Enchanted Arms review

In my review thread for Breath of Fire 1…


…There was a sort of side discussion about Enchanted Arms, and it being bad, even worse than BoF1. I knew that I didn’t agree, but it did give me motivation to finish the game. Have you ever wanted a game to be better than it is? I think that sort of tragedy makes me write even longer reviews :confused: Anyways, without further ado:

RPGs are really not From Software’s forte. In fact, their rap sheet includes the Armored Core games and a bunch of truly awful RPGs. So, it probably doesn’t come as much surprise that people ignored Enchanted Arms when it came out. Released in 2006, Enchanted Arms was (I think) the first JRPG that got an American release for XBox360. Having never played a game by From Software, I jumped on it pretty quickly, only to find out that Enchanted Arms has a lot of great ideas, but falls terribly flat on its face in every aspect.

The first thing I have to get off my chest is that the localization altogether is incredibly sloppy. For one thing, the game’s original name was ‘Enchant Arm’. This game doesn’t deal with arms or weapons that are enchanted; it deals with ONE persons Enchant Arm. No, his arm is not enchanted. In fact, I’m pretty sure the game’s script never uses the word ‘Enchant’ in Present Perfect or Preterite tense even once during the course of the game. From the get-go, you’re mislead about what the game is about, because the English title makes no sense.

Furthermore, the translations can sometimes be inconsistent with themselves. For example, one of the main characters, Raigar, has his name misspelled ‘Raiga’ in situations where his name isn’t spoken aloud. Or, for example, there is a particular attack in the game called ‘Force Pain’, which is later referred to as ‘Force Vein’.

The biggest localization trouble, however, lies in the voice acting. For one, the main character’s voice actor is pretty awful. I can usually forgive this, but the all the voice actors frequently pronounce words wrong, or speak their lines with the wrong inflections. The main character, Atsuma, frequently speaks the words ‘Makoto’ and Yokohama" as “Makato” and “Yokohoma”…but sometimes, he says them properly! This is done with quite a few different proper nouns, by quite a few different characters throughout the game. Speaking the lines with the wrong inflections has to be the WORST, though. For example, one particular line, if a line is supposed to be said “What do YOU mean?”, the VA will just say “What do you mean?” This is a small example of something done so often throughout the game. There are some parts of the game that are genuinely funny, and even some serious parts of the game, that are greatly compromised by the voice actors continuously saying their lines with the wrong inflection, tempo, and cadence. For as much as I have to say about this, this is probably not the fault of the voice actors; the fault probably lies in the lack of a voice director, likely leaving them to read the lines without any sense of context. Hence! A glaring problem in the localization.

It’s too bad about that, too, since the story probably isn’t all that bad. Here’s the most truncated story setup I can give: 1000 years ago, there was a war where people used golems - lifelike machines powered by a magic energy called Ether - to fight against each other, and the worst was reduced to a wasteland. 1000 years later, the world is rebuilt (yay!). Three friends, Atsuma, Toya, and Makoto study Enchanting (magic) at Enchant University in Yokohama. One day, golems (now used as convenience machines for humans) go berserk and start attacking humans. Atsuma and co. go to Enchant University and find the Queen of Ice, who beats the crap out of them and destroys Yokohama. Atsuma then wakes up in a prison cell in London with a girl named Karin. Karin’s bodyguard, Raigar, breaks them out of prison. After that, Karin and Raigar ask Atsuma for help with a conflict going down in London, as Atsuma’s right arm (which neutralizes Enchant magic, and other does mysterious stuff) will be key in setting things right.

The meat of the story deals with Atsuma’s main conflict (which I can’t spoil in good conscience) but they usually have to deal with another main character’s conflicts to get to point B. In any case, it turns out to be pretty typical JRPG fare from there on out. That’s not a bad thing, though; In fact, Enchanted Arms doesn’t do half bad at presenting cliche plot devices and characters in fun, exciting ways. Karin is a princess who doesn’t mind acting spoiled and bossy; but, her love of her country and resolve to help her companions is a very uncommon presentation of the common ‘spoiled-princess’ archetype. It’s also more reaslitic and believable to see that Karin, with her flaws, still has good qualities about her, rather than starting out with no good qualities and coming out of her personal conflict with no bad qualities. Almost all of the main characters manage to pull off this more ‘human’ approach to their character. The game has its fair share of comic relief, too - and all of it manages to be pretty funny at times, even if dimished by the poor voice direction. This game manages to have a lot of good stuff in it.

