The premier iOS JRPG
I wish I could tell you to just go buy Chaos Rings II. Unfortunately, we live in a world where anything priced in between a 99 cent mobile game and a “normal” game merits a conversation on cost.
Recently, the trend in reviews has been to forgo the topic of cost; the idea being that the review is a critique of the experience outside of the associated cost. In the case of Chaos Rings II, cost is an unavoidable topic. However; you may be surprised to hear that Chaos Rings II is the most reasonably priced RPG available for the PSP or 3DS.
Follow my metaphor, please. Were Chaos Rings II to have launched for retail on the PSP and 3DS, not only would consumers not feel cheated with the quality or content of the game, the price point would shift from the “cons” list to the “pros.” The game would be applauded for its gorgeous visuals, gripping plot, and empowering levels of player interaction, all without an attempt to justify the cost. It is time to stop artificially limiting what an iOS game can be with respect to dedicated gaming platforms. Until that happens, there will always be the need for the regular list of distracting caveats and excuses tied to mobile reviews. Instead, focus on the thought that in Chaos Rings II, players are receiving a thoughtful and powerful role playing experience.
The element of Chaos Rings II that first grabbed hold of me was its narrative. Chaos Rings II relies on familiar settings and motifs to craft its story, but puts enough spin on it’s handling of player interaction to feel like a unique experience. The story’s antagonist is pulled into a plot in which the fate of the world is in peril and as you have certainly already guessed, only he can save it. Sound familiar? It doesn’t matter, because there are frequent and often stunning plot twists in which the player is forced to call the shots. The game has genuinely heartbreaking moments, and I found myself caring about my choices; not because the game has a silly light/dark meter (it doesn’t), but because I felt genuine emotion towards the games characters. Chaos Rings II thrives on placing the player in impossible situations and forcing them to live with the ramifications of their choice- even if no ‘good’ option is available.
I was surprised to hear Japanese voices when playing the game. Chaos Rings II includes a full Japanese voice track and is subtitled for English. I find that the language difference helps, one of the things that quickly goes south in JRPGs is a bad English voiceover, but the player does have the option to turn voices down. The subtitles and writing in general are more than adequate, and essential to the strong narrative experience. My only point of contention being the existence of a character named, “Lessica.” Lessica?
Gameplay mechanics are also rooted in familiarity, but like the plot have a few twists of their own. While the two character battle parties may appear to be a limiting factor in a traditional turn based JRPG, they create consistently interesting tactical experiences. It isn’t always up to the player to choose the battle party, and in this way the game forces you to experiment with varying skill sets and character combinations.
During battle, players can choose to pair up characters to amplify any action- meaning that they attack, use items, cast spells, and even receive damage as a single unit. For example: I may be in a scenario where I am low on healing items, so using it as a pair will heal both party members, but this will also prohibit me from attacking or taking any other action that turn. This risk-reward mechanic is coupled with the game’s system of elemental affinities, a rock-paper-scissors attribute in the vein of Pokemon. The key difference in the case of Chaos Rings is that the elemental attributes of both foes and friends can be manipulated during the course of the battle, and the spells and items that allow you to shift alignments also fall into the strategy of solo and paired actions.
The system of extracting skill sets from monsters and party members further expands the tactical options given to the player, and the new summon and ‘awakening’ systems act as powerful charged skills that draw from the same pool of energy. Players must decide if it is more beneficial to use a single character’s awakening move, or take a paired action to summon a powerful elemental attack. These attacks are chained to an on-screen meter, and as the meter rises even more move sets are unlocked for use- meaning the player has yet another choice between immediately using an awakening move, or waiting to take & deal more damage and use a more powerful awakening.
There are other nice mechanical touches, such as the automatic healing at the end of each battle, and the ability to save anywhere on the map, but I won’t go down the list of everything that makes Chaos Rings II a polished experience. Bearing in mind my complaints that iOS games are not taken seriously, I do have some issues with the touch controls with respect to character navigation. I would much rather touch where I would like to run instead of dealing with the eyesore of a virtual joystick. Even so, the navigation is certainly functional and in a turn based JRPG movement is far from critical.
It should also be noted that Chaos Rings II is an audiovisual treat. The in game soundtrack is paired perfectly with the most gorgeous graphical display I have yet to see on my iPhone 4.
If you are a fan of Japanese Role Playing Games, you owe it to yourself to purchase Chaos Rings II.