ron, Aug-31 2007

Enchant the arm

The PS3 version of Enchanted Arms has dropped in price recently, and can now be bought or ordered online in many places for 30€ or slightly below. And we mean new, of course. We couldn't pass this one up ourselves and have added the game to our already intimidating backlog of games. We are just a few hours in, just past the beginners' dungeon and the first boss, and hooked up with some new party members.
Anyway. The game already has a few obvious downsides, such as practically all music so far, the overly messy menu system, and possibly that whole thing with the random encounters – it just doesn't feel right after having played Dragon Quest 8, but who knows, maybe we'll eventually get more control over the encounter rates.

On the other hand though, Enchanted Arms comes equipped with some noteworthy improvements over the proverbial average Japanese console RPG. Namely, you don't have to worry about healing outside of combat. All HP and, err, MP (EP actually, all the terminology is slightly whack) are fully recharged after combat, and if you finish combat fast enough even reviving of KOed party members is automatic and free. Good riddance to the FF III malady of popping into the menu after each battle to use a bunch of potions and curative spells.
Neither does it force you to find save points. You can save anywhere. Just bring up the menu and the option will be there.
And should you mess up your battle strategy, you can just retry that battle. i.e. it doesn't matter if your last save was an hour ago.

We can already see how the party and member abilities are highly customizable. Even though we're not sure how necessary that will become, we appreciate having the system in place. The turn-based grid combat plays somewhat like Dragon Quest 8, but with much more strategic depth. That's good.
It's also highly efficient and easy to use. You can auto-resolve a combat turn by simply pressing R2, or, if you think the one guy you moved is enough to end combat, you can skip the turns of all remaining characters by pressing L2. We wish every turn-based RPG combat system had these two options.

The character design serves up the usual cliches, and exaggerates them. Having the notorious Mr Single Brain Cell as the protagonist sure makes the integration of the various tutorial lessens, given by Mr overachieving-genius-rockstar more plausible, but we can only hope that Atsuma won't stay such a terrible moron for much longer. And yes, the role of the female companion is taken by a member of the rainbow faction. This isn't exactly the streamlined standard cast, where there's someone to identify with for everyone, that you'd expect from a big-money RPG.
Overall we're still torn between "it's satire" and "it's a terrible accident". Just be aware that the cast may take a while longer to get used to than usual.

With the exception of the music, the presentation is nice as well. Especially the character models are really good, very detailed and natural, with spot-on skin rendering. The dialog animations are probably the weakest link. Oh, and we've switched to Japanese with English subtitles very quickly. The English voice actors truly are annoying to listen to. Sorry guys.

So overall Enchanted Arms is not a purchase we regret right now. It's far too early to say how this plays out, how the content design holds up, how the difficulty ramps up etc etc. But it's enough to dissolve the latent fear of getting a bottom-of-the-barrel third-rate junk RPG.
Enchanted Arms is not like that. It's actually neat.


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