Jump! Ultimate Stars
Shonen Jump is back. No, not the ever-so-popular Japanese magazine. I’m talking about the animated reality in which Shonen Jump characters exist. The place is inhabited heroes like Goku and Piccolo from Dragon Ball, Monkey D. Luffy and crew from One Piece, and the elite ninjas of Naruto fame. Any of those names sound familiar? If you’re a fan of current anime, a devout reader of its respective mangas, or just watch primetime Cartoon Network, these characters ought to be common knowledge. These are the anime characters that have become pop culture icons in Japan and have been featured on television in the United States. With the advent of Jump Superstars, these heroes were jumbled together for an ensemble roster of the DS’s premier fighting game. However, Jump! Ultimate Stars has arrived, and it is poised to gain even more fame than its predecessor could have hoped.
That’s right, boys and girls. That quirky DS fighting game is back and better than ever. However, the minds behind the first Jump game have pulled out all the stops this time. Jump! Ultimate Stars features 41 of Shonen Jump’s most famous series. It’s not just the recent stuff, either. Though Yu-Gi-Oh, Bleach, and all the rest of series have been retained from the previous title, this latest installment includes the casts from Fist of the North Star, Saint Seiya, Kinnukuman, and Captain Tsubasa. When all is said, done, and unlocked, you’ll find that Jump! Ultimate Stars boasts a character roster that nearly doubles that of its predecessor. Just in case you haven’t played the older game, that roughly translates to 300 characters.
Yes, you read that right. This fighting game has 300 characters. Just think about that for a moment.
The roster isn’t the only thing that was expanded upon, either. Jump! Ultimate Stars features several new stages designed after a certain series; you’ll get to fight along a harbor in front of the One Piece crew’s ship, clash swords in the dojo from Ruroni Kenshin, and battle under the sharp gaze of Dragon Ball Z’s Eternal Dragon on Namek. The soundtrack has also been redone with less cheerful and happy-go-lucky music in favor of more rock and roll-styled tracks. But for all that’s changed, some things remain the same; many of the levels are comprised of moving platforms, crumbling ledges, and breakable walls. All of the characters have been redone with updated costumes, detailed movement sprites, and even some victory poses.
Veterans of the previous game will be glad to discover that their favorite fighters have been revamped with revised and expanded movesets. Each character sports a moveset akin to the fighters of Super Smash Bros. Melee; you can execute a decent variety of punches, kicks and dashes by pressing the B and Directional Buttons. Specialized moves, such as energy shots, sword dashes, and more powerful maneuvers can be executed in a similar fashion with the Y Button. But if utter destruction is your style, you can also pull off a few character-specific signature moves, such as Goku’s Kamehameha Wave, Yusuke’s Spirit Gun, and Yugi’s Winged Dragon of Ra. All fighters now have a special “Ultimate Action” that can work as a taunt, counter-hit, health restoration, or a few other surprises. Improved defensive gameplay aside, characters can now grab onto ledges and save themselves from a falling into an untimely demise. If you thought the characters from Jump Superstars were awesome, just wait until you get a taste of what these newer versions can do.
Not all of them will be fighting directly, however. Each character is separated into specific classifications for combat. These are determined by their “Koma” block level; 1-block characters are called “Help” Koma, providing small but noticeable benefits (health regeneration, heightened defenses, etc.) for others. 2 and 3-block heroes are designated as “Support” Koma, providing cover fire and brief attacks to overwhelm your enemies. 4 through 8-block fighters are assigned as “Battle” characters; as the name suggests, they’ll handle the actual mano-a-mano combat and be granted more power and better attacks depending on the size of their Koma levels. Once you’ve gathered at least one of each of the three classes, you can place them on a 4 X 5 block grid to create your own customized deck. Since there is such limited room for each deck, however, you’ll have to be careful as to how you want your deck to be constructed; Koma come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Also, some characters have special affinities to each other (such as Piccolo and Gohan’s mentor/pupil relationship) that can have added effects.
Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? It doesn’t help that this game is entirely in Japanese, either. Never fear, English-only gamers, the deck building and Koma creation menus of Jump! Ultimate Stars are remarkably easy to understand. In the previous game, you were forced to match up characters’ mugshots to obscure scenes from their respective mangas and endure hours of tedious menu browsing. Thankfully, this installment tosses that crappy idea asunder and provides gamers with something far more efficient and easier to understand: racking up points and spending them to unlock more powerful forms of your characters. As you play through the game and gain victories, you’ll be granted colored gems that are required to access your fighter’s superior Koma. All you’ve got to do is earn enough gems, spend them on your desired fighter, and figure out what you’ll do with all the characters at your disposal.
That’s assuming, of course, that you have the patience to make it that far. The majority of your gem earnings will come from playing through the game’s extensive Story Mode, which in turn unlocks more levels and characters’ base Koma. Completing the Story Mode will involve you traveling to a planet (one each for the respective series), and participating in a series of fights with certain objectives to complete. You’ll have to kill an opponent by blasting him though a wall, collecting a few items within a time limit, scoring enough knockouts, and plenty of other challenges. Considering that the mission explanation text is entirely in Japanese, completing objectives can prove tricky at best. Once you’ve completed enough missions, a new planet will open up, and the process will continue until you’ve freed the Shonen Jump universe from whatever evil is plaguing it. The problem is that the Story Mode doesn’t offer nearly enough gems to fully evolve your characters; you’ll end up having to rely on the game’s Arena Mode, which features tournament rankings, specialized missions, and VS CPU gameplay.
You’ll likely get bored after a few bouts, however. The game may have a ton of characters to choose from, but the AI is utterly abysmal. If you thought the computer from the previous game sucked, just wait until you see these new guys occasionally commit suicide with absolutely no assistance from you. If you want to experience some decent fighting, Jump! Ultimate Stars boasts a WiFi Multiplayer Mode for gamers to challenge each other. Like Animal Crossing: Wild World and Mario Kart DS, this game gives you a friend code that can be exchanged with another gamer, allowing you to have private battles and trade decks. You can also do a worldwide search for other gamers and have an epic battle with up to four challengers at once. Amazingly, the online multiplayer does not suffer from much lag; the gameplay is not as smooth as Mario Kart DS, but it’s far better than the likes of Lost Magic or Star Fox Command. It’s not perfect, but it’s close.
Needless to say, DS owners and fighting game fans have a new game to consider. So the game isn’t available in the United States aside from import shops. So the game is entirely in Japanese, possibly hindering you from fully understanding the mission objectives. Big deal. Jump! Ultimate Stars has 300 of the most famous anime characters ever to be shown in a Shonen Jump issue. The sheer amount of possible options and deck building strategies ought to keep you occupied long after you’ve unlocked everything. All of the characters have been redone with new moves and fighting styles, making the game seem refreshingly deep for both veterans of Jump Superstars and new gamers alike. But above all else, the extensive online multiplayer will keep you coming back for more. And who says handheld fighting games are lame?