Without a doubt, Enchanted Arms is the best traditional role-playing game on the Xbox 360 – backhanded praise when all the other genre offerings are still a gleam in their developers’ collective eye, but praise nonetheless. Armored Core impresarios From Software have delivered another highly playable summer release for the console, the other being the Sega-published Chromehounds, and fans of Japanese-style role-playing games should embrace it wholeheartedly.
Enchanted Arms doesn’t have the rich, political storytelling of Suikoden V or the quirky and macabre occult tendencies of Nocturne or Shadow Hearts, and some might argue that stylistically, it’s a Final Fantasy clone – the spiky-haired hothead, the pretty girl that heals, the silent hulk with the huge sword; these are all archetypes we’ve played before, not to mention the elaborately animated special attacks. It’s a fun clone, though, with a deep battle system and a fairly highly customizable party mechanic.
Battles in Enchanted Arms take place on a small grid, and they play out like quick, brutal strategic role-playing skirmishes (something we never see in strategy role-playing games), and a huge variety of player-constructed golems can be swapped into and out of the party in order to fill any empty niches. Characters can also power up their attributes using skill points, which can be earned in battle or even purchased from shops. In addition, spending these points is a game unto itself – with more than 100 golems available, fans of titles such as those from the Disgaea franchise can spend countless hours powering up their dream party.
Probably the coolest of Enchanted Arms‘ features, though, is its support of Xbox Live multiplayer functionality. You can use either your own game data or a number of preset teams of golems to battle head-to-head with other players in ranked or unranked matches, and matches can be set to restrict the maximum level number and fix the number of turns. Not only is this mode immensely entertaining, but it also ensures that Enchanted Arms will remain a viable part of your game collection long after the main quest is completed – a tribute not often leveled upon games of the role-playing persuasion.
Enchanted Arms certainly does not test the Xbox 360 in terms of graphical horsepower, instead looking like an upper-echelon PlayStation 2 title most of the time. Adding to this, the soundtrack is a somewhat forgettable affair. In addition, Enchanted Arms features lots of voice acting, though it’s wildly inconsistent, ranging from painfully bad to genuinely emotional. However, the majority of the game’s voice work is still better than gamers used to English dubs have come to expect. Of course, the original Japanese voice track is included as well for the faint of heart.
In short, 360 owners who have a sweet spot for role-playing shouldn’t pass this title up. It’s well-paced, fun to play, and has some chuckle-worthy dialogue at times. Plus, if you’re frightened away by the gay man with the magical saxophone, take some consolation in the fact that he doesn’t bite.