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Chaos Wars
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: O~3 Entertainment
Developer: Idea Factory
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Released: US 05/30/08
Japan 09/21/06



Scorecard
Graphics: 75%
Sound: 65%
Gameplay: 83%
Control: 90%
Story: 70%
Overall: 73%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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Island hopping: it's like bar hopping, but without the alcohol.
 
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Combo time!
 
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Patrick Gann
Chaos Wars
06/01/08
Patrick Gann

Crossover titles tend to work best for one genre: fighting. But in Japan, the crossover Strategy RPG has become a regular affair, using characters from a number of franchises in one massive turn-based battlefield. One might argue that it started with Super Robot Taisen, which features dozens of playable characters from various mecha anime series. A few years ago, Monolith Software released Namco x Capcom, but that did not reach the US. Somehow, however, a game with less well-known characters and franchises did make it. I'm talking about Idea Factory's Chaos Wars.

Chaos Wars has a large cast of characters, mostly from Idea Factory titles that have never (and will never) come to North America. Spectral Force, Spectral Souls, Spectral Tower, Rebirth Moon, Blazing Souls, and even love adventure titles such as Steady x Study and Mars' Destruction are represented on the Idea Factory front. However, even with this large collection of !F games represented, major focus is put on characters from the following games...

The Roster

Aruze's "Shadow Hearts" is given the spotlight for much of the game. Both the first game and "Covenant" are represented (sadly, no "From The New World"). Uru plays a major part in the game, as does his nemesis Nicole. Karen, Gepetto, Joachim, Alice, Kurando, and others are all in the game. Non-playable character Roger Bacon also pops in to add humor to the game.

Two games from RED Entertainment are represented, though only one made it to the US. That one is "Gungrave OD," the sci-fi Western shooter with a silent protagonist. The characters from this game get a surprising amount of attention in Chaos Wars. The other game, "Shinsengumi Gunrou-den," was a generic action-fighting game set in historical 1800s Japan. It came to Europe under the name "Code of the Samurai," but it has yet to see a North American release.

Atlus' "Growlanser" series makes an appearance as well, though the characters from the series do not get much attention in the story. Growlanser IV and Growlanser V are the two games represented; if you've played "Heritage of War," that's Growlanser V in Japan.

Original World

The game opens by introducing three school children from Tokyo. Hyoma is the red-haired protagonist with a "bad attitude" (read: whiny yet somehow apathetic). Hayatemaru is the "sophisticated" (read: metrosexual) blue-haired boy with glasses. The trio's third wheel is a little green-haired girl named Shizuku. These three children are exploring a mountain behind the school when they stumble upon some ruins, and are magically transported to the world of "Endia."

Endia, the end of the world, the simultaneous source and end destination of all worlds, is a floating island covered in ocean with eight bits of land dotting the surface and a large tower in the center. When the three kids from Earth arrive, they first meet Rin, a purple-haired magician and the official "Gate Master" of Endia. She claims to know a lot, but is certain of surprisingly little. And, yes, she is the only thing even close to a semblance of a "love interest" for Hyoma in the game.

Other original characters exist in the world of Endia, but for the most part, people are sucked into Endia from other worlds for purposes unknown to them. This is, of course, how Hyoma and crew meet up with characters from Shadow Hearts, Growlanser, and other games. As they travel from island to island, they encounter various factions that war against each other for supremacy of artifacts called Keys. Hyoma, Rin and friends become an entity of their own warring against these other factions. Many of the other groups are neutral, self-governing organizations of Endia. But there is one group of clearly evil people that refer to themselves as the Luin. This group joins up with the antagonists from Shadow Hearts, Gungrave, and other games, and they face off against you for control of the Keys, which are believed to have the power to get everyone back home.

Localization

Japanophiles may rejoice at this game's release in the US, but this reviewer has to take issue with the company that brought Chaos Wars to the US. The usual companies we'd expect to bring this game to us (Atlus, NIS America) are nowhere in sight for this one. Instead, a newcomer to the RPG market, O~3 Entertainment, attempted to make this game friendly for English speakers. Honestly, I've seen better work done by amateur fan translators.

