If someone asked you which role playing game is the most popular, chances are that if you're even somewhat literate in the ways of RPG's than your first thought would be the Final Fantasy series. Best known for their story line and balanced role playing strategy, Square Enix games are almost impossible to forget. So believe me when I say that I would be hard pressed to forget Ubisoft's Enchanted Arms. While it is not the most outstanding console game ever, it is the very first Xbox 360 foray into the genre.
Enchanted Arms takes place 1,000 years after a conflict called "The Golem War". The golems were artificial servants created during the war to carry out any command. Golems were even designed to carry out orders after their master was killed, and resulted in turning the entire world into a wasteland of destruction. The most advanced golems to be created were considered to be devil golems, the ultimate golems in existence. They were sealed away for all eternity, thus bringing the war to a halt. All forms of magic were lost to humankind during the war, except the art of enchanting. Using a combination of enchanting and current technology, the planet began to rebuild. Now, new golems have been built and are helping to increase the quality of living for humankind.
Enchanted Arms puts you in the shoes of Atsuma, an enchanter who attends Enchant University. Atsuma is a lazy student who has a special gift, an arm with the capability to neutralize enchantments on any object, place, or person. The name of the university is one of many lame attempts at giving places, items and characters unique names. However, the overall plot is pretty good and gets off on the right foot from the get go by creating interesting interpersonal character dialog. This dialog causes a lot of hilarious moments that will make you want to keep playing just for the simple desire of seeing what will happen next. What other game do you know of that has you playing in the shoes of a moron, and features a transvestite and a money-obsessed teenaged girl as friends? These two characters provided tons of interesting moments.
The game is played primarily in third person mode behind Atsuma, very similar to the play style of Final Fantasy. Depending on the areas that you enter, battles can happen randomly as you walk around the map. Maps are usually very linear, so it's impossible to get yourself completely lost. For battles, you will have access to Atsuma, other characters, plus golems. You will fight many different enemies and bosses, which have totally unique skills and support abilities.
Battles are fought on a three by six grid and both teams are never able to cross the halfway mark, effectively giving you and your opponent even space to move in. Each character can have different dimensions they occupy on the grid. While each of your characters' sizes are only one square, both friendly and enemy Golems can be bigger, and can even fill up the entire grid. Your characters can launch short range and long range attacks, depending on their specialty, and can even hit more than one enemy with a single attack. You are able to fight with a force of up to four units, while the enemy can have either less or more. Each side takes turns attacking the other, and while your side typically goes first, occasionally your team will be caught off guard. This can result in some devastating initial damage that might cause you to rethink your strategy. Once all of the enemy units are destroyed, you win the battle; however, if you lose a member of your team, they don't die, in fact, all HP is filled back up after each encounter. With each battle, you simply lose a large amount of vitality points that will need to be recovered later on.
After each battle you earn money and experience that you can spend to upgrade your characters skills, weapons, and stats. Experience is earned not just when you level up, but with each battle that you fight. These can be spent to have your character learn skills, or to upgrade your stats. These stats include areas such as hit points, agility, ranged attack skills, direct attack skills, etc.
While Enchanted Arms does not have the most innovative gameplay on the market, it does boast some quite impressive graphics. In battles, the enchanted attacks have some very amazing animations, and the styles are numerous. Certain characters specialize in long range attacks, others in close fighting, and some specialize primarily in support enchantments. This combination increases the value of gameplay significantly and makes the graphics even more stunning and less repetitive.
The CGI cut scenes are absolutely breathtaking, and a truly great addition to the game. They really take the gaming experience to a whole new level. Even the battle graphics are breathtaking, and don't really take away from your character. Even when Atsuma is still just running around the map, the detail is half decent, but not nearly as great.
The musical score contains a variety of tunes for each region that you are in, as well as music for battle scenes. The voiceovers are fairly well done, and for the depth of the game there is a pretty impressive amount of content. While some people argue that the voiceovers are rather poorly done, I beg to differ. One of the neat tricks that you can do is to fast forward the conversations. By this I mean that you can press the A button at just the right time in order for the conversation and subtext to transition. This makes conversation flow a lot better and keeps the players interest. If you need to pause the conversation for any reason, you can just simply avoid pressing any buttons and come back to it when you need to. When you are talking to NPC's not related to the storyline there aren't any voiceovers, even with the main characters. This can be rather frustrating and really take you out of your groove. It does help you to avoid meaningless conversations however, and for the most part can be fast forwarded.
While Enchanted Arms does have some elements of replay value, it significantly fails in this respect. Even though the multiplayer does support stat-tracking, among other things, it is very shallow, and is not really even worth a glance. Unless you want to revisit a few funny moments, it's just too linear to move through a second time.
Overall, Enchanted Arms is a well made game in terms of both gameplay and visual effects. While the overall freedom in the world in very limiting, the great character interactions and storyline make up for the deficiency. Like most true RPG's, Enchanted Arms will take the average gamer over thirty hours to complete. While the length might be unattractive to some, the storyline is engaging enough to draw you in. If you are looking for a game with a lot of replay value, I suggest you look somewhere else. But if you are looking for a new RPG for the Xbox 360, it's worth checking out.