Fighting games are awesome. Even if you aren’t amazing at them, tackling the genre is like learning a new language. Once you figure out the fundamentals, you have a new skillset you can apply to so many different kinds of experiences. I cut my teeth on Guilty Gear and Street Fighter, but since I put in the hours, I can pick up and figure out nearly any other fighter (on a casual level). Even so, some fighters are better than others when it comes to organically leading fundamentals to results. Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe, a super budget-friendly fighter from the sadly defunct (or dormant?) FK Digital, is the kind of fighter that is built explicitly around giving players tools you learn by touch instead of reading.
The concept of “fundamentals” for fighting games probably changes depending on your perspective. For me it’s part play and part knowledge. Being able to feel out when to defend, when to attack, and how to approach an attack are key. But you have to go a step further than that, to jargon like linking, canceling, meter management, footsies, so on and so forth. The complicated stuff can come later, especially because each individual game will have its own flavor of metagame. Chaos Code, for example, is largely built around rewarding experimentation.
I’ve been tooling around with Arc System Works’ recent Chaos Code Switch port, and it’s a great deal. You don’t get online play like the PS4 or PC versions, but it’s half the price. Chaos Code is a pretty easy game to dive into, as it doesn’t rock the boat in terms of controls or basic mechanics. It’s comparable to the “anime fighter” style, which really just means you can chain normals together and canceling into specials and supers is easier than stockier games like Street Fighter. What makes Chaos Code distinct upfront is its “bounce” mechanic, which lets you pick two of a set of four special moves per character, on top of their static command list. You can also choose between a “dash” or “run” function for double-tapping left and right. There are options even before you have options, and “Exceed Chaos” lets players figure out their own potential.
Exceed Chaos is a special technique you can use, and it functions similarly to snazzy mechanics in Guilty Gear or Samurai Shodown, by which I mean activating it affects the whole visual vibe of the round. You know some stuff is about to go down when Exceed Chaos is happening. But what’s truly wild is what it does – it basically removes the normal limiters on move properties that dictate what does and doesn’t work for combos. Doors are opened that aren’t normally opened, and you can really get creative with your combo attempts at that point. It has a massive cooldown, but having a “screw the rules, I have meter” button is so much fun.
Unfortunately, this is likely the last we’ll see of Chaos Code. Not long before the Switch version was published, Mickey Lin of FK Digital announced his company is more or less hanging it up, and Chaos Code’s sequel was canceled. I enjoy this game a lot, but in looking for more I instead found a stark reminder that behind the games we love are people. It’s a shame we won’t see more out of this IP, but it’s awesome that it’s here, and it definitely brings its own style and flair to the table. Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe has “kitschy EVO side tournament” written all over it, and that feels like the perfect spot. Hopefully for a long time!
Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe is currently available for the Nintendo Switch, the PlayStation 4, and the PC.