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TGS 2014: Hands-On With ‘Chaos Rings 3’

The kids are back in school and the temperatures are cooling down, and in Japan that means it’s the time of the year for the annual Tokyo Game Show. I got hands-on time with a bunch of cool upcoming games, but I figured you guys might be interested in hearing about this one first. Square Enix had a huge booth at the show this year, and while a lot of that was for their console and handheld games, mobile had a major presence as well. There were a handful of playable titles, but I went right for Chaos Rings 3. It’s one of my most anticipated games, so I was eager to see if it lived up to my hopes.

Now, we’ve seen a bit of Chaos Rings 3 already, and it’s clear the game has had a major shift in its tone. Some people were also concerned about the apparent presence of IAP and whether it might be going down the free route. It’s odd to say this, but I’m happy to report the game is not free. Chaos Rings 3 is among Square Enix’s most expensive iOS games with its up-front cost of 2800 yen. This is a full premium experience, so if you were worried about that, feel free to breathe. There were a couple of greyed-out options in the menu that might be hiding something, but with what I played, I see no reason yet to worry about it.

The tone shift is huge, however. This is a much brighter and more colorful game than any of the previous Chaos Rings titles, and the story follows suit, feeling more like a teen action show than the serious adult visual novel style of prior installments. It was certainly a bit jarring in the beginning to see something with this feel have the Chaos Rings name attached. Luckily, once I got into the gameplay proper, it was the old familiar Chaos Rings. There’s a large hub area you can wander around in before heading out on a mission, though much of it was blocked off in the demo. After choosing the stage you want to go to, you warp out and find yourself there immediately. You then explore the stage, picking up treasure and fighting random battles until you encounter a boss. The battles in the demo allowed for three party members to join in, all with the familiar options from previous games, like weapon attacks, gene skills, and team-up attacks.

(Audio muted due to YouTube’s wonderful copyright system!)

Another big difference this time around is that the game is rendered in full 3D. You can swing the camera around anytime you like in the stages to get a better look around you. The graphics are really beautiful, and although the tone shift took some getting used to, I can’t make many complaints about seeing such a gorgeous, colorful 3D RPG playing on a mobile device. The Japanese voice acting and the soundtrack were also very good, though that’s nothing new for the series. As an aside, I tried the game on both the iPad and the Vita, and in my opinion, it looked better on the iPad’s screen.

There wasn’t a whole lot of context for the story in the demo, but it did introduce a few of the main characters for the game. Our hero is Nasca, a typical energetic young protagonist. At various points in the story, you can choose how you want him to reply to other characters, but I’m not sure if it actually affects anything or not. The story seemed to play out the same way in the demo, in any case. The other party members include Daisuke, a hotheaded young guy who serves as the game’s first battle before becoming bros for life with Nasca, and Riary, a fashionable young lady who doesn’t get a whole lot to say in the slice I played. The other named characters included the mentor Al, who apparently wandered in from some diner on Route 66, and the receptionists Honey Sugar and Sweet Kiss. Yes, those are their actual names. Given the pedigree of the storytelling in the series, I’m sure we can look forward to some laughs, tears, and a healthy dose of awkwardness.

The game launches for both mobile and PlayStation Vita on October 16th in Japan. I’m afraid the Square Enix rep I talked to didn’t have much to offer with regards to a worldwide release date, but I’d be surprised if we had to wait a terribly long time. Hopefully the price ends up falling more in line with the rest of the series, but the Chaos Rings games have never been cheap at launch, so you might want to brace for something around the $20 mark. Small price to pay for a proper sequel, right? As soon as we hear any further word on the worldwide release of Chaos Rings 3, we’ll let you know, but in the meantime, feel free to add it to your watchlist and enjoy the videos I captured at the grave risk of being pinched by an angry Square Enix employee. Apologies for the finger creeping in a couple times, ninja work isn’t always clean.