Chaos Rings is a turn-based RPG for the iOS platform that brings impressive art design, an intriguing story and console style gameplay to the iPhone and iPad.
Developed by creators of the Wild Arms series Media.Vision and with art direction from Yusuke Naora who worked on RPG classics Final Fantasy VII and VIII, Chaos Rings has a distinct PlayStation era feel. The pre-rendered backgrounds look beautiful and highly detailed and the character designs are interesting and varied. Chaos Rings is one of the most visually pleasing RPGs on the iOS platform and a great game in it’s own right.
The story of Chaos Rings revolves around four different pairs of characters that are brought together in the Ark Arena and forced to fight for their lives, with the victors gaining immortality. The game lets you chose between four different scenarios adding re-play value as each one plays out differently. Each pair must travel through various dungeons and face bosses in order to learn more about the Ark Arena, the mysterious Agent who appears to be running the Arena and the truth about why they have been summoned there. Each pair have an interesting relationship dynamic, from being husband and wife to wanting to get revenge for murder, but over the course of the game they develop further and you learn the truth about their pasts. The story and the characters that fill it are both interesting and engaging.
Chaos Rings brings a slight switch up to the tradition turn-based battles RPG players are familiar with. In combat each couple can choose to attack individually or combine together to perform a more powerful paired attack. Using pair attacks might cause more damage, but then the enemies have a chance to fight back and attack both party members in a single strike. A Break Meter is also displayed showing who has the upper hand in battle so balancing between using solo and pair attacks is crucial to winning tough boss battles. After defeating monsters you can earn Gene Plates that can be equipped to your characters to allow them to perform magic attacks in combat. Most of the gameplay revolves around dungeon crawling, but a few puzzle room challenges that require you to move blocks and teleport your character around obstacles are implemented to provide a bit of variety.
Like the visuals, the soundtrack is also impressive for the hardware. The music is mostly lively and up-tempo, such as the majestic “Theme of Chaos Rings”. While other tracks change it up like the eerie and mysterious “No Place Like Home”. Most tunes have multiple parts making the compositions feel varied and unique. This is a quality soundtrack.
Chaos Rings is an impressive RPG designed for mobile platforms featuring great combat and art style. If you wish to play a quality RPG on your iPhone or iPad then you should play Chaos Rings.
Starting life on the original PlayStation back in 1995, the Suikoden series is well known for it’s focus on political storylines, ability to recruit 108 characters and three different types of combat, including turn-based party battles, one-on-one duels and large scale strategy war battles. Suikoden II is probably the most critically acclaimed in the series, while the last mainline instalment was Suikoden V released in 2006. It would be amazing for Konami to release Suikoden VI and bring back the epic storylines and intense battles.
Developed by Game Arts, the original Grandia is seen as a classic released on the Sega Saturn and PlayStation. Grandia featured one of the best turn-based battles systems ever made, that allowed your characters to counter or even interrupt enemy attacks. The rest of the series followed on with this great system, but despite an online entry recently the last mainline entry was Grandia III released on the PlayStation 2. I would love to see a Grandia revival capturing the sense of imagination, spirit and adventure of the first game.
3. -Wild ARMS-
Like a few of the series on this list, the first Wild ARMS game was released on the original PlayStation. Published by Sony, Wild ARMS was notable for having an “Old West” theme and characters that used firearms as weapons. While beginning with a traditional turn-based battles system, later entries changed up the formula to incorporate a Hex System allowing characters to move around a grid when fighting enemies. With 5 main games and a tactical RPG spin-off all releasing on past PlayStation systems now is the time to bring Wild ARMS 6 to the PlayStation 4.
Level 5 has created some fantastic RPGs over the years, but their very first was Dark Cloud for the PlayStation 2 back in 2000. A sequel, Dark Chronicle was released a couple of years later improving on everything from the original featuring action RPG battles, city-building system mechanics and a magical cel-shaded art style. With the last game released over a decade ago, many fans have waited long enough for a 3rd Dark Cloud game.
I first played Final Fantasy X over a decade ago. It was the reason I got a PlayStation 2 and it was the only game I owned until I completed everything there was to do (yeah even dodging 200 lightning bolts!) It was recently re-released as Final Fantasy X HD along with its intriguing sequel, updated graphics, beautifully remastered soundtrack and extra content from the Japanese versions. It is a bittersweet moment for me though as I keep asking myself why is this 10 year old ago game so much better than any other RPG I have played on my PlayStation 3 this generation?
Final Fantasy X is not my favourite RPG, or even my favourite Final Fantasy, but it is a fantastic game and transitioned the soul of the series wonderfully well from the PlayStation era to more powerful PlayStation 2 hardware. When people talk about modern RPGs, I have seen the argument that the often criticised Final Fantasy XIII is the exact same linear design first featured in Final Fantasy X. Initially I got the same impression, but the deeper you delve into each game, it becomes more and more apparent of how much superior FFX is and it really highlights the flaws in FFXIII and other modern RPGs in general.
RPGs that tell engaging stories always have to have a component of linearity, but the ones that are elevated above the normal are the ones that still provide the illusion of freedom. The older Final Fantasy titles did this amazingly well that we didn’t even notice it was a feature until it was gone. Sure, you had to go from one place to the other as the story dictated, but the choice was always yours. You could explore other areas off the beaten track to find secret items, you could backtrack to previously visited areas to see how things had progressed, you could partake in mini-games at your leisure, you could fight endless battles to build your characters up to insanely powerful levels or when you were ready you could just get on with the story. The illusion of freedom was always there, Final Fantasy X had that… Final Fantasy XIII did not.