That being said, it’s far from perfect. For one, there are a crapload of antagonists in this game - about two or three for each main character to deal with. Every last one of them is crap. Either they are dealt with too quickly after they are introduced, or it’s hard to discern their motives. The main villain’s motives are really contrived and seem to be a bit too based on luck to be very cool. Some characters, like Yuki and the ‘Mystery Man’ (you’ll know who he is the whole time), are just obnoxious; no two ways about it. Other than that, some of the serious stuff can be really corny, and all the above-stated localization troubles don’t help the game out very much.

The last thing that I should mention that hurts the story is the graphics. They’re not bad, but the game almost NEVER uses a real-time cutscene that is longer than about twenty seconds, which really takes the wind out of a lot of conversations where there needs to be more dramatic pauses in conversation. It would also help out greatly when a character reacts to something, or performs an action during conversation. When seeing a game like Enchanted Arms, which makes little to no use of its 3D environment to augment the story, it really puts the importance of such a thing into perspective.

Perhaps the most ambitious part of Enchanted Arms - and where it fails the worst - is the gameplay. Enchanted Arms is turn-based RPG combat with a SRPG sort of twist: Your characters and your enemies both move around on their own 4x3 grid, using attacks and support techniques that cover a certain space in front of them. All techniques use a certain amount of Ether Points (EP) to use, and a character can recover EP by forfeiting a turn. Aside from normal attacks, you can use items, and ‘EX’ attacks - a shared gauge between all allies that goes up as you kill enemies and allows you to perform more powerful techniques. You can even put Golems in your group instead of main characters, which have different specialties. Lastly, there are these things called Vitality Points (VP). Vp goes down 1 point per turn at the end of every battle - You lose more depending on how much damage you take. When a character runs out of VP they will enter battle with 1 HP and 1EP until you rest (You normally go into battle with full HP and EP).

During battle, you also gain Skill Points (SP), which can be used outside of battle to learn new techniques (which you have to find or buy first), or you can use it to raise your stats. This is very important, as you tend to get stronger more as a result of raising your stats via SP than you do by gaining levels.

So, this doesn’t sound like anything new, but that’s fine; it’s taking a lot of good ideas and rolling them together. So, what’s the problem, anyways?

For one, battling using Golems is kind of pointless. The reason is because their stats don’t raise as enough during level ups to keep up with the main characters, even when raising their stats with SP. Furthermore, Golems do NOT learn new skills - only the main characters do. With that in mind, why would you want to remove any of the main characters from your party? They are going to need all the SP they can get to learn skills and up their stats, and you constantly, have to buy new Golems anyways, as the ones you have will become obsolete before long. Unfortunately, it is necesary to fight using your Golems in the beginning; however, once you get a full party of main characters, it becomes a pretty bad idea all around to use Golems.

The Vitality Point concept was implemented with the idea that you will have to rotate your party members around a lot, but save for about one or two spots in the game, there’s never a time where you will run out of VP before you can get to the next resting point, making VP feel like little more than a gimmick.

The biggest problem with the actual combat is that the game’s difficulty is really arbitrary; it’s 95% superfluously easy, and 5% WTF-this-is-retarded hard. It absolutely baffles me that the game does this, because it’s set up in a way that should encourage you to be strategic. Instead, you can beat almost every battle incredibly easy using the Auto-Battle function, which makes combat feel like a chore. Boss Battles are almost all easily bested by brute force, which isn’t very strategic, either. When the battles are ridiculously hard, it’s usually for a dumb reason, like you have to fight the battle with only one person, or because it relies very heavily on your party going into battle with a full EX gauge. In any case, the solution to even those battles is brute force. The game is altogether not very strategic at all, and really BORING as a result. It doesn’t help that the random counter rate is SO high in this game! I once got into four battles in less than ten steps. What the hell is this, 1988?

The fields and dungeons are laid out in a very boring fashion as well. Almost all of them are a straight, obvious path. Any time you can stray off the beaten path, you’ll find treasure. The game doesn’t even try to make you feel like you’re exploring, save for a few instances. There are ‘puzzles’ in the game, but they never take any real brain power to solve; in fact, all of them but one near the end are just overcomplicated ways of getting from one side of the room to another. This, coupled with the high encounter rate, will seriously have you groaning every time you get into a fight.

