Welcome to the hundred and fifteenth edition of RPGamer's Currents Column: iPhone Edition!
I hope you all have been enjoying March because I know that I have. Last week was full of good GDC news and next week is PAX East. Let's not forget about the avalanche of games that have just come out or are about to. I know that I'll be getting SMT: Strange Journey as soon as it launches. Until then, I have some good news stories for all of you. In this issue, I rounded up all of the latest info on Square Enix's hot new iPhone/iPod Touch RPG Chaos Rings, news of Xbox 360 USB support, and a fun Quick Hit.
Chaos Rings First Look A big budget RPG on the iPhone/iPod Touch?
It seems like Square Enix is taking the iPhone/iPod Touch as a serious platform. It has released a steady stream of solid games for iDevices, the most recent of which were ports of Final Fantasy 1 & 2. In the last issue of the column, I mentioned a job posting on Media Vision's website that was looking for help on an original title it was developing with Square Enix as the publisher. Well, the lid has finally been blown on just what that project entails.
Just this week, Chaos Rings has been officially unveiled for the iPhone, and it is certainly more impressive and substantial than I first imagined. Chaos Rings is a new original RPG in which five pairs of warriors are forced to fight in Arka Arena, a mysterious tournament to the death where winners gain eternal life and youth. The game is being built with replay value in mind since each pair you play as has its own perspective on the story. It's only after you play all five pairs will you really understand what's going on with the overall story.
In case you were worried about the entire game taking place in the arena (similar to a fighting game), you will be happy to know that there are actually quite a few environments to explore, including urban cities, snowy mountaintops, and underground lava caves. You will be able to access these areas by special doors that appear in the arena during the course of the story. Each world has its own final boss that you fight after making your way to the center of each world, battling a variety of enemies along the way.
The battles in Chaos Rings are turn-based. During battle, you can choose between solo, pair, escape, and option commands. The "pair" command causes more damage to enemies but opens up both partners to damage. You have to make some strategic choices on whether to have the pairs attack individually or to try and finish off an enemy with a flashy attack. Thankfully, after each battle, your HP is recovered automatically. To improve your stats after the battle is done, you may acquire an enemy's genes. These genes have special powers that you can equip, and these genes grow in power the more you use them. This allows you to learn new abilities, take on stronger enemies, fight bosses, and eventually fight the pairs of fighters that you didn't choose during your current scenario.
It seems that Famitsu got a chance to play the game early, and it had some favorable things to say about it:
I was surprised at how smooth the 3D graphics were. I honestly didn't think that the iPhone was capable of such pretty 3D visuals. The controls are also innovative -- you can touch and drag your finger anywhere on the screen to move your characters around. It doesn't rely on using one hand over the other, so it's really easy to play...The strategic battle system is the most interesting part of the game. Your HP is refilled after each battle, but each individual fight is pretty intense. If you're short on HP, you have to agonize over whether to attack solo or in pairs. It's a lot of fun!
There are some big names working on Chaos Rings, including Yukinori Kitajima (worked on 428, which received a perfect score from Famitsu) as scenario writer, Yusuke Naora (worked on Final Fantasy VII) as character designer, and Noriyasu Agematsu (worked on Wild ARMS 5) is handling the music.
On the Square Enix DLG Facebook page, Producer Ando Takehiro stated that we should expect the game in the App store soon and that they are working on some final adjustments. Judging by the English screenshots and the promise of a soon to be posted English trailer, we can expect a NA release right around the same time as the Japanese one.
Xbox 360 USB Support Will Xbox memory units become obsolete?
This week, Joystiq broke quite an interesting story. Apparently, the Spring 2010 Xbox system update will allow users to connect their USB Mass Storage Devices to the Xbox 360. A senior software development engineer at Microsoft has confirmed that since most people are using high-capacity, high throughput USB Mass Storage Devices, Microsoft has decided to allow users to save and load game data from USB devices. This new feature is set to be implemented in the Spring 2010 Xbox System Update. Using a USB Drive, users will also be able to download Xbox Live Arcade games, Xbox Live Indie games, Games on Demand, DLC and Title Updates to the device. The installations of disc-based games may also be supported since many USB devices have greater memory capacity than Microsoft's proprietary and pricey Xbox Memory Units/Memory Cards.
As long as you have a 1GB USB drive, you will be able to use this new functionality on your Xbox 360. According to the software development engineer, when a blank USB device is inserted into the Xbox 360, the USB device will partition at least a minimum of 512 MB of space. After users insert the USB device into the Xbox 360, they can choose between "Configure now" or "Customize." The "Configure now" option will use at least 512 MB of space. The limit on the space that the Xbox 360 system will use on your USB device is 16 GB. The "Customize" option allows you to have other types of data on the USB device like music. The Xbox 360 system has a limit of 2 USB devices.
This is a great move on Microsoft's part. Nowadays, USB Drives are cheap, fast, and fairly large in capacity. This would be a cheap and easy way for users to back up all of their important save data, just in case the worst happens. I myself recently bought an Xbox 360 Memory Unit so that I could back up my Mass Effect saves. I was lucky enough to get one on sale, but if I didn't I would have ended up spending $20 to $30 for only 512MBs of storage space. The possibilities this opens up for DLC and back ups is certainly enough to make me anticipate the Spring Update.
Quick Hits: Some Small, But Inherently Cool News Stories Bite Sized Tidbits of Knowledge
Ravensword 2 Announced + First Details
Touch Arcade got the exclusive reveal for the sequel to Ravensword on the iPhone. If you aren't familiar with Ravensword, imagine a very lightweight Oblivion on your iPhone. A few days ago, the developers posted pictures of character models and concept drawings on Touch Arcade forums and revealed that the sequel will be released on the App Store sometime this year. The developers are also working with Dicework Games to add a lot more RPG elements, which were sorely lacking in the first game. To check out some of the concept art and character models for yourself, head over to the Touch Arcade Forums.
I hope you all enjoyed the Chaos Rings blow out. It's not everyday that a "big budget" Square Enix RPG gets announced for Apples iDevices. I have to say, based on what I have seen I am really looking forward to the game. If we keep on seeing big original games like this on the App Store, I might end up leaving the PSP and DS at home when I take day trips. Of course, this is all just wishful thinking. As soon as we here at RPGamer get our hands on the game, we'll let you all know if it's worth your 10 or so dollars. With that said, enjoy the upcoming game night and if you are lucky enough to attend, Pax East.