Square Enix loves an epic storyline. From their marquee Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games to other projects like Kingdom Hearts and Star Ocean, the company likes their games to take place within a fleshed-out universe. It’s not surprising, then, that they’ve decided to make their iOS franchise, Chaos Rings, into a whole suite of games. The first released in April of last year, and before Chaos Rings II, they’ve released a prequel: Omega.
In the game, developed by Wild Arms makers Media.Vision, you follow the story of Vieg, a suitably-JRPG protagonist with a big sword and spiky hair, as he’s summoned to a strange place and forced to take on other people and get through challenges to survive. We’ll try not to spoil the story, since largely that’s what’s new in this installment.
The battle system is very similar to the original: you select commands from a menu to execute turn-based attacks. You have special moves that you learn along the way, and you acquire consumable items and equipment to use as well. What sets the Chaos Rings series apart is its implementation of a team mechanic. At any one point, you’ll control a two-person party, and you can choose to act separately or as a pair. You take damage together when you team up, and you can’t choose different targets, but generally you’ll do more damage. Deciding when to go it alone is the element you have to master.
As with most JRPGs, you wander maps, opening chests, fighting random battles and solving the occasional navigation puzzle. Media.Vision kept the controls simple, which works well on both the iPad and the usually-cramped iPhone screen.
The visuals are rather nice for an iOS title. The polygonal models are a bit rough when scaled up to iPad-size, but all the 2D elements, like menus and character portraits, are crisp and lush and generally nice. It’s about what you’d expect from a PSP title.
Speaking of a PSP title, it seems a good time to bring up the price. Like the original, Chaos Rings Omega doesn’t come cheap ($11.99 iPhone, $14.99 iPad). While we’re usually wary of high-priced apps, when you think about the cost of a similarly-featured DS or PSP game, fifteen bucks isn’t so bad. And that’s what you’re getting here: it’s not a bite-sized game for quick breaks. It’s an epic, grind-heavy RPG that just happens to reside on your iDevice.
We’re impressed, really. We’d still recommend the first in the series, as this isn’t a substantial improvement in many ways and it’s best to start there. If you’re a fan of more traditional RPGs and like that one, though, you should definitely check Omega out. And then Chaos Rings II when it’s ready. You’re set for a while. That’s basically what we’re saying.