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Enchanted Arms (Xbox 360) artwork

Enchanted Arms (Xbox 360) review

"The emperor of one of the game's regions is a morbidly obese, incompetent, cowardly moron who spends his time sleeping, eating and cavorting with his personal harem of golem girls (who appear "Chris Hanson is watching" young) while delegating minor things like the enforcement of his rule to an unscrupulous ninja who only cares about the fate of his clan. It's obvious things probably won't end well for Tokimune, but it's still near-impossible to not laugh out loud during every one of his scenes."

You've seen it all before: an anonymous teenager mysteriously is chosen to lead a thrown-together team of unlikely heroes against an evil beyond comprehension. They journey around the world and bond together while eliminating all opposition. If they feel particularly ambitious, they'll even run through super-secret optional dungeons to defeat creatures more powerful than anything found during their actual quest. Eventually, the teen protagonist will discover some mind-shattering revelation about himself, but due to the amazing power of friendship, he'll overcome all obstacles and before you know it, that "unstoppable" evil force just got its ass handed to it on a platter. Everyone (not evil) celebrates and the credits roll!

That's the basic framing device for the majority of J-RPGs released in modern times and Enchanted Arms is faithful to it until the end. Fortunately, FROM Software did players one really big favor -- they seemingly had a blast putting it all together!

Illustrating this is the way the characters were written. On the surface, they're typical J-RPG people. Protagonist Atsuma might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he makes up for that with a good heart and a never-say-die attitude. He's supported by a haughty princess, a strong-but-silent enforcer and an obnoxious brat. However, none of them truly become stereotypes. They get assailed by problems and appear emotionally overwhelmed at times, but are always there to pick each other up and get things back on track. There's a decided lack of those "Oh...looks like my entire existence is meaningless..." melodramatic moments in Enchanted Arms (and any present are near-immediately defused by other characters) -- instead you have a quartet of heroes determined to save what they hold most dear from the monolithic forces known as Devil Golems, regardless of what they have to personally sacrifice.

And then there's the supporting cast -- as bizarre a group of characters as I've seen in any RPG with a remotely serious plot. One of Atsuma's classmates is written and voice-acted to be so over-the-top flamboyantly homosexual that it's easy to imagine any player living that lifestyle cringing at this portrayal of their demographic. The emperor of one of the game's regions is a morbidly obese, incompetent, cowardly moron who spends his time sleeping, eating and cavorting with his personal harem of golem girls (who appear "Chris Hanson is watching" young) while delegating minor things like the enforcement of his rule to an unscrupulous ninja who only cares about the fate of his clan. It's obvious things probably won't end well for Tokimune, but it's still near-impossible to not laugh out loud during every one of his scenes. A minor villain only is known as "Laughing Man", much to his chagrin. You almost feel bad for the chap when he vehemently attempts to declare his true name...but gets interrupted by your party, leaving it a mystery to all.

To its benefit, Enchanted Arms has more going for it than just a slew of entertaining characters. The battle system is more complex than the "tap the attack button until everything's dead" sort of thing you get in many J-RPGs; instead working like a simplified turn-based strategy game. Combat is handled on a grid, with your party on one side and the enemy on the other. You move your characters around your side and pick various attacks or support abilities to use. Some characters are best for attacking enemies preparing melee attacks from their front row, while others are proficient at taking out magic-users hiding in the back row.

Also, while there's only four human characters in your party, you can collect dozens of different golems to customize your group's composition however you'd like. Golems can be bought in shops or obtained by defeating them in various battles. While using these beasts is only necessary in a couple places, they do come in handy at certain times, such as when you want to take advantage of a particular enemy's elemental weakness (or, conversely, prevent it from butchering a character weak to its attacks). And some of these creatures can become quite powerful. Of course, to utilize the best golems, you'll have to be patient, as they're obtained from late-game optional bosses and start as a level one character, meaning you'll have to put in a lot of work to get them to the point they're truly worth using.

If there's one true flaw in Enchanted Arms, it's that patience is a necessity to get through parts of this game. There are no return spells or items here. From time to time, you'll find a teleporter that will take you to previously-explored regions, but odds are you'll be doing a lot of tedious hiking to get to things like those optional bosses after you've become strong enough to challenge them. Also, this game unfortunately includes a hellishly boring interlude separating two of its major regions.

In London, you'll eventually win an epic battle against one of the all-powerful Devil Golems. So, what's next? Well, the place has been somewhat wrecked by a confrontation between the boss you bested and the super-seductive Devil Golem temptress known as the Ice Queen. Since one of your characters is a member of London's ruling family, something needs to be done! That "something" is you doing a handful of fetch-quests around town. You get to run around the place talking to people. When you find the ones looking for assistance, you have to find the object (or person) that can get the job done. After this mercifully concludes, you begin the long hike to Kyoto in order to hunt down the next Devil Golem. Unfortunately, this means you'll be covering a LOT of terrain from much earlier in the game and regularly fighting enemies that now are vastly overmatched. After what seems like an eternity, you'll reach a charming place known as Junk City. Here, one of your characters will be arrested for theft and you'll have to embark on another fetch quest to collect evidence to find the identity of the true culprit. After all this, it was nice to be rewarded with a pair of boss fights before crossing a desert to the Kyoto region, but getting to this point was a drag. Enchanted Arms is a very fun game as long as you're moving forward, advancing the plot and fighting big golems. The part I just described felt like unnecessary filler and dragged on to the point where I was tempted to shelve the game for a few months.

I'm glad I didn't, though. Take away those ugly couple of hours and this is a very enjoyable RPG. Combat is more complex and strategic than what's provided by the average J-RPG and the bizarre cast of characters remained in my mind long after the credits rolled. As an early-generation game for the 360, it's not the prettiest thing out there (and the combat grids can be very difficult to make out against some backgrounds), but Enchanted Arms was very enjoyable for the most part. I'd recommend this to any J-RPG fan with a quirky sense of humor and an appreciation for how good writing and character development can make a good game come close to greatness.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 23, 2010)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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EmP posted July 24, 2010: -- The Definitive portal for XBOX360 Enchanted Arms praise reviews.

I'm not going to talk about the review until the results are in!
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zigfried posted July 24, 2010:

It's good to be honest.

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overdrive posted July 24, 2010:

I'd forgotten Midwinter had also reviewed the game when it came out as Em Enchanted Arms or whatever in Japan. I had a jolly drunken laugh when I saw that I was posted the fourth STAFF review for what has to be considered one of the more obscure current-gen RPGs. Things like that make me happy. Like saying, "To hell with your Final Fantasies and trendy stuff! Come here to read all about games like this you might not have heard of!"
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overdrive posted July 24, 2010:

Is there something fucked up with how the site handles the little rating explanation bit? I KNOW when I submitted it, it wasn't cut off like that. If no one (ie: judges) has any objection, when I'm back at my home computer, I'm re-inserting the full text, because it just looks stupid as is.
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honestgamer posted July 24, 2010:

Sometimes on web sites, the use of an apostrophe or quotation marks can cause issues with forms. That's what seems to have happened here, as I remember seeing a version of your review that had more in the score summary than what I see there now. It's not something that comes up frequently--once every few years, actually--but it's something that'll likely get mended with time.

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