Blast ‘em! Use Swords! Avoid Fire! Power Up!
So says the back cover of the latest shooter on the Gamecube, Chaos Field. Appropriately enough, those four imperatives seem to sum up the game quite well. Except for the power up part as there are no power ups in the game…
As with most shooters, the story in unimportant. In fact, you’d actually have to pull out the instruction booklet to find the Engrishy, four sentence long backdrop. Sufficient to say: aliens came, they blewed us up, now we gonna blow them up. That’s really all you need to know.
Gameplay will be familiar to veterans of the genre: avoid all the pretty bullets while destroying everything in your path. Of course, Chaos Field does offer a few variations. Players can choose from three different ships which are standard variations on the light but fast, balanced, and heavy tank ship designs, allowing for a player to find a ship based on personal playing style.
Each ship comes equipped with a number of attacks. Close range attacks or “swords” sweep out in front of the ship for a short distance, sweeping up bullets and damaging enemies. The normal attack will vary based on ship, but each ship’s normal attack is its primary means of offense, allowing for attacks from all over the screen. Ships also have a meta gauge which can be used for wing-layer and lock-on attacks; the meta gauge is refilled by collecting pink meta stock items dropped by destroyed enemies. The wing-layer is a shield of sorts that sweeps up bullets. The lock-on mechanism allows for a missiles to be fired at enemies within a certain range.
In addition, gameplay can be switched on the fly using the namesake Chaos Field or Order Field. Switching between the two fields destroys all bullets on the screen and offers a moment of invulnerability, but it can only be done every so often. Order Field is the normal mode that you start out in, but Chaos Field is where the fun really begins. Ship weapons/shields/etc are upgraded in Chaos Field, but enemies spew bullets fast enough to sicken even the hardest of Decepticons.
This Gamecube release features two versions of the game: arcade and original. Arcade is simply a series of three boss fights per stage. Original has those same boss fights preceded by a handful of enemies. Firing patterns seem to differ also, but each mode has the same five stages to go through.
Chaos Field is certainly a tough game; it falls in with the old-school action games that rely solely on the player’s skill. Although the options allow for setting generous shield points and continues, most players will need to make several attempts before completing the game. However, once completed, there is little incentive to keep playing beyond the standard desire to beat a high score or combo ranking.
Graphics and sound are both mediocre at best. While shooters are not generally known for pushing the envelope in either area, it still feels like Chaos Field is from an earlier generation. At its worst, it can become very difficult to actually pinpoint what you need to fire and the repetitive sound effects can become quite annoying.
Due to the lack of shooters on the Gamecube, most players will make comparisons to Ikaruga. Unfortunately, Chaos Field is not nearly as good and will likely only appeal to shooter fans. Recommended for hardcore shooter fanatics, but most of the gaming public can skip this one.
Chaos Field is a rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence. This game can also be found on: Dreamcast.
(** out of *****)