Chaos Rings II

"Chaos Rings II is a solid addition to what could become one of Square Enix's great new franchises."

Chaos Rings II is the second installment in Square Enix's budding iOS series of RPGs, not counting the prequel game Chaos Rings Omega. It seems that with this game, Square Enix is beginning to show that the success of Chaos Rings was not a fluke, but the beginning of a series of games that could become the Final Fantasy of mobile devices for years to come. While borrowing many gameplay elements from the first game, Chaos Rings II introduces a new story and improved graphics for a fresh experience. In many ways, it surpasses the first game with a more fast paced and story-centered experience, fewer lulls, and less grinding.

The story of Chaos Rings II is entirely separate from that of the original game and instead begins with protagonist, Darwin, patrolling a forest where monsters have been steadily increasing and the earth has begun to tremor. Darwin and his older brother, Orlando, are soon spirited away to a cathedral-like structure floating over the planet. While there, Darwin is seemingly forced into "sacrificing" Orlando for the good of the world. Afterward, Darwin is confronted by five figures from Orlando's life as well as a mysterious man named Bachs, who warns Darwin that he must sacrifice them all or the world will be destroyed. The game's story deals with Darwin's conflict about having to eventually kill these five individuals for the "good of the world." There are many twists involving the personal history of the characters and the ritual itself which has been going on for millennia. The plot is fast-paced and intriguing with solid character development and themes ranging from faith and sacrifice to self confidence.

As in the first Chaos Rings, you receive most of the story, converse with other characters, and shop for items in a central hub. From here you can teleport to various locations on the planet (on which time is frozen momentarily to halt the destruction) in order to complete tasks necessary for the ritual. You select monster levels (1-10,11-20, etc.) for any given area, going higher as the game continues to make sure your characters are prepared for the inevitable boss fights. As in Chaos Rings, your party is only made up of two characters each time you venture out and, many times, the story decides which characters you take. As the plotline progresses, you decide who to sacrifice, which changes the course of the story and allows for branching scenarios.

The battle system retains the same turn-based structure found in the first game as well as that simple and straightforward feel perfect for a mobile game. Controlling two characters in battle, you choose each turn whether to fight "solo" or "pair." The solo option allows you to take one action per character while being targeted separately by the enemy, but the riskier pair option lets you perform a more powerful joint action that also causes both of your characters to be hit at once by an enemy attack. There is a charge gauge that allows you to unleash special moves. There is also the possibility of getting an "advantage" turn, during which all attacks are more powerful, by continually hitting the enemy with its elemental weakness or critical strikes. Moreover, you can acquire the "sopia" of monsters and customize your characters by equipping up to three of them and imparting their abilities to the character. Using the correct sopia with the correct characters as well as using the solo and pair commands correctly is often the key to victory. The customizable elements of the characters as well as challenging boss fights make the battle system engaging enough despite many recycled enemy models throughout the game.

The graphics are one of the standout qualities in Chaos Rings II. While the character models and 3D portions of the game are largely the same as in the first game, the backgrounds are extremely detailed. The artistry really highlights the time-stop effect with frozen waterfalls and other natural wonders. Moreover, the main hub has very detailed religious imagery with angelic statues and paintings on the walls. Every new area brings a fresh, unique artistic theme. Even the spacescapes are very well drawn with lots of detail. The character portraits used in dialogue are superb with many facial expressions for different points in conversation. Unfortunately, during the in-engine cutscenes, characters' mouths don't move when they're talking. This is quite an oversight considering how well everything else in the game is made, but perhaps there were time constraints and the developers didn't want to animate new character models.

The sounds of Chaos Rings II are as high quality as the rest of the game. The characters are fully voiced by Japanese actors, lending them another dimension of character development. Moreover, the music ranges from standard JRPG battle tunes to organ music to a decent theme song for the game with full vocals sung by one of the characters. Many of the minor sound effects in battle and exploration are recycled from the first game, but, overall, Chaos Rings II is about as delightful to the ears as it is to the eyes.

Chaos Rings II also maintains a simple and straightforward control system that makes good use of the touch screen without overdoing it. A joystick for character movement appears anywhere on screen that you place your finger. Battles mostly play out through menu selection using the touch screen: more or less what one would expect. One interesting, though perhaps unnecessary, touch is the addition of barriers during exploration that only certain characters can pass through. In order to pass through these areas a certain touch command is asked for, such as slashing through a barrier or repeatedly tapping to punch through something. This doesn't interfere with the game, but it seems like a superfluous add-on to make more use of the touch screen.

Chaos Rings II isn't perfect, but its shortcomings are far from game breaking. At the time of writing this review, a strange bug involving the iOS clock can interrupt a solid gaming session. If the clock is not set to 24-hour time (military time), many have experienced problems with the game crashing. This can obviously be fixed by setting your clock to its 24-hour setting before starting the game and keeping it that way throughout your time playing it. Furthermore, the game is not very long. Despite some sidequests and hidden bosses to test your battle abilities, the main story takes just 12-15 hours. You will likely want to go back and try out the other scenarios that you missed, however, which will add to the play time.

All in all, Chaos Rings II is a great RPG for iOS that has restored some of my faith in the platform for carrying more serious games instead of casual diversions. The graphics and sound are good enough to surpass most other games on the iOS, and the story is as good as most current JRPGs on the market. Chaos Rings II is a solid addition to what could become one of Square Enix's great new franchises. It goes back to the basics of turn-based JRPGs and brings the classic genre to the forefront of mobile gaming.

© 2012 Square Enix, Media.Vision. All rights reserved.

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