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13.3.07 16:23

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9.3.07 21:05

Enchanted Arms

Atsuma has powers he has not fully realized and so the teachers at Enchant University seem to let his lack of attention in class slide from time to time. But while Atsuma seems destined for greater things, there is much to learn.

Enchanted Arms kicks off with a grand boss battle that acts more like a portend of things to come. It has Atsuma and two classmates on a glacial field confronting a floating boss monster. They are soundly defeated and Atsuma, as he is falling, wonders why he was not strong enough.

The story is the precursor to it all.

Ubisoft and From Software are behind Enchanted Arms, an Xbox 360 title which has some very typical Japanese-anime RPG elements – including a turn-based style of combat – but does have some rather unique characters. Two of the principle other characters are Atsuma’s classmates, Toya and Makoto. The latter may be the first truly gay character to be in such a game. He makes no pretense of his affection for Toya (who seems to be fine with the overtures), and some of the phrases he uses could have the potential to be a bit unsettling for younger players or parents. At one point in the first level he tells Atsuma that he is not Toya’s guardian but rather his “disciple of love.”

The game begins with an overview of the history that sets up the game – beginning with the Golem Wars. The Golem Wars took place a thousand years before the timeline of this particular tale and once they ended, humans rebuilt the world using technology and “enchanting” – the only magic not lost.

The golems were known as devil golems, and were very powerful. Golems do play a role in the game, so understanding them is important. Consider Enchant University a bit of a Hogwarts in some regards. Players learn the mechanics of the game in the first level and what enchanting is all about.

The game begins at Enchant University. The first level of the game is a long introduction to the characters with some minor missions that are centralized on skipping school to attend a festival (or the preparations for one) in town.

In many ways the game presents some of the stock elements often associated with a Japanese-style RPG. The game has grind in trying to navigate and load times are kept small, but they are still there. As you travel the linear path through this game, you will encounter random battles. Typical of the genre, the battles just sort of pop up on you. With a linear path through the game, you sometimes cannot avoid combat. You do have the opportunity to go down side paths to find treasure chests – which usually have a golem guarding them.

As for the combat itself, it consists of two elements: movement and combat. The combat screen is gridded out and players can select where on the gridded map they will move. Each of the attacks has certain ranges and as you move you will see if your opponent falls within the range of your attacks. In an interesting twist, the longer combat continues the more difficult it will become. It is advised, early on, to end fights as quickly as possible. Because you control each character in turn and then after all the instructions are given, you end your turn by actualizing all the commands (a button stroke); you have to be rather strategic about what you do.

Because there are a fair amount of battles to the game, you can choose to enter auto combat and let the computer AI resolve the battles. This tends to help move through the grind a little quicker.

The game also features a creation process wherein you can get the blueprints for golems and then create them. They can help in combat but each seems to be limited in its scope to grow and progress as your characters do.

The game does have an overriding mission as well as mini missions that carry the players from town to town. There are a wide range of areas to explore, though the routine of walk, fight, walk and fight some more can be taxing on any not used to this style of game.

The music of this title is terrific. The voice acting is solid – what there is of it. Makoto, though, is another matter. This stereotypical representation is just plain wrong.

Graphically, though, Enchanted Arms is a tasty bit of eye candy. The lighting and particle effects pop off the screen and the characters are very well done.

As mentioned, this is the first traditional RPG for the 360 and it provides a great start. The game does follow a safe and familiar format, but takes advantage of the graphical power of the platform to sparkle. Collecting golems is a fun pastime within the game space, and while players may find the linear nature of the game too restrictive, aside from a few flaws, this is an entertaining game.

Review Scoring Details for Enchanted Arms

Gameplay: 7.5
If you have played one of the traditional Japanese RPG titles, then you will know precisely what sort of ride you are in for with Enchanted Arms. Having said that, it should be noted that the game itself is still entertaining, employing some fun elements, some grind but a lot that can be done.

Graphics: 8.8
Lighting effects, the silliness of some of the golems, and the environments one encounters in this title are very well done. The game’s graphics could be the infusion that this particular genre has needed to sustain it for a couple more years.

Sound: 7.0
The music is solid but the voices can be annoying. Especially the stereotypical Makoto.

Difficulty: Medium
The game does have some challenges but for those who have played the old-school RPGs before, the learning curve is minute.

Concept: 7.2
Not too much is new here – this is formulaic old-school RPG. Makoto is a definite miss in character design, but the game itself is not too bad otherwise. Collecting and creating golems, though, is fun.

Multiplayer: N/A
The game, in release, will feature Xbox Live support and enable players to fight with the golems against other players.

Overall: 7.6
The graphics are very well done and the story is evolving and interesting. Enchanted Arms may play off the typical Japanese anime-style RPG theme, but it looks and plays very well on the 360.
16.10.06 17:18

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