If Enchanted Arms was a pub, we'd be down there most nights for a few bottles of tasty Japanese lager, drinking in the stunning fantasy environments (Final Fantasy XI is a catatonic wino in the gutter compared to these glorious graphics), blowing the froth off the heady plot and perhaps even getting a bit feisty near closing time with the fast-action battle system
In this massive and truly next-gen Japanese RPG, you'll take on the role of the rather citrus-sounding Atsuma. While not hiding at the bottom of Christmas stockings or disappointing packed-lunch carriers on school trips, Atsuma is a trainee Enchanter who will, by the end of the game, transform to the saviour of a land trapped in a 1000-year war.
Gather a band of heroes from over 100 individually modelled and animated characters and employ combat and magical skills to enchant your way through a minimum 50 hours of gameplay. Unlock over 75 enchanting beasts to take into battle with unique special abilities to aid your merry band.
Quests won't be linear, but are composed of multiple objectives and branching missions, so that you can choose your own path through the game. To strain the pub metaphor beyond breaking point, it'll be a bit like staggering home from The Enchanted Arms at 11.30pm and deciding whether to head up the high street past the kebab van, swing past clubland for some mini-skirt action, or wake your friend up for some late night Xbox Live before passing out on the sofa in your stale clothes much to the scowling horror of your flatmates.
Although a single-player adventure for the main game, Enchanted Arms also promises head-to-head battles over Xbox Live. Here you'll be able to challenge friends in Versus mode and use the magical and combat abilities you've developed through the offline quests to progress up the online leaderboards with a character from your party.
Enchanted Arms In-Depth
Lost in Translation
The 100 character models are all highly individual, beautifully animated and superbly detailed. Poor old Atsuma, apart from his pithy name, has had to leave Enchantment college for this adventure and by the looks of things, he's not too happy. Atsuma's glowing fist, seen here, is symptomatic of a mysterious power locked in his arm - one you'll have to master. As you'd expect, the graphics are on the realistic side of anime and translation of the script is likely to be an acquired taste.
If a cowboy story filmed in Spain or Italy is a 'spaghetti western', then does a cowgirl in a Japanese RPG make it a 'noodle western'? It's good to see that on top of magic and close-quarters combat, six-shooters also make an appearance and with the 'fast-action' battle system promised, longer-ranged attacks can be directed on the fly. You'll also be able to move characters while they're fighting, so there'll be none of those stagnant fire-and-forget-about-life attacks that can mar RPGs.
Red Eye Special
Your team comprises four playable characters at any time, each with their own unique characteristics. This number includes any of the 75 unlockable beasts - or golems as they're known - that you decide to bring into combat. When fighting massive bosses such as dragons, you can line up attacks from all four characters in sequence and combine these for massive tandem attacks. Spells come with eye-watering effects, such as Phoenix, which sees a huge flaming
Towns are great meeting-places where you can talk to non-player characters and glean information relevant to your quests. If you're lucky, you may also pick up more of the playable golems, including the bizarrely named Pizza Golem. Towns host bustling festivals and are extremely colourful places for the most part, often spawning cut-scene sequences that advance the plot. A lot of effort has gone into plot and dialogue and after the game was recently released in Japan as -eNCHANT arM, these were particularly praised.