Enchanted Arms review
I’m no mathematician, but I am clever enough to solve this simple equation: Deplorable script writing + horrendous voice acting = Enchanted Arms. This was one of the earliest JRPGs released on the PS3 and since then, most have managed to surpass it in just about every way. This is by no means a horrible game, it’s just very ordinary. So ordinary, that I would like its name to be changed to Ordinary Arms. Yes, I think that has a more appropriate ring to it. Here’s why: It’s common knowledge that a decent script is a requirement for the RPG genre.
Script writers of the genre usually have the task of creating a believable story in a fantasy context. Characters making logical decisions within this fantasy universe create a connection between the audience and these characters, and ultimately the story. This connection is non-existent in Enchanted Arms. The story begins with the main character, Atsuma, studying to become an Enchanter. Shortly after, Atsuma and his friends decide to wag school and attend the town festival. After a few simplistic tasks are completed, the ground starts shaking and all of the friendly Golems (creatures, kind of like Pokemon) start slaughtering innocent citizens. Atsuma and his party then rush back to school in hope of finding answers. The story of Enchanted Arms is average at best and it has its moment that just made me think: “what were these guys smoking?”. For example, in order to escape the school, to attend the festival, Atsuma decides to attack the teachers (as you do…) and exit through the main doors. This scenario, and most of the game itself, could have been written in a much more exciting, believable way. There was not one point in the story that made me want to come back to find the resolution. Instead, I just plotted along because I wanted to finish it. But wait, it gets worse. This mediocre plot is really nothing compared to the simplistic/stupid/moronic/cringe-worthy/One Dimensional cast of characters.
I’m not homophobic and I know enough about the Japanese culture to understand that certain things are more socially acceptable in Japan than it may be in Western cultures, but by introducing the game with the overly flamboyant Makoto who constantly flaunts his sexuality and makes it painfully clear that he wants nothing more than a night in with his friend/idol Toya, is enough to put many off this game. In fact, just about every piece of dialogue in the game sounds like it was written by a five year old. Yes, it’s that bad. It feels like the directors have written once sentence on each characters personality and then stuck to that through the majority of the game. Take Yuki for example; she wants to be the world’s best Golem hunter. The problem is that this idea is drilled home a million times through the game. Half on Yuki’s dialogue is stating how she only lives for money and has no other values in life. Top this off with horrible voice acting and you have a cast of characters that you’ll want to forget as soon as possible. With that said, each of the main characters do have a backstory that will be revealed through the game, creating some level of depth, but it still left me wanting a lot more (not that I ever really cared about the cast). Below is a scene with two of the main characters; Atsuma and Yuki, followed by a battle between them.
The gameplay in Enchanted Arms is a very simplified version of something you may expect from a Strategy-RPG. As you can see in the video above, the battle field is divided into two separate sides, one for your allies, and one for your opponents. Each side is divided into a 4x3 grid. Each turn, your characters can move into a position on the grid (depending on their movement stat), and then unleash a single attack at the expense of EP (Ether Points). Characters can only equip up to five abilities at a time so it’s important to balance them out and equip a good mix of abilities with power, with range and with a low EP cost. Each of the main characters also have a number of special abilities (called Ex Attacks) that can only be used once the Ex gauge is full (this works a little bit like FF7s limit breaks). While the battle system is very simple, it works surprisingly well, especially with the added features that allow you to speed through battles. The combination of selecting auto attack (the AI here isn’t too bad) and holding Triangle (to increase animation speed) allows you to power through most of those annoying random encounters. If only this kind of feature was more common in the genre. Enchanted Arms gets the thumbs up in this area, and I would consider it one of the games stronger points.
Golems are non-human creatures that usually work in the service of human citizens. They remind me a lot like of Pokemon, in that there are hundreds of them, and people hunt, catch, and fight with them by their side. While there are only 4 main human characters to fight in your party, there are hundreds of Golems to acquire, train and use in battle (a total of 4 characters/golems can participate in each fight). This requires a large level of strategy if you wish to optimise a team of Golems and take advantage of all of their strengths while exploiting the enemy’s weaknesses. However, chances are that you won’t do this, ever. You see, while Enchanted Arms provides the gamer with these options, it completely neglects any sort of customisation. Once you catch a Golem, it has a set number of abilities (between 1 and 5) and these abilities will never change. In fact, raw stats are the only feature you are able to customise and even this is incredibly limited. As a result, I neglected these Golems once I realised it was pointless using them. Why use weaker Golems who will never grow, when you can use the main Characters who are not only more powerful, but can learn new abilities too? This is the definition of wasted potential. Imagine playing a Pokémon game for 10 hours, only to realise it’s a million times more beneficial to carry around a rifle and shoot everything that pisses you off. This annoyed me to no end and let the game down big time. These Golems come in many shapes and sizes. Below is an image from the Primrose Golem status screen.
The level of customisation for your main characters is a little more reasonable. By participating in battle, your party receives SP (skill points) which can be spent on either new abilities or upgrading your statistics. The statistics are very straight forward and do not provide much in the way of brain power as your powerhouse attacking characters (which are always Atsuma and Raigar) need strength, whereas Karin will always need to focus on the magic statistic. The abilities are much the same. Most of the time it’s obvious which path to take a character. The only real decision is choosing which 5 abilities to equip. Like much of the game, this area is very simple and I’m willing to bet that 9/10 gamers will build their characters identically (and of course, neglect the use of Golems).
There’s a decent amount to do in the world of Enchanted Arms. The environments are diverse and beautiful and exploring them is a pleasure most of the time (too bad about the annoying, repetitive music that gave my head a workout). There is a casino to gamble your life away, and just like the majority of video gaming gambling systems, it can easily be exploited through saving and loading. The real task for those completionists out there is finding and acquiring all of the Golems through locating/fighting them on the field, buying them in the shop, or winning them at the casino. It will take a lot of time to find them all and this is a feat that I wasn’t willing to complete. Apart from this, there are several super-bosses scattered around the world that will require quite a bit of grinding and strategy to defeat. Once again, this game didn’t interest me enough to actually put in the effort. This again falls back to the pointlessness in using Golems, and I’m sure I would have had the “gotta catch’em” mentality as well as the desire to defeat these super-bosses if I could actually customise a powerful team of Golems. Below is an image of Atsuma exploring the big wide world.
All in all, Enchanted Arms took me 35 hours to pace through and it somehow managed to hold my interest until the end, at which point, I happily shoved it back in my cupboard. The horrendous voice acting, character dialog and mediocre story may have been forgivable if the Golem system showed some depth, but it clearly fell very short. Enchanted Arms is truly just an ordinary game with nothing to stand out and I’m sure in a few years’ time I’ll have forgotten everything about it. Unless you can pick it up cheap like I did, and have nothing else to play; give it a miss.