The last obnoxious flaw about the gameplay is MONEY. Quite frankly, you never have enough of it! You are always having to buy new techniques, weapons, and golems; but they all cost a fortune! You’ll have to fight several fights before you can afford ONE of ANYTHING, and since most of the weapons and techniques are character-specific, you have to pick and choose who you want to buff up first. Even worse is the weapons and golems, which require you to actually MAKE them after you buy them by putting certain specified amount of materials into the weapon. The thing is, you probably don’t have enough materials, so you have to BUY the materials, too!

To the game’s credit, you will probably never get stuck as a result, and you eventually catch up to all the skills availble to be bought. Even so, it never stops being obnoxious, as you will always leave one character without techniques or weapons that could really help them until you raise the money. All of these things really help to trash the experience of Enchanted Arms.

Oh, by the way. The music, which was written by four or five in-house composers are From Software, ranges from mediocre to just plain awful. The battle themes are the only truly great part of the soundtrack, which go very heavy on the orchestra with choir ensemble. The remaining tracks are mostly very bad ambient tracks, usually made up of arpeggiated chords with some terrible noise in the background that will drive you insane.

What else? The game took me about 35 hours to complete, although every review I’ve ever read puts it at 50+ hours. If you’re thinking of which version you’d like to play: The XBox360 has an online mode where you can pit your golems against someone else’s golems, while the PS3 version has an easy mode where you can fill the EX gauge without killing an enemy, and it also supposedly makes greater use of real time cutscenes, which this game could so desperately use.

It’s funny to think that I wanted to buy an XBox360 in anticipation of this game’s release. I’m glad I didn’t, now - I have a super cool XBox360 Elite, and I only had to pay twenty dollars for this game. Enchanted Arms is a tragic game; it has everything it needs to be an excellent game (except for a good soundtrack), and it squandered pretty much all of its potential. I think I could only reccomend this game to people with incredibly low standards, as they would find a masterpiece in this game. Otherwise, I would reccomend taking a moment to mourn the game’s shortcomings, and move on to the next game that catches your eye.

I agree with you completely. Enchanted Arms looked like such a sweet game when I first saw it; in fact, it was the second game I owned for the 360, behind Gears of War. Too bad it turned out to be a poor, cliched game. At the very least, it can be partially excused as the first actual next gen RPG, but even so, it wasn’t worth the $60 I plopped down for it.

In fact, so far, no RPG on ANY of the current consoles deserves that praise.

I dunno, I think Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey come close…maybe 50 dollars? They weren’t bad RPGs, in any case. The thing that’s the worst about Enchanted Arms is that it has the potential…almost every element it needs to be a great game, and it fucked it all up. :confused:

Also, I don’t own a PS3, but I’m willing to bet that Folklore is pretty top dog.

BD and LO aren’t that great. I’d put them in the run of the mill category. I liked BD more personally. Mass Effect is excellent though, even if its not a turn based RPG.

You’re lucky you don’t have to put any of your reviews in print. X-X Wall ‘o’ text!

I have no problem reading SG’s reviews- in fact I love his personal commentaries. Though I can understand how they would scare off many casual readers with their length. But then, like he said, it’s his casual, probably first-version review- I’m sure he could easily whittle it down for publication (which usually involves a word limit) without losing his points.

You know, all this talk of old-fashioned RPGs is making me nostalgic for playing some. I think the last one I enjoyed 100% was Dragon Quest VIII. Wild Arms 5 fits the type but drove me nuts with its gameplay, FF12 was too long for its own good, and FFV Advanced is mostly game and little story. Got anything to recommend that’s currently available (PS2 or Game Boy Advance only) ?

Wil: Sent you a game that wil be right up your alley. Should be there by Saturday.

Yeah, sorry. This is the roughest, roughest draft. Usually, I go through it at least once before posting it anywhere, and I do a very thorough revision before sending it to SK.

Although, in response to this, I just revised it, and truncated the review by about 2-3 KB of text.

Great. Now I’ve got to read it all over again. >_<

Oh good grief, it says the same thing but in less words!

Heh, it was even longer?

Have you ever wanted a game to be better than it is?

All the time, unless it’s already a very good game.