Enchanted Arms Preview
One of the most significant additions to the Xbox 360 was the emergence of the very first traditional RPG last year; Enchanted Arms. But as Sony platforms are far more likely to have such titles in their libraries, it was no surprise when From Software announced they'd be bringing the game to the PS3. And ironically enough, it will also be the first traditional RPG on the PS3, and only the second total RPG (the first was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which released just last week). Of course, the question all fans of the genre have is obvious: will this latest version boast any new additions or enhancements to either the visual display or - more preferably - the gameplay? Well, it appears the developers are indeed adding a few things that should make the PS3 version of Enchanted Arms the best one available.
But first, the basics- you'll assume the role of Atsuma, a student at the Yokohama City Enchanters academy, and you're not exactly the class brain. In fact, most of your peers consider you the class dunce, with a reputation for falling asleep in class. But hey, special people get special treatment in any world, and the mysterious power he holds keeps him from getting tossed out of the academy. Atsuma has the unknown ability to nullify any Enchantments cast against him (or anything else), so he's kinda untouchable. But there comes a day when he's forced to put up or shut up, when a massive earthquake shakes the city, which unfortunately causes the golems in the city to go nuts and start attacking civilians. Atsuma and Co. have to do something about it, but as they'll soon learn, the problem goes far deeper than a few golems.
See, the Golem War was supposed to be over. It shook the society to its very core and the city barely recovered. At first, golems were designed and created by the humans to assist in work-related activities, but when the Devil Golems showed up and resisted any form of control attempted by the humans, things started to go bad. Only the magic of the Enchanters could stop them, but once the war ended, that magic humans possessed began to fade. At about the time of the earthquake and the re-emergence of Devil Golems, magic was a rarity in the human race, so Atsuma and anyone like him face a huge challenge...and without much help. The magic of yesteryear is gone, and all that's left is the ability to Enchant, which is the last hope of the humans versus the Golem threat.
Now, while Enchanted Arms is dubbed a "traditional turn-based" RPG, there are strategic elements involved. Battle plays out on grids, measuring 4x3, and each character and enemy on the field is allowed one move and one attack (this counts skills, magic, and items as well) per turn. In this way, it's as if From Software blended the likes of a turn-based strategy game with a regular turn-based RPG battle setup; kinda like combining Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy VII (which, by the way, is our dream RPG). Of course, you'll have to consider a variety of factors in each battle, such as enemy weaknesses to certain elemental effects and your own ability to form devastating combos. More than one party member can combine to damage a target, thus creating a big combo and filling up the EX meter. What's the EX meter for? Why, targeting multiple enemies, of course. It takes power, remember.
During battle, you'll have to keep an eye on your Vitality - which essentially doubles as Health in this game - but you needn't worry about maintaining it through an entire area. Once you've completed a battle, your vitality refills to the max, which is where the strategy aspect of this RPG comes into play: most strat/RPGs have the characters refilling all HP/MP between battles, primarily because they would generally take a lot longer than any traditional battle. After all, you may often have to employ your most devastating attacks and abilities to emerge victorious, and if you had to do that over and over again without "refueling" between battles...well, you'd be screwed. And here's where we can talk about one of the reported additions to the PS3 version of Enchanted Arms, as it directly impacts the combat gameplay.
The developers are implementing the motion sensitivity of the Sixaxis controller for use with the EX meter; you can "shake" it to add power to your attacks. Furthermore, as the Enchant Dance - it recovers EX strength - is a major feature of the battle, you can use the motion sensitivity there as well, although we're not quite sure of the required movements. It certainly sounds like an intriguing idea, but let's just hope we're not forced to do crazy things with our hands to make Atsuma dance. Because in all honesty, that'd just be too weird. It's hard to say what else they plan to use the Sixaxis' motion sensitivity for, but at the very least, it could serve to make the battles that much more fast-paced and engrossing. So far, games that have relied on the use of the Sixaxis' inherent ability have worked quite well, but we can't be sure how it'll work in an RPG. That's just one area where we have a big ol' question mark.
And of course, there's one last question mark: what about the possibility of online play? Will we be able to log on to the Network and battle against or with other players? It'd be one heck of a cool feature for an RPG if they decide to do it, and while we probably can't expect it, that doesn't stop us from hoping. We do, however, expect slightly more refined visuals and perhaps a few other minor upgrades over the 360 version. In the end, we won't have to wait long: Enchanted Arms for the PS3 is scheduled to hit store shelves next week; April 3. Let's hope for a solid RPG, fellow genre fans!
3/29/2007 Ben Dutka