Reviews

Enchanted Arms

Ice queens, short skirts and token gay guys... is this an RPG or a teen soap opera?

If painting-by-numbers ever ended up as an Xbox 360 game, this Jap-developed RPG is what it would look like. Enchanted Arms is the most basic, hand-holding piece of entertainment we've seen in a long time... and yet, somehow, it works. In fact - and to our surprise - it's actually damn fun. The world of Enchanted Arms looks like this: bright, eye-gouging colour; extravagant characters that wear camp clothes; slightly crap soap opera-style stylings that wouldn't look out of place in Beverly Hills 90210; and the opportunity to glide through the game without much in the way of challenge or real thought for what you're doing.

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Certainly, it's no Oblivion. But then you knew that. And the characters and comedy help balance off against lack of depth and longevity. The story is, of course, your generic RPG tale; rebel teenager Atsuma accidentally gets involved in starting an apocalypse by setting free an ancient evil golem called the Queen of Ice, and only him, his enchanted arm and his wannabe-hero friends can stop it. But the addition of gay characters like Makoto (who's so camp he has on-site toilet facilities) and amusing dialogue and in-jokes between the good guys, does give it a certain something.

Plot-wise, the story advances in quite a slow way, both in terms of words and visuals, with only the occasional gorgeous cut-scene to make your jaw touch the floor. And therein lies one of the key problems: instead of FMV pushing the story forward, masses upon masses upon masses of dialogue between the characters guides you towards your next goal, superimposing character portraits with minimal animation and subtitles onscreen every few minutes to help you on your way.

It does follow the successful Final Fantasy 'create an RPG' guidebook though, with random battles, dramatic storylines, detailed environments and magic-based fighting, and we know what we like so there's nowt wrong there. Plus, the developers even clicked on small details that might irritate some RPG fans, like waiting for what seems like hours to find the next save point, and removed them. You can save at almost any point in-game except mid-battle, and also, if you die in a battle, you don't have to go back to the last save - you can now just press 'Retry'!

EASY RIDER
The flipside of this, however, is obvious. The game is almost cretinously easy. Almost. Well travelled RPG-ers will be cracking out the cigars about three minutes in, sticking their feet up and cruising through the game at record speed. Even half-arsed genre fans will find little in the way of challenge here, particularly as the game's double whammy is that it's more linear than a motorway. A potential additional killer is the battles; they look great and move like a greased weasel, but they're about as challenging as Wayne Rooney's autobiography. It's only later on that things start to get a little beefier, but by then you've all-but-mastered the game.

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The truth is, the battles - the heart and soul of the game - are a bit dull, being grid-based, with ranged magical attacks. As with many RPG's, elements come into play (fire beats water and so on), so you have to consider how to attack different types of creature using different magical abilities. But not much. Truth is, you can rattle through the game applying none of this logic and still come out smelling of roses at the end.

GO-GO-GOLEM!
The whole thing is enlivened a touch by the introduction of golems. Although your arch-nemesis in the game is one, golems are also used every day in the Arms world to help you out and generally... do stuff. You can create your own golems using 'cores' that you find during your travels, each with their own specialities, and then, depending on your next opponent, you can add the most useful golems to your party and attack real nice.

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