Despite its absurd moniker, this Japanese fighting game is no catastrophe.
Fighting games often require you to suspend your disbelief but that’s quite an ask. Not because many feature fighters who can hurl fireballs from their hands, however; that, I can just about accept. What’s always struck me as absurd is just how on earth the organisers avoid having their events shut down, despite the sheer amount of physical trauma inflicted.
Health and safety officials would certainly have a field day with Chaos Code – New Sign of Catastrophe. This is a Japanese fighting game that, amongst other cruelties, allows you to hurl a pair of cat-eared teenagers into the air before immersing them in a pot of scalding water. You’d think child protective services would get involved, but no. That’s also one of the least absurd situations you’re likely to find yourself in, since the game is completely and utterly hatstand. But it’s also one of the more entertaining, and ridiculous, brawlers you’re likely to get your hands on.
The roster, which features fifteen characters in all, is crammed with all manner of absurd individuals such as Angry Chef, Robot Maid, Evil Twin Robot Maid, Edgy Demon Fighting Guy, and Lady Underboob… which may or may not be their real names. The controls, which are suitably responsible, are the usual fighting game fare – strong punch, weak punch, strong kick, weak kick – you get the idea. There is some sort of story going on in the game but given that half the dialogue is in Japanese and that the subtitles suffer from translation errors, you probably won’t have much of a clue what’s going on. But you honestly won’t care why Angry Chef is beating seven shades out of Seventies Guy; you’ll just be having a blast inflicting the damage.
Chaos Code is equally accessible to both newcomers and fighting pros alike. I’m hardly a fighting game adept yet within a few minutes of picking up the controller, I was not only attacking my foe with conventional punches and kicks but also executing all manner of crazy special moves. While you can execute combo attacks, which become essential if you’re to survive at higher difficulty levels, button mashing will not guarantee your survival. One of Mortal Kombat‘s flaws was that you could use “dial-a-combos” and deliver damage just by hitting buttons in the right order. Here, timing is crucial. So when you do finally pull off a combo it’s all the more rewarding.
Equally damaging are Chaos Code’s special attacks which are distinct from those found in more conventional fighters. One character can, for example, open a magical portal, and drop bells on her opponent. This may seem utterly unfair, but the attack is telegraphed by the appearance of a small cloud, giving you the chance to dodge it. Most other fighting games, however, have the attacks originate from the opponent meaning that you’re safer if you keep your distance. I managed to play online and while I only won one or two matches, it was gloriously satisfying to have an opponent back off only to be caught by a sudden long distance attack. Other moves including summoning demons and zombies, spinning a fireball round the screen and generally doing things that would give Ryu and friends pause for thought.
Fighting pros can also tweak the game to their heart’s content, modifying not only the super special moves their characters utilise but also their whole gameplay style. You may end up just skipping past the customisation option but as you dig deeper into the game, the option’s there for you to explore. For those looking for a real challenge, Chaos Code also features a “character” who is in fact two distinct individuals, each with their own attacks. Master this character and you’ll have a serious edge of over online opponents. Another welcome concession to beginners is that, while you can view the game in widescreen, the default game mode displays each character’s special moves to the left and right of the screen. Quite why more brawlers don’t do this is beyond me.
Chaos Code – New Sign of Catastrophe is, however, not a new game. It’s a PlayStation 4 version of the original game which hit Japanese arcades in 2011, though it’s had relatively little western exposure. The game’s aged surprisingly well, despite – or maybe because of – the fact that the graphics are all hand drawn. Even though you can make out the odd jagged edge around the sprites, they move so fluidly. More so, it appears, than games that use 3D models, such as Street Fighter IV. You’ll also likely forget about the sprites edges when you’re charging around the screen delivering bone-shattering moves. The on-screen special effects also serve to mask these visual flaws.
Chaos Code – New Sign of Catastrophe isn’t going to knock Street Fighter IV’s off the top spot. Though ultimately, Chaos Code seeks to carve out its own niche and it may just do that here in the west. It’s an entertaining brawler in its own right and its roster of bizarre characters and ludicrous moves are just appealing enough to keep you engaged. If you’re a hardcore Street Fighter player, this isn’t going to sway you. But if you’re a fighting fan looking something for a little different, then Chaos Code – New Sign of Catastrophe is well worth a look.