You might get a warm, fuzzy feeling just knowing that there's a new vertical-scrolling shoot-'em-up for the GameCube in Chaos Field. Reminiscent of the cult classic Ikaruga and any number of other you-against-the-world shooters that make you guide a lone starfighter against seemingly hopeless odds, Chaos Field still has a few original qualities that should be interesting to fans of similar games. Unfortunately, though, Chaos Field lacks the ultraprecise action and feel that's crucial to any truly great shoot-'em-up, and much like other games cut from this same cloth, it's going to be a very short-lived experience for you unless you get yourself addicted to beating your highest scores or perfecting your flights through the five action-packed levels.
Dodge deadly spirals of bullets while attempting to shoot down big, weird alien ships in Chaos Field.
Shoot-'em-ups rarely have much of a story to them, and sure enough, in Chaos Field there's no real storyline in the game itself--just a couple of paragraphs in the manual stating that humankind is being threatened by an interdimensional menace that emerged from something called the chaos field. Eventually, the battle spread to the "order field" as well, and now humanity has handpicked three pilots to stop the invasion once and for all. In practice, stopping the invasion amounts to shooting your way through five "phases" composed of three stages each. And in each one, what you do is fight some sort of bullet-spewing boss robot/spaceship/thing. The game's got two modes: "Arcade mode," a direct translation of a Japanese arcade game, is literally just one boss fight after another; and there's also an "original mode" that's exclusive to this version, and it throws a few waves of enemy fighters at you every now and then (and also changes the bosses' patterns), making for a slightly more conventional shoot-'em-up experience.
Chaos Field isn't as intuitive to pick up and play as most games like this. You've got three fairly different ships to choose from, but it's the actual mechanics of the action that take some getting used to. By pressing and holding the B button, you'll automatically fire away with your ship's main weapon: Hal's blue ship spits outs plasma in sort of a spread pattern; Ifumi's red ship emits continuous streams of medium-range laser fire that locks onto targets; and Jinn's yellow ship fires thick bolts of lightning. Each fighter also has a short-range energy sword, which is powerful and especially useful for destroying enemy bullets. However, you can't shoot and swing your sword at the same time. You also have two types of special weapons, whose effects vary depending on which ship you're using: One is a lock-on laser system, and the other is sort of a defense mechanism that flies out onto the screen and absorbs bullets that hit it. Use of these special abilities is governed by a meter that gets charged up when you absorb pink artifacts that spew out of things you blow up. In practice, it's pretty easy to maintain enough energy to keep your special weapons firing, but they're hardly powerful enough to let you breeze through the game's tough levels.
You can switch to the chaos dimension at any time, which powers up your weapons but also makes your foes even meaner.
Oh, and you can also switch between two dimensions at any time. It's a weird, interesting mechanic. Basically, you start out in the order field, but can switch to the chaos field at any time. The screen goes all red and postapocalyptic, and suddenly your weapons are more powerful than usual...but your enemy is stronger as well, and will rain even more deadly fire down upon you. However, in the chaos field, your lock-on lasers can pick off enemy bullets, creating potential for high-scoring combos, and making your chances of survival somewhat greater than nil. You get fewer of those pink special weapon power-ups in the chaos field, though, and you'll probably want to switch back to the order field soon enough if only to catch your breath. You're also momentarily invulnerable when you switch fields, so you'll want to use the switch to avoid taking otherwise-unavoidable damage. And you can't just switch back and forth all willy-nilly, since it takes a few moments for your ability to change fields to recharge.