Let's start with the voice acting. Here's how I imagine it happened. Somewhere, at some time, auditions were held for the characters of Shining Force NEO (known for its terrible voice acting). The people that were rejected for this game got a job doing the voices for Chaos Wars. Original voice actors from Shadow Hearts, for example, are nowhere to be found. Now Uru comes off as obnoxiously gay, and Karen sounds like she's addicted to valium. Original characters like Hyoma and Rin don't fit the character art, or even the written text, at all. Rin's voice is entirely too low, and the actors generally deliver lines out of context. It's really, really awful. I couldn't stand to hear them speak in English. Fortunately, the option to listen to the original Japanese VA exists, and regardless of the option you have selected, all the voice tracks played during battle are in Japanese.

And then there's the text. There are too many glaring errors in this game to overlook. Some of them are just downright stupid. For example, a number of "breath" attacks by monsters are named "bless." I love when a big dragon breathes his "Venom Bless" all over me... yeah, that's in there. Then, they rendered the game title "Rebirth Moon" as "Reverse Moon" even though an English logo sits right below the text where they wrote this. These are just a few of the many mistakes I saw. Most of the errors, fortunately, are regarding names. Some of the sentences are worded awkwardly, but I will credit them on smoothing out the dialogue for major events. Some of the dialogue was well-written. Also, there is a gargantuan volume of text in this game, thanks to the encyclopedia feature that lets you delve into each and every aspect of the game, including information on all the tie-in games and characters.

Finally, O~3 Entertainment has done precious little to get the word out on this game. There is no information for the game on their own company site, and the only ad they ran for the game in magazines stated an April 20th release (which was, obviously, delayed). I just don't understand why this particular publisher ended up bringing this game to the US. Though I'd rather have something than nothing at all, I feel that O~3 didn't do the game justice. More work needed to be put into the game; we call it "quality assurance." Be warned, quality is not assured here!

No Grids Necessary

The combat system in Chaos Wars is deceptively simple. At first, the game can seem overwhelming, but there isn't much to it. What makes it so different, from the start, is that the fields aren't grid-based. Instead, movement is allowed within a circle wherein you are the center point. You can move before or after attacks, and within a turn you're allowed to do one of every option available. You can transform, attack, use an item, and move, all before your turn is over. You "level up" each stat individually, based on each action you take. Fortunately, an overall "rank" for each character is determined by averaging your statistics, so ultimately it looks like you level up based on the amount of offense/defense/quickness/mentality/etc.-ups you receive.

All the fixin's exist for character and equipment management. Weapon synthesis, skill customization, weapon/armor/accessory slots, what have you... they're all there. All of this is managed from one central location, your own terminal gate. It takes some getting used to, but it handles well.

Speaking of "handling well," the camera in this game is excellent. You can zoom, rotate, and even move the vertical axis of the camera to your desire. I really liked Idea Factory's simple but useful camera work in the game. Also helpful is the ability to turn off particular (or all) battle animation. Considering the significant load times in this game (which is a shame), the ability to turn off battle animations basically triples the speed at which you can run battles.

Despite a general lack of depth, there is a fair amount of strategy required in Chaos Wars. Most of it revolves around proper use of the S Gauge, which allows you to transform (Super Saiyan style, it's called "Realize" in this game) or to perform combination attacks with your teammates. Chaos Wars is a challenging game; it took me close to 40 hours to complete, with a bare minimum of side quests completed along the way.

Aesthetics

Kenji Kaneko handled the music in Chaos Wars (as he does almost all Idea Factory soundtracks), but the score is surprisingly limited. Each game represented in Chaos Wars gets one or two themes pulled over and arranged, and these songs are played when characters from those games act in battle. Then, about ten original pieces were composed for the game, one of which is played way too often. You may want to just turn the volume down, because it gets really redundant.

As for graphics, they're also what you'd expect; slightly dated 2D visuals (the game was originally made in 2006), with decent character portraits and background drawings being the primary charm of the game.

Overall

Chaos Wars is not a great game, but it is fun. I felt let down by O~3's low-budget localization, and the last few hours of gameplay really felt dragged out, but otherwise I enjoyed the experience. If you're a very forgiving person, and you crave every JRPG to grace our presence, get Chaos Wars and love it for what it is: a light-hearted Strategy RPG.



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© 2008 O~3 Entertainment, Idea Factory. All rights reserved.


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