For the past 30 years Jojo, Jojo, Jojo, Jojo, Dio, Jojo, and of course, Jojo have been posing their way into the hearts of millions. Being one of the longest running and most popular series in the manga publication Ultra Jump, it comes as a huge surprise that it was only recently given an official anime adaptation, and with it came the first 3D Jojo fighting game from Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2 in the form of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle.
I can happily report that as both a huge fan of the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure series, as well as the astounding work that CyberConnect2 has done on previous video game adaptations of popular anime series (like Ultimate Ninja Storm), I felt as though I got exactly what I was looking for with All-Star Battle. As a warning, however, I will add that this game, like so many other anime adaptations, is very clearly a game for the fans. If you are not familiar with Jojo, there is most likely a better fighting game out there for you.
When I say I got what I was looking for, I mean I got a game that was ostensibly Jojo. CyberConnect2 has always taken great care to pull from their source material and provide as much fan service in their games as possible, and All-Star Battle is no exception. Perhaps a quick rundown of the Jojo phenomenon is in order for those of you who are unfamiliar.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure follows the Joestar family across generations as they combat vampires and the zombies that do their bidding using a breathing technique known as hamon. This allows them to channel the sun’s rays of light through their blood, and eventually they learn to use psychic projections of fighting potential known as “stands,” which have become a staple of the series.
Jojo is incredibly well known for its extravagant and over-the-top action and storyline, as well as its heavy influence of western rock culture. The brilliant bravado of the Jojo series is immediately communicated with a flashy opening that shows off all eight main characters of the long-running series with their trademark poses. From there, you will notice the hyper-extravagant text with only “YES! YES! YES!” as your affirmative menu option.
This is coupled with the beautifully cell-shaded character models, which reflect the original manga designs completely. Even the characters’ taunts are ripped directly from chapters of the manga and personalized based on who you are fighting. Perhaps the best example is the loading icon, a shocked manga face that looks as though it is being peeled away over and over, at the bottom corner of your screen. Any Jojo fan should feel right at home.
Mechanics-wise, All-star Battle has some interesting things going on that may not be for the best. Similar to the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, the fighters are placed in a circular, 3D arena. However, they are restricted to longitudinal movement with the only lateral movement available when forming an odd dash move on the X button that can also be used as a counter.
Don’t ask me how to properly combine the two, as All-star Battle doesn’t like to explain how any of its systems work, except for those that are entirely obvious, like making an affirmative selection in the menu.
I found this movement style to be somewhat odd, as the characters move incredibly slowly when not dashing or attacking, and the battle can very easily slow down if any distance at all is put between them. There is also a story-based environmental hazard on every map; some of them are kind of cool, my personal favorite being the stampede of chariot-strewn vampire horses.
In addition to this, there are light, medium, and heavy attacks, and at least two specials for every character on the “heart heat” gauge. There are also the level one specials which can be automatically executed by mashing the light attack button and landing consecutive hits.
This can be seen as cheap but it is also a great way to allow less experienced players to get flashy without having to contort their fingers in uncomfortable ways. Of course, you can also press L1 as this is the dedicated ultimate special button, and it may be considered even cheaper. Common fighting game players should feel fairly comfortable after a while. Dragon punches, fire balls, and anti-airs generally work as expected and you can hold R1, the style button, to consume part of your gauge and power up an attack.
Speaking of style, it is perhaps the most interesting thing that All-star Battle does. You see, there are 32 playable characters—nine downloadable—and they each have one of three different styles based on the story of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Earlier, I mentioned the characters using both hamon and stands. Characters that use the hamon style can hold R1 while idle to charge up their heart heat gauge. On the other hand, characters that use the stand style can hit R1 to summon or retire their stand, which will change up their move sets.
You can think of stands like Personas (of the Shin Megami Tensei Persona series), and if you don’t get that reference, then think of them as magical avatars that float next to their user in combat and use their crazy abilities to fight in many, many different ways.
There are stands that are strong and stands that are fast. There are stands that shoot projectiles of fire and lightning, and there are also stands that can cut fire and lightning. Some stands can create life while others can open doors between dimensions. Stands cover a wide swath of crazy powers.
The third and final fighting style in All-Star Battle is mounted, and it is only used by two characters from a section of the story that takes place all within a massive, country-wide horse race. Yes, this does mean that they summon and mount their horses in the middle of the fight and, yes, it does change their move sets.
These three different styles provide some interesting variety to combat, and while about 85% of the character roster uses the stand style, every single stand operates completely differently from the last. Stands have varying ranges, sizes, and specialties. While one can create a shield, another is good at making traps, and almost all of them can throw a barrage of punches while screaming “ORA ORA ORA!” But of course, only Star Platinum does it the best.
Now most people would hear about this overwhelming variety and initially think that it is a good thing and, on first glance, it definitely is. However, the varying fighting styles among the characters have, in almost no way, been balanced. Some stands are just impossible to get by and serve as an unintentional shield for their user.
There are characters with smaller stands that can appear between combatants faster, and some characters have oddly placed hit boxes, like the crippled Johnny Joestar who crawls around on the ground when he is not mounted on his horse and is therefore impossible to hit or dodge.
All-Star Battle also comes with a variety of modes. There’s your usual arcade mode that allows you to pick any character and fight through a number of consecutively tougher battles. There is also the usual versus mode that can be played against the computer, online, or locally. Speaking of online, the campaign mode offers an interesting challenge: you choose a character and search for a boss.
Bosses are online avatars that were made by other players, and have individual stats and buffs based on how those players customized them. Of course, you can buff your character but it will cost you some of your energy bar, which you have to spend to search for a boss and can be refilled by winning a fight or simply waiting a set amount of time. I believe there is also the option to pay money to replenish your energy stores but I do not recall seeing it in the PlayStation Store.
Finally, you can play through the stories of all eight Joestars in the story mode and, in fact, you will have to do so in order to unlock all 32 characters. Unfortunately, this is where CyberConnect2 really dropped the ball in terms of quality. I realize that 30 years worth of story is a lot to deal with but every section is trivialized in about a paragraph or two, with not a single cut-scene to be found.
They even tend to translate some of the characters’ names incorrectly, which I assume may have been intentional for some odd reason. As you play through each of the 8 story lines, you will be jumping between the characters who starred in that part and always return at the end to play as that part’s particular Jojo, climaxing at the “boss battle”, which have victory conditions and de-buffs that change regularly based on story events.
Overall, I have to say that All-Star Battle is a solid fighting game with tons of character. It has plenty of options to suit a number of play styles, and its complete and total insanity as well as its extravagant bravado make for a hilariously brutal good time. However, the odd movement/controls and unbalanced characters may frustrate some die-hard fighting game fans.
I really only recommend this game for fans of the Jojo series—I strongly suggest that you look into the manga or the anime if you aren’t a fan already—but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from at least giving the game a try.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle was reviewed using a retail copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.