Chaos World

Chaos World is a 1991 NES game that was published by Natsume.  It’s a very ambitious game, but for my taste, it falls flat.  I think the main problem with the game is that it’s attempting a number of ambitious features, but they’re implemented in a way that is awkward.  One thing I find amusing is that it has features that were commonly cited as a good thing in NES / SNES era RPGs.  However, due to how they’re done, they’re really not that interesting.

Ronin, my female fighter, is shown here. You can pick any class and gender you'd like for the main character.

Plot wise, the game has several countries, and a bubbling holy war with a cultish evil religion.  Your hero or heroine begins on a basic quest to heal a princess, and then the story spirals outward from there.  You can also do jobs which are plot related in various ways.  These can include things like exploring the dangerous magical forest, or helping rebuild a damaged town.  There’s a “relationship” meter for each country which gauges how much a country likes you.  Your party isn’t magically trailing along with you.  Instead, you can go to a guild house, and call them up.  It will take them a few days to travel to your guild house,, and then you can add them to your party.

The sprites for the characters vary depending on class. Ronin is the bulky knight in green. I got into this fight one step outside of town, while boarding my ship.

The battle system is very unusual for a NES game.  It’s basically automated.  You pick a AI type, hit fight, and then your party fights according to the plan.  Status curing and healing items are used as needed and priests will heal when your health is at a certain level.  Unfortunately, the random encounters appear frequently, and take what feels like longer than they need to.  Since you don’t have much to do, you get stuck watching your mage do unimpressive spells, your fighters attack, and so on.  While you can change up your party, mostly you can complete the game with a knight, a thief, a priest, and a mage.  Job classes matter for jobs you take in the guild (which amounts to guessing who’s right to send in, and then waiting to get the report back on the job.)  Occasionally, a job might require a specific person.  Other than that, your characters don’t do that much, save for the occasional clue when you sleep in an inn.

Houses in towns are varied, but there's not much to find in them. Here, Ronin's advancing the plot by talking to a character.

Towns are varied, and have day night cycles.  There’s crabby text if you don’t buy something from a shop.  There’s equipment that’s limited to various classes.  Unfortunately, the game’s missing a way to tell who can wear what within the game.  You also can’t check what you’re wearing versus what the shop has while in the shop menu.  These little refinements would probably make the shopping experience a lot more fun.

The world map has varied sprites and enough variety to not get lost.

Ignoring the encounter rate, dungeons aren’t that bad.  However, at a certain point, you start to get mazey dungeons that have paths that double back on themselves, and that can get very annoying.  Since status effects are common, you can end up struggling to get your priest prepared to cure you, or keeping the curative herbs in your inventory.  Due to the AI, you don’t get to pick when they’re used.

The statue of the gargoyle replaced the typical goddess in non-cultist towns. It's pretty blatent that the religion is evil. It has the usual "be as selfish as you want," "don't work with people who aren't members," and people feeling mysteriously ill in church.

A good example of fustration is where I stopped playing the game. I apparently didn’t buy enough pegasus wings before heading back to the main castle.   These wings function as a town warp item – similar to the chimera wings in Dragon Quest.  You can buy a fly spell that replaces it, but apparently I did not have the money, or didn’t realize I needed it.  So, to get to the first town that sells the wings, I need to head west, and then north past a small town.  Then I need to head through a cave and north past a dangerous forest.  Then I need to head past a desert town, and south through a checkpoint into another country.  Then I need to head past a town full of cultists to a port town (through another cave,) to get to where my ship is, and the pegasus wings are sold.  To actually advance the plot, I need to check out the town near the castle (people are monsters,) cultist town (to find out that I can’t buy medicine there,) and the port town (to get a medallion so I can pretend to be a cultist.)  At that point, you can sail back to the cultist town to talk about how to get the medicine.

Here is the guild screen. If my characters were in this town, they would have a star next to their names. The P represents people in my party.

Graphically, the game is attractive.  Musically, it’s quite nice.  The guild system is ambitious.  It just feels like this game could’ve been an amazing SNES rpg (with more menu space and more memory,) instead of a flawed NES rpg.  Back in the day, I’d probably find the game to be amazing.

  1. glown’s avatar

    That’s weird. I have been playing this game for the past few days and came to this site to see if you’d ever posted something about it – and it was the first post. Neat.

    Anyway, I think I’m about to be at the point which you quit. I am about to head back to the original town. I was considering buying the Flying spell, maybe I will after all.

    It’s been a pretty fun game so far, but I’m definitely keeping my finger over the emulator’s “turbo” button to get the fights over with.

  2. Rav’s avatar

    The flying spell is basically handy because a lot of the FAQs for the game assume you can just warp from town to town. Due to the encounter rate and the status effect rate, it’s not that fun to walk from place to place, so warping via the wings / spell is so much faster.

    I really do like the music of the game. It’s really catchy.

    Glad you’re having fun with the game, glown.

  3. glown’s avatar

    Oh yeah! I finished the game the other day. Be glad you stopped when you did, after that point the game continues the “fly here, fly here, fly here, fly here” trend.

    Also the final boss is introduced basically right before you fight him, much like Final Fantasy IX. It’s pretty silly. I took some screenshots from later in the game if you’re interested,
    http://klimp.dk/vg_ss_chwo.asp

  4. Rav’s avatar

    I wonder if they were running out of chip space or time when they got near the end. That might explain why you have an interesting and novel battle system, some quite nice graphics, ambitious world size, but the stuff you do in the world is kind of tedious. I do like the music in the game. It and Dream Master are pretty high up there for games that have music I remember.

    And your screenshots are really nice. It’s funny how many games have trees as mentors / evil bosses. It’s right up there with the stereotypical hunting down the diety of your choice. Off the top of my head, there’s Madara (mentor,) Breath of Fire (mentor,) Suikoden IV (evil,) Chaos World (evil,) Secret of Mana (mostly mentor,) and so on.

    If you like the tiling in this game, you may want to try Silva Saga (has basically no grinding.) It has some interesting sprite work, and there’s a translation out there for it. There’s one annoying checkerboard floor pattern, but most of the game isn’t that bad. There’s some very amusing enemy sprites. These include some weird beetles that look like they’re from a much earlier game, and really odd boss sprites.

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