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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.