Superheroes powered by fate, time, and existentialism, striking effeminate poses, and taunting their opponents into submission? It must be Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure! If you haven’t seen this anime then you really don’t know how deep the shonen fighting genre goes. Jojo’s characters have strange and peculiar powers, like the ability to open up zippers in reality, or the ability to erase causes from cause and effect relationships. It’s only natural that they would eventually be put into a fighting game in order to beat the crap out of each other.
The first Jojo’s fighting game was a well-received Capcom brawler for the PS1 that saw a lot of love on the Tournament scene. Now, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star battle has come to follow in its footsteps, recently having been released in Japan. Made by Namco Bandai and Cyber Connect 2, the same people responsible for the Naruto line of fighting games, JJBA:ASB is not, as you would expect, a button mashy casual fight-fest meant only to appease fans of the anime. There are plenty of well thought out game mechanics here, and when/if it comes to America, it will make a huge splash on the fighting game circuit. Heck, many pro fighting game players are already creating combo videos and figuring out exploitable infinites as we speak!
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is a bizarre (get it?) combination of 2D and 3D fighting styles, most notably the styles of Persona 4 Arena and Tekken. Each character attacks utilizing four different buttons -- Light, Medium, Heavy, and Style. Light, Medium, and Heavy attacks chain into each other and special attacks, executed by quarter circles, charge motions, and other classic fighting game commands, can cancel from normal at any time. Similarly, supers, or as they are called here, “Heart Heat Attacks,” can be canceled from both normal and specials.
If these mechanics sound too complicated, don't worry. Simply mashing on the Light button will automatically trigger a simple combo that builds a lot of meter but does little damage. It also ends in a Heart Heat Attack if you have the meter left to spend.
Characters also have access to a quick dodge, a rapid cancel type maneuver that spends meter to return a character to neutral, a “Great Heat Attack” which triggers a swank anime style cutscene and does tons of damage at the cost of two levels of meter, and a taunt which not only changes depending on the state the opponent is in, but also drains the opponent’s meter. Finally, a game where taunting actually does something other than piss your opponent off!
Another mechanic somewhat similar to Persona 4 Arena is the desperation mode characters go into when their health is low. When in this mode, characters deal increased damage and gain meter much more quickly, setting them up for a late game comeback.
The style button is completely unique to every character. Some characters can call their ghostly “stand” companion into battle using it. Others can use the “ripple” to produce several different special maneuvers. Still others can ride horses! Yes, you heard me. More than one character in this game can fight on horseback. Several other characters have special mechanics that don’t necessarily tie in to the style button. Pucci, for example, can change his stand during battle, while Josuke can gain super armor when his hair is insulted.
JJBA:ASB plays out on a 3D field, though movement is basically 2D only. Namco Bandai isn’t exactly known for their 2D fighting games, but Cyber Connect 2 really outdid themselves here. In a way it feels a lot like the original PS1 game, and for that matter feels like a strategic 2D fighter in general. You’ll be doing a lot of high/low/throw mixups to open up your opponent and flashy combos that take off 1/4th to 1/2 of an opponent’s life bar when playing at higher levels.
If you are just a fan of the original anime or the original fighting game, you’ll recognize a few of these characters including Jotaro, DIO, Joseph, and more. However, if you are a fan of the manga, you’ll find a whole assortment of characters from Act 1 all the way up to the still in progress Act 8. Not only that, but every character’s animations change depending on who they are facing. For example, DIO’s infamous “ROAD ROLLER DA” super changes its animation when used on Jotaro, with Jotaro punching the steamroller from the other side, just as he did in the manga. There are tons of subtle touches like this that are certain to make the fanboys squeal.
Most of the Japanese version is already in English, so first time importers don’t have much to fear. A good portion of the menus are in English, and the move-list for each character is easy to read. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other things that get lost in translation, or lack of translation as it were. You really can’t tell what characters are saying during their most awesome attacks without a rudimentary knowledge of Japanese. This will make things like Joseph’s counter taunt where he predicts what the opponent is going to say fall flat on American ears. In addition, the Story Mode which takes you throughout the Jojo story from beginning to end will also be completely inaccessible, which is a shame because it’s one of the more well done story modes fighting games have to offer. Another problem is that extra modes, like the customization or options menus, are impossible to understand without a guide.
Luckily, you don’t really need to use these modes to have fun with JJBA:ASB. You can sink hours into versus mode alone, and if you really want to up your game you can take it online. Even though the game is supposed to be a Japanese only release right now, the netcode works wonderfully, allowing you to easily hit your combos against online opponents.
Overall, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle is a phenomenal fighting game and is one that is totally worth the import. Fans of the series will love the many throwbacks and references it has to offer, while hardcore fighting gamers will enjoy the interesting 2.5D gameplay and combo mechanics. The voice actors are ripped straight from the anime, the music is filled with heart pumping tracks that will get you in the mood to fight, everything about this game just makes you want to play it more and more. Now we can only hope that it will end up being balanced enough to last on the professional circuit.
As of now, it’s unclear as to whether or not Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle will be seeing an American release. Though Namco Bandai and the game’s development team are trying to make localization work, there are a whole host of other licensing hurdles that have to be jumped before it comes the the U.S. Considering that, this may be one import you might want to jump the gun and buy. It can be obtained via Amazon or any online retailer, and since the PS3 is region free, it can be played simply by popping it into your console. If it comes here to the States, we will keep you updated with a full review of the localized version.
This review was based on an import copy of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle for the PS3.