Far away in the galaxy, a planet is about to be reborn. Although, the inhabitants of this world don’t take the news of being wiped from existence so the enigmatic Central Code can restart itself. They create a sky city and hope to wait out the planned rebirth in a cryogenic sleep. Once they finally move up to the airborne metropolis the city comes crashing to the ground piece by piece. Gene managed to live through the crash. As he wakes up his sister is gone, he’s caught in the middle of a war and the strangest thing of all is the world isn’t reborn yet. What has happened here?
In Gene’s dream he imagines himself as a cyborg-like warrior with two sword arms as weapons. This isn’t too far from the truth. As Gene is about to be attacked by a tiny code animal known as an Otero his right arm shifts into a sword. A strange phenomenon from the Rebirth cycle has given people the power of transmuting their arms into real weapons. Gene’s left arm starts off as a cube. This hand can deal quick hits with X, but more importantly block attacks with the square button. His right hand is where the offense lies. By pressing circle you can deal stronger, but slower blows. You can do simple two button combos between the two buttons. Some combos like a double press of X can stun an enemy. The perfect follow up from a stun attack is using the “code drive” by pressing triangle. When you execute this attack the screen cuts out to Gene prepping a massive “limit break” style strike. A circle pops up in the middle of screen and the player needs to hit X or circle when the circle is a quarter full. Press it at the perfect time and Gene will start wrecking havoc. Miss the timing and you’ll lose some of your arm power. Each arm has its own power meter, when the meter is empty you can’t use it anymore. It’s rare to see an arm run out of power unless you’re turtling with your blocking arm or if you miss two hits in a row with your code drive.
If you do run out of arm strength Gene has one more trick up his sleeve, he can use the simple Otero’s to attack. Hold down X or circle for a second to absorb an Otero. Otero’s are sort of like stocked spells. Using a rabbit Otero allows Gene to heal. A cubed devil allows Gene to set a trap, which will damage an enemy who’s foolish enough to walk into it. Other attacks that Gene can pick up are basic projectile spells, some with status effects like poison attached to them. There is a limit on how much you can stock. Each hand can hold a maximum of three Otero. Each Otero has a specific size and if Gene absorbs too much he’ll start losing life. You can switch which Otero you want to use by pressing L2 to activate Otero drained into Gene’s left hand and R2 to use the Otero absorbed with Gene’s right hand.
Often Code Age Commanders is criticized for having overly complex controls. The game does use every button on the Dual Shock controller. On paper it sounds like it would take a few hours to get a hang of the controls, but after thirty minutes it is easy to get a hold of how to play the game. Code Age Commanders is also designed with good pacing. In the first tutorial level you don’t need to worry about your arm meter. You only need to think about slashing all the infected Coded. By the time you learn the “code drive” skill you’ll be ready to move on and pick up the Otero absorbing system. The main battle system takes some time to learn, but it is far impossibly difficult.
Code Age Commanders takes the Final Fantasy X-2 route and gives players missions to take on. Most of the missions don’t have overly confusing goals or puzzles. It’s a dash from start to finish with a lot of fighting in between. At the end there may be a boss to fight. There are no jumping or platforming challenges (actually you can’t jump at all), no fetch quests, just raw combat. At the end of a mission you’re given points depending on your time, combo length and how many Coded you defeat. These points can be spent on purchasing new skills like “more chance” that give Gene an extra life. Or you can spend them to get arm upgrades to do extra damage. As you can see there’s no real leveling up system in the game. The only real development your character gets are the upgrades you purchase and arm evolutions.
At a first glance Code Age Commanders looks similar to Phantasy Star Online. Textures are blocky sort and the environments are wide fields. Fortunately the character design makes up for the game’s technical weaknesses. Gene, Meme and the rest of the crew have sci-fi style outfits with bright neon colors. The coded have an interesting style too. They look they jumped straight out of an anime with their alien like appearance.
It’s no secret that Square-Enix wants to push the Code Age brand beyond this game. Code Age Brawls, a cell phone game was released at the same time. Gamers who take spend time with the mobile game can input a code from the cell game into Commanders for some extra content. Then there is the manga series Code Age Archives, which provides the backbone to the story. If you want to really get into Code Age there’s plenty more out there, but for the causal gamer that just checks out this title will be missing out on a fair amount of content.
The game’s sheer simplicity is why Code Age Commanders has more in kin with Dynasty Warriors rather than Full Metal Alchemist action RPGs. Perhaps brawler RPG would be a more suiting genre for Code Age Commanders. The title throws out a character growth, puzzles and exploration in favor of more fighting. These are probably the reasons why many hardcore RPG fans will immediately dislike the title. If you have an open mind Code Age Commanders is an entertaining experience. The combat system is deeper than any other action / brawler RPG to this date and the story is worth a play alone.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 4
Getting the hang of the control system takes about half an hour. After that Code Age Commanders is playable sans story if you know enough katakana to get through the menus.
Code Age Commanders was shown at E3, but no official announcements have been made. Judging by the low sales numbers and lukewarm Japanese response it isn’t a guarantee that Code Age Commanders is set for a US release.
+ Pros: For an action RPG, it’s got a deep fighting system and plenty of secondary goals to keep players around for a second play.
– Cons: If you want to know the whole story … you’ll have to buy the cell phone game, manga and whatever else Square-Enix plans to release for this franchise.
Overall: It plays like Dynasty Warriors meets an action RPG with an all star voice acting cast. However, RPG fans will probably be disappointed with the lack of exploration and story conclusions.
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