Thursday, March 16, 2017

Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe (PS4)

From what I gather, after having sampled and played through each of the game's features it seems that FK Digital's "Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe" is merely an enhanced upgrade of the PS3 release of Chaos Code. Everything from the opening cinematic to the menu system as well as the modes of play, and even the visuals have been upgraded for a PS4 worthy experience. Something that's not all that different from BlazBlue or Guilty Gear in terms of in-game offerings. At the twenty dollar range it's not all that bad either. It's definitely more complete, and more robust in content. The only thing lacking this time around is the participation of the online community for the competitive online portion of the game ...

For those of you new to the 'Chaos Code' mythology it basically follows the scientific discovery of an abundant new energy source. This energy source was discovered, and harnessed by Arthur Tesla. For years it helped the world maintain prosperity for all of mankind. The problem that presented itself in this time of prosperity though came in the form of Arthur's cryptic message involving a mysterious, "Chaos Code". Upon discovery of it's mention the Earth-Union, or world government sought it out for their own power hungry desires while others joined in, in a competition heralded by Arthur himself who encouraged others to find it. This is where the odd roster of characters steps in. Each with their own motivations for acquiring the 'Chaos Code'. Some want it selfishly while others want it for a cause or for someone else who has their own ideas on what to do with the enigmatic source of power. As with most fighting games it's an all out battle of the fittest in which your chosen character will face omnipotent evil at the end of an arduous adventure.

Past the opening cinematic which is a vivid mixture of Japanese animation, and spliced in gameplay footage you'll end up at the Chaos Code's main hub of modes, and options. Among the listing you'll find in order an 'Arcade Mode', 'VS Mode', 'Survival Mode', 'Practice Mode', 'Mission Mode', 'Score Attack Mode', 'Network', 'Custom Color', 'Collection', and finally 'Record'. Most of these modes will be very familiar to fighting game veterans as they are basically every type of mode that has been made available in a fighting game up to Arc System Work's other serial fighters.

Starting off with the 'Arcade Mode' you'll find in place a roster of 15 visibly selectable characters, and a hidden character. Each character including that of MG Hikaru, Hikaru, Kagari, Cerberus, Kudlak-Sin, Celia, Vein, Celia II, Hermes, Catherine, Cthylla, Bravo, Cait & Sith, Rui, Ray, and Lupinus come complete with the base mechanics as well as two of four selectable skills, and a bounce type (run/step) for double tapped movement. You'll select your character, two out of the four skills listed afterwards, and finally the bounce type. While doing this your choice of color which is adhered to the four face buttons as well as select shoulder buttons will be applied. Supposing you have unlocked a character's "Boss" version you can select that as well with a proper shoulder button tap. Beyond those choices is a custom color choice which takes in account tweaks at the "Custom Color" mode which will allow you to change individual colors of a character, and save that complete character palette to one of the four face buttons.

Characters in the game are off-the-wall wacky in 'Chaos Code: NSoC". You've got a self-proclaimed body pillow toting otaku named Hikaru, a cross-dressing morpher named Catherine, a sea dwelling Love-Craftian Moe character called Cythlla, a cybernetic ninja named Kagari, and several other mismatched characters that do not look like the belong in a story as serious as this one presents itself to be. I think the light hearted, and anime inspired character design is part of the charm though. Not only are they appealing to look at in their sprite form, but they are also fully functional in the technical fighting game sense. I'm sure there's a character archetype here for everyone.

In 'Adventure Mode' these characters you choose from will start their 8 stage fight with a brief textual, and avatar inclusive intro that discloses why it is they are joining in the fray. This lasts about a minute, and then you'll begin at stage one against the first CPU opponent. Matches in adventure mode can be tweaked beforehand in a manner that is a lot like other fighting game experiences. You can change the time limit, the CPU difficulty the setting, and the round limit. The characters within the matches are each governed by three different meters outside of these base settings. These meters include a 3 bar 'Chaos Gauge' which allows the character to perform special attacks of varying types, a stamina meter or break meter that can leave you at a disadvantage if depleted, and a health gauge that governs who wins according to who has health left after the final health depleting blow is dealt.

