If there's one thing that can be said about Square Enix, it's that they're excellent at the whole production values thing. Chaos Rings II [$17.99/HD] is absolutely stunning. From the gorgeous musical score to the voice acting to the vibrant landscapes, there is a lot to savor in Square Enix's latest turn-based RPG. However, that's not really surprising. We are talking about Square Enix, after all. How often have they published a new game that does not make you whistle gently under your breath? The real question is, 'Is Chaos Rings II more than a pretty face?'

The plot here works something like this: an apocalyptic force is threatening Earth with impending doom and there is only one person in the universe capable of stopping it. Can you guess who that is? Yup, that's you. Sort of. In Chaos Rings II, you'll play as Darwin, a rather effeminate-looking chap that had been unwittingly pushed into the role of the Nominator. As the Nominator, his job is to sacrifice the Pillars (a bunch of people that were forcibly drafted for the dubious honor), harvest their spiritual energies, complete something called the Rite of Resealing and seal away the Destroyer in order to save the world.

Here's where it gets problematic for poor Darwin. To begin with, he wasn't supposed to be the Nominator. Due to a freak turn of circumstances, he acquired the position after he unwittingly killed the original candidate. To make matters worst, he sort of murdered the poor bastard in front of the Pillars. Under normal circumstances, this probably wouldn't have gone over so badly. After all, one predestined murderer is the same as the other, right? Obviously, that wasn't the case here. You see, the Pillars in the Rite of Resealing are always composed of those who have some form of attachment to the Nominator. As you can imagine, this makes things a little bit awkward. Not only do you have to murder innocent people, you'll have to murder some innocent folk that had ties to the dude you unintentionally axed.

(In spite of the religious undertones to the game, the eventual evolution of the plot will probably grab a smirk from any atheists in the audience.)

Intriguing as this all sounds, however, there's a slight problem. While the Japanese voice acting is rather superb (my best friend, who is Japanese, assured me that the voice acting is also supported by decent lines), the localization is not. Technically speaking, there's nothing wrong with it. There's no rampant Engrish, no glaring grammatical errors, no spelling mistakes that may evoke a heartfelt palm to the face. Nonetheless, that doesn't change the fact the English text feels ... lackluster. The dialogue's also anachronistic in places. Words like "gotta" and "c'mon" pop up from time to time to rattle your sense of immersion. As such, I can't help but feel as though the full potential of the plot was never realized. Something had to have been lost in the translation. Still, it could have been much, much worse.

Gameplay-wise, those who have any experience with the original game or, JRPGs in general, will probably find themselves in familiar waters. For the most part, the game operates in a fairly linear fashion. You'll be given a task and told to advance to a certain location. You must then make your way through an assortment of random encounters before achieving your goal. From there, you'll have to go back to the central hub and begin the process anew. There isn't much else to do. You get a certain amount of freedom in determining the sequencing of events but that's pretty much it. There is no open world exploration. There are no mini games to engage in. What saves Chaos Rings II from being completely linear are the side quests that you eventually acquire from the corpulent, cat-like Piu Piu (he's the only merchant available to you and your party) and and his scantily-clad cutouts.

A lot of your time will be spent moving through the exquisitely presented remnants of your world. Along the way, you'll stumble across equipment, items and, of course, random encounters. You'll also get to move through 'shortcuts' in the world. Once you dive through a portal, you'll find yourself in this odd little realm that would probably not look amiss in a cyberpunk setting somewhere. Here, you'll also be called upon to partake in some incredibly light puzzle-solving. Each of the accompanying characters have a special ability that will allow the party to access a part of the world that cannot otherwise be reached. For example, Li Hua is capable of punching through barriers while Connor can shoot at distant targets. Needless to say, once you've sacrificed somebody (yup, you're going to have to kill those people), you'll lose permanent access to those unique skills.

