Everyone loves when a great crossover comes along because they get to enjoy many of their favorite characters all in one place. It’s why games like Super Smash Bros. and movies like Avengers are as big as they are. Well the latest developer to make their own crossover product is legendary development house Arc System Works with their new game Code Shifter. This game mixes fighting with platforming and throws some well known Arc characters into the mix. Is this the next great Arc System Works game you should pick up?
The story in Code Shifter has players taking control of video game developer Stella. She works for a company called Awesome Rainbow Corp who is about to release their brand new game Colorful Fighters. Just like most games entering the final phase of their development though there are some last minute bugs to work out and polish to apply. The problem is no matter how hard the team tries to iron out the bugs they just keep popping up which is very strange. This leads to Stella developing her own bug squashing program called Code Shifter. This program lets Stella travel into the game itself and actually destroy the bugs from within. The idea behind the game is different but the story just never goes really anywhere and by the time the game ends several thing just weren’t really elaborated on. Talking to your team between levels and learning more about them failed to be interesting as well.
The crossover part of the game I mentioned comes from other Arc System characters that you’ll find inside the game’s levels. During the stages you’ll come across platforms that depict the character you’ll get to play as when you stand on it. There are around 30 in total including characters such as Sol Badguy from Guilty Gear, Jake Hunter, Kunio, and Ragna from Blazblue. There are also around 70 assist characters that you can also obtain from similar platforms. These usually provide your character with a bonus such as a stat boost or upgrades to your health. You can’t spam their benefits either as once you use them you’ll have to wait a period of time before you can use them again. It’s great that there are so many characters here but it would’ve been nice to have less characters being assists and more as playable. Every character you do play as though has their own attacks, special ability, and even their own music. You can swap back and forth between Sera and the character you obtained using the shoulder buttons but once you find a new character platform to stand on the one you currently have will be replaced.
The main goal in the game is to just make it to the end of each level while defeating bugs along the way, doing some platforming, and solving some light puzzles. Most of the stages just looked the same to me as there isn’t a lot of variety in their design layouts or look. The platforming is simple and the puzzles just have you usually using a character ability to activate or break down something like a wall. You never have to really think much about them as the game usually gives you the character that has the ability you need shortly beforehand. What further hurts the gameplay is the controls that don’t feel as good as they should. There were many times where the game failed to register that I hit something. When moving around the office between levels it is also all too easy to run into things unintentionally which led to some frustration.
Sera’s abilities can be upgraded by getting an S rank on each stage. Doing that is pretty difficult though and could have you playing the same level over and over to minimize any possible mistake. In a game that is more fun to play and controls better that might not be a bad thing but in this game it just didn’t seem worth the trouble. Additional power-ups can also be found by searching around the office between levels so long as the movement doesn’t irritate you enough from doing so. As far as other things to do in the game you have the ability to play the actual game the team is making, Colorful Fighters. This game lets you have a brawl with up for four actual players or you can play against AI bots. It only starts you off with a few playable characters to start but you can unlock more by beating EX levels in the main game. It was a fun little diversion but ultimately didn’t hold my interest for long. Other than that you can go back and play through all of the levels on a harder difficulty to get more play time out of this but I had no desire to do such a thing by the time I was done with it.
The visuals in the game are OK but weren’t really anything special or memorable which I can’t say about many Arc System Works games. As I already stated the level design is very boring and the visuals in them along with it. The characters all look good though and are the highlight when it comes to this area. The music is fine but I found it to be an annoying issue when it would change up all the time. You see every character you pick up and play as has their own music track and when you end up switching between characters a lot you constantly have the music switching up on you. The music itself though is fantastic and really enjoyable when you do get to listen to it. The game has no voice acting in it either with you instead having to listen to little gibberish sound effects when the characters speak. The trophy list has 29 trophies including a Platinum you can work towards should you choose to. It isn’t a hard list but rather more of a grindy one asking you to beat so many levels, defeat so many enemies, and so on.
Code Shifter looked cool to me when I saw it but after playing it I walked away feeling pretty disappointed. All of the guest characters are designed well and the music is good but none of the core elements such as the story and gameplay were very memorable. I think only the most hardcore Arc System Works fans will find any enjoyment here.
*Code Shifter is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
- Has dozens of fan favorite Arc System Works characters to play as
- Interesting idea behind the game
- The music for the different characters is enjoyable when you get to listen to it
- Story never really goes anywhere
- Gameplay has hit detection issues and level design is too generic
- The art style is mostly dull