Call me crazy, but at what point do we begin to rebel against the fighting game genre’s incessant need to achieve perfection? I mean, why else would a developer or publisher insist on releasing four different versions of the same damn game, only with slight tweaks to mechanics, roster and balance. That’s right, Capcom, I’m looking at you… But they are far from the only fighting game publisher predisposed to such shenanigans. Arc System Works has also been known to dip back into their impressive backlog and re-release a game or two. Case in point, last week’s release of 2011 arcade cabinet, Chaos Code. The game saw a re-release on the PS3 in 2013, and is now getting the re-re-release treatment on PS4. Taking the form of Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe, this menacingly titled fighter hearkens back to a time when all you needed was a heavy and light punch and kick in order to defeat all-comers. Those were simpler times, indeed.
What’s in a Name?
So what exactly is this “Chaos Code,” and why does everyone seems so damn insistent on acquiring it? The funny part is that this is never fully explained. Depending upon the person narrating, this mysterious item can either be a force for great good or bad, can be used to inspire fear or joy, and can grant powers that the mind can’t even begin to comprehend. Whoever is handling PR for this mysterious force needs to get a raise, because at this point it could probably cure cancer. Oh, wait! It supposedly can cure disease too. What can’t this thing do?
With a build up like that, it only makes sense that every ass-kicking man, woman, and even child are hell-bent on harnessing control of its power. This diverse collection of characters have such a wide swath of skill sets and fighting styles that it is impossible to not find at least one combatant to cheer for. There are even two additional participants that have newly joined the fray since the prior versions. The roster features everything from overpowered mystics, gun-toting nut-cases or a woman cyborg; complete with a pair of animatronic, well…use your imagination.
What makes things so fun is that with just a little bit of time, virtually any player in the lineup can feel like an overpowered badass. Sure, the basic move sets are about as standard as they come, but once the chaos gauge starts climbing, boy howdy, buckle up. Both the “Ultimate Chaos” and “Destruction Chaos” attacks have the ability to not only clear large portions of the opponent’s health bar, but also dramatically shift the flow of battle. As further icing on the cake, Chaos Code’s stellar animations smoothly flow from move-to-move, especially during high multiplier combos. No matter how crazy the presentation gets, the continuous flow makes you always feel in full control of your fighter.
Pick up and Play
One thing that instantly rockets Chaos Code to the top of my multiplayer mainstays list is its approach-ability. The simple mechanics of just the heavy and light punches and kicks makes it so that newcomers can easily jump in and be competitive. This would be the perfect game to sit down in front of my wife and play for hours. She may not be good at games, but dammit if she can’t button mash with the best of them. Sure, those that actually know what they are doing will make quick work of any first-timer, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun for everyone involved. What’s even more surprising is the fact that it still has plenty of added depth for those that want to take the time to perfect their tactics with their favorite combatant. Heck, some of the combos and specials are actually displayed on the screen’s letterboxed borders. They literally built a damn cheat sheet into the game itself. If that isn’t brilliant and approachable design, then I don’t know what is.
One area where the game certainly isn’t lacking is gameplay modes. Arcade, local multiplayer, online ranked multiplayer, a training room, and even objective-based combat missions make up just a sampling of the different ways to get into the fracas. Another awesome note is that the AI does a good job of providing a wide variety of different experiences. While the lower levels will pose a mild challenge for a button-masher, as the difficulty is ratcheted up, combat can become downright brutal. Like, getting your ass wrecked by the level one fight in arcade mode, levels of challenge. Not that I would ever admit to that happening to me, mind you.
As much as I enjoyed playing New Sign of Catastrophe, it still has its fair share of shortcomings. For one, the visuals, though impressive for the time it was originally released, do tend to look a bit dated on the PS4. I don’t know what I was expecting to see that would be different from the prior installments, but if you have already bought the game on PS3, you’re probably not going to see anything that screams out, “next generation console.” Another downfall is the lack of any substantial tutorials. I realize that there are already numerous gameplay modes available, but this seems like the kind of inclusion that would have made revisiting the game more worthwhile for pre-existing fans. One last thing to note is that any online match I was able to start was never finished. Maybe this is a byproduct of poor timing on my part, but literally every single online match I played ended up dropping before the battle concluded. It’s hard to say if this is a result of net code issues, but it is at least worth mentioning if you are a hardcore ranked match fan.
Despite fighting games feeling somewhat stagnant for quite some time, somehow a game from 2011 has managed to feel like something new and fresh. While it is never going to have the balance or fan popularity of other frontrunners in the genre, Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe, is a perfectly functional brawler that is approachable for the casual audience and has enough meat to appeal to the hardcore. It isn’t going to set the world on fire or re-define a genre, but it certainly knows how to leave an impression. Animatronic ta-tas tend to do that.
Review code for Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.