Final Fantasy X HD has had a facelift and I really appreciate the effort that has gone into the visuals. The backgrounds are magnificent, sharp and intricately detailed and the main character models have also been noticeably upgraded. There are plenty of elements left over from a game originally released in 2001, but for me this world is beautiful and endlessly enticing. FFX’s Spira is one of the most living and breathing worlds in any RPG and I found myself talking to all the NPCs around and often stopping to take in the extraordinary scenery. Again I have found it hard to be absorbed in the worlds of modern RPGs, but Final Fantasy X does it effortlessly. This is a fantasy I was more than happy to return to.
I hadn’t played FFX for over 10 years so I couldn’t remember every single detail of the story, but I was surprised how quickly I was drawn into the story. Having visited Japan recently, the themes and locations really hit me as having a more Asian feel than most games in the Final Fantasy series, such as the island-like setting, the temples and architecture, Yuna’s kimono and respectful/ reserved personality, Auron’s design etc. While lots of modern Japanese companies are striving to “Westernise” their games to better appeal to English speaking cultures, it is ironic to see how Japanese FFX feels and then how popular it is with said fans. The story is a big feature of Final Fantasy X and it is fantastically realised and implemented. Again to compare it to FFXIII, the backstory of Spira and its fate is easily and logically explained through gameplay itself, instead of having to read through a datalog to try and follow what is going on.
Just like the world, the characters are also full of life and depth. During its original development Squaresoft put a big emphasis on character emotion and this groundwork still shines through today. The interactions between the main characters are thoughtful and touching and I really enjoy the honest moments between Tidus and Yuna. Some of their conversations have an air of innocence and childlike perception and I can’t help but think this was the influence of Hironobu Sakaguchi as many of his games share this trait. Modern Square Enix RPGs including FFXIII definitely don’t have these moments and a lot of the staff are the same between these two games except Sakaguchi, it couldn’t just be a coincidence could it? FFX was also one of the first RPGs to feature extensive voice acting and while it is not perfect there are some truly memorable performances that helped elevate the experience. Viewing Auron’s emotional and thrilling speech before the battle with Yunalesca still sent shivers down my spine even today and the noticeable difference between Tidus’s whining voice during the first half of the story, compared to his deeper more mature voice during his narration is a great example of subtle character development that is not just thrown in your face.
The last thing I want to touch on is the battle system. I still think this is one of the best battle system in any RPG. The ability to switch out party members so that everyone can participate is genius and adds a lot to battle strategy as different characters are needed to deal with different enemies and it helps build attachment to whole party. Being able to control everyone in battle is a big feature for me and games like FFXIII that limit you to one only is a big disappointment. Seeing as you spend so much time in RPGs during combat, having a flexible, strategic battle system is a must. Square Enix tried to speed up the battle system in FFXIII but lost a lot of the strategy as I did find myself just hitting auto battle repeatedly, just waiting until I staggered the foe, switched combat roles and repeat. If they wanted to speed up the battles they only need to look at Final Fantasy X’s sequel that hit a great balance between speed and strategy/ control.
I am fully immersed and loving every minute of Final Fantasy X HD. I just wish they would still make these kind of RPGs with big budgets on home consoles today. It is just not nostalgia for me, they are just simply better designed games…
Pokémon Gold and Silver are twin turn-based RPGs for the GameBoy Colour that brought the popular monster catching series to new heights as well as expanding on the foundations set in the original games .
The original Pokémon Red and Blue allowed players to travel around the game world catching over 100 species of Pokémon creatures and training them to battle against other Pokémon Trainers to become the world champion. Gold and Silver updated the formula adding over 100 new Pokémon, new varieties, a whole new region to explore (with a real world time mechanic) and more complexity to the game play. Everything that was great about the first generation of Pokémon games, was amplified in these sequels.
The story of Gold and Silver is a direct sequel set 3 years after the events of the original games including appearances from some major characters. The player is tasked with travelling the world and amassing and training a party of Pokémon to battle against the best of the best. While the story is minimal and the visuals on the original GameBoy were limited, the region of Johto (which is based on the real Japanese region of Kansai) is full of interesting cities and locations to explore. At the end of the main storyline you also have the opportunity to revisit the Kanto region in Red and Blue and see how things have changed over the 3 years, effectively adding a second quest to the game. The Pokémon creatures themselves are diverse and will appeal to many different kinds of tastes. They are true characters of the games.
While initially seeming to be about monster collecting, the real focus of the series is battling the Pokémon you have caught in turn-based combat. There are 17 different elemental types of Pokémon that all have advantages and disadvantages against each other, such as fire being weak to water, but strong against grass. With each Pokémon having four moves (which can be of different type) and battles allowing up to 6 Pokémon each side, battles can be very strategic and engaging, especially against other human players. Add in the fact Pokémon can also hold items that have special effects in combat and there is plenty of room to experiment. The longevity of the Pokémon series is down to fact that they are easy for everyone to play, but have surprising depth and complexity for more advanced players willing to look for it. This has only increased as the series grew.
Of course the real appeal of the Pokémon series is the fantastic multiplayer aspects. Trading Pokémon with friends and then building your ultimate team to battle against them is easily the most rewarding part of the game. While these decade old games are still playable, they received a recent remake bringing them inline with the modern series and todays handheld consoles expanding the multiplayer access with online play.
With the limited hardware of the GameBoy Colour, locations needed musical themes to make them stand out, such as the tune for “Goldenrod City”, which is appropriate lively for a big bustling city. The easily recognisable battle theme is also frantic and gives you feeling of being ambushed by a wild Pokémon, while the “Champion Battle” builds urgency and intensity when the stakes are high.
Pokémon Gold and Silver are classic portable RPGs that are both accessible, but with hidden depth and complexity. If you wish to play an RPG that allows strategic battles against friends then you should play Pokémon Gold and Silver.