Crafting crossovers can create some interesting combinations, especially when the developer behind the crossover has access to a number of popular franchises that they can pull characters from. As such when Arc System Works revealed Code Shifter many wondered just how many different series would be appearing in the game and how it would tie everyone together, so now that this interesting crossover featuring characters from even some more obscure Arc System Works games has been released, is it worth your time?
The video game development company Awesome Rainbow Corp, that fits so well with ARC, is preparing to launch their biggest game yet, a brawling fighting game by the name of Colorful Fighters. The problem is, while the release date continues to approach the amount of bugs and glitches never seem to drop and, if anything, are getting worse. As such a programmer named Stella has crafted a unique program called Code Shifter that allows her to easily navigate through corrupted files and directly target any buggy code, glitched graphics, and more by using a virtual avatar named Sera. It doesn’t take long before the never ending pile of bugs and errors appear to lead towards an unknown user that is seemingly targeting the developer directly and only Stella’s capable avatar can put a stop to it.
For a crossover game, Code Shifter does its best to at least set up a premise as to why characters from Guilty Gear, River City, Blazblue, and many other franchises would be appearing in the same worlds but does little really beyond that and most attempts at humor fall flat. Players can interact with their fellow co-workers in the office but their personalities are barely developed beyond their initial introductions and while there is some effort to highlight the crunch that developers can be forced into when an incompetent boss forces work on them to meet strict deadlines, it doesn’t quite go far enough. As such those looking for a solid storyline will be a bit disappointed here as it mostly serves as window dressing to seeing your favorite characters in a new type of game.
At its core Code Shifter is designed as a 2D platformer with players having to navigate the mixed up world of each stage while eliminating or avoiding the various enemies in their path and solving some small puzzles to get past various obstacles. Most stages can be quite large in size and, since players are not given any time limit, they are free to explore and are encouraged to find little side paths throughout the level as various defeated glitches and item pick-ups increase their overall score for the stage. Taking damage and losing lives lower this final score and while players don’t need to aim for an S ranking every time, they are encouraged to as an S ranked stage will unlock various boosts that can be applied to Sera such as allowing her to move quicker, deal more damage, knockback enemies, carry more “heroes,” and more.
These heroes are where Code Shifter pulls in its crossover mechanics. Players will always have control of Sera who can deal basic damage and is the only one that can target glitched items in the environment but alongside her numerous Arc System Works characters will be at the player’s disposal as the viruses have spread them throughout the stages in these games. These heroes range from playable characters that can be swapped back and forth from to simply being assist characters that can be called in to deal damage or apply a buf. Heroes are not only generally stronger than Sera but also play a major role in navigating the various stages in the game.
Some characters, such as Sol Badguy, can use fire type moves to melt away ice pillars that may be blocking the way, while lightweight ones such as Rachel Alucard can float using air-jets. Similarly we have characters such as Abobo who are so heavy they sink light platforms and can tear apart boxes and Juubei is small enough to slip through tight passages. Numerous characters will have these special feats, with a few having more than one, but since the amount of heroes Sera can transform into are limited, players may need to backtrack to regain one they need should a puzzle, or a hidden area, require.
The actual combat in Code Shifter is unfortunately rather bland and simple with players having a standard light attack combo that has a few different variations depending on the direction being pressed as well as a “special attack” that is often quite powerful but drains some of the user’s health as a price. The various heroes are oddly missing a number of their signature moves though fans will still find plenty of familiar attacks being used for their favorite characters but they will need to be wary of hitboxes as enemy damage zones, as well as the various platforms that players will often need to navigate, are incredibly rough feeling. Often enemies will land hits that are nowhere near the player while direct attacks will miss entirely and floating platforms can be the bane of any solid run through a stage as landing near an edge almost guarantees a fall due to a few poorly designed areas.
Outside of the core game players will find that there is a fairly solid extra mode players can access through the office and that is the game Stella is trying to fix, Colorful Fighters. This mode allows players to take part in four way brawls that are either timed or dependent on a set of lives and use any characters that they have unlocked in the game so far. These characters are only unlocked by completing special hidden fights scattered throughout the more difficult EX stages of the game’s story mode so it is worth noting that some fan favorites will take some extra work to unlock. Colorful Fighters is a solid enough brawler though it can be incredibly hectic to the point that a life could easily be lost during the initial chaos and it is also worth noting that while four players can play locally, there is no online option which is a bit of a disappointment. It is also worth noting that players can also choose to eventually play through the story mode with a co-op partner should they choose but once again, it is only available through local play.
Visuals & Audio
The design work in Code Shifter is a bit at odds with itself as the core gameplay features some great 8-bit versions of everyone’s favorite characters, a few of which end up looking very impressive considering their detailed origins, and the level designs themselves can be quite interesting to playthrough but it also happens to feature some incredibly lackluster normal designs for the game’s story mode models and Sera herself is as generic as they come even when she obtains extra outfits later in the game. It is also worth noting that while the layouts of some stages are rather interesting, they only feature some small theme changes between sets of stages which is a bit disappointing, especially since special stages from various franchises only appear through EX fights or while playing Colorful Fighters.
The soundtrack for the game is also something of a mixed bag as the new music crafted for the game is a bit simplistic in nature while there are tons of great chiptune style music featuring themes from various series when the player is transformed into a specific hero. These tunes are great but thanks to the nature of the gameplay, all too short. It is also worth noting that there is no voice work of any kind as the game instead opts for gibberish sound effects instead.
Code Shifter works fairly well at providing a solid enough game that brings together some classic characters of Arc System Works’ beloved franchise but unfortunately really doesn’t provide a decent enough story to tie things together. This inconsistency comes into play both when it comes to character designs and soundtracks as well as those tied into referencing crossover characters happen to shine while the original content ends up feeling lackluster. This leads to a side-scrolling platformer that is a bit too simple to really hold your attention but does provide a solid enough experience for fans of Arc System Works’ games, especially if they happen to like brawling a bit with friends in Colorful Fighters.