Enhanted Arms Hands-On

We try our hand at Enchanted Arms to see what's new for the PlayStation 3 version of From Software's role-playing game.

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Developer From Software and publisher Ubisoft aren't exactly well known for role-playing games, but interestingly enough, these two companies are bringing the first Japanese role-playing game to Sony's PlayStation 3. Enchanted Arms is the story of a young student of magic who awakens a mysterious power in his arm that clues him in to his destiny as the one who will save the world from powerful magic creatures known as golems. This is essentially a straight port of the Xbox 360 version of the game that came out last year, albeit with a few new golems and at least one use of the Sixaxis motion-control feature.

Enchanted Arms stars a feisty young man named Atsuma, who is a student of magic at Enchant University, along with his friends Toya and Makoto. The game starts off in a typical lecture hall with Atsuma dozing while a creepy-looking professor goes over the day's lesson. After a few introductions and a quick tutorial about the basics of combat, Atsuma, Toya, and Makoto decide to ditch class for the afternoon and head to the trade district in town to enjoy the annual festival.

Atsuma wants to enter a golem battle competition, but first he has to get his hands on a golem. To do this, you have to run around talking to people to earn tickets, which can then be exchanged for one of three golems. To earn one of the tickets, you have to enter a pizza-eating contest. This initiates a brief minigame in which you have to hammer on the X button or shake the controller as fast as you can to eat 50 slices of pizza in the allotted time. Thus far in our experience with the game, that's the extent of the motion controls. Once you collect four tickets, you can exchange them for a golem. You're given a choice of three different golems to start out with: a balanced golem with moderate attack and support capabilities, a fighter golem with strong attack skills but little in the way of healing powers, and a healer golem that is weak on the attack but does a good job of keeping your other characters alive. After you've chosen your golem, you head into a tent for a friendly battle or two.

After an easy warm-up match, a strange girl with a yellow cowboy hat and a six-shooter jumps down from the rafters and challenges you to a fight. In the middle of the fight, the ground starts to shake and you leave the tent to see what's going on outside. A bunch of supposedly harmless golems have gone mad and started terrorizing the place, hurting people and basically turning the clean, vibrant city into a pile of rubble.

If you haven't played the Xbox 360 version of Enchanted Arms, you might be wondering what these golems are exactly. They are magical creatures that people can tame to do everyday tasks, such as serving pizza or entertaining bystanders with a juggling show. There are all sorts of different golems that come in all shapes and sizes. Some people can also use magic to control the golems, but not all of the golems are harmless. There are evil golems called devil golems, and they have no qualms about attacking humans.

The golems are an important element of Enchanted Arms because not only do you fight golems every step of the way along your journey to save the world, but you can also collect golems that can be used in battle. Your golems each have unique attacks and abilities. They can also gain experience and level up just like the human characters in your party. The first golem that we got was a cute little white tiger that packed a respectable punch in battle.

The battle system is an interesting departure from turn-based role-playing game standards. When you're running around out in the world, you'll randomly encounter groups of enemies. This brings up a battle screen with a flat 6x4 grid that is divided down the middle with enemies on one side and allies on the other. When it's your turn, you can move your characters and issue commands in any order you see fit. After you've commanded your characters, you press a button to finish your turn and watch as the action plays out in a series of often-flashy scripted animations. Each of your characters has several different attacks with a set range and attack pattern. As a result, fighting in some battles is almost like solving puzzles because you need to figure out how to arrange your characters so that you can hit as many enemies as possible.

Every character and golem is aligned to a specific element, and as you might expect, creatures of opposing elements do more damage to one another. So if you have a fire-based golem, you'll want to go up against ice and water creatures to inflict the most damage possible, but you have to be careful because you'll also be more vulnerable to attacks from those creatures.

The basic framework of the game is dressed up with typical Japanese role-playing elements, such as spiky hair, disproportionate female anatomy, flashy special effects, and copious amounts of often-silly dialogue. The game doesn't look especially impressive on the PlayStation 3, but it's not ugly either. More importantly, it runs smoothly, and although there are some load times, they are thankfully brief. We did notice that while playing Enchanted Arms on a standard-definition display, the text was nearly impossible to read.

Based on our time spent with Enchanted Arms, it looks like it will, if nothing else, fill a gap in the current PlayStation 3 library as the first Japanese role-playing game for the system. The game is scheduled to arrive in stores next week, so be sure to check back soon for our full review.

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