Japanese RPGs do, of course, have a place in this world – and that place doesn’t have to be just Japan. But there are certain unbecoming characteristics which too many have: stories told through overlong cut scenes and random battles being two fine examples. Enchanted Arms, delightfully, has both.
The action-based cut scenes are tolerable, but it’s the conversations – played out in the traditional and rubbish ‘one character on either side of the screen’ fashion – which tire. Mainly because the characters are generally irritating – and potentially offensive in the case of the incredibly stereotyped gay character, who makes Julian Clary seem understated. But the story itself is solid, if somewhat predictable, and keeps the game moving.
But travelling the world is a pain, because of those pesky – and inexplicable – random battles. It’s generally a very pretty game indeed, but why are most enemies – and the rest of your team, for that matter – hidden? It’s patently ridiculous.
It’s just as well that the combat system’s a bit of fun. Battles are turn-based, and take place on a pair of three-by-three grids – one for your team, one for your opponents. There are enough variables to make even the easiest battle vaguely interesting, but not too many to overwhelm: offensive, defensive and special attacks; three pairs of opposing character types; different attack and movement ranges; that sort of thing.
Not that it’s enough to hold back the sigh of frustration every time a random battle stops you getting on with things. There are a few visible fights though, for example those which earn the materials to synthesise a new character to add to your party. This synthesis system – which also lets you create new weapons – is rather excellent, because an annoying enemy can become a very useful member of your party. Most satisfying.