By Gabriel Jones 19.03.2017
Coveted by all, the Chaos Code is said to cure any disease, end poverty, grant unlimited power, or…well let's just say it can do everything. Unsurprisingly, everyone has their hearts set on grabbing hold of this elusive McGuffin, but only a handful have what it takes just to get close to it. Seventeen combatants will engage each other in battles that demand every ounce of their skill and ability. As far as fighting game plots go, Chaos Code - New Sign of Catastrophe - is as standard as they come. For fans of the genre, that's quite alright; less words means more punching.
For a game that manages to have both "chaos" and "catastrophe" in the title, the fighting system is, on a surface level, fairly reserved. Each character has the standard gamut of regular attacks, special moves, as well as "Ultimate Chaos" and "Destruction Chaos" techniques, aka super moves. Almost all of the special moves have EX versions, which increase their damage and provide additional properties, such as wall bounces. Everyone also has access to extra moves, which are selected before the match starts. This adds an extra layer of complexity to every fighter, offering new strategies to anyone willing to practice them.
As tensions rise, the fights in this game become increasingly chaotic. The beginning moments are going to be spent gauging the opponent, trying to figure out their first moves and then responding accordingly. However, as hits are traded, both of the fighter's chaos meters will rise. This meter does more than merely govern the usage of EX and super moves. Meter can be expended to crush the opponent's guard, leaving them stunned for a brief moment. If that isn't enough, the fighter can opt to chaos shift out of move, further pressuring on their opponent. All bets are off when "Exceed Chaos" occurs. During this heightened state, combatants can perform multiple EX and super moves, while recovering a fair amount of health. Highly skilled players can make amazing comebacks, crushing their adversaries under the weight of enormously damaging combos.
Before anyone can play a role in this calamity, they'll have to decide on a character that's perfect for them. Chaos Code - New Sign of Catastrophe - has one of the most interesting rosters the genre has ever seen. There's Cthylla, the Magical Eldritch Girl, who summons minions from the deepest recesses of the sea. Cait & Sith rely on tag team attacks, but this duo can be just as dynamite when they work independently. What does Celia have under her frilly dress? Why an endless stock of missiles and bombs of course! Lupinus is a lieutenant with a cybernetic arm. Its long reach allows for her to effortlessly control both the ground and the air. Then there's Ray, he doesn't even flinch when performing his most devastating attacks. His stance switching will put the hurt on anyone not paying attention.
The playable characters in this game aren't just different in terms of looks; their fighting styles are diverse, creative, and multi-layered. Even the most straightforward fighters such as Hikaru and Rui are unique in their own way. Learning their strengths and weaknesses is very satisfying. Players are given ample opportunities to fine tune their style through constant practice. Do they focus on minimalist combos, conserving chaos meter for those spectacular finishes? Or do they implement a lot of EX moves to effectively manage the match's pace? There are a ton of options to consider, and that's not even accounting for what opponents are bringing to the table. The roster has an impressive amount of mobility as well. Air dashes, double jumps, and dodge rolls are commonplace, and players can also decide on whether their fighter of choice will run or quick step.
It is a lot to absorb, but fear not, this title is still very approachable. Mastering convoluted combos just to have a chance isn't a requirement. There are plenty of basic combinations that yield good results. However, the real challenge is going to involve understanding the intricacies of each fighter. Many of them are especially good at controlling space, forcing their adversaries into bad positions. A lot of time has to be devoted to learning match-ups. Having the knowledge to capitalise on openings is fine, but it does little good if those openings are never found.
Alongside the requisite arcade and versus modes, there're also modes dedicated to survivalists and score chasers. Survival mode pits players against numerous opponents, one after another. Occasionally, boss level fighters will make an appearance, and they tend to have special abilities such as unlimited chaos meter. Score attack mode is a series of one round fights, where the aim is simply to get the highest possible score. Performing a lot of combos while avoiding damage is just a couple of the many ways to earn bonus points.
Mission mode provides a different sort of challenge, one that revolves around varying conditions. Each mission has a specific objective, and the player usually has very little in terms of resources. In one of the missions, the treasure hunter Cerberus has to win a fight with only one move. It's an anti-air counter special, so it only works when the opponent performs a jump-in attack. The player is unable to block, move, or take any damage. Some missions are even more headache inducing, and can take potentially well over an hour to complete. One of them involves a fight with a boss level Hermes. She has unlimited chaos meter, so the slightest mistake is going to be greeted with a full screen 60% damage super. This treads a very thin line between challenging and frustrating.
A neat aspect of this game is that the A.I. opponents are surprisingly adept. While their ability to perfectly counter whiffed attacks borders on obnoxious, they show a good understanding of the game's mechanics. Some of them will even make use of character-specific strategies. Thanks to his unique move set, the sword wielder Vein has vortex setups. Just when the player recovers from an attack, Vein can quickly move behind them, prompting a response. If the player makes the wrong guess - such as attacking instead of blocking - they'll eat another combo, and the cycle will resume. Keep in mind that these strategies still pale in comparison to what can occur in a battle with another player, but at least it's a sign of what to expect.
The Network mode contains all of the necessities for online combatants. Ranked matches are a natural fit for anyone seeking a tough fight, while Player matches are better suited for friendly bouts. The practice room is always available to get some training in while waiting for an opponent. The netcode itself is solid. As long as connections are good, then matches will be relatively lag free. Before entering a match, be sure to check the opposing player's connection. It might be wise to back out if it looks absolutely dire, especially if they're going to be the host.
Not essential but welcome all the same are the numerous extras that round out this impressive fighting game. There are two endings for each character. However, the translation is pretty awful. It's inept to the point of amusing, seeing as how it manages to spell "destroy" every which way but the right way. A colour customisation option allows players the chance to get that perfect look for their favourite characters. There are several other goodies such as additional options and unlockable modes. There's even a mini-game to check out. It's harvest season and "Country Girl" Rui has to do some farming. Anyone expecting her to beat up cornstalks with tonfas is going to be severely disappointed. Instead, farming is more or less a match 5 puzzle game. It's oddly compelling and rather cute.
With every passing month, the library of 2D fighters on Steam grows exponentially. It's a wonder how anyone can keep up with this veritable flood. Nevertheless, an unfortunate number of games slip through the cracks, never receiving the love and tenderness that they need. It's too soon to say whether Chaos Code - New Sign of Catastrophe - will keep players coming back, but by every metric, it deserves a lot of attention. The roster is filled with brilliant characters, both in terms of design and fighting style. The mechanics and various sub-systems are superbly executed. The learning curve is gradual, so newcomers don't feel like they're in over their head. Conversely, experts have a great many techniques to work their magic with. Altogether, this is one fighting game that shouldn't be missed.