Chaos Rings is perhaps the Square Enix role-playing game for which iPhone owners have been waiting. After months of second-rate RPGs, the iPhone finally has its own full-blown Square Enix RPG that actually reaches the heights of a Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. Chaos Rings offers an epic storyline and deep gameplay, and if you have any interest in deep role playing, this game should be at the top of your iPhone wish list.
The game begins with a solar eclipse that whisks away five couples to a mysterious place called the Ark Arena. A monstrous, robotic "agent" character gives them clear instructions: They are to fight to the death, only within the arena, and a refusal to fight is grounds for immediate disqualification (also, death). The winning couple receives immortality and eternal youth.
A few of the captives decide to test the house rules, and five couples quickly become four. The game essentially becomes a combination of the Japanese action movie Battle Royale and the NCAA Final Four championship brackets.
You can take control of either of the game's two primary couples at first, though the other two couples are also unlockable. Before you can fight the other couples, you must train by exploring lush environments that are accessible through the Ark Arena. As you explore, you run into random battles with monsters, come upon treasure chests to raid, and find a handful of puzzles to solve.
Anyone who has played a recent Final Fantasy game will be familiar with the RPG character progression and basic controls in Chaos Rings. You move through the world with a virtual analog stick that appears onscreen wherever you press with your thumb, and in combat, the turn-by-turn action is all menu based. In battle, you can opt to perform a standard attack, use items, or cast spells (called genes) either with a single character or as a pair.
Chaos Rings' complex gameplay has a lot of depth. As you beat enemies, you gain access to their genes--abilities that include spells and passive attributes. You can equip three of these genes at a time, and part of the fun is figuring out which genes you'll need for the battles ahead. For example, a crocodile gene can give you tough skin and the ability to cast water-based attacks.
There are three magical elements: fire, wind, and water. These are strong or weak against each other in a rock-paper-scissors system. And, as you earn money, you can buy new equipment from a freakishly funny creature in the Ark Arena named Piu-Piu.
A single play-through of the game takes about five hours, and you can replay it to see the story from the perspective of the other main couple on the ship. The story is dark and engrossing, and it offers plenty of surprising twists. You battle huge monsters and expert warriors, which gives you lots of chances to develop a preferred strategy, and you can increase the difficulty between stages by selecting higher-level enemies.
Chaos Rings handily manages many of the trickier aspects of a hardcore Japanese RPG. You quickly gain the ability to turn off random encounters, for example, so you can opt to fight only when you actually want to level up. A meter in the corner of every battle tells you which side has the advantage, so you know when to run and when to attack.
This review was provided by GameSpot mobile content partner SlideToPlay.com.