Otogi and Tenchu developer From Software have always been supporters of the Xbox platform despite the fact that theyâ€™re from Japan, so the fact that the first J-RPG on the Xbox 360 comes from them doesnâ€™t come as a surprise. Enchanted Arms was released in the 360â€™s launch window in Japan and has been brought to the US and EU by Ubisoft last month. But is eM good enough to satisfy RPG fans until Blue Dragon comes out?
Enchanted Arms, or [eM] -eNCHANT arM- as itâ€™s called in Japan, is set in the futuristic Yokohama City, one of the only three cities that havenâ€™t been destroyed during a great war that took place 1000 years before the story of Enchanted Arms is set. As you progress through the game youâ€™ll learn about the war, and your goal is to prevent it from happening a second time.
The game kicks of with the gameâ€™s protagonist Atsuma and his 2 buddies Toya and Makoto sitting in their classroom. The classroom situation lends itself perfectly for a nice introductional tutorial to the games unique battle system. The battle system is one of the best things about Enchanted Arms.
Contrary to regular J-RPGâ€™s the battles take place on a 6×4 grid. Itâ€™s turn based and it bears some resemblance to chess. Your team, that consists of 3 party members and yourself, has to each choose a position and an attack each turn and each attack has its own range and effect. Some characters, like Atsuma, have a lot of short range close combat attacks while other characters have a lot of long range attacks. The first few hours this is really what makes the game fun. Youâ€™ll often find yourself doing battles over and over again, mixing up your party members and your attacks until you get the battles right and the game does a good job at keeping the battles challenging. It also helps that the game has over a 100 â€˜Golemsâ€™.
Golems are another cool aspect that From Software came up with. You can think of Golems as simplified Pokemons. Theyâ€™re creatures that assist you in battle and all have their own attacks. As I mentioned earlier there are over a hundred Golems to collect in the game and theyâ€™re all pretty unique. They range from tiny cute comic figures to huge attack robots. You canâ€™t adjust their skills (their attacks and so on) but they gain experience during battles and you can upgrade their stats by leveling up.
The European and American versions of the game come with an English voiceover but some of the voices are pretty annoying. Especially Makotoâ€™s voice tends to get on your nerves quickly. Combine that with the fact that your characters have the tendency to yell out the same lines over and over again during battles and youâ€™ll probably find yourself switching to the original Japanese dub a few minutes into the game. The gameâ€™s score isnâ€™t as annoying as the English voice acting but itâ€™s nothing memorable and it clearly shows that this game didnâ€™t get the huge budget some other J-RPGs get.
Enchanted Arms is the first next-gen J-RPG and itâ€™s nice to see how these games are able to hold up with high-def graphics and fancy effects. However, you canâ€™t just use super high resolution textures and large scales environments without doing something to make them look attractive and From Software dropped the ball on that. The environments are all technically impressive and polished but they all feel dead and dull. You have to travel a lot to make some progress in the story and after a while youâ€™ll probably get bored with the environments. Combine that with the fact that the battles get pretty repetitive once you get your strategy down and you end up with a rather boring experience.
If youâ€™re a hardcore fan of (Japanese) RPGs and youâ€™re not getting Final Fantasy XII or Rogue Galaxy for some reason you might want to check this out when you can get it cheaply. In true J-RPG fashion this game doesn’t have a lot of real gameplay and I accept that that’s one of the merits of the genre, however the battle system gets really old really fast. It looks nice on paper but it just lacks in diversity to keep it interesting. I donâ€™t recommend dropping 60 bucks on this one unless you like throwing away money at mediocre games.
Final Score: 6 out of 10 - Average (how do we rank games?)