The Annals of Mobile Game Preservation

Listening to The Video Game History Hour podcast made me think more about game preservation. Specifically, the issues of preserving mobile games for smart devices. Gacha games are difficult to fully preserve unless the developers choose to make offline versions, usually leaving players to archive assets on their own. Stand-alone mobile games are also tricky; due to Apple and Android operating systems receiving regular upgrades, it becomes difficult over time for developers to maintain their games. As a result, many devs will simply opt to delist their games. To make matters more complicated, iOS being such a closed operating system means that emulation is difficult, and obtaining exclusive games that are delisted requires sideloading methods. The frustrations of fleeting digital media ownership on top of everything is a conversation for another day, but it’s the unfortunate cherry on a shit sundae. For example, one of the games I remembered was one that I legally own but can no longer access since it was a) delisted and b) I no longer own an Apple device with an old enough version of iOS to even play it. With so many mobile games available on smart devices, I wanted to examine a couple of games from the early 2010’s that received ports to other consoles, and one more that didn’t/hasn’t been ported, and why that is concerning.

Chaos Rings

Ah, young love.

Chaos Rings are a series of turn-based RPGs published by Square Enix around the early 2010’s for mobile devices and later ported to the PS Vita. The games were developed by Media.Vision, who originally worked on the Wild Arms series and later Valkyria Chronicles entries. The first Chaos Rings game involves a group of couples forced into a death tournament by a menacing entity. Of course, things are not as simple as they seem, and the game’s plot is later revealed to be the more complicated plannings of a higher being. 

Chaos Rings I is  interesting from a technical and mechanical standpoint. The series l is a genuine effort from Square Enix to create fully realized JRPGs for mobile devices, with design nods to old-school JRPGs balanced out with accessible mechanics for more casual gameplay. For example, the first three games utilize 3D models on top of pre-rendered backgrounds, evoking the feel from PS1 Final Fantasy games. The first game allows players to set the levels of enemies in each area, which allows for easier exploration and the ability to grind levels more easily. In combat, the couples can function as either independent entities or pair up; pairing up allows for more damage done in a single turn but both characters will receive damage at the same time if attacked. Both characters can also learn and equip various skills from “genes” that can be obtained by defeating enemies.