There are a lot of big names in the world of fighting games. Capcom are considered royalty with major franchises like Street Fighter or Marvel vs Capcom. Then Warner Bros and NetherRealm Studios have a made a major name for themselves with their consistent work on the Mortal Kombat and Injustice games. Just as those companies are known for those reasons, there is one company known by many as the king of “anime fighters”. That company is Arc System Works, the giant behind titles like Guilty Gear, Blazblue, and many more. In-between their numerous major releases, they’ve put out a seemingly minor re-release of a budget indie fighting game out on PS4 and Steam. Don’t be fooled, though; this game is just as beefy as the rest of their work.
Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe is about as anime as an anime fighter can get. The poorly explained plot revolves around a world-changing power known as the Chaos Code, and all manner of people fighting their way through the competition to get their hands on it. From robo-ninjas to giant french chefs, tentacle-powered magical girls and edgy pretty-boys with guns and katanas, this game is a goofy, absurd celebration of the tropes this style of fighting-game is so well known for.
Despite sharing some strong DNA in Arc System Works style fighters, the game also has a grounded, simple feel on par with a game like King of Fighters. The game utilizes a four button system, with these four basic attacks all chaining into each other, as well as command normals, specials, and supers. You can also use EX moves by spending half a meter, super moves by spending one meter, and special DESTRUCTION CHAOS moves by spending all of your meter. It’s pretty simple stuff, kind of the norm for anime style fighters. From there, though, there’s a bevy of systems and gauges that players can spend ages mastering.
Characters have a variety of jumps and air-dashes, and on top of that, they have access to King of Fighters style rolls. There’s also some advanced techniques involving guarding. If your enemy is guarding, you can choose to use a meter to perform a guard-crushing move, and if you’re the one blocking, you can spend half your meter to use a Street Fighter Third Strike style parry. You can also “rapid cancel” out of super moves, and there’s an “exceed chaos” mode that gives you infinite meter usage, but at the cost of locking out your meter permanently after a little while.
On top of all of that though, is the bit that really makes Chaos Code stand out; moveset customisation. When you select a character, you get to pick two of four additional super/special moves to utilise for that match. A lot of them help round out a character and give them some extra techniques. You can give your rush-down character a meaty fireball attack, or turn any character into a grappler with a bonus command-grab. You can also choose between a “run” or “step” mode, which either makes your character move at a constant sprint, or in dashing bursts.
All of this adds up to a really beefy game with a lot of options and abilities to explore. Unfortunately, there’s no tutorial mode whatsoever to explain any of this. Many recent fighting games have in-depth tutorial modes that naturally ease you into the many facets of their gameplay. One of the best tutorials I’ve ever seen in a fighting game comes from Arc System Works themselves via Guilty Gear Xrd, even! In Chaos Code, all you have is a pdf with tiny font and oodles of typos that outline all of the buttons and systems that you access via the main menu. That’s it. While casual players can have a great time with the game and never really miss a step, you’ll have to put some extra work in as a serious player if you want to learn the ins and outs of the game.
The lack of a tutorial mode is made up for somewhat by the bevy of other modes available in the game. For the 5 people who played Chaos Code back on PS3, you’ll remember that it barely had any modes whatsoever. There wasn’t even an online battle mode! Thankfully, not only does the PS4 release have network modes, but it also has an arcade, standard versus, practice, survival, score attack, and a unique mission mode. In Mission Mode, you’re thrown into a number of puzzle-like scenarios that require critical thinking to come out victorious. Some force you to only use kicks, or to never move, and so on. It’s the most addictive mode in the game for sure, with each mission offering a unique challenge that kept me cracking away for hours trying to figure out how to accomplish the tasks.
As I mentioned earlier, the story of this game is a wild mess, so those looking to play the arcade mode for a narrative treat will be in for a narrative trick. Character motivations and backstories are whisked out of thin air, and the healthy amount of typos will make you give up on trying to make any sense of the brief story scenes almost instantly.
There’s also a wonderful sprite customisation mode. In it, you can customize each section of a characters outfit with a number of colors to create your own custom color palette. It’s a feature that I wish more fighting games implemented, as it really lets me scratch my creative itch and make a colour that suits me. Chaos Code doesn’t let you use any colors you’d like, however. You only have access to a palette of about a dozen for each section, with most being unlocked via the in-game shop.
Another bummer is that the sprites you’re making aren’t very pretty. Chaos Code doesn’t just feel like an old KOF game; it looks like one, too. Sprites are blocky and dated, despite sharp and interesting character designs. It also doesn’t help that the game defaults to an old-school 4:3 aspect ratio. Everything else surrounding the presentation, thankfully, is pretty great; animations are fluid and impactful, and the soundtrack has a lot of great cheesy electronic music.
Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe thankfully does not live up to its subtitle at all. This re-release of a re-release builds up on everything that came before it, fleshing out the experience into something worthy of your attention, whether you’re a hardcore fighter or a casual button-masher. Some wonky writing and poor visuals dampen the experience somewhat, but if you can look past that and fancy some classic KOF style fighting game action, this is the game for you.
Version Tested: PS4