While it doesn't deviate too far from the standard formula (you'll be able to attack, cast magic, defend yourself, occasionally escape from combat and utilize items amongst other things), combat in Chaos Rings II is actually rather entertaining. There are plenty of variables to juggle and even more to worry about. To begin with, you're going to spend a lot of time deciding if you would rather have your characters acting separately or together. If you choose the 'Pair' option, you'll have access to stronger attacks but will also open your party members up to damage that they would have not taken otherwise. Acting 'solo', on the other hand, will provide you with more control but less of a punch.

It gets even more complex than that, of course. Technically speaking, combat in Chaos Rings II is turn-based but the reality is that things are also highly dependent on speed. This can be a serious problem if your opponent is armed with some truly devastating moves. If they have the opportunity to assault you before you can defend yourself, you can expect to see the 'Game Over' screen faster than you can enunciate your favorite obscenity. Additionally, there's also a layer of 'rock, paper, scissors' that you will have to factor in. Depending on what forces are currently in play on the battle field, attacks and defenses may increase or decrease accordingly.

On top of that, there is also the Break Gauge and the Charge Gauge. The former was inherited from the original game. It's a pretty nifty mechanic that monitors the flow of the battle. When it is marked even, neither parties will receive bonuses. However, when it sways in favor of you or your opponent, the Break Gauge will cause the beneficiaries to increase in potency. As for the Charge Gauge, it functions something like the Limit Break mechanic in the Final Fantasy games. Once it has filled up to a certain extent, you'll gain access to your 'Awake' and 'Advent' powers. The latter will allow you to summon a massive being known as, well, an Advent that is associated with the Human Sophia (that thing you get after you've defeated the creature born from a dead Pillar) you currently have equipped.

Speaking of Sophias, those form another interesting component in the game. While Pillars are the only ones capable of bestowing the command of a monstrous critter upon you, you can also acquire Sophias from the game's menagerie of enemies. Each 'Monster' Sophia will grant your characters certain atributes and skills. Once you've unlocked the right recipes, you'll be able to acquire even more abilities by combining Sophias in a certain way, something that adds considerable depth to your character customization.

On a more shallow note, I'm going to take a moment to once again remark on the fact that Chaos Rings II looks pretty darn sweet. It is, by far, the prettiest game in the franchise yet. Compared to its predecessors, the resolution in Chaos Rings II is so much higher, the backgrounds more lavishly detailed. Even the characters themselves look more refined. That said, I'm really mostly in love with the little things in the game, things like cherry blossom petals suspended in the air and waterfalls trapped mid-motion.

As for the music, I've nothing but good things to say about it. I would buy the soundtrack if the Malaysian App Store would let me do so but I can't so I'll settle for assuring you that it's something that would deserve a spot on most playlists unless, of course, you have an aversion towards soaring vocals and epic-sounding melodies.

In many ways, Chaos Rings II is the quintessential JRPG. You will spend a lot of time grinding. You will be gently but firmly led along the story's path to its inevitable end. You will see all of the familiar JRPG tropes. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but your decision in regards to whether or not you actually want to purchase the game is going to be dependent on this. For all of its flaws, Chaos Rings II has done more than ample justice to the formula. It's refined, it's meaty, and it's definitely worth the high price of entry.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • chinito77

    I did like the first one even though it was a bit boring.  I could not finish the second play through.  Anyhow, I hear this game crashes a lot and has no retina display.  Is it worth the $20?  I know that Square Enix sales are super rare so there is no point in waiting for this to go on sale.  Is it really worth it?

    • chamuscao

      iPod Touch 4 (worst Retina-enabled device) -> 0 crashes, it has Retina graphics (BUT not at a huge resolution, but that isn't a huge problem) and while it has some framerate drops in some zones, it isn't that terrible.
      This game should cost around 60 $ if it was for PS3, Xbox, etc.
      Over 30 hours of gameplay and promised updates (and if you are wondering, I have finished the game, and it took me around 32 hours).
      Great graphics and story.
      For me, it was more than worth.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5FLRQI2X2LU3IHMCG7HEAEFD5I Cat Astrophy

    "You will see all of the familiar JRPG tropes. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but your decision in regards to whether or not you actually want to purchase the game is going to be dependent on this."

