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Enchanted Arms (Xbox 360) artwork

Enchanted Arms (Xbox 360) review


"Enchanted Arms doesn't need to be original. It just needs to be good. SURPRISE! It actually is original! If you think the characters are stereotypes, then you've fallen for FROM's fiendish scheme. The dramatic bishounen character designs provide a false sense of familiarity... a familiarity that is quickly dispersed by the designers' humorous perversions of player expectations."



In the technomagical world of Enchanted Arms, a world on the brink of stereotypical disaster, the mysterious "sorcery flute" has been stolen. This sexy artifact -- rumored by lusty treasure-seekers to summon muscular golems -- is worth millions in Junk City dollars... and it's Atsuma's responsibility to find the thief. After a thorough investigation of the scene, our spiky-haired hero and his party of friends determine that the thief snuck in through the ventilation shaft. At this point, Enchanted Arms offers the player a chance to put words in Atsuma's mouth. Since the criminal crawled through air ducts...

A: "We're looking for someone small and light."
B: "We're looking for the Rat Master!"

No one has ever met a Rat Master, and Atsuma's friends are puzzled as to where he came up with such a name. Atsuma giddily explains: the Rat Master is a nefarious individual who has trained pet rats to infiltrate buildings and steal valuable treasures! Atsuma then role-plays an extended conversation between the Rat Master and his most talented rat (complete with high-pitched voice). He goes on to suggest that the party immediately begin investigating all the stores that sell cheese. And he's serious.

Karin: "Uh... okay. Raiga, why don't you tell him the real answer?"

Raiga: "Right. Atsuma, the criminal was someone small and light."

* * * * *

One of the biggest complaints against the original Xbox was that it didn't have enough Japanese RPGs. As in: none. The console had plenty of Western-developed adventures, but fans of gaudily-dressed, angst-ridden lone wolf heroes were forced to purchase a PS2. That won't be a problem for Microsoft's second console. Enchanted Arms, an ambitious J-RPG from the prolific folks at FROM, injects the 360 with a much-needed shot of effeminate stereotypes.

There's the impetuous hero with an undiscovered power. There's the cool, calculating friend with a dark secret. They'll encounter the spunky potential love interest running from her fate, who's accompanied by the giant with a gentle heart. This predictable group is dogged by the money-loving female bounty hunter, and occasionally they're all visited by a bare-chested mystery man who'd fit in perfectly with the cast of Enzai. The game's full of stereotypes, and FROM didn't even try to hide it. Heck, the mysterious king of London is named Caliban, and anyone who's watched Clash of the Titans knows what that means.

Fortunately, Enchanted Arms doesn't need to be original. It just needs to be good. SURPRISE! It actually is original! If you think the characters are stereotypes, then you've fallen for FROM's fiendish scheme. The dramatic bishounen character designs provide a false sense of familiarity... a familiarity that is quickly dispersed by the designers' humorous perversions of player expectations.

* * * * *

While exploring a forbidden tunnel deep below the Academy, Atsuma, his best friend Touya, and a guy who looks remarkably similar to Tidus*, reach a wall. A ladder is propped up against the wall, clearly leading to another floor.

* The Tidus-looking guy is openly gay and has a crush on Touya. He makes delicious fried squid rolls.

Atsuma (standing next to the very obvious ladder): "Oh no! We came all this way, and it's a dead end!"

Gay dude: "...are you serious?"

Touya: "Atsuma, do you see that object leaning against the wall? It's a ladder. We can climb it."

Atsuma (heroically pumping fist): "Right! Of course we can! I know about ladders!"

Gay dude: "Then why did you say it was a dead end?"

* * * * *

Yes, Atsuma is an idiot. And he's the hero. However, he's an optimistic, energetic, and likable idiot, which is a refreshing break from the typical angst-ridden lone wolf hero who uncharacteristically surrounds himself with lots of people. However, "refreshing" doesn't even begin to do justice to Enchanted Arms' characters. With his hilarious chatter and energetic posing, Atsuma charmed his way into my heart... and then FROM pulled off the ultimate coup de grace by running this genuinely likable bloke through a heart-breakingly painful wringer. *

* ...but not before taking one more cheap shot at Square-Enix.

Watching a tortured soul lament his personal tragedy is fine, but it meant a lot more in Enchanted Arms because I actually witnessed the events that shattered Atsuma's resolve. Fun-loving, traumatized, defiantly hopeful, rejected, and then redeemed -- through clever twistings of stereotypes and humorous interludes, FROM made Atsuma's internal conflict even more powerful, even more real.

Enchanted Arms' best aspects are its strategic, grid-based combat, the fact that players can improve each characters' individual stats to a seemingly endless degree, and the ability to customize battle parties with over 100 different golems (each with its own unique skillset). Cat-girls, Gundam-clone mechs, cute slimes, suave vampires, the main character from Otogi... they're all in here, and they're all playable. But enough about that.

The characters are attentive to more than the needs of the story; they're watching each others' needs, as well. When Atsuma sinks into the infinite abyss of depression, tomboy Karin transforms from reluctant sidekick to delightfully feminine caretaker. This doesn't advance the plot, but it makes their relationship feel genuine.

Meanwhile, treasure-hunter Yuki is brilliant. Things that others spend countless hours trying to understand, like love and the nature of life, she just blurts out with ease. And she does so without any of the painful lecturing that Hideo Kojima would inflict upon us.

Atsuma: "Hey, what would you do if you made a lot of people unhappy without meaning to?"

Yuki: "Hmm... I'd try not to think about it."

That's such a perfect response to Atsuma's angst.

Note: Yuki isn't nearly so blunt or decisive when it comes to her own problems. Is her insight born from innocence and clarity of mind, or is it born from selfishness and lack of care for others' feelings? The world may never know.

Second Note: While I often analyze characters' actions in an RPG, I don't often find myself analyzing the foundation of their inner motives.

The villains are just as compelling as the heroes, and I enjoyed every exchange. With gorgeous lighting, radiant colors, exotic backdrops, and harp-driven melodies, some of the scenes between villains play out like a demented romance. FROM deserves a lot of credit for putting forth their best effort and producing one of the most passionate RPGs I've played in a long, long time. If someone tries to tell you that Enchanted Arms lacks soul, then keep in mind that you're probably listening to a heartless baby-eating beast.

* * * * *

In the technomagical world of Enchanted Arms, mages use their sorcerous powers to operate robotic beasts known as "golems". Unfortunately, a few particularly powerful golems -- relics known as "Devil Golems" -- have gone amok. No city, be it gloomy London or festive Yokohama, is safe from icy annihilation.

As for Atsuma? He's still looking for that missing flute. When he finally determines the thief's identity and searches her home for evidence, he comes across something... unusual.

Atsuma: "Hmm, she wears cuter panties than I would have expected."

Raiga: "Indeed."

Atsuma: "We've made an interesting discovery, but not exactly what we were looking for."

* * * * *

Although immensely enjoyable, I wouldn't call this the perfect RPG. It doesn't have a lush orchestral soundtrack. The middle gets a bit long in the tooth. And there's an infinite skill-points trick that makes it easy to cheat (effectively destroying the online battle mode's balance). I DON'T CARE. For gamers who want a refreshing sci-fi RPG that doesn't begin with "Final" and end with "XII", for gamers who want a simple but thought-provoking battle system, for gamers who want an unforgettable story that knows when to cut the angsty crap and just be fun, Enchanted Arms is exactly what we're looking for.

//Zig

Rating: 9/10

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (September 15, 2006)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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