Have you noticed the name change? When we imported this RPG for review in the April issue its twisted title owed as much to a sticky Caps Lock button as to its odd Japanese origins. aND whIlE tHe odd CaPitaLs haVe bEEn ditched, that's pretty much the only concession to our Western palettes that has been made.
For this is an RPG that follows the Final Fantasy formula rigidly. But what a formula it is: a dramatic narrative, fastidiously detailed backdrops, technically astonishing magical effects, a sprawling sense of scale and a cast of doe-eyed gender-confused heroes. And while these are the same familiar ideas and ideology that have driven turnbased adventures for years, they again make Enchanted Arms compelling beyond the boundaries of its orthodoxy and unoriginality.
You see, while the grid-based combat is also archly traditional, there is still space for innovation and invention. Learning not to fight fire with fire adds depth, as does the chance to combine attacks, forcing you to rotate the elemental warriors in your party to suit each encounter. At the same time, a declining stamina bar ensures that your whole party needs to be carefully nurtured instead of merely concentrating on a trio of levelled-up heroes, so you become the Claudio Ranieri of RPGs, rotating your team of humans and up to 100 collectable and slightly Pokémon-like Golems.
SOME ENCHANTED LIMB
To ensure that each of the 40-odd hours of play aren't taken up with micromanagement or random battles, a nifty automatic fighting system, the ability to save anywhere and a fast forward option let you concentrate on seeing more of the sumptuous worlds and oddball cast.
But as we noticed in the Jap edition, some of the presentation can be patchy. The original's rushed release still leaves characters chatting about some unseen cataclysm instead of letting you watch the drama unfold. And the result is not only a disjointed narrative but also an over-reliance on conversations which, while the translation is good, are so hugely camp that we found ourselves hammering y just to stop people thinking that we were playing Will And Grace: Eyeliner Adventures.
Nothing's been compromised for this translation of an ambitious (albeit orthodox) RPG and if that had been true for the original, it would be as eagerly awaited as the second coming. But there is still much polished, if patchy, adventuring to look forward to.