Chaos Rings is an RPG developed by Media Vision for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Unlike many of the other "RPGs" found in the AppStore today, Chaos Rings is a real 3D RPG meant to be on par with Nintendo DS/PlayStation Portable RPGs. Yusuke Naora who worked earlier as Art Director for FFVII/FFVIII provided the character design and Media Vision, known for their work on Wild Arms, provided the rest of the game. Nothing more but these names were required to raise the bar for Chaos Rings’ expectations . As excited as I was, I downloaded the game on day 1 and decided to write a review for it (sorry for the delay ^^). Read on to see for yourself if this game met its overwhelming expectations.
Chaos Rings is a large RPG. There are 4 different pairs of characters to choose from but only 2 pairs are available at the start, with the remaining pairs unlocked when you finish the game once. This means you can complete the main story in four slightly different ways. Once you complete the game with one of the pairs you can either start a New Game+ with all your equipment and skills or you can continue to play the game to battle some optional bosses or grind for items or experience points. Like FFX-2, Chaos Rings has a progress tracker so you’ll eventually know when you’re nearing the end .
I completed only one of the four stories and it took me about 7 hours but I took a lot of time to level-up my characters and as a result the game was very easy for me (i.e. I defeated the final boss in 3 blows).
Characters and Story
Chaos Rings features 4 couples and in each play through you’ll encounter these characters as part of the story. The story itself is a typical RPG story reminiscent to Battle Royale (for the Japanophiles): 4 couples are suddenly find themselves in a place called the Ark Arena. Their mysterious host called "The Agent" gives them instructions to complete areas and fight other couples in the Ark Arena to ultimately achieve immortality. Later on in the game you’ll learn the true purpose of the Ark Arena.
This story sounds interesting on paper but thanks to some flaws it remains fairly basic. Sometimes the characters know more about the story than what’s being told which can result in awkward situations. Furthermore there’s also the lack of real cutscenes and voice acting . All of this mixed with some plot twists that are too predictable for a casual RPG player really put a damper on the experience.
Chaos Rings uses a virtual D-pad to control your characters through the worlds. The D-pad isn’t locked and that’s a good thing because when playing with both hands it can really be difficult to get a decent grip. There are no towns (or similar places) in Chaos Rings, you will only explore deserted worlds and shopping and talking with other NPCs will happen inside the Ark Arena most of the time. When you press the icon in the upper right corner, you will be able to choose between options like Camp (main menu), No Encounters (after you’ve acquired the skill), Save or Map (not that the disastrous map system will be of any help throughout the game).
Nevertheless the field gameplay is interesting because at the start of each new area you’re free to choose a difficulty level. In Chaos Rings the difference between an enemy of lv.10 and one of lv. 40 isn’t all too huge (but the exp. count is =), which makes leveling up very easy. The game also features random, respawning treasure chests and an option to turn battles off. I don’t think this was a very good idea because it was very easy to level up and get new items to sell (and thus new equipment) by running around a little, resulting in a very easy game.
Battles in Chaos Rings are random encounters featuring 2 or 3 enemies and 2 playable characters. The battle system is very basic with an option to attack, to use Genes (skills & magic), to perform a pair attack or to run from battle. There is also a Break gauge (similar to XIII’s E306 Overclock mode) which determines which side has the upper hand in battle. Sadly I’ve never noticed anything of this gauge, sure it changes when you hit an enemy or when you’re hit but I didn’t notice any difference like increased/decreased damage. After each battle you will be rewarded with OZ (Chaos Rings’ currency), experience points and a possible skill or Gene (container of different skills).
Items and Skills in Chaos Rings have funny (French) names like “Vin Brûlée” (Phoenix Down), ”Gâteau Chocolate” (5000hp potion) or Telomere Revive (revives ally). There are a variety of skills and items, some of which you’ll barely use, including field skills like “No Encounters”. In my play through the healing spell always cured my characters completely which was a bit disappointing because it made battles very easy.
In general Chaos Rings battle system and field gameplay are very limited (and easy) but this might be because of the hardware restrictions for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Despite all this, the nonlinear gameplay and ability to acquire more skills and treasure chests will make you come back for more.
Chaos Rings is easily the best looking game I’ve ever seen on the iPhone, taking you from old fantasy worlds to modern destroyed cities, accompanied by a high-quality soundtrack composed by Noriyasu Agematsu. The game features only a few cutscenes (for the most part dialogues using character portraits to show their mood) but thanks to both the stunning graphics and gorgeous music, this game has an impressive presentation above some of the average RPGs found today.
Chaos Rings is an attempt at an RPG, and people who are unfamiliar with the genre will undoubtedly like it. For people with a bit more RPG experience, you’ll see that Chaos Rings falls short in many ways. Basic RPG gameplay and a weak story that doesn’t even t come close to RPGs on DS or PSP really demolish this game. The non linear gameplay is interesting but useless if you can’t do anything else than level-up or collect items and skills. It is by no means “bad” but for me it wasn’t the real RPG experience like I had expected.
It’s clear the developers tried to create a basic RPG for iPhone users unfamiliar to the genre, therefore I’d give it 4 stars or a 8/10, mainly for its beautiful graphics and sound (and successful attempt to be the first real RPG on the iPhone –Excluding the Final Fantasy ports-. Chaos Rings is definitely worth the money but RPG fanatics won’t miss anything if they skip this title.