Review: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle (Sony PlayStation 3)

jojocoverJoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: CyberConnect2
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: 04/29/2014

The story of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is unique. Each arc of the manga (and now anime) follows just one member of the fabled Joestar bloodline. Each arc introduces new characters, locations, and powers. With so many arcs already completed, that means there is a lot of material for a game developer to work with. It makes for a great setup for an all star mash up of a fighting game. CyberConnect2, the longstanding developers of the best Naruto games, are quite possibly the best team to make such a game. They’ve made a name for themselves by staying true to the source material. However, there is a downside. Those Naruto games, and others such as Asura’s Wrath, have always been accused of putting style over substance. The games are pretty, but not all that interesting to play.

With JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle, CyberConnect2 looks to put those perceptions in the past. This is a true fighting game in every sense, and clearly wants to be seen as a competitor to the biggest names in the genre.

jojo1The core mode of the game is Story Mode. This is broken up into eight parts that each follow a member of the Joestar line. That means you’ll help Jonathan Joestar in his fight against Dio, and his son Joseph in his fight against the Pillar Men. The mode itself is split into a series of one on one fights. Events that proceed, follow or fall in between these fights are delivered via text. It’s not the best way to get immersed in the story. Characters are introduced via text, killed off via text, and never seen onscreen. It’s hard to get any sort of emotional impact out of this recap-like storytelling.

Story Mode does offer some benefits. For starters, many of the game’s characters are not unlocked until you clear enough of the story. You can also complete hidden objectives to unlock things in the gallery or earn coins to purchase other things in the gallery. When you complete all of the episodes in a part, you’ll unlock a separate series of missions that has you playing as the other guy in each battle. If you get stuck, you can use some of your coins to purchase status boosts. There are a number to choose from, and they can easily tip the scales in your favor. If you spend enough coins, you can make it damn near impossible to lose.

Up next is the required Arcade Mode. However, this time it runs a bit differently. You’ll still pick a character and run them through a gauntlet of opponents. It’s just that you don’t fight a boss or get an ending when you finish up. Instead, you ranked on each battle, and the game keeps track of your best score. You’ll also earn coins here as well. It’s certainly a decent mode for getting used to specific characters and fighting against the wildly different types of opponents.

jojo2Of course there’s a versus mode, and of course you can take that mode online. The catch here is that online is only available when you download the Campaign Mode DLC. The DLC is free, but it’s still annoying. Online matches offer the bare essentials. You can play in ranked matches and/or player matches. The mode can be a bit sluggish if both parties don’t have great connections, and you have to hope someone is either hosting a match or looking for one you’re hosting. It’s archaic, and doesn’t offer any of the bonuses we’re used to getting out of more modern fighters. Lobbies and spectator modes should be standard at this point.

Speaking of that Campaign Mode, it’s basically a retail representation of Namco’s recent free-to-play fighting games. In this mode, you use energy to search for a boss. If you don’t find the boss, you’ll fight a player avatar. Each player can customize a fighter’s taunts and poses to sort of personalize it. You get to fight whatever they picked. If you do get a boss, it isn’t as easy as simply beating him down. You see, winning a fight only lowers that boss’s HP. You have to fight him multiple times to get him to zero and get credit for beating him. When the battle starts, you can expend more of your energy to do more damage. From what I saw, a boss is going to take every last scrap of energy you have. If you’re out of energy, you have to wait for it to refill. Here’s where the free-to-play shenanigans kick in: you can buy energy and other upgrades with real world cash. While this mode is completely optional, you have to download it in order to play versus matches online. That’s just sleazy. On top of that, the goal here is to lock out future DLC characters until they’re beaten in this mode. It’s a cheap cash grab, and a rather large stain on the game’s reputation.

Visually, the game is a hit. It faithfully recreates the style of the manga. It should be noted, though, that that style isn’t for everyone. Characters are shamelessly flamboyant and cross perceived gender lines constantly. If this kind of thing bothers you, for any reason, you might want to stay. If you’re a little more open-minded, you’ll likely get a kick out of it. Flashy animations combined with an inked up look really help the game to stand out. CC2 are pretty much the masters at recreating the look of the source material, and this game is no different. The one problem is that the game runs at 30 FPS, which is really behind the times for this type of game.

jojo3I’m afraid it’s Japanese voices only for this title. Of course, that makes sense, since even the anime hasn’t even seen a localization in the U.S. Still, expect to read subtitles if you want to know what the characters are saying. Some of the tunes in this game are fun jazzy songs that really fit with the theme. However, most of the music seems to be recycled from the developer’s previous games. If you’ve played their Naruto games, expect to hear a lot of familiar tracks. The sounds effects range between the typical punch sounds, laser beams, and other such things. It’s all decent, but can get lost in the chaotic shuffle that ensues in such a game. It’s a fairly decent audio package. I wouldn’t call it memorable though.

On a basic level, JoJo has a lot in common with the Street Fighter series. You have light, medium and heavy attacks that can be strung together in various combos. Where characters start to differ is in their special moves, which are performed by moving the left stick in various circular patterns. Taunts, throws, and super moves also make the cut. If you’re used to fighting games, you’ll find a lot of familiarity here.

This game has a diverse roster, and the mechanics need to reflect that. Thankfully, CC2 was up to the task. Some characters use “stands”, which are manifestations of psychic power (Or something like that. The game didn’t try too hard to explain it). You can activate or deactivate these stands at moment’s notice. When a stand is active, the stand user gets access to different moves and generally has a greater threat range. It might seem like they have a huge advantage against a Hamon user, which has no stand. However, a Hamon user has access to all of their moves without having to activate anything. The button that would activate a stand instead lets them charge up their special meter at will. That can be handy in a pinch. Then you have the mounted characters. These guys are, no joke, on horses. When they are on the horses, they tower over the competition and can land just about anything so long as their opponent is in range. The most bizarre character is a mounted one. If he ever gets knocked off his horse, he’s in trouble. You see, he’s paralyzed from the waist down, meaning he crawls around on his arms. There’s just nothing like it out there.

jojo4Overall, the fighting is far from perfect. While it’s far more in depth than the developer’s previous titles, it’s still a great deal simpler than the best of the genre. For example, the inputs for moves are pretty much universal. Quarter circle to the right plus an attack button will perform some sort of ranged attack for every character. While this makes the game accessible to newcomers, veterans will find it a bit cheap. Also, the game is rife with ways to cheaply keep opponents down. Jotaro’s primary special is easily abused, and throws can practically be chained together infinitely if you get the timing down.

True to form, this game offers plenty of content. There’s all of the various game modes of course, but also plenty in the game’s gallery. You can unlock art, models, songs, sound clips and other things to your hearts content. There are hundreds of items available, to the point where you even get a trophy for when you unlock your five-hundredth gallery item. Diehard fans will certainly enjoy grinding to get it all.

That’s the bottom line really. This is a game for fans. However, when it comes to licensed games created by CyberConnect2, this is probably the game most easily appreciated outside of its main fan base. While it won’t be featured on EVO anytime soon, fight fans will find a fairly accomplished title with plenty of content to digest.

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1-150x150JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a solid fighting game that manages to stand out thanks to amount of content and faithfulness to the source material. It might stumble a bit with a less than ideal frame rate, recycled audio tracks, and occasionally spotty multiplayer. However, it makes up for that in style and a wacky, diverse roster. It’s worth a look, especially for fans. If this is the direction CyberConnect2 is going, I’d say the future looks bright ahead.



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