Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe – PlayStation 4
Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: FK Digital
Publisher: Ark System Works
Release Date: March 15, 2017
Nerd Rating: 7/10
Reviewed by theWatchman
Ever since the arrival of Street Fighter IV in 2008, the fighting game genre has experienced a renaissance.
The genre, once on life support, is now bursting with new Tekken’s, Mortal Kombat’s, and other high profile brawlers; each trying to carve out their piece of the punching pie.
Amidst this resurgence, a sub-genre has risen: the anime fighter, which is rather ironic considering how anime has obviously inspired the early years of fighting games.
Beginning in the early 2000’s with the rise of Guilty Gear (which has grown to such an extent that it now stands as one of the main pillars of fighting games), anime fighters hearken back to the good ‘ol days of the genre where characters were outlandish and hand-drawn sprites ruled the day.
We’ve seen an explosion of titles both good and bad in the genre. And while the pugilistic patriarchs of the Street Fighter, Tekken, and Mortal Kombat series are still active and wildly popular, it’s the anime fighting genre that acts as sort of a wild-west-anything-can-happen place.
Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe can sort of be thought of as a fighting game metaphor for the wild west. It’s an untamed wilderness, full of potential, but it is also one whose rough edges could definitely use some refinement.
Although published by the venerable knights of anime-inspired gaming, Ark System Works, who brought us the twin titans of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, Chaos Code’s development was actually done by FK Digital. You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of them either. A quick glance at their website yields no sign of anything with which U.S. audiences might be familiar.
Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe is actually a remastered version of the original title, Chaos Code, which quietly arrived in the U.S. as a PlayStation 3 release in 2013. Unfortunately, it didn’t find an audience at the time and the title quickly faded into obscurity.
Now here we are. A new era and stronger digital distribution provides another chance for players to get to know Chaos Code. Hopefully, they will take that chance, as there is plenty here for fighting fans to enjoy.
Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe’s story revolves around the fallout after the discovery of a near-limitless new form of energy: Chaotics. This new energy source contains as much mystery as it does potential, so its discoverer and lead researcher, Dr. Arthur Tesla devotes his time into writing the ultimate research book on the subject: the Chaos Code.
It doesn’t take long for every government around the globe to start salivating over the prospect of grabbing a piece of the Chaotics pie, so Tesla takes the Code and goes into hiding. However, Tesla decides that everyone should get an opportunity to wield his work, so he sponsors a tournament to find out just who is the one worthy to wield the power of Chaotics.
Whatever the reasons are, the point that you need to know is that there are some folks that want something, and they’re going to fight about it.
Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe features a smooth one-on-one fighting system that eschews the recent “assist” trend (picking one main character and then one or two other characters who will assist you, i.e. show up during one of your super moves.)from a number of other titles in the genre. While that reduces the roster of characters from which you can choose, it also cuts down on the artificial bloat that has been creeping into anime-style fighting games for the past few years.
The combat system centers around the “chaos combo”, a simple way of chaining together a string of normal attacks into a basic combo. As in any good fighting game, this chain can be modified and expanded upon with special and super moves to create increasingly flashy and damaging strings against your opponent. The system is simple enough for players who aren’t quite as used to complex combo’s in a lot of today’s fighters, however, there is also enough depth to it to allow experts to craft some truly spectacular chains.
There are, of course, a number of extra technical aspects of the fighting mechanics that add layers of complexity to the fighting engine. Once players make a character selection, they are then asked to make a selection of optional moves to round out the repertoire of that character. Players can select to have either two additional special moves, an extra special plus an extra super move, or two super moves. You then have to select a what style they want: either run – extra mobility for rushing down your foes, or step, which allows you to cancel certain moves.
The allowance of a choice between different moves, adds variety to the mix, however, each of the fighters comes with a ready-made arsenal of expected specials and supers. Where things start to enter the realm of silly land, is in the increasingly outlandish names for the various super moves each character has – which end in the tantalizingly destructive-sounding “Ultimate Chaos Destruction”. That silliness, though, does play into the game’s overall sense of humor.
While the addition of some of those extra variables can seem overly complex on paper, Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe’s systems never feels overwhelming; placing the technical prowess needed to be competitive well below ArkSystem Works’ flagship series, Guilty Gear.