    Almost as dependent on the exorbitant cost (for the mobile market). That being said I'm sure these games are as good as it gets for Square on mobile devices because their ports are TERRIBLE.

    • mclifford82

      For the iPhone market.  I'm sure that's what you meant, as this same game on PS Vita / PSP would cost upwards of $40 easy.

      Hating on Square for pricing is getting pretty tired.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5FLRQI2X2LU3IHMCG7HEAEFD5I Cat Astrophy

        I said mobile. Not handheld. I know exactly what I meant. Square's overpricing is getting pretty tired. The Vita is failing hard...so you're not getting very far there. Handhelds are losing ground tremendously to the mobile market. They're
        around because the mobile market is still new. I have no problem watching their overpriced games bury them.

  • http://twitter.com/CollinsBrianJ Brian Collins

    Hmm, a $17.99 Square Enix game for the iPad that looks amazing, plays great, and has a decent storyline? And their games normally go for $60? Seems logical. . . 

    (cue the complaining from the TouchArcade readers about price)

    • mclifford82

      The iPad one is $19.99.  But yeah, people complaining about Squeenix's pricing has been tired for a long time.

      This game would easily run $40 on Vita / PSP if it was available there.

      • http://twitter.com/Poach Poach

        You can defend the price if you want but this comes down to simple economics and pricing models.  Seriously the user base for Vita and PSP is pretty non-existent in comparison, they must charge more to recoup the cost.  The app market for iOS has been established.  The ceiling for games has been set at $9.99.  Square can price this at $19.99 but then you will only be getting enthusiasts and never capture a significant install base.  I would guess that if they priced this at $9.99 their sales would be exponentially higher worldwide and generate far greater revenue.  Defend their price, but it my books it's just stupid business. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/arglactable Andrew Mushel

        The difference, of course, is that they are putting out a bland JRPG with pretty graphics for 20 dollars in a market in which you can easily get a game of similar quality for under 5. Just because they would overprice it MORE on another system doesn't mean that their overpricing on this market is justified. It's not automatically worth 40 dollars when they could get away with it on another market. They charge ridiculous prices not because it's what their dated game-play ideas are worth, but because they know their rabid fans will pay damned near anything for a new Squeenix title. It's kind of like how all of their DS titles launched at 40 dollars when the third party standard was 30 and the first party standard was 35.

      • Declan Bowers

        'Similar quality for under 5'? No. Having actually played the game (rather than moaning about the price) I can tell you the quality of the gameplay, graphics and story are up there with, possibly even the best of some of the best RPGs on the app store. If by "similar quality for under 5" you mean the mass-produced, gamevill crap like zenonia, inotia and such like, then dead wrong. There, now I can say I agree with the second half of your comment on their pricing strategies, but calling it 'dated play style' that's apparently only wanted by 'rabid fans' then no, once again I have to disagree. I fail to see how turn-based combat is such a 'dated play style'. Just because in their early days they used a mechanism for combat that worked and was popular and they stuck to it because of its popularity doesn't mean it's dated. Is the fps "play style" 'dated' because activision's made 6 billion cod games on the same engine, or is the side-scrolling endless runner 'dated' because the genre's been spammed out on the app store so many times? ...ok. I think I'm done raging now.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/7M36HHLHMTK7XWLV36IEF2VEGY Joshua Wiley

    Took me about 35 hours to get 95%
    This is worth every penny.
    Theres a few games i would consider to be an epic, and this is one of them

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PTVE7NIV3QTO2HMYTKDG63ORW4 Kevin

    Not to be a dick, but it's spelt 'Sopia'.

    But yes, the game is TOTALLY worth your money. There is a surprisingly LARGE amount of endgame content, which absolutely conquers over Omega.

    Top that off with great voice acting, smooth gameplay, and a memorable story with plenty of player choice, and rather moving parts of the game.

    Yes, I did cry at certain points of the game.

  • joltupper

    Does the iPad version support the retina display or will it look blurry?

  • Koen Hesselink

    doesn't look blurry but it hasn't been updated for the retina display.. never the less its a great game with stunning graphics... i have been playing this game for quite some time now.. and it has indeed been worth the money!

