Chaos Code Review

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From the moment I loaded up Chaos Code, I knew things were going to be interesting. Chaos Code is a one-on-one 2D fighting game available for the Playstation Network from Arc System Works and FK Digital, and from first impressions I thought this was an arcade game from the mid 90s that was re-released and ported for an American audience. I was very wrong in that assumption, but you can forgive me for thinking otherwise.

The moment the game boots up, you are presented with a introduction video of some of the characters presented in 4:3 aspect ratio. “Fine”, I thought to myself still figuring this was a classic fighter that I just simply was not aware of. To my surprise the intro video lasted all of 30 seconds showing off gameplay of two of the fighters, and showing portraits of 4 others, not even introducing us to the entire sizable cast of 14, or filling us in on details to its story. This should have been my first warning of what was to come.

The games main menu fared little better, although it did manage to switch things to a normal 16:9 aspect ratio. The options available to players were minimal to say the least. You are presented with a ‘Story Mode’, a ‘Versus Mode’, ‘Survival Mode’, and ‘Practice Mode’. This is the point where I pulled out my trusty laptop to see what I could find on the history of Chaos Code. This was a less than stellar idea as what I learned was that the game had been developed and released in 2011, a fairly recent release, and was in no way a port of any previous classic game.

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Well, now things had gone from bad to worse and they were by no means stopping. Chaos Code offers no form of online play. The lack of any online multiplayer for a fighting game released this generation is bloody inexcusable, and that’s to put it nicely. Chaos Code’s look is reminiscent of many of SNK’s classic fighting games, and at one point I am fairly certain the character I was playing with shouted out ‘Burning Knuckle’ prior to one of his moves. The game itself is presented in the same 4:3 aspect ratio as the intro video, only instead of black bars along the side, each players portrait fills that unused space. This is quite jarring at times as all the before match and after match segments are shown in full 16:9. The choice to limit the game play field by such a large extent is beyond me.

The audio quality was so bad that I had to turn off the music in the games settings. My surround sound system nearly tried to kill me when the games music first came on. I can best describe it as sounding like a radio station, that is just out of range, coming through an old car stereo with broken subwoofers. Searching in the options menu gave me nothing, only the ability to turn down the music and sound effects. Now, a great many of these things can be forgiven if the core mechanics of the game itself are solid and in that regard Chaos Code plays, solidly. That’s really the best way to describe it. Gameplay is fun, frantic and a great deal of fun when you have a player two, but a game like this just begs to be played online. The special moves in Chaos Code really do shine through though. You have lots of various ways in which you can implement your special meter, thus allowing for a great many different play styles with each character. Another positive thing is that this is no Street Fighter clone, going instead the route instead of SNK’s King Of Fighters series. One thing I can’t figure out though, is why all the controls are mapped to the four face buttons on the PS3 controller. The bumpers and triggers are completely forgotten so that everything feels cluttered and lacking all at the same time.

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Visual wise, Chaos Code looks the part of A King Of Fighters clone. The animations are pretty with a lot of care put into the art style of each character as well as their animations, and characters do move smoothly on-screen, but the pixelation can at times be very noticeable and on occasion I had characters stutter on me during play. Fighter portraits seem lifted from some poor anime fan boys Deviant Art website and at times the backgrounds don’t mesh well with the action on screen with characters sometimes getting lost in the clutter. After playing for a few hours you will still have no idea what’s going on in the game from a story perspective. The titular Chaos Code is something that a few of the characters are searching for and believe to be important, while other characters stories have nothing at all to do with it. The translation harkens back to the days of Zero Wing and “All your base are belong to us!”, with dialogue making no sense much of the time. Take for example this diatribe after you win the match with chef character, Bravo, “Oh, please make your payment before you go to sleep!”, and the others don’t fare much better.

The difficulty goes from childish to neigh impossible in a very short period of time. During my first match I put down the controller to get a drink and let the game continue to get a feel for the enemy AI and watch what silly winning phrase the other charter would say, but to my surprise, the other character never laid a hand on me being more content to flop around like a dying fish begging to be thrown back and the match ending in a Time Over. Two levels later I could no longer compete, and what strikes I did manage to land at time seemed to do no damage.

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I have played fighting games for a very long time. I can clearly remember my first time waiting in line with my quarters at Chuck E Cheese at a Street Fighter 2 cabinet. It’s unfortunate then that a game made some 20 years prior holds up better.  If I showed you King of Fighters 97, and then showed you Chaos Code, you would swear that they came out the same year, and that KOF 97′ had a larger roster, and that it was probably a technically superior fighter.

A game like this in 2013 really does boggle the mind, even more so when you realize the Arc System Works brought us fighters like Guilty Gear and BlazBlu. I can only assume they were going for the feeling of a nostalgic fighter but with so many other more competent fighters on the market this one doesn’t offer enough to stand out. In the end Chaos Code is a passable fighter, but one that just feels dated and lacking content, and the omission of online play really hurts it. If you are looking for a really good 2D fighter just pick up BlazBlue. It’s a full game and will probably run you less than this PSN title.