Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Which Of My Friends Must Die?: Chaos Rings 2 Review- Part 1

Rock has had a long love affair with JRPGs, but usually finds himself too busy to really dive into them.  So how does he do with a game specifically designed for the device that no adult is without: a cell phone!

JRPGs are something of a mixed beast for me.  I love the unique fantasy flavor unique to the genre. I'm a huge fan of the combat and leveling systems that JRPGs tend to have. And I almost always love the character development and interactions. One thing that's always bugged me about JRPGs, however, is that the portable ones really aren't really very portable. Sure, they get made for handheld systems, but they really don't seem to make any adjustments for the fact that most here in the West play portable games in brief spurts, like while riding the bus or making poop with our butts.  Want to skip or pause a twenty minute cutscene?  Too fucking bad!  Want to save your game?  Not 'til you reach an arbitrary save point, scrub! This really doesn't cater to the end user and seems insanely indulgent on the part of the developer. Let's not forget that most adults don't carry a handheld system around with them all the time anyway.  What do almost all adults have on them at all times?  Cell phones!

The visuals are truly stunning!

This is where Chaos Rings 2 comes in.  Developed specifically for iOS by Media.Vision, the studio behind the beloved Wild Arms series, this game is truly a fully featured portable JRPG. This might not seem like a big deal, but it really can't be understated how awesome it is to be able to stop playing any time you want. Want to check your Twitter in the middle of combat? Fine.  Need to text your girlfriend while a cutscene is going on? Go for it! The game automatically pauses and autosaves your progress any time you leave it, so you can pick it back up right where you left off, whenever you want. Additionally, the controls are completely suited to being on the iOS. Nowhere will you find the annoying onscreen D-pad common to games ported to iOS.  Instead, the screen is totally clear until you press on it, which makes a small digital analog stick show up right under your thumb- simply slide slightly in the direction you wish to go just like a physical control!  Anything that you want to interact with can just be tapped when the main character, Darwin, is close to them.

The world is filled with magic and intrigue

Speaking of Darwin, let's talk a bit about the story, shall we?  The game starts with Darwin in what appears to be a boss fight against a gigantic lava monster that promptly kicks his ass.  Flash backward to a couple days earlier, and we meet Darwin and his friend Orlando.  They, along with a handful of strangers, have been abducted and are told that they must complete the sacred Rite.  This is a recurring event wherein one hero, dubbed the Nominator, must take a series of strangers on adventures, and at the end, the Nominator will be forced to kill all of his followers in order to save the world from destruction.  Darwin is the Nominator.  Sound confusing?  It kind of is.  For the first hour or so, it's easy to think that you may have missed something, plot-wise, but you haven't.  Everything gets explained to you in short order, and before long you're off and running, taking your party to various areas of a world frozen in time.  It's important to note that, even though this game has a "2" in its name, it really has very little to do with the first Chaos Rings. None of the major characters are related, and the plot is almost completely different, so that was definitely a comfort to me, since I never played the first one.


The combat is just the right amount of turn based JRPG goodness.  Your combat party is only two people, and you can choose to attack either solo or as a pair for bonus damage.  Damage done to or by your party helps to fill a three-segmented meter, which allows your characters to perform an ever increasing array of powerful special attacks.  The combat is surprisingly deep, but incredibly easy to learn, especially with the game's built-in manual, which periodically pops up to teach you how to do something new at exactly the right time.  I'm only a few hours into Chaos Rings 2 so far, and I'm really excited to get deeper into it! Stay tuned for part two, where I'll delve a bit deeper into the story and mechanics, and render a final verdict!

Rock is unbelievably glad to be playing a JRPG again...

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