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Hands on with Enchanted Arms: Japan's First 360 RPG
game: Enchanted Arms
posted by: Matt James
publisher: From Software
developer: From Software
date posted: 10:33 AM Wed May 17th, 2006
last revision: 05:50 PM Fri Jun 9th, 2006

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Click to read.RPG fans had to wait a couple months before they had something to play on their 360s. Then, Oblivion came out and kicked all our butts. Now, Enchanted Arms is headed for America. It\'s the first RPG for the 360 from Japan, the land of the RPG. Recently, Japanese RPGs have been getting a lot of criticism stateside for lacking innovation in gameplay and storytelling. I have been waiting for a new Japanese RPG to stand out since Final Fantasy X. So I kept and eye out for Enchanted Arms at E3 this year. Could it overcome the disappointments of recent RPGs and compete with my nostalgia for the RPGs of the past? I got my hands on Enchanted Arms in LA so I could give you my impressions.

Enchanted Arms was released in Japan in January. The demo running at E3 was virtually the finished game. All that was really left to do was finish the English voice work. So, everything I played should make it to the finished product.

I started off the demo with some nice looking cinematics while a representative talked me through the basics of the storyline. Golems, created by humans to blindly do their bidding, have begun to revolt. They were originally created without souls so this would not be a problem but these things never go well. A common Sci-fi theme: When humans play God they often create the Devil.

A giant fire monster crashes through a building, causing all sorts of strife. I asked the producer what the humans created him to do; the dishes? He didn\'t think I was all that funny. Even though that particular story element didn\'t seem incredibly feasible it was a cool sequence which ended with the introduction of the hero, Atsuma. Atsuma is special because in his arm he has the power to control the Golems.

Then I was taken to the gameplay. The graphics still looked nice as you run around the world of Enchanted Arms and they stay that way into the fights. I ran up to a monster to begin the fight. First there was some dialogue, though. In a slight twist on the old talking heads of RPGs past, the character pop up to speak there dialogue as fully animated, 3D figures. It is still a little lame but not as bad as the ones with only slightly moving mouths.

The fighting system is a strange mix more traditional turn-based fighting and tactics style fighting. Like a mix of classic Final Fantasy fighting with Final Fantasy Tactics\' grid system. In the battle I participated in the grid system seemed just kind of thrown in there. Unlike Tactics, the grid is split in half. The enemies can only move on one half and the player can only move on the other. In this battle I could move across the board and attack in a single turn, with each character. So the grid didn\'t really add anything to the battle other than an extra step at the beginning of each turn. It didn\'t turn me off but it far from impressed me.

The rest of the battle was pretty standard fare. You have a number of attacks to choose from, items, spells, and special attacks available when you EX gauge fills up. Your Ex gauge fills as you launch attacks and the special attacks are neat, if a bit long winded.

With Enchanted Arms they have tried to fix some of that tediousness from which many of its predecessors suffered, like those long EX special attacks. Enchanted Arms has a fast forward function that you can use to skip through the animations after you have experienced them enough. This is a fantastic idea and I am surprised not to have seen this more often. I can\'t tell you how many times I have wished for something just like this. It is a definite boon to the game.

Developers From Software have also decided to try to streamline leveling up, perhaps the most infamous aspect of RPGs. They have added an auto-battle feature to take some of the hum drum out of the leveling process. This makes it so that you don\'t have to make any of the decisions in the battle, for a turn, but it doesn\'t really save you anytime. Unless you take a long time deciding between each attack. Usually, when a person is leveling up they play on auto pilot anyway, selecting the same attacks over and over. So it will do that for you, but not save you much time. Personally, I think not even having to push the button during long leveling sessions will only make them seem longer. I give them an A for effort but a C for execution.

An interesting addition to a typically single player genre is online multiplayer. You will be able to take your Golems online and battle them against other players. Since you must train each of your Golems, they will be different from you friends\' Golems. At least in abilities, they undergo no aesthetic changes. This portion of the game wasn\'t playable but sounded promising. The online multiplayer could add a replay factor to Enchanted Arms that most RPGs do not enjoy.

In all, I had a good time with Enchanted Arms. The demo was limited but I got a good feel for the battle system, which usually makes or breaks this type of game. I\'m skeptical about the incorporation of the grid system. It didn\'t seem needed, but it in no way hindered the gameplay. Perhaps it will be more useful in non-boss battles, with multiple enemies. The story is interesting, if not mind blowing. I really didn\'t get to see enough of it to find out if they take the premise somewhere cool or just drag it through clich?s. With approximately 50 hours of gameplay one would hope the story is good enough to drive the player on. I plan on giving Enchanted Arms a shot.

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