JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle PS3 Review
I suppose after creating the absurdly and stupendously over the top Asura’s Wrath, it only made sense that CyberConnect2, the team that also develops the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series for Bandai Namco, should have a stab at creating a fighting game for the eccentric manga and anime known as JoJo’s Bizarre (spot on with the name) Adventure. The studio seems to have a knack for capturing the look and feel of such high-action anime shows, and with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure having such a distinctive, extravagant style, the studio and the IP seem to be a great match for one another. It’s been around 14 years since we last got an English JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure game (if you don’t count the 2012 HD release of that said title), so let’s see how CyberConnect2 has done bringing the bizarre back to us.
At heart, All-Star Battle is a 2D fighting game that comprises of a four button input system that includes light, medium and heavy attacks. These can chain into each other, but those chains are not the only combos you can do, since you will be able to discover combos that connect in a more traditional timing-based way (think Street Fighter IV), although there aren’t quite as many thanks to a simplified battle system. The forth button is called dodge, which allows a character to rotate on the axis of the playing field. It’s similar to double tapping up on the d-pad in Tekken; it allows you to dodge around a character’s attack, offering a sort of 3D playing field.
Even though CyberConnect2 has already found success with the battle mechanics in the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, All-Star Battle plays differently from that series, following a more traditional Street Fighter input method. This is about crazy special moves, and so those attacks are done with simple quarter-circle motions, Shoryuken motions or back forward inputs, which fans of fighting games will have no trouble getting in to. Once you have figured out who you like in the game’s 30+ character roaster, it’s an easy enough job to remember that character’s special moves.
All-Star Battle isn’t an overcomplicated game regarding a character’s commands, allowing anime fans who might not be the most knowledgeable at fighting games to come and enjoy a few rounds in All-Star Battle. This is promoted even more with a Persona 4 Arena implementation of an automatic combo, offering a basic combo into a special move, then into a super move, by simply tapping light button consecutively. There’s no way to alter this combo, so it’s a little different than the general attack button found in Ultimate Ninja Storm, where in that game combos changed depending on what direction was pressed.
For the more in-depth players, All-Star Battle does offer some advanced features to dig into. Like most fighting games, a metre bar, called Heart Hear Gauge (holds up to three bars), is important for turning the tide of the battle in your favour. Each character normally has one Heart Heat Attack (uses one bar) and one Great Heat Attack (uses two bars) to initiate a flashy attack that deals big damage, similar to Ultras in Street Fighter IV. But metre also has another usage, being able to use it to activate the Flash Cancel mechanic, which cancels an animation during a combo, offering the potential to restart the combo or link into a super move. Mix that with the stylish dodge, a sort of parry mechanic, in which if block (holding the direction away from the character) is pressed just at the right time during an incoming attack, the character will do a pose that forces the move to miss, giving you frame advantage to punish the combatant.
This all sounds like a conventional fighting game, mechanics wise at least, but All-Star Battle does add its own flavour into the mix, the concept that each fighter fits into one of five combat styles, activated with the use of R1. Stand is one that’s probably the most well-known. It’s where a character can summon a Stand out of their body and have it fight for them, unlocking additional moves and special attacks. Hamon allows for a character to recharge their metre. Vampirism allows for healing. Mode increases power in exchange for a bar of metre, and Mounted allows for the use of horse-back riding, something I don’t think I can say I’ve seen happen in a fighting game before. These styles, along with each character’s personal animations tailored to their design, make every character standout.
It might not be the deepest or most complex fighter, but it wouldn’t have hurt for All-Star Battle to have some sort of introductory tutorial for newcomers, especially those that only want to play the game because of the source material and not because of the genre. Fans of fighters won’t have much problem picking it up, but to only have a practice mode include feels like a big step back for the genre. As practice modes go, this covers the typical features, infinite metre, CPU state, etc. so it’s fine for discovering new tricks and combos, but to comprehend and understand the whole battle system and its advanced features, you’re going to have to scurry off to the world wide web to find out knowledge.
All of the game’s stages are taken from various locations featured in the manga’s eight parts. With a total of 12 stages, it’s not exactly the biggest selection, but these levels do come with more personality than standard backdrops. This is because backgrounds come with interactive dangers to keep an eye out for, or to cunningly use against your opponent. You can get trampled to death by vampire horses, get run over by a car, get poisoned by nasty frogs, or get hit by lightning. Each of the 12 stages has their own hazard, which can be turned off during versus play, offering the chance for pure mano-o-mano fighting if you don’t fancy getting thrown into a garbage truck.
I was disappointed in the game’s story mode. I was expecting the same crazy presentation that CyberConnect2 has done for the Naruto games, but this isn’t the case. The story mode is very bland, mostly told through voiced over text. A huge bummer after seeing the amazing work done for the cutscenes in Ultimate Ninja Storm. The same goes for the combat in story mode, it’s all normal fighting, featuring none of the quick time event, over the top madness that made taking part in the story of Naruto so thrilling. This is such a missed opportunity, as the manga deserves to have its extravagant battles fully fleshed out in the game, especially one that captures the look and colour pallet so well. There are challenges to beat in story mode, such as replicating scenes from the manga by using the same attacks during that battle, but there’s nothing special about this game mode. It’s only worth finishing to unlock characters and gain points that you earn to unlock models and artwork.
Campaign, a special online only feature that requires the PS3 to be connected to the internet to access, is another area aimed for people who want to continue with single player content. In here, you fight against various computer combatants based on online ghost data. It’s somewhat similar to the tournament quest mode in Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, except nowhere as well designed or presented. This is because there’s a nasty mobile free-to-play element embedded in the design of campaign that limits battles based on an energy bar, with each fight costing a a certain number of bars from the metre. The thing is, campaign is used as a gateway to unlocking extra costumes, sounds, taunts and other goodies, but to get all these requires tolerance to wait for the two minute recharge – cut down from five minutes that featured in the original Japanese version – and grind it out. You could use real money (microtransactions – 40 pence for 5 items that recharge the bar) to bypass the timer and get straight into another fight, but why would you even want to do that? This is a disgusting implementation, and I seriously think CyberConnect2 and Bandai Namco should be ashamed of themselves for sticking such a vile system in a full priced game that is already an incredible niche product. Thankfully, the normal online ranked matches and player matches are available, and is an area that works well within the game and will probably be your main source of play once you finished the game’s rather small content offering.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle is a title that manages to capture the outlandish style of the anime and manga it is based on, and turn it into a mighty looking fighting game that’s plenty of fun to play, while completely dunked in a distinctive, gorgeous graphical style that fans will surely love. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle has some shortcomings with its story mode, overall content and that awful microtransactions malarkey, but there’s no doubting that there is a solid fighting game at its core that anyone can have fun with.