Chaos Rings

iPhones and iPads in recent years have begun to rival portable game consoles such as those produced by Nintendo and Sony, given their diverse selections of games, among them being RPGs. In 2010, Media.Vision, responsible for the Wild Arms franchise, developed its first iOS title, Chaos Rings, which proves to be a solid start to the series.

Chaos Rings utilizes traditional randomly-encountered turn-based battles (though players can gain a skill where they can turn off random fights), where the player has a number of options to deal with the opposition of one, two, or three enemies. Before choosing a command, however, the player can choose for the two playable protagonists to attack separately, where players can input individual commands, or have them attack as a pair, where the two characters perform one powerful physical attack, share the necessary MP cost of special skills, or have items affect both of them simultaneously.

As usual, turn order can be unpredictable, although fights tend to be quick affairs given their small scale, and there’s even a roshambo system of elements where each affects another more greatly and does half damage against the other. Killing enemies may net characters Genes that they can equip outside battle alongside weapons, armor, and accessories, and which provide MP-consuming skills and innate effects. Winning fights also nets characters, as with most other RPGs, experience for level-ups and occasional money, with each dungeon having selectable level ranges for enemies. The battle system works superbly in the end aside from the aforementioned unpredictable turn order.

Controls are just as solid, with in-game maps for each dungeon and occasional puzzle rooms that mercifully and likely won’t drive players to use a guide, not to mention an always handy save-anywhere feature and the ability to skip cutscenes. For some reason, though, the player can only view playing time when loading a file (which players can only accomplish on the title screen, where the player can only go when starting the Chaos Rings application from scratch, but otherwise, interaction definitely helps the game more than hurts.

The story is also engaging, focusing on a selectable pair of characters on a quest to fight through Ark Arena for want of immortality, with an endearing cast and a scenario system accounting for nice replay value. The translation is also more than adequate, as is expectant of Square-Enix, despite some minor errors in the text.

The soundtrack is definitely a pleasure to listen to, although the localization team left the voicework in Japanese, a lazy decision, even though voices fit the characters, and there don’t seem to be any instances of characters shouting butchered English names of their attacks.

Chaos Rings utilizes photorealistic prerendered graphics and three-dimensional character models, although battles contain fully-3D visuals, and most cutscenes use the character art to narrate dialogue. The combination looks decent for the most part in spite of some pixilation and blurriness at times of the models and their environments in battle.

Finally, the quests of each main character pair take around five hours to complete, with the scenario system, as mentioned, providing superb replay value. Ultimately, Chaos Rings is a solid iOS title and start to the series that hits most of the right notes, particularly with regards to its gameplay, control, plot, aurals, and visuals, with only a tad room for improvement in aspects such as the untranslated voice acting and occasional graphical blemishes. The game would receive a prequel and a sequel on iOS devices, an indication of a new great franchise from Square-Enix.

The Good:
+Simple but excellent battle system.
+Great control and fun puzzles.
+Superb story.
+Nice music.
+Decent graphics.

The Bad:
-No English voicework.
-Visual quality is inconsistent at times.

The Bottom Line:
A must-own iOS game.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: iOS
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 10/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Easy
Playing Time: About 5 Hours per character pair

Overall: 9/10

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