In a fight, whether it be in 'Adventure Mode' or whatever players will have to use their character's abilities to deal the damage that needs to be done to win how many ever rounds the match is set to. Each character as I mentioned before has a selectable set of skills made available at the initial roster select screen which in themselves change the way each character plays. Choosing which skills or special move sets that best compliment your play style will mean the difference between failure, and victory. You can mix and match skills how you like, but you must always consult the character's command list for proper guidance on how to properly execute the more complicated static actions listed there.

As far as said actions go you'll find each character has base command attacks, special moves, ultimate chaos attacks, destructive chaos attacks, and extra versions of both the special moves and ultimate chaos attacks. Command attacks, as they were are your base attacks with added directional inputs. An extension of the four button attack layout that this fighter is grounded on. By pressing weak punch, weak kick, strong punch, or strong kick with a combined press of a single directional input you'll perform a command attack as specified for your chosen character in the command list. The special moves made available for each character are different in that they are slightly more powerful than the melee centered attacks, and do not use up the Chaos Gauge unless you perform an EX version of the special move. The Ultimate, and Destructive Chaos attacks, on the other hand are as they sound. They are this game's ultimate attacks, and will each use up Chaos Gauge to perform. The ultimate chaos attacks will use 1-2 bars of the Chaos Gauge accordingly while the destructive chaos attack will burn up an entire 3 bars to perform. The main difference being the length (combo count) of the connected, and automated combo. That, and the background color of the animation. The ultimate chaos attack (outside of the 'extra ultimate chaos') will have a blue background while the destructive chaos animation will feature a hot pink background.

Beyond arcade mode you'll find in place the traditional local mode known as, "VS Mode". This mode gifts the gamer an option for gaming with friends locally in a 1P versus 2P environment or a singleplayer offline battle against a CPU opponent. The mode comes complete with simple matchmaking options including time limit, round limit, and CPU level supposing you chose to be paired with a CPU controlled character. It's a good mode for local tournaments, and for those simply looking to fight with friends.

Next up is the, "Survival Mode". I can't quite recall this being included in the original release, but it is definitely here now. In survival mode you'll continue the fight so long as you don't lose a match. The matches in question are each a single round event, and will gift you a health refill bonus if you are able to win. The mode's main point is to see how many matches you win before you finally lose. This will be shown after your loss on a sort of 'Game Over' screen along with your characters artistic portrait. It's a mode that's good for bragging rights among the fighting game community, especially since the difficulty ramps up as you progress.

For those of you looking to perfect your skills Chaos Code does contain a, "Practice Mode". The practice mode is basically a free play area with 3 pages of settings pertaining to gauge settings, stun settings, and CPU opponent action/position settings. These can be tweaked to your liking to mimic certain in-game scenarios. This is where the most hardcore of hardcore fighting game players can train.

Speaking of "Practice" this new version of "Chaos Code" harbors a 'Mission Mode'. Like other fighting game missions you will have to abide by set rules, and complete matches according to those rules in order to complete the mission at hand. The reward being in-game currency to spend, and a PSN trophy for you efforts among other things. In total 'Chaos Code: NSoC" has 35 base missions, and 16 SP missions. Each mission has you playing as a specific character with a specific skill set, and bounce type. Not only that but the rules for completion vary from damage type, to character related goals. Some missions are easy while some are increasingly more challenging. Mastering these set circumstances will no doubt help you in your quest to master the game's mechanics.

Similar to the survival mode I mentioned before the 'Score Attack Mode' comes next in line as a mode to prove your prowess as a fighting master. It differs from survival mode in that score is a focus this time around. As you duke it out in the single round matches against CPU controlled opponents your score will be tallied up. Supposing you win things like health left, the types of finishes, and combos applied will be added into that match's end score total. When you finally lose, supposing you have a good enough score you can upload it to the PSN leaderboard that is included with this game's online features. A detail I forget to mention is the addition of the leaderboard that houses the player's profile name, the character used, and the mode of play (Ranked & Score Attack). Making it to the top of the leaderboard won't be an easy feat though as Japan's top fighters have already been fighting their way to the top for months now. Besting them in combat will definitely be difficult.

