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   Chaos Wars - Reader Review  

Perpetuating negative connotations in regards to chaos
by Robin Crew

Click here for game information
PLATFORM
PS2
BATTLE SYSTEM
3
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
1
STORY
1
MUSIC & SOUND
2
VISUALS
2
CHALLENGE
Unbalanced
COMPLETION TIME
40-60 Hours
OVERALL
1.5/5
- Terrible translation and plot
- Enormous, scattershot licensed cast
- Generic battle system
Click here for scoring definitions 

   As with many of you, my fellow RPGamers, I feel the need to support almost any company producing or developing RPGs. It helps me get my fix and increases the odds that adequate numbers of RPGs will be produced and translated in the future. Sometimes that really pays off- Megami Tensei games come to mind. However, one has to wonder if either O3 Entertainment, the translators, or Idea Factory, the developer, are worth supporting. The former is out and out terrible. The translation is far worse than anything you've seen since grammar school- we're talking NES era gibberish. So with 03's hopes of future projects summarily dashed upon the cruel crags of reality, our question becomes "is it worth supporting the developer?"

   The first thing you're going to think when you see Chaos Wars in action is that it looks and feels exactly like an NIS Strategy RPG such as La Pucelle, Disgaea or Phantom Brave. That fine thought will accompany you throughout the game. The visual style is very similar to those games. The maps and grids work almost the same way. The game's heavy grinding and almost complete lack of free wandering, offering only one actual "town" will all remind you of the structure and style of Disgaea.

   NIS games such as those mentioned above, however, are often humorous and have oddball plots that help round out the endless grinding. Chaos Wars, however, has but the thinnest, most bare bones excuse for a plot conceivable. Making a long story short, three high schoolers from the "real world" are sucked into an alternate world. This world, known as Endia is in great danger from a mysterious and powerful group known as the Luin, who are pretty typical villains intent on wreaking havoc with the intent of creating a new world, a new paradise. Heroes and villains alike are often people brought to Endia from their own worlds. The nearly universal character motivation therefore, is to save Endia so that they can find a way back to their homes.

   This brings us to what Chaos Wars replaces an original plot and decent dialogue with- characters licensed from a wide range of game series, including but not limited to Generation of Chaos, Growlanser, Shadow Hearts, and Gungrave. So if you've been itching to see Yuri rip it up in an SRPG, this game is your first, and probably only chance to do so. However, this mass-licensing has a few inherent problems. First, the cast balloons to over fifty playable characters. Since you can only take ten with you for any set of battles, and you can only use five at once, it forces you to leave a lot of the cast out, sitting on their thumbs. Another problem is that the game is horrifically unbalanced. In particular, there is a wide swath of people who might otherwise be powerful, but are so slow as to be a burden at the best of times. Making that particular problem worse is the fact that usable abilities are based almost purely on weapon type, reducing the individuality of the characters, and sometimes nerfing them royally. Consider Monica of Growlanser III. In her original game her low attack power was made up for by her high speed and the fact that her knives were throwing weapons. In Chaos Wars, however, knives translate to swords. Swords are not ranged weapons. They're also pretty common. So will you use Monica? Not unless you hate yourself and enjoy it when battles drag out. Not only are there too many characters, many of whom are incapable of distinguishing themselves in battle, many of them will also be unfamiliar even to the most attentive, hardcore gamer. Souji Okita for instance, was a member of the real life Shinsengumi in mid 1800s Japan that opposed modernization and westernization. The game he was featured in was never released in the United States. Koyuki is one of the very few spellcasters, and can thus be quite useful. Unfortunately, she's a character from Steady X Study, which seems to be a dating sim or visual novel. In short, the kind of game few people would've played even if it were available in English.

   The battle system is not a total loss, however. In fact, there are a few unique aspects to it. The first is the S gauge. The S gauge can be used to perform combo attacks, transform into more powerful forms, or use the "ultimate" and only unique move a character has. Many actions, like being hit or attacking fill the SP gauge. It is then up to the player to decide how to spend it. All combatants, whether friend or foe can regenerate life each turn, but each time they get hit, the total amount that can be restored by this natural healing decreases. So for those tough bosses, you might want to save up your S gauge and bombard the enemy with four or five consecutive attacks, which can become quite powerful. In addition almost all your characters have a super form known as "realize." In this form, they receive numerous benefits including percentage based stat boosts and access to their ultimate attacks. Knowing who and when to use the realize command for can be pivotal. For instance, Souji Okita's bonuses in realize are quite low- a mere 10% boost. However, his realize form lasts longer than average. For four turns, Souji can make use of his special Realize form abilities, which allows him to more easily evade enemy attacks and use counterattacks more often. By contrast, Yuri of Shadow Hearts only gets to keep his form for two turns, but his stat growth is massive. Additionally, if you can save up two full gauges, then Yuri can transform and use his unique ultimate attack, For the Child, which inflicts massive dark damage to all enemies in a very wide area. On top of the S gauge system, each character has two unique passive abilities at all times, and an extra two in their realize form. These passive abilities run the gamut of improving the use of a particular element, to nullifying certain status attacks, to making combo attacks more effective between certain characters. It's an interesting system that unfortunately, doesn't do enough to distinguish characters. The fact that the passive skill explanations are often unclear and occasionally appear to be incorrect brings it down.

   Chaos Wars also has a decent amount of customization. Skills, which range from counterattacks, to stat boosts to your entire line of attacks, are treated as items and can be shifted from character to character, as long as they possess a weapon type capable of using them. Skills gain levels and become more effective as they're used. This takes too long to allow old skills to stay active forever, but it can help. It can also make strong attacks, such as the character specific moves frighteningly powerful. Equipment is also often imbued with traits similar to passive skills which can improve how fast a character gains levels with a certain weapon type, increased counter attack chance, and many other bonuses. Elemental strengths and weaknesses are a big part of your strategy as well, so covering weaknesses with accessories can really help. Weapons themselves can gain experience and receive various bonuses if you're willing to pump fistfuls of cash into them. While the sheer number of items and pieces of equipment in the game is vast, truly great weapons are rare, and if it's a B rank or better, it will receive a substantial bonus for your efforts in upgrading it.

   The visuals, as mentioned are roughly on par with your standard NIS game, although the characters have a distinct tendency to look cartoony and deformed regardless of the art style of their original games. The music is decent, but you'll hear the same tracks over and over for lengthy periods of time. The Japanese voices are decent, but overacted. The English voices would have a very, very hard time being worse. The translation, when it is understandable at all, is still confusing and awkward. As an example, Yuri of Shadow Hearts is translated as Uru, and his nemesis from Covenant, Nicholai, is referred to as Nicole. Considering that the Shadow Hearts games did pretty well for themselves stateside, it seems like it would have been a good idea to use the existing English names. I won't lie to you because I don't know how. The game manages to be fun despite its awful translation, well, fun for thirty hours anyway. I don't regret buying it and I don't regret playing it, but that has more to do with my inability to admit a mistake than the quality of the game. I can't honestly recommend it because this game simply doesn't need to exist. It doesn't do anything that a good NIS game wouldn't do better, and is almost equal as a time sink. Its sole advantage is its various licensed characters, but between a poor translation, and the number of games that were never released in the U.S. it's a pretty poor trade off. Unless you're an SRPG fanatic, there's no reason why this game would even be worth the time you spent on it already by reading this review. Idea Factory doesn't come out of this project looking much better than O3 Entertainment.

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