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Enchanted Arms

Developer: From Software | Publisher: Ubisoft
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 08/29/06 | Genre: RPG

Enchanted Arms is a solid, progressive RPG that hybrids traditional RPG elements with amazing HD graphics.

First of all, if you don't own an HD television set, wait to buy this game until you have one, and start saving up NOW. This game's visuals are awesome and breathtaking. There were several points in the game where I just stood at a ledge or panned the camera just to take in the view. THAT is a well-made video game. Even though there are some points where you back-track and sometimes you see the same textures over and over again, you can tell someone really put a lot of time into making everything mesh. None of the game is better or worse than any other parts, and the first few hours are absolutely stunning in the attention to detail.

Now, let's talk mechanics. I like the hybrid tactics system, although the enemies don't change tactics enough to make it that challenging. I think it's biggest logic-deficit is the enemies either beat up on you first or you beat up on them first. Especially when you get some powerful "kill everything in my path" powers. Battles you have to fast forward through over and over kind of seems contradictory to fun factor by design, doesn't it? Nevertheless, the enemies do get more challenging and the strategy of later battles are not the same tactics one should use in early battles, as any game should do.

Also, the battles let you choose "golems" to fight with - or enemies that you turn to friends, essentially. This is not a new element in RPG's - and the game's box cover bosts "over 100 golems to fight along side you" like it's some damn Pokemon clone. Blech. I hate RPG's that have "millions of characters" (a la Suikoden) because so few of them have replay value and you feel like you're missing so much if you don't choose the right ones from the beginning and build them up appropriately. At least this game has main characters that you almost always seem to prefer to fight with, keeping the monster-taming to a minimum exercise.

I think the game's most fatal flaw, though is that there are too many numbers. HP, EP, SP, PP, XP... who cares? If you're OCD like me, then half the time you are going to the menu to check to see if you can level up anybody's stats. Constant menu-checking, I know, is a personal problem--but this game is not for the lackidaisical.

As always, the bajillion button controller on the Xbox gets in the way of the controls. At least the designers stuck with RPG conventions and kept the menu button, cancel button and confirm buttons in their traditional spots. The graphics menu seems to be too much for the 360 to handle - there is a distinct 'delay' when moving from menu-button to menu button.

Not impressive sound affects, but there are lots of channels of sound going at once, so you really feel like you are in each environment. Most of the battle spells and techniques are too loud compared to the softer environmental sounds.

Does this game have any music? Did they hire anybody to do music? I don't think I can remember any piece of music in the whole game. The ambient environmental sounds seem to pervade most of the game levels. Come on, this is a next gen title. Couldn't there be a swell of danger or trumpet orchestra of pride when there is a setback or an accomplishment. The attitude of this game seems to be that nothing could be added with any musical accompanyment, and I think on this note they didn't even try.

I don't get why this game gets bad marks from other critics on the voice acting. To me, the casting is perfect, and there are plenty of laughs. I think that the problems most people have with this game is the sound editor that picked which one of a numerous number of readings that each of the actors did. It makes the chemistry off between the characters sometimes - not a problem of the heartfelt voice actors. THAT decision-maker was probably the root of what most people call 'terrible voice acting' that just isn't. Was this the same guy that did the terrible sound? Probably.

First of all, I have to applaud the ESRB for giving this game a T rating. The contriversial parts of this game - Makoto is even described in the instruction manual as a "flamboyant transvestite". But I also have to applaud the makers for putting this character in the game. Not enough of this kind of thing gets presented in a video game in a socially responsible way. I don't want to give away too much, but Makoto is the perfect drama queen to add a little drama to the mix. Although the rest of the story is your typcial japanes fair (giant creatures with lots of powers think they are superior to humans), there is enough of a sense of loss and gravity to the story to make you feel like you're really fighting something. And I love any game that doesn't clearly define good and evil in ever-holier standards. Good and evil are presented as choices and consequences, cowardess and bravery, love and tolerance. Definitely better than "you hate bad guy because bad guy hates you."

Enough of challenge and length and visually stunning enough for most RPG fans, but marred by some awkward game play in the battle system and too long in between advancing story elements to be compelling. The biggest strength that this game has is it's balance: you're never tempted to cheat or go get a srategy guide because everything flows and logically moves you forward. May not grab those who like the "oh I just grabbed the most awesome sword in the game and now I am invincible!" fans, but anybody who likes a GAME with a clearly defined goal and reward system will like this one.

By Jeremy Hoekstra - 09/16/06
ESRB Details: Alcohol Reference, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Simulated Gambling, Suggestive Themes
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Screenshots for Enchanted Arms

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