JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle
The universe of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure allows an excellent opportunity for videogame adaptation. It’s in the franchise’s nature. Throughout the long-running manga and anime translation, there are scores of tremendously flamboyant characters and an undercurrent of super exaggerated personality that suits the form of videogames in a wonderful way.
It follows that the first entry was a high point of eccentric expression within the fighting genre. Capcom’s 1998 Dreamcast release might have cemented the series within some public consciousness were it not within the property’s nature to be outside the comforts of common taste. Since the release of that exceptionally stylish and edgy take on the more grounded Street Fighter formula, things have been somewhat dry. Bandai-Namco have now taken a good first crack at an adaptation and given the capable cult fighting game developers CyberConnect2 an opportunity to make another one of those.
They’ve followed Capcom’s model in a rough way. The style takes precedence over any mechanical depths or serious contention at being a tournament-ready product. Characters pop off the environments with intricate detail and flowery animations. It’s made relatively easy to pull off stunning combos and so all followers of the series are welcome along. Entry level play is the core concept, leaving complex actions relegated to a secondary concern. For the seasoned audience, there’s still enough diversity among the cast to allow for a good time.
Pulled from the source material, CyberConnect2 have assembled a dream cast starring the Joestar family along with many adversaries and accomplices. The lion’s share of recognizable faces are in, albeit many names have been oddly translated, likely to avoid lawsuits over their direct pop culture references. This may stand as a pet peeve for the die hard follower but it is not within the series nature to be taken so seriously. Some standouts are set into the publisher’s DLC plans. There’s a good enough range of characters here to provide ample enjoyment and experimentation. Some variations in style are present, whether a fighter is mounted or carries the series signature of a stand (a projection that fights alongside them).
Systems are fine-tuned and simple to pick up. By just jabbing at some button combos will unfold and through variations, bigger finishers and more consequential moves are made available. The flow of the fights are usually sound although some moves unfold at a slow pace and are common enough to become tiresome. Playing online is generally an acceptable experience, with a middling net code. A good connection provides a seamless match while limited bars yield frustrating matches that drag out too long, with some interference over the inputs.
A generally fulfilling story mode is included. It’s almost necessary to play, in order to unlock about half the roster and is a good way of testing out the included fighters. The setups leave something to be desired next to the spot-on style found within actual matches. Along the eight parts that comprise the full run of the manga, we’re given short text wrap-ups that tell a scattered rundown of narrative events. It’s an oversight that these were not fleshed out to match the fine art found as standard across the rest of the experience.
There is also the trouble of the campaign mode. It introduces itself in a worrying way. It’s a mode where we ‘expend energy’ to move through generated boss battles, where a plethora of cosmetic and ancillary unlocks are made available. It shows the ugly seams of a microtransaction system that, while more egregious in the Japanese release, still reminds of bad practices, even with the cut down energy demands of our Western version.
That is a slight against an otherwise sound package that will delight followers of the franchise. It’s a long-awaited return to a series that deserves to be in videogame form. And it’s a damn good pleasure to experience again with such stylish and flamboyant execution behind it. The latest take at JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a fair and accessible fighting game that offers something different from the crowd.