Chaos Wars is a love letter to fans. Take all of the main characters from all of the most recent, non-main stream RPGs and throw them into a strategy game where levels mean nothing more than the sum of a characters stats and you end up with the basics of this game. From the moment that the game started it felt like every person that worked on any of the games was simply saying “thank you for supporting us”. This isn’t to say that the game doesn’t suffer from problems in its own right, such as the slowest moving conversations ever, just that they don’t affect the core game.
Upon starting Chaos Wars the player is told that this story in no way has anything to do with any other story that has ever happened, ever. This is mainly a warning that while the game does have the main characters from every Gungrave and Shadow Hearts game it does not affect their story in any way. This is kind of important because almost every single one of them takes a back seat to the new characters that are introduced the moment that the game starts.
This backseat addition is one of the games larger downfalls, as when a character joins the party they normally only interact with only select characters. On the rare event that a character from one game speaks to one from another they never really have anything important to say and the dialog is mainly limited to “Wow, aren’t our two worlds different from one another!” This is probably the most understandable route to take as any other course would probably warrant buckets of hate mail even though it is rather disappointing.
Fans of Nippon Ichi’s Phantom Brave or Makai Kingdom will instantly be comfortably with the circular movement structure characters are allowed to move within. When a characters is selected to be moved, a circle appears around them showing the distance that they might be allowed to move in. A second, smaller, circle appears within this larger one showing where the character is allowed to travel. When the circle turns red, the character may not move there. This becomes confusing in early stages because there are numerous times that even though the movement is within the allowed area, the character cannot travel there because they have to move around something first.
Aside from the rather confusing character movement, the battles play out almost exactly like a cross between Disgaea and Phantom Brave. The characters must first be summoned into battle from a starting panel and placed within a small range on the level. When all characters have been placed, turns are given depending on the speed of that character. Faster, higher level characters can move several turns in a row before slower; lower level characters can go once. Turns are also determined by how much action took place on the last turn.
The game itself has no level system, just a generalized “rank” that is assigned to a character instead. Every action that a character performs has a chance to raise their attributes. The lower the level of the skill and the higher the level of the enemy the greater a chance the character has of raising their stats simply by using it. Physical attacks have a higher chance of raising a characters Hit points and Strength as magic attacks have the same chance of raising the characters Wisdom and Magic Points. After several stats rise, the character receives a rank increase. The only purpose this seems to serve is a general guideline whether or not a character is ready to take part in certain missions.
The only real complaint about the game is that gameplay can be slow. While the game itself looks good for a later generation PS2 anime style game, the attack animations end up taking entirely longer than is needed. While this can be skipped, each character seems to have several attacks that each part of an attack must be skipped. If a battle is entered around the same rank as most of the characters in a party, dispatching all enemies can take upwards of 20 minutes for a single stage. This is only made worse by the fact that battles commonly last over several stages making it common to not return to the central base for over an hour.
The main strength of the game seems to be that the developers knew who they were targeting the game for. The game has an option to switch the spoken bits from English to Japanese if needed, all of the cut scenes are done in up-rez’ed anime stills can be fast forwarded, and has countless random stages that can be repeatedly challenged for the pure sake of building levels. Add the fact of the lowered suggested retail price of the game and everything points to an understanding and respect for fans of this genre.
None of that is to say that this will turn the tide on any gamer that is unsure of strategy role-playing games, as a matter of fact it will probably scare them away from the well rounded, more in depth games like Disgaea or Phantom Brave. This game simply serves as a letter to fans with enough of a stockpile of guilty pleasure moments stacked up throughout that any true fan must buy this game, sadly everything is lost on anyone that hasn’t devoted serious time to at least several of the titles this game borrows characters from.