  • http://www.taptoplay.de Lakeshore

    Does the iPhone and iPad games sync their progress via iCloud, Dropbox or something similar?

  • http://www.facebook.com/rameken Jan Rameken

    Story wise, is it a continuation of the original Chaos Rings? Is it better to have played those first, or can newcomers to the series jsut skip them and dip into CR2 straight away?

    • casskhaw

      Nope! Not exactly, anyway. I think it's built in similar worlds? But you can jump into CR II straight with no fear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/allan.curtis1 Allan Curtis

    Are there awful Vagrant story box puzzlesin this like the first one? Kf there is i wont be buying it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Robson/543560150 Michael Robson

    Concurred.. .I'm REALLY enjoying this game, beautiful graphics, and fun battles and magic system (almost as good as the Chrono Trigger combine system)...  The only drawback is I couldn't care less about these characters or this story. I just end up fastforwarding through it all.

    if you want a story with great characters, check out Final Fantasy 6, a masterpiece.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5FLRQI2X2LU3IHMCG7HEAEFD5I Cat Astrophy

      Exactly. None of the good stuff comes from Square ENIX. Just SquareSoft.

    • whatever lol

       Huh? Why not? The characters are awesome, I loved FF VI and VII, but I'd say Chaos Rings II is almost on par with them. The characters are very well developed IMO. Except for Araki. This game has replaying potential due to different scenes playing out on your choices, and different endings with a Chapter Selection option.

      Though I agree Square Enix hasn't produced anything good(FFXIII for example and XIII-2), this one is really good. In fact I was consistently asking myself if I was playing this game on an iOS and not my PS3/PSP. The graphics beat Dissidia 012(a PSP game by Square as well) and it's an iOS game. 18$ is worth every cent.

      The voice acting is superb, which is why I don't understand why you'd skip through them? The only regrets of this game is that it's somehow too simple if you've managed to complete the FF series, namely FFX, FFX-2 which is much more difficult than the rest of the series. If you're familiar with the FF series, this is a cakewalk, but the story definitely pays off for it.

      If you're wondering about the English subtitles, they are 98% accurate, they always mean what the seiyuus are saying with sometimes a little discrepancy, but the meaning is brought across still. Many tear-jerkers and for once, a game, that puts you through having to sacrifice your very own characters you've worked hard to build up. Worse off, you've to swipe your finger across the screen to finish them off. Whenever I had to do it, I hesitated but had to.

      The soundtracks are too good, the BGMs are good and is just TOO good. @_@

  • araczynski

    i'm guessing it still doesn't surpass FF12 for the PS3.  I paid $60 for that linear drivel that I couldn't even force myself to finish, not about to waste a buck on at best more-of-the-same from square.

    • whatever lol

       On the contrary, FFXIII and -2 sucks compared to Chaos Rings II. If you liked Hunger Games(kind of off-topic), I'm sure you'll like this too. FFXIII is linear beyond contempt, no towns no nothing, battles that play out for you you'll wish this was just a 60 hour movie instead of a game. This is only $18 and it's much better.

      • araczynski

        i thought hunger games was a waste of my time.  so i guess i'll pass.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Quickmix Frank Quickmix Hassas

    The Game is Great and the Price is ok!

  • swatbot

    So having sunk too much money into the original games (incl Omega) and having felt completely ripped off at having a 3-4 hour game stretched out by repeating it 4 times (and changing a few speech bubbles), I'm leery about ever buying a new iTitle from Squeenix again.

    But I'm curious, my question is, what kind of variety does this game have compared to the original?  Is this another 'play the same few backgrounds over and over' or does it actually vary significantly over the 30+ hours?

  • http://www.facebook.com/allan.curtis1 Allan Curtis

    box puzzles yes/no?

  • Nixul

    I feel like the religious/atheist comment was a little unnecessary. Seems like an amateur journalistic comment.

CHAOS RINGS II Reviewed by Cassandra Khaw on . Rating: 4.5