Chaos Rings was acclaimed by critics across the board; does the sequel live up to the high level of the first one, or does it come up short?
Chaos Rings Omega is a turn based Japanese role playing game (JRPG). For those of you who have played a Final Fantasy game after FF7, than you should be familiar with the basic game play mechanics of Chaos Rings. For those who haven’t, than I shall give you the quick breakdown of how JRPG’s tend to shake down. To start with, there tends to be a group of characters who need to save the world, or themselves, and they will all tend to look like women. This group of characters will be thrust into a place filled with random battles, where you can’t see the enemies on the game screen; they just attack out of nowhere. In a JRPG the combat systems tend to vary slightly, but they typically will be turn based, where the character with the faster speed will hit first, and all the other characters will take turns in succession. The last typical element of a JRPG is that the story almost always has to be crazy and hard to follow.
Fortunately, for fans of JRPGs, Square Enix are the godfathers of this system, and Chaos Rings Omega checks off every box in this list, and does so with flying colors. Shockingly, the main characters that are male actually look like men. They still have some pretty feminine hairstyles, but they are not built like scrawny little dudes. However, there are plenty of supporting characters that are men that look like women, so they still earn a check mark in that category.
This extended introduction may seem like I am mocking JRPGs, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I love these types of games on consoles. My long, rambling, nonsensical introduction serves to make a point, Chaos Rings Omega is so well done that it is hard to tell that is even a mobile game at all. If you hooked it up to a television and had someone who did not know that it is being played from a cell phone try it out, they would easily think it is a PlayStation 2 era full fledged console RPG.
Chaos Rings Omega follows the story of Vieg. Vieg is thrust into the arena where he and his wife, as well as his mother and father in law, are forced to fight against a bunch of other couples to prove they are the toughest around. It’s a pretty ridiculous story, and I would expect nothing less from a Square Enix RPG.
Does this sound familiar to you? If you played the first one it should because it is almost exactly the same story. I didn’t play the first Chaos Rings when it came out, but I have gone back and tried it out, and this game is almost exactly the same as the first one. The only notable difference I can see is that you always play as Vieg in Omega, where as in the first one you play from multiple characters perspectives. This is nice because it allows the story to be a little more cohesive. Still, seems to me that Square could have put a little more effort into making some changes from the first game.
The fact that the games are so similar is annoying, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is an incredible game. The controls are simple and really well done. Wherever you tap the screen a joystick will appear allowing for easy movement. When you are actively in a battle you just tap the attack or spell you would like to execute and it happens. When there is an object in the world to interact with an “!” will appear on screen and you can tap that to interact. If you played the first Chaos Rings than you know exactly what the controls will feel like. They are tight and well tuned, and they work perfectly for this type of game.
The magic system used in Chaos Rings is very cool. They use a system called the Gene System. When you kill an enemy in the game you become familiar with its genes. This allows you to learn spells that that enemy can use. For example, if you kill a bug, you will gain the insect gene. Each character can only equip 3 genes at a time, so you have to choose which one will work for your play style. Each gene has a number of different spells that you can learn and unlock to make your character that much more versatile.
Another interesting aspect of the game play in this game is the way your magic functions in relation to dungeons. Whenever you complete a battle you, and all members of your party will gain full health, however you will not regain your magic, so you much use it carefully. You can escape a dungeon at any time and go home to replenish, but I tried to avoid this. You must save the magic for boss fights or when you really get into trouble and are near death. This really makes you think because you can’t just run blindly though the game blasting every enemy you come across with your most powerful spells.
The bread and butter of this game are the visuals. It looks stunning. Right as the game begins you are greeted with a beautiful cut scene that will honestly make you forget that you are looking at a game on your iPhone. I was genuinely shocked when I first started the game at how good it looked. I would go as far as to say the visuals in Chaos Rings Omega rival those of Infinity Blade. It would be hard to choose a winner between the two, and why try, when we gamers who get to play these amazing looking games are the real winners. The only problem with the visuals is that I could post a screen shot from Chaos Rings, and a screen shot from Chaos Rings Omega, and it would be impossible to tell the two apart. Since the first one looked amazing, this isn’t really much of a negative anyway, but if you are looking for completely new environments and a revolutionary new engine than you might be disappointed. This is a great showpiece game if you still somehow have friends who hate gaming on iPhone. Show them this and it is impossible for them not be impressed.
Another thing Chaos Rings Omega does better than most games is music. The music really sets the mood for everything that happens in the game. When you are battling and the battle theme starts it really feels epic and gets you fired up for the battle. Chaos Rings Omega uses music to set the mood better than any other game I have seen on the iPhone. The rest of the sound in the game is also very good. The one annoyance is that foot steps when your character walks sound exactly like the foot steps in the first Resident Evil for PlayStation 1 back in the day. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just find it odd.
There is currently no voice acting in the game, so all the dialog is done with text boxes, and be prepared, because there is a great deal of dialog in the game. Most of it is well written, and enjoyable to read, but some is very clearly translated from Japanese and feels a little off. This seems to be the case when a game has tons of lines of dialog that all need to be brought over to English. Square has promised that first update will add voice work to the game, but it will all be in Japanese, so most of us will not benefit from it.
There is one scene in particular that feels really well written. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will just say a character dies. The other character that is close to them has their dialog written in such a way that you can really feel the emotion and how much they cared for the other person. In my experience, this is rare in mobile games (look out for Nacho’s article on the importance of story in our upcoming next issue of TouchGen magazine), as they tend to lack the depth of writing to really make you feel something for the characters. This really shows why Square is truly the masters at what they do.
If you are a fan of Japanese role playing games than you absolutely must get Chaos Rings Omega. It is without question the best game in the genre on the iPhone. However, if aren’t a huge fan, and have already played the first Chaos Rings, than I would probably pass, because this game is so similar (almost identical) to the first one. If you loved the structure of Chaos Rings and just want more, than you will be incredibly happy.