Every once in a while a game company releases a mash up title that just makes sense. Games such as Shonen Jump’s Jump Ultimate Stars and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros are examples of mashups that make players really excited. Not wanting to be left out, Arc System Works wanted to join in on the action with their new title Code Shifter. It’s a mash up that has a lot of questionable design choices in it. Developed by a relatively unknown company, Land Ho!, Code Shifter is a side-scrolling platformer-beat em’ up featuring characters from all of Arc System Works beloved series like Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, River City Ransom and many more! It’s currently available on all major platforms, so let’s take a deep dive into Code Shifter!
Code Shifter opens up with the player controlling Stella, a programmer that’s tasked with getting the bugs out of Awesome Rainbow Corp’s latest game before its big release. However, more mysterious bugs starts appearing so she decides to use her new debug program, code shifter, to take care of the bugs. Using code shifter, Stella takes control of the avatar character named Sera in order to fight the bugs from within. Knowing how effective code shifter has become, Stella is quickly targeted by an individual by the name of Ghost and it’s up to the player to take down Ghost and make sure the game gets released without a hitch!
When you explore each file, essentially a level, as Sera you often come across different codes either labeled as “hero” or “assist.” The hero code transforms Sera into different playable characters such as Sol Badguy or Kunio, while an assist code is like a partner character you can call on to do a single attack and then leave. Each hero has its own element and attack that are separate from what Sera can do. Sera and every playable hero have four attacks: neutral attack, down attack, up attack, and a special metered attack. This is where the game kinda lose some of its steam for me.
The combat in the game feels lackluster and unpolished. A lot of there characters come from games that have very tight controls and that doesn’t necessarily translate into Code Shifters. It’s possible to simplify move sets and still have it feel like the game they originally came from. The hitbox detection for some of the hero’s feel off, leaving it easy to cheese enemies or bosses. At some points, unless I really needed to, I just ignored the hero data and just went on with the level.
Apart from the main story, there is also a battle mode where you and your buddies can pick any of the heroes that you’ve unlocked and duke it out in a Smash Bros like brawler! Its a lot of fun but you can still cheese the other players. For a game that’s all about polishing a game this game’s combat sure lacks polish.
Outside side of Code Shifter’s beautiful pixel art Stella, Sera and the rest of the cast not from previous Arc System Works titles look they’re from an Esurance commercial. While not bad by any means, I’m not a huge fan of it. The soundtrack is where Code Shifter really shines, though. If Arc Systems Works is known for anything, it’s the great music that’s in each of their titles. That’s on full display with this mashup! I would play certain heroes just so I could hear the remix of the themes that came with them. I would purchase the soundtrack in a heartbeat and will once it’s available.
Code Shifter isn’t a bad game, but it’s not a great game either. It’s just kind of there. You’ll get a couple of hours of enjoyment out of it. Unless you play the battle mode, you’ll probably quickly forget about this since there are other better mash-up games out there. I’m unsure of what Arc Systems Works was trying to go for when they had Land Ho! create Code Shifter. If you want to play a game featuring your favorite characters from multiple titles like Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, or River City Ransom then you’re in luck. Just don’t expect anything super polished or with any lasting appeal.