Chaos Rings Omega

The advent of smartphones, cellular phones built on operating systems, opened a new wave of communication, not to mention the potential to be alternate systems for portable games. Upon the primary recipients of portable titles is Apple’s iPhone, with Square-Enix pledging support for iOS with ports of a few of its titles not to mention the occasional original title, among them being Chaos Rings, developed in conjunction with Media.Vision, known for the Wild Arms series. The next year came a prequel, Chaos Rings Omega, which proves to be a short and sweet experience.

In the prequel, Ark Arena serves as a hub to the game’s various worlds, with entry into the Arena recovering all characters’ MP (with HP mercifully recovering after each battle), and the player able to shop for consumable items and equipment. The player’s party consists solely of two characters who can wear equipment not to mention occasional Genes occasionally gained from monsters that provide them MP-consuming special abilities. Depending upon actions performed in battle, Genes can level up, unlocking more abilities.

The player randomly encounters battles in dungeons, although they ultimately gain the ability to turn them off completely or instantly trigger battles. When fights begin, the player can choose to have each of the two characters attack individually or have them perform a command as a pair, in which case the command will have more power, although enemies that damage one of the characters will in most instances damage them both, so one must use the pair command wisely. Battles tend to go fairly quickly, with victory rewarding the characters with experience for occasional level ups and money to purchase new goods at the Ark Arena.

Elements also play some semblance of strategy in fights, where Blaze is effective against Gale, Aqua against Blaze, and Gale against Aqua. One or both of the characters casting a spell of a particular element temporarily makes them of that element, in which case their normal attacks will have the used element. There are also a few spells to make the characters and the enemy to be of a specific element, which can prove advantageous in some difficult boss fights, although players must keep their characters’ current elements in mind in case the boss can exploit their own weaknesses. In the end, the battle system works surprisingly well, with the only real faults being the unpredictability of turn order at times and a few instances where the player must fight a few bosses in a row with no opportunity to save.

The iPhone controls generally work well, where pressing anywhere on the screen brings up a joystick the player can move in any direction to move their character around, tapping treasure chests when the player’s character is nearby opens them, and so forth. Most dungeons also have handy maps to deter the problem of getting lost, the player can save anywhere except in battle, and there are some occasional puzzles whose solution rewards the player with an item. It is also possible to skip these puzzles after a number of tries, a godsend given the difficulty of completing some of them. The biggest flaw is perhaps the inability to skip cutscenes, with a few only allowing players to fast-forward through dialogue, a half-assed solution. Overall, interaction is decent but could have been better at times.

The story takes place ten millennia before the original Chaos Rings, and is for the most part a good narrative, with some decent relationships between the characters and a twist ending, and the lack of a need to have played the original game to comprehend the plot. The translation is decent, with maybe only one punctuation error, and both this and the narrative help the game more than hurt.

The soundtrack for the most part is solid in spite of the limited number of tracks, and the Japanese voice acting is enjoyable if incomprehensible to players with no knowledge of the language, with the only big annoyance being a baby’s crying, although headphones can easily stave off the embarrassment of playing the game when it occurs.

Omega’s visual style consists of three-dimensional character models and prerendered environments, a combination that works well for the most part, although the models have some pixilation upon close-up, and have no mouth movement during voiced cutscenes.

Finally, the prequel is fairly short, taking less than ten hours to complete, with a New Game+ allowing for subsequent playthroughs. In the end, Chaos Rings Omega is an iPhone RPG that hits most of the right notes and doesn’t leave too much room for improvement, except perhaps in regards to interaction aspects such as the unskippable cutscenes. Otherwise, those with iPhones and enjoy RPGs will likely find their time well spent in this game.

The Good:
+Simple but solid battle system.
+Enjoyable story and translation
+Nice soundtrack and Japanese voice acting.
+Solid visuals.
+Decent replay value.

The Bad:
-No scene skip.
-iPhone controls are sometimes unresponsive.

The Bottom Line:
A great prequel.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: iPhone
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 10/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: Less than 10 Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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