and is at times rather hilarious. The story is engaging enough, and giving snippets of dramatic future events is excellent motivation to keep playing, if only to find out what the hell is going on.

However, while the focus of a Japanese RPG is the story, there has to be some kind of gameplay. After all, if you just want a story, go read a book. Fortunately, Enchanted Arms has some of the best gameplay found in a recent RPG. Again, this is thanks to the fact it has shed most of the negative clichés that accompany the genre. There are still random battles, true; but those battles are more than simply lining up and taking turns to unleash a standard attack.

Instead, you get what is affectionately known as “speed tactics”. Each battle takes place on a 4x6 grid, with two sides of 4x3 squares. On one side is your party, and on the other is the enemy. Like any tactics game, such as Advance Wars, each character can move within a certain range at the start of each turn. From there they can execute an attack on all enemies within range. However, neither team can cross the center line, and each attack has a certain range. The trick is to position your party in such a fashion that you are able to take out the enemy in the least possible number of moves. Consequently, the battle system feels far more engaged than the average RPG, and even the smallest of battles are a joy to play.

Naturally, you will also have access to all the staples of RPG battles: magic attacks, summons, the use of items, etc. Additionally, players can choose to fast forward the battle animations if they wish, speeding things up considerably. They can also choose to simply set the battles to automatic, and coupling this with the fast forward option means that battles can almost be skipped altogether. Just be warned that automatic battles do not always lead to victory. However, when you die, you can reattempt the battle over and over until you win. You can also save at any point. Ultimately, this means that Enchanted Arms is free of the frustrating repetition that is common in Japanese RPGs.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Enchanted Arms, however, is the ability to synthesize and build new golems. Golems act as party members alongside the human cast, although they only appear in battle. Although the name suggests something along the lines of a rocky giant, golems can range from armour-clad giants to cute little maids with giant chainguns. Yes, it’s bizarre at times, but it never feels out of place. There are literally hundreds of golems to collect, each with their own unique abilities, and it really gives the game a lot of variety. A great deal of time can be spent simply acquiring all the golems in the game, so if you’ve gotta catch ‘em all, this is the game for you.

Because Enchanted Arms forsakes many of the negative clichés of Japanese RPGs while holding onto all the positive ones, it makes an excellent RPG for newcomers to the genre. That’s not to say that JRPG junkies aren’t catered for here; there are plenty of high-level challenges, and the game sports some of the best gameplay in the genre. The production values aren’t even close to being on par with those of Square-Enix’s efforts, but the game is at times more enjoyable than both Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.

Ultimately, if you have a 360 and you like Japanese RPGs or want to like Japanese RPGs, Enchanted Arms is the game for you. The game’s not cheap, but there’s plenty of content, especially if you try to collect all the different golems. The story is engaging and characters are loveable. The gameplay is enjoyable, and the design is free of the genres staple frustrations. There’s also nothing quite like this on the 360 at the moment. Consequently, Enchanted Arms comes highly recommended.

"A great RPG that is free of negative clichés."
- Enchanted Arms
Follow Own it? Rating: M   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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