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Enchanted Arms (Xbox 360) artwork

Enchanted Arms (Xbox 360) review

"First impressions can be misleading. Sometimes purposefully so. "

My first impression of Enchanted Arms can hardly be labelled as charitable; it felt like the new-gen version of Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, a game the Japanese pretentiously released to an outside world they assumed too stupid to play a real RPG. Indeed, it’s hard not to scoff at the simplicity of the game’s opening stages, how it spells out the simplest action in crayon as if working on the assumption that the gamer snacks on nothing but lead-based paint chips. In game tutorials for actions as simple as open door, climb ladder and loot chest are laboriously explained, and then the option for a repeat is offered in case you’re too dumb to grasp it all in one telling. Those of you who play a little way in and label it as beneath you are FOOLS who have been FOOLED by FROM’s trickery!

Atsuma’s not only the game’s main protagonist, but is also a goofy moron, and the rest of the cast are forced to talk to him as such. When exploring the depths of a sealed ruin hidden beneath his Magical University, the students that ventured in with him have to point out that the ladder scaling a wall is a way to progress and doesn’t make a dead end, or how elevators go up to allow you access to other floors. He nods, grins like a loon and takes everything with unbound enthusiasm; the capering is comical, his heroic fist-pumping unceasing and the scenario set. Enchanted Arms is a light-hearted adventure, happy to parody itself and its genre when need be, and not proud enough to land a few below the belt blows to the likes of Square Enix. Ho ho ho -- Atsuma’s openly homosexual chum bears more than a passing resemblance to Tidus should he decide to slap on eye makeup. You’ll probably play the first few hours moderately unimpressed and convinced the game will never shed its beginner-friendly, overly comical and goofily upbeat demeanour.

This is where they FOOL you! You have been FOOLED!

Though he has a comparable IQ to a teaspoon, Atsuma’s playful persona and naďve honesty makes him genuinely likeable. So, when FROM decide to pull the rug from under his feet with a sense of sadistic glee, it reverberates with you. They trap you, the cynical gamer, in a web of stereotypes so thick you already know, in your heart and mind, what’s coming next. Quick, check them off: there’s the spunky love interest, and there’s the strong, silent powerhouse and then there’s… oh, there’s something completely unexpected that turns all the genre staples into genuine people worried for more than the typical characters would be. By the time the game pulls out its grand design, you’ve made up your mind. You’ve been FOOLED. Much like I was.

Atsuma is put through the shredder, both emotionally and physically, forcing him to grow up a little and forcing those around to start treating him less like a friendly but mischievous puppy and more like a person. When he invites the weight of the world onto his shoulders and crumbles beneath the burden, those that viewed him as a meat shield or a quick and easy source of cash need re-evaluate their stance. His simplistic mindset grants him a dedicated focus on his goal to track down a legendarily powerful golem, one that snatched away everything he held dear, and punch it in the face until is stops moving. Though he’s prone to give into despair and depression from time to time, no matter how unintentional, he’s the goofy glue that holds his peculiar gathering of cunningly manipulated stereotypes together.

The team interacts with each other on a level not often seen, but should you tire of one of them, they’re easily replaced with battle-ready golems that slip into the strategic grid-based fights effortlessly. When lithe gunslingers and ninja-y divas start to fail, replace them with mammoth penguins slinging ice spells or serene mermaids flaunting healing spells and sonic songs. Use stone-built mechs lifted from FROM’s other genre interest, bubble-headed blue bulldogs or sentient fire-slinging giant pizzas. As seems to be Enchanted Arms’s evolutionary motif, these battles start as mindless slaughters and progress into strategic battles as the title progresses, forcing cerebral players to link together combos, abuse limit break-like special attacks and carefully position your pieces.

Many people won’t see the true goal behind Enchanted Arms. and will take the silliness and the capering at face value; I did to begin with. But, even as taken as nothing more than a joke, FROM’s trap is still effective, perhaps even more so. When moments of stone cold sobriety pierce through Atsuma’s often cartoonish world, it makes that much more of an impact than in the usual JRPG environments, the ones pre-draped in misery and despair. By the end of the game, I was done with being fooled, and instead, I met it half-way, taking it with a level of apprehensive seriousness. I appreciated Atsuma’s light-hearted awkwardness, I laughed at his clumsy mistakes, but I willed him on to win. I felt sympathy for his plight in a way I rarely do with protagonists.

First impressions can be misleading. Sometimes purposefully so.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (May 03, 2010)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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CoarseDragon posted May 03, 2010:

Wow! Somebody got it! I see this game getting knocked all the time but I really liked it. Atsuma goes through hell.

I felt the battle system while looking simple on the surface was pretty complex. And some of those Golems were just awesome.

Very good review. I really liked the way you wrote about the game. Maybe could have added a tad bit more more about the battle system though. It is quite unique.
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EmP posted May 03, 2010:

You should probably check out Zig's review for the same game. He says near enough what I say but better and with more astrix. In fact, we originally played the game around the same time, but he got his review out first, and it seemed silly having so many staff reviews up for the game at the time. I replayed it recently and had something to say -- so now we have our third piece!

Anyway, thanks for the feedback. I'm not sure what else I could say about the battle system -- it's not really all that unique, but it did certainly work on a pretty awesome scale, making each stage require more planning out than the last.

What i should have mentioned is how the cast all wears the same coloured clothes as their element. Like LoD or the Power Rangers!
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zigfried posted May 03, 2010:

It's good to see this game getting more love. Anyone who has developed a newfound interest in FROM (hint to Demon's Souls players) should check it out. This company has cool ideas and fresh approaches.

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overdrive posted May 03, 2010:

Great review! From what I've played (up to the big-ass golem fight at the end of the London chapter, where I realized that due to certain plot events, I needed a new water-healer character and have been lazy about powering up the back-up golem one I have), you are spot on.

The story progression is great. One minute, it's comedic (the big strong guy getting motion sickness; the "Disgaea 'Mid-Boss'" ripping on the giggling mini-boss villain), but then something insanely tragic happens and you're wondering exactly why you were laughing just a few minutes ago.
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EmP posted May 04, 2010:

You should have gained Mermaid from Yokohama. She won't need leveling; just pop her in the team and she'll do swimmingly.

Thanks again for the comments.

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