Enchanted Arms (360) – Review

Enchanted Arms - CoverCalling itself “one of the first true next-gen role-playing adventures”, “Enchanted Arms”, developed by From Software and distributed by Ubisoft for the Xbox 360 and now the PlayStation 3, the game may be the first next-gen RPG, but it definitely falls short of being a memorial title. The game does try to add a few elements to the standard JRPG format that would make non-RPG players more comfortable with the game, but the end result is a very lackluster performance that doesn’t compare well with the established likes of Square Enix and other long-time standbys in the RPG world.

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Enchanted Arms (360) – Mid-game Thoughts (~20hr/60%)

So I’ve put a good chunk of time into Enchanted Arms over the weekend (broke 10,000 Gamerpoints with it, woo!)

I will say that without knowing how the game lets you improve your skills, the skill/battle system seems awfully random.  However, once I recognized that nearly every skill has a progressively better one that the character will eventually require (“standard”, “High”, and “Mega”, so far) similar to the progression for magic spells in Final Fantasy, and that the levels doesn’t change the location or range of the attack, just the power of the attack, it made chosing which 5 skills to carry along rather easy save in a few cases where you need to opt for a healing/support skill over another attack-type skill with a different target range as the others.

Once I got used to that, nearly every battle that I was in, I just let the computer perform the AI on it, save for boss battles and some of the more difficult random encounters.   And I only had to spend a few minutes leveling up only to get enough cash to get health regeneration for a tough boss battle.

The story does get somewhat better after you get past the first 5 or so hours; it’s still not a Final Fantasy quality story, but there’s a bit more depth to the characters and what’s going on in the world.

Enchanted Arms (360) – Initial Impressions

I should note that one of the problems with going through sooo many games is that for RPGs, you can tend to lose track of the plot, characters, and combat/skills/magic stuff if you either drop it for long enough or try to play too many RPGs at the same time.  I had previous tries to do this, but it’s hard to do when a lot of RPGs come out in a few short months.  So I’ve decided to try to make it through one console RPG at a time; other games can be dispersed through this since they’re not plot heavy, and portable RPGs are a different beast.  I did start EA to about 10 hrs before (maybe 3 months ago?) but I decided to restart it to get back into the plot.

Anyway, Enchanted Arms brings a few decidedly non-JRPG elements to a JRPG: first, you can save anywhere (outside of battle) so there’s no need to race between fixed save points; these are also different from Quicksaves that, for example, the FF games on the GBA/DS have where the save is destroyed if you load from it.   Additionally, if you die in battle, you have the option to try the battle again, thus there’s almost no risk in the regular wanderings (they’re the usual invisible random monster encounters).   I think without these elements, there was no chance for this game getting to the 360.

The combat is a turn based type approach, where each character you have can move about in a 3×4 grid and then have special attacks or defensive/healing spells that affect a specific part of the opponents’ 3×4 grid.  The idea adds some more strategy to the usually bashing, because the longer you spend in battle, the more Vitality Points (VPs) you lose.   Characters can fall in battle, but as long as they have VPs, they’ll be back at full health and power the next battle, and specific stations can be used to restore VPs, but should VPs drop to zero, that character is completely out until you can restore him or her at the next restoration point.  Fortunately, your party has more than just the human characters; the world is filled with special robots that you can collect cores, synthesize, and have fight along side you as characters, and thus you have 4 active characters with 4 more in backup.

The combat’s ok, but it can be drawn out a bit because of how long it takes to place each character and determine their move.  It would have helped if there was a way to see the pattern of influence that each move had without having to select it, as to make the strategy work out faster.   Fortunately, if you get into an area with rather easy monsters, you can, on a turn by turn basis, have the computer run your characters for you, which will make save attacks but may not be the fastest way to end the battle.

The characters are… well, odd.  The lead character’s got a notable lisp and is very very dense, but that just starts the pack.

It’s definitely a very different from from other JRPG, as many elements are definitely influenced by western games, but I know not to expect much.  The joke that’s been around since the announcement of EA for the PS3 is that PS3 owners will now too be able “to experience the mediocrity of EA” for themselves.