When it comes to the online competitive play "Chaos Code: NSoC" has the usual ranked, player, and create-a-match options available for you to utilize as you set out to best the best of the online gaming community. In 'Ranked' you'll find that 'Quick 'Match' searching is an option supposing you want to forego the custom search options that narrow down things like region, connection, and other key matchmaking specifics. In the 'Ranked' lobby menus you'll find actual rooms to join that can be limited by you or others to a 2 to "No Limit" setting. This is good for players who like the ins and outs of room rotation. The type of room experience where you get to battle the top player or host until that leader is toppled. Each player in the room will have their ping shown for all the world to see, so do be aware of that as it may result in you being booted out by the host. If you opt for a non-ranked 'Player' experience you can tweak a little more than you could in custom ranked settings. This includes things like whether or not players can use 'Boss' versions of characters in battle. Needless to say the developer covers all the grounds for proper matchmaking. The only problem is that it's hard to find anyone in the US playing this game online. Me playing against one of Japan's best (TenryoTheLight) was not a pleasant experience at all due to the lag between us, and my noobish skills.

As far as extras are concerned you will find a 'Collection' mode in which you can pay to unlock art, character colors, character boss versions, and a special extra game mode using the in-game currency you earn from playing any of the game's base modes. There's a decent amount of extras to unlock, and the new boss characters along with the new mode of play are definitely perks worth having. Just keep in mind that the grind is real though as earnings are slowly gained as you play.

Lastly, those of you looking to keep track of your personal progress you can do that too. In the 'Record' menu listing you'll find stats for total time played, the most used character, your survival mode wins, your highest score attack score, and your mission mode completion. While other players won't see these stats unless shared it's still nice to see how well you are doing in the game. One more thing before I close ... The online portion of this game does offer some simple personalization options. Not only can you set your preferred character, and their avatar, but you can also choose from a selection of unlockable titles to show off just how good you are. Of course it goes without saying that some of these titles will demand a lot to obtain.

The Verdict ...

I was actually impressed with this upgrade. It looked like a proper Arc System Works fighter, and functioned just as good as one offline. I loved the new screen stretch option, and the overall visual presentation of the game. Sure the in-game character design still looks a bit indie, but everything else is extremely polished for a $20 title. Even the gameplay is solid. To me it actually feels like the hits are connecting, especially with the vibration setting turned on. I liked that the mechanics included everything that made games like BlazBlue, and Guilty Gear as technically good as they are. At least at a basic level. You have your air dashes, air blocking, feints for some characters ... just a lot of quality stuff that makes the fight more intense, and more technical. Nothing really over-the-top though outside of what those darn bosses dish out. Don't even get me started on that. I could rant all day on how cheap the boss fight in this game felt. The unavoidable life ending destructive chaos move, the summoning of creatures to distance you from the boss, and the boss's outright unwillingness to fight. I actually cussed a couple of times at that fight. Even with that frustration I still feel you are getting your money's worth out of this game, but only if you are not depending wholly on online connectivity in the competitive sense. The online at the moment is a virtual ghost town. I could only find TenryoTheLight playing, and that did not move me to continue trying it out online. I could see this game doing well in the tournament scene though if someone doesn't find, or know of any game breaking exploits. That is a huge "if". 

As far as my verdict goes I'm gonna go out on a limb, and say it's an alright game for the cost. Like I said before it's more polished, and complete than it was on the PS3. For $19.99 it's not that bad of a buy considering the replay value it has, and the amount of offline features included. I personally love the Survival mode as it adds good replay value of the offline sort! If you fancy an affordable fleshed out fighter to hold you over until INJUSTICE 2, or Tekken 7 this might be worth your time! It's alright by me!

*NOTE: I think Ray & Lupinus might be new character additions. I'm not 100% sure though. Ray is a grappler/bouncer type while Lupinus closely resembles Bullet from BlazBlue."

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