It’s a great time to be a fan of fighting games. Last year saw the release of new installments of beloved series such as Street Fighter and The King of Fighters, and this year looks to be even more packed with Tekken, Guilty Gear and Marvel vs. Capcom getting new entries. While it’s the big names that get the most buzz, the latest fighting title to be released is FK Digital’s Chaos Code -New Sign of Catastrophe-, a remastered version of their Japanese arcade game, now being published by Arc System Works.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the effort is seen right away, as Chaos Code doesn’t have any sort of playable tutorial. There’s a rather brief in-game manual that can be found in the options, but that really isn’t an ideal way to introduce players to a series that they’re likely not accustomed to. It’s especially disappointing to see in a game published by Arc System Works, as that studio has really taken fighting game tutorials to the next level with their own BlazBlue and Guilty Gear series. Thankfully, the action is pretty straightforward, and as a veteran of the genre I was able to pick it up almost immediately.
As far as gameplay goes, Chaos Code is a four-button fighting game that allows players to unleash punches and kicks in weak/strong variations. Special moves are displayed on the side of the screen at all times in order to preserve the original arcade game’s screen aspect ratio, and are mostly pulled off with quarter stick rotations. Finally, more powerful attacks can be unleashed by using up a chaos gauge that builds over time, with the ultimate attack (called a Destruction Chaos) costing three full bars of energy. It’s certainly not reinventing the genre with its gameplay, but all of the action does feel solid.
There are 16 characters to choose from here, which is more than enough for a fighting game (especially one from a non-established series). While the roster has plenty of options to choose from, I didn’t find that many of them to be memorable. Most seemed to be rather generic fighting types that battle with either a sword or a fist. There are a few that really stood out, though, such as Bravo, a chef that isn’t afraid to slap his opponent with a giant fish or throw them in a boiling stew, and the brother/sister duo of Cait and Sith, who work as a team in order to fight much older opponents. While I wasn’t always enthralled with all of the character designs, I did find the entire roster fun to play as.
While Chaos Code is enjoyable to play, it’s hard not to notice that the rough edges that surround the action. In particular, the animation can look less than stellar in spots, such as when the player performs a backwards throw. Since the game doesn’t have separate throw animations for both directions, it simply teleports you to the other side and then does the throw there. While clearly not a huge issue, it’s these small details that really hold Chaos Code back from competing with the cream of the crop.
Most of my time was spent in the game’s Arcade mode, which has the player facing off against various levels of computer-controlled opponents, and receiving a few plot details along the way. The story isn’t particularly great, as a few paragraphs on each character isn’t enough to flesh out the world, but I did find myself enjoying some of the more humorous endings. For example, Bravo’s story results in him eventually buying a new restaurant, only to ruin it by getting into a fight after debating whether or not Chinese cuisine could stand up to Italian food. It’s these types of goof-filled endings that really made me fall in love with the genre as a kid who played way too much Tekken. There’s a few other modes included, such as Survival and Score Attack, but the lack of difficulty settings really limit their appeal.
In addition to seeing the arcade endings, what kept me coming back to the game was the sheer number of collectibles that players can buy with in-game currency. These range from powerful boss versions of characters to other options such as being able to change the announcer’s voice. It also allows players to purchase the alternate endings for the arcade mode (which are normally unlocked by finishing matches via Destruction Chaos), and customizable color schemes for the characters.
One of the weirdest unlockables is a mini-game called Rui’s Farm. This farming-themed puzzle game stars one of the fighters from Chaos Code, as she tries to successfully harvest crops. To call it a strange inclusion would be an understatement, but fighting games do have a long history of including offbeat mini-games like bowling in Tekken Tag Tournament. The actual puzzle game is pretty fun, as new crops constantly grow on the playing field, and players have to make sure pathways aren’t blocked so they can continue moving around the various vegetables they need to match together. There aren’t many levels included, but an endless mode is eventually unlocked after finishing the dozen or so challenges the game has to offer.
It’s a good thing that Chaos Code has so many worthwhile unlockables because the online play leaves much to be desired. The setup is rather bare bones as there are only ranked and non-ranked matches available, but the bigger issue is that the netcode doesn’t seem to be all that great. I was only able to get into a few matches (sadly, there’s not much of a player base at the moment and most of the time I couldn’t find anything), but when I was able to play I experienced some lag and the game froze completely mid-match once.
Chaos Code -New Sign of Catastrophe- is a solid fighting game, but it’s hard to recommend when there are far better offerings in the genre on PlayStation 4. It simply lacks the polish of Guilty Gear and the other big names at the top, and isn’t able to really differentiate itself mechanically. That said, if you’re tired of other fighting games, and are looking for something new to master, then this will do the trick.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, which was provided to us by the publisher.
Chaos Code -New Sign of Catastrophe- is a solid fighting game, but it's hard to recommend it when there are far better offerings in the genre.