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Gabe / on Wed, Sep 6 2006 at 2:50 am

I review a review

I don’t read game reviews. I honestly don’t see any reason to. It’s not hard to rent a game and see for yourself if it’s any good. I don’t know why I should care what number someone I don’t know and will never meet has attached to the latest game. I picked up Enchanted Arms the day it came out because I’m a fan of classic turn based RPG’s. Now there are a lot of bad games in this genre but there are also some real gems. Series like Shadow Hearts and Shin Megami Tensei are proof that the genre has grown beyond just Final Fantasy. I’m happy to say that Enchanted Arms is another of the good ones. I’ve been hooked on it since I dropped it into my 360. Robert also grabbed a copy and we have little chat sessions every morning about how awesome the game continues to be. Tycho happened to hear one of these Enchanted Arms lovefests and was actually surprised. He told us that for the most part all the reviews of the game said it’s pretty bad or at the very best only okay. I was really surprised that reviewers could have gotten this one so wrong so I hit gamerankings to see for myself. I found the Games Radar review especially bad.

Cameron Lewis kicks off his review by applauding the fact that the 360 finally got a game of this type. One would assume that he was a fan of turn based RPG’s since he’s apparently happy to finally see the genre represented on the Xbox. Then he goes on to say that Enchanted Arms is:

“…precious little more than a color-by-number exercise in tired RPG traditions.”

It’s good to finally get a traditional Japanese turn based RPG on the 360. Too bad it’s such a traditional turn based Japanese RPG. Cameron admits that the graphics are hot and he’s not wrong about that. The game really is a stunner. This is about the only good thing he has to say about the game as he goes on to lay into the battle system:

“Battles feature a marginally interesting divided grid system, where different attacks and support measures affect seemingly arbitrary ranges of squares. Trouble is, there’s nothing intuitive about how they’re laid out, and you’ll constantly find yourself undoing decisions as you try to get into a useful position.”

So it’s traditional but not intuitive? Okay. If an ability called “shot” that uses a gun goes out and hits enemies in a straight column of squares starting at the space in front of me I call that intuitive. If you don’t like undoing decisions in an effort to find better positions then I’d say the strategy battle genre is not for you.

Saying that the attacks and support measures affect “arbitrary” ranges of squares makes absolutely no sense. It’s more accurate to say that each ability affects a predetermined and consistent pattern of squares. When you acquire a new skill you’re shown a large map of the battle grid with the new skills range relative to your position highlighted. If he’s trying to say that you don’t get to determine the effective range of your abilities I suppose that’s true. You also don’t get to determine the shape of pieces in a puzzle. That’s sort of the game man.

Next on his hit list is the “linear” story. He says:

“…the real ennui source is the strictly linear "exploration."

Hey look he knows a French word. The game is indeed very linear. It starts at the beginning and doesn’t stop until you get to the end. The story itself is actually pretty good and the fact that they tell it to me rather than make me stumble through a hundred different branches until the original tale is completely obfuscated is fine by me. This genre is practically defined by well designed but linear stories. Games like Enchanted Arms or Final Fantasy X are not built to give you the same experience as a game like Oblivion. If you bite into an apple and expect it to taste like an orange you’re going to be disappointed.

He drops a couple more snarky comments like:

“Equipment upgrades top out at synthesizing a new weapon now and then.”

And

“the skills you can purchase don’t make enough of a difference in the field.”

It’s true that upgrading your equipment tops out at the ability to create new weapons. I guess that’s enough for me. He doesn’t mention that all your characters stats such as their direct attack power, ranged attack power, support abilities and a bunch more are all completely customizable through the allocation of SP points earned in battle. So you can still customize a characters stats, you just don’t do it with gear.

If the skills you purchase aren’t helping you in battle then you’re not using them correctly. When I gain the ability to slice through a row of monsters three squares wide and two squares deep or move a character to any space on the grid, well I find that useful.

The most interesting line in the entire review is this one:

“The characters - the dunce leader, the incredibly effeminate sidekick, the quiet protector - are little more than one-note cardboard cut-outs in this supposed epic.”

I find it interesting because those aren’t the characters. Or at least they aren’t after about the three hour mark. I don’t want to spoil the game for anyone but the characters he’s described here are only a part of the relatively short “tutorial” phase of the game. The other fifty plus hours of gameplay are spent with a completely different crew and one that can be constantly augmented by the addition of various golems. That’s something Cameron never really touches on. If you don’t like the characters don’t play with them, use a team of collectable, customizable robots.

Obviously I don’t know how long he played the game. Maybe he played the entire thing but choosing to mention those characters is very odd if that’s the case. Especially considering that he could have made the same point and used the actual characters that you play the majority of the game alongside. C&C music factory might label this as the sort of thing that makes you “go hmmmmm.”

Personally I’m at about the eight hour mark. Robert on the other hand is somewhere around hour thirty-seven. I don’t know if this link will work but I think you can see our gamer cards here. Obviously between the two of us we have a pretty good idea of what Enchanted Arms is all about. I’m not saying reviewers should post their cards along with a review but it might be helpful.

Regardless of how long he played Enchanted Arms it’s a worthless review. He didn’t like it for all the reasons I like it. At the end he attaches the number five like that’s supposed to tell me anything useful. For me it just proves why I don’t read reviews. Had I seen that write up before I purchased Enchanted Arms I might have believed some of his bullshit and skipped over what I think is an extremely good game.

-Gabe out


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