Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe is something of a throwback fighting game. While Ark System Works is well-known for their fast, slick, polished fighting games like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, this is a simpler title made by FK Digital. It is a solid enough outing, with gameplay that is easy to pick up, but if you were hoping for the level of polish found in the aforementioned Ark System Works series, you will likely be disappointed.
I had a chance to play Chaos Code on the PS3 a few years ago, and while the gameplay was entertaining enough, it was a pretty bare-bones overall title. There were not a lot of options, which made the offering feel pretty shallow. Thankfully New Sign of Catastrophe (NSoC going forward in this review) fares better. Right out of the gates however, one rather curious omission is the lack of a quality tutorial. This is somewhat offset however, by the actual gameplay screens.
Visually NSoC is a more pixelated throwback to older arcade brawlers. The style is not necessarily my favorite, especially when we have become spoiled by absolutely gorgeous games like Guilty Gear, which has incredibly buttery smooth visuals matched by blisteringly fast gameplay. However, NSoC is a bit of a budget fighting game given its twenty dollar price point, so if you set your expectations accordingly, that is fine. However part of that slightly more retro appearance is a fighting screen that is of a more old school aspect ratio. Why is this important? Well, it ties into my earlier paragraph, because that extra space at the sides of the screen serve as a sort of cheat sheet for special moves. No pausing to access a scrolling menu of moves - they're just sitting there on the screen's periphery. It actually reminds me of really old arcade cabinets that would sometimes have special moves shown on the cabinet framework around the CRT screens, which is kind of neat. If this was a visual masterpiece like the Guilty Gear games, I might bemoan how that on-screen real estate was being used here, but all in all? It works to help make NSoC more accessible, so in the end I think it was a solid design choice.
Another reason why NSoC is more approachable than many fighting games is that it uses the four button formula of light punch/heavy punch/light kick/heavy kick as the foundation of its system (as opposed to more technical titles like Street Fighter that also works in medium strikes and more layers of system over the top of things). Like many fighting titles, you have a meter you can build up and use to activate moves of varying extra power and flashiness. However, while there is a lot of simplicity on the surface here, one of the best things about NSoC is the level of customization you have when picking your character. You pick two special moves of your choice to add to the mix as well as whether you want movement to be running or dash-based. This is more than simple animation changes as running is a more offensive option that allows you to dive in and strike quickly, while dashing is slightly more defensive in its use of temporary invulnerability within those frames of movement.
Speaking of movement, NSoC's combat is entertaining enough, but the controls do feel somewhat stiff. It errs on the side of more technical and less button mashing. Certainly not a bad thing in and of itself, but some gamers prefer one style over the other, so I thought it was worth calling out. You really need to be on your game with higher levels of difficulty in later stages as the computer will absolutely wreck you if you tend to default to mashing a few buttons at close range or a simple jump kick/sweep combo.
While NSoC is visually about the same as its PS3 predecessor, it is worth noting that one area this iteration of the game has improved greatly is in the number and quality of modes. Arcade serves as your storyline, following a single character's narrative through a series of stages that increase in difficulty. Again, you have that old school arcade feel to it. Additionally there is multiplayer both locally and online, missions, training and more. This coupled with the sixteen characters offers a decent amount to do.
Unfortunately while we have more than a dozen characters, they all come across somewhat generically. There just aren't any that I found all that memorable or hugely entertaining. Oftentimes good casts of characters are either goofy and lovable, interesting in narrative and relatable or at least well enough drawn and animated to hold your interest while playing. We've already touched on the somewhat retro-ish, dated visuals so that last one is off of the list. Some of the characters do have ridiculous yet charming endings that is ably assisted by the generally pleasant anime-styled character visuals. The offset is that most of the stories just aren't all that great and I don't know if they were originally so rough feeling, or if it was a localization issue, but the narrative simply didn't impress.
If the total package does appeal to you, the good news is there are enough modes and unlockables to keep you busy for a good long time (including a rather odd yet not-too-shabby puzzle type game that can be unlocked). However, there is very little that proved memorable about my time with Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe. It is a serviceable fighting game, but there are better options out there as well.
Arc System Works
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Article by Nick