To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Shonen Jump will be bringing out a brawler that unites most of their various titles. Featuring primarily battle manga heroes and villains, the game plays similarly to J-Stars Vs+ (ironically by the same developer) and the Naruto Ultimate Ninja series.
For the beta, we start by choosing from 6 pre-made characters, which I assume is to give us an idea of the characters we’ll be able to create ourselves. With styles from 3 franchises (Dragon Ball, One Piece and Naruto), you’re given the option of choosing between male or female avatars, with some of their special attacks differing based on their respective franchise. After choosing your avatar you’re thrown into the lobby, where you can run around and interact with various in-game vendors and some of the roster. The only thing accessible for the time being is the Online Battle Counter menu (vendor?); you can then choose between “P1 vs CPU” and Quickmatch for online PvP. Running around the lobby for the first time filled me with dread when everything was moving so sluggish that you could practically count the frames per second, so imagine my relief when I experienced almost none of that during online play. Granted, things can slow down, frames per second wise, once the action becomes hectic with all the kamehamehas, rasengans, and getsuga tenshous being thrown about.
After selecting your battle mode, you’re shown the roster of 15 characters (16, if you count your player-created character from the start). I’d gladly name them all and show off my weeb credit, but the below picture will have to suffice.
Regardless of player vs computer or online matchups, after selecting your team of 3 (no 1v1 as far as I can tell, sadly. But the full game might paint a different picture?), you can then select one of the stages – Namek, Matterhorn, Hong Kong or New York…which is strange, because in online matchups you choose your team, select the stage and then connect to the other player. In my mind, the placement of those last two elements might add to longer wait times in lobbies, but connecting to others online happens fairly quickly and now I’m nitpicking, sorry.
So I picked my starting line-up consisting of the “big three” (One Piece – Luffy, Naruto – Naruto, Bleach – Ichigo) and set out with one goal: to. blow. stuff. up. With no tutorial in sight (aside from tips during the loading screen, but that shouldn’t count), I was left to my own devices. Grasping the controls isn’t hard, mind you, but I really would’ve liked to know how to tell apart my attacks from my blocks. How to pull off sweet ultra moves that turn my standard Naruto into Tailed Beast Mode Naruto AND HOW TO BLOCK AND USE REVERSALS OR USE COMBO BREAKERS AGAINST ANNOYING SPAMMERS!
But I digress. While initially lukewarm on the battle system, a smile crept on my face as soon as I saw Ichigo nimbly slashing away at his foes. It’s hard to tell what the depths will be of the battle system without so much as the controller layout handy, but rest assured that moves aren’t hard to pull off. Light attacks, heavy attacks, homing dashes, and special moves at the ready by just holding down R2. Almost every attack in the game is accompanied by flashy particle effects, making the whole affair look and sound like the manga and anime that inspired them. However, as eye-pleasing as it all was, I couldn’t help but feel detached at times; in the sense that it all quickly devolved into button mashing and without the moves having the proper weight to them. Another thing I found annoying is that whenever you charge your super meter, your field of view becomes limited, making it difficult to know where you’re opponent is located on the field.
Visually it’s all detailed enough, with damage to character models being a nice touch, in particular. Seiya went from being the Pegasus Saint to half-naked Seiya real quick when I encountered some tenacious foes. I have to admit that I’d much prefer seeing these characters in glorious cell-shading, but having CG action figures duke it out has its appeal.
All in all, I am happy with my time in the closed beta. Seeing the Bleach characters kicking butt will certainly be a high point for me this year. Give me a proper tutorial mode and controller layout next time and I’ll be more than happy to go against those combo spammers.
Jump Force is slated for release sometime next year and is headed to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.