Any good fighting game worth its salt will feature a cast of unruly fighters to take into battle, and while Chaos Code’s cast of 16 is mostly made up of familiar anime trope characters, there are a few excellent stand outs. Bravo, a large mustachioed chef features command grabs that show off his cooking prowess, while Catherine – a male cosplayer with a propensity to cosplay as females, delights with constant costume changes for every move.
These characters help feed into a sort of playfulness exhibited in Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe, that is often missing in today’s fighting games. Whether it’s the above-mentioned Catherine’s constant costume changes, the nod to the classic Final Fantasy VII in the naming of the kid duo, Cait and Sith, or little touches like a cafe named Sunbucks in one of the game’s stages – these all add a touch of humor and humanity that gives you the sense that FK Digital’s designers were having some fun with their work.
While Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe features a promising fighting engine, as well as a few engaging characters to help it stand out, there are too many other factors that conspire to hold the title back from being something truly special.
Even though there are a few characters who will feel very familiar to those who are steeped in anime culture, that doesn’t mean that the art design behind those characters is in any way lacking. Quite the contrary. I thought the artwork made each of the characters feel vibrant, and allowed them to exude plenty of personality. So it’s really too bad that the in-game sprite work feels pixelated, and dare I say: a tad low budget. It doesn’t detract from the game to the degree that it becomes distracting, however it was something that I noticed.
Since the game’s character artwork does imbue those characters with such personality, it’s a shame that we don’t get an opportunity to really get to know and appreciate those characters. Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe’s story mode acts as a fairly standard arcade mode. It gives us a brief introduction to a backstory and motivation of each character as they begin their trek against the rest of the roster, however, there’s never an opportunity to create a real connection between the player and that character. I’m not saying that every fighting game now needs a four-hour cinematic tale, ala Mortal Kombat, however, it would be nice if we got a bit of more frequent dialogue between characters in between fights to expand upon the experience.
The real meat of any modern fighting game is online play, and this is where Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe suffers the most.
The sad fact, is that there are hardly any people playing the game. I tried finding a match in the middle of the day on a Saturday afternoon, and I was unfortunately greeted by a ghost town. Not one single match was available online.
In those lucky instances where I do find people available, it’s usually just one or two rooms that are open, with about that same amount of people inside.
When you do get into a match, the netcode is pretty spotty. I’ve had a few matches that ran well, and a few matches that ran terribly. One odd thing about a networked battle is that no matter how good the connection, the intro always seems to be choppy. This makes the online experience feel like too much of a crap shoot as to whether or not you’ll able to have a competent battle, right up until the announcer yells “fight”.
The proof of Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe’s lack of audience was abundantly clear when I checked out the ranking list. Less than 1000 people are ranked. That’s an extraordinarily low number for any title.
Without much in the way of a story mode, and little to no online activity, there is very little incentive to keep playing the game. A mission mode does help bolster things a bit. Players complete missions that can have different objectives, such as defeating an enemy using only your normal attacks, or trying to clear through the female members of the cast without losing a round.
It’s disappointing that there’s so much holding Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe back because it’s actually a really enjoyable game. The combat engine is fun and made me want to go into training mode to experiment with different characters. However, what is the point of spending all that time training when there is no one with whom to compete? While the sparse single-player modes would normally be augmented by online play, the scarcity of online, human opposition, as well as the spotty netcode means that actually finding that opposition will be a rare event.
If you have a cadre friends that are into fighting games, and that are willing to commit the time to play in the same physical location, then Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe is well worth your time. Its easy-to-pick-up fighting engine and vibrant cast will provide a nice diversion before heavyweight titles, Injustice 2 and Tekken 7 make their way to the retail ring. Otherwise, if you are primarily going to play online, then I’d have to say wait, and hope that more people eventually find their way to the game.
There is a ton of promise in Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe, and at its core, I genuinely enjoy the game. There are number of good concepts at work, and I appreciated how the humorous touches keep the game from taking itself too seriously. However, from a practical standpoint, a scarcity of online opponents cuts into that potential that is there; placing it a long ways off from being a champ.
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