A few months ago we covered a new game for one of the more popular anime out at the moment, but what of the anime from yesteryear? Shonen Jump has been around for almost 2 decades now and has featured some of the most beloved and iconic characters known in the anime sphere. It’s forebear, Jump Magazine, has been around for even longer and is where several well known anime got their start in manga form. It is little wonder that with such a large and diverse cast of characters known around the world, that these characters would eventually get their own set of games. Originating in 1989, the Jump series of games first made their debut to the world. Now, 30 years later, we are seeing the launch of the latest title in this venerated series. I kinda wish they had waited a few more years to let this game bake just a bit more.
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Windows
Release Date: February 15th, 2019
Players: 1-2 Players
This is one of those games that I had been looking forward to for awhile, even with some of the, let’s say, “questionable” design choices that had been made.
While my earliest impressions of the game were initially positive, the longer I spent with this one, the more and more cracks appeared in the foundations, walls, ceilings, and just about every aspect of this game. That’s not to say that there probably isn’t a solid game hidden about somewhere in Jump Force, it’s just that the flaws massively outweigh the positives.
It really should have been a jewel of a game as it has just about everything going for it. It’s backed and developed by two really great studios. It has an all star cast of characters. Really, this one should have been a no brainer. Unfortunately, the expectations fell far, far, far from the reality.
I normally don’t like to begin with the graphics section of a game, but I feel it appropriate in this situation, as the graphics will probably be one of the most divisive and talked about aspects of this game.
While the maps and attack animations found in Jump Force are actually pretty well done, the characters themselves are mostly abysmal. Seriously. So many of the different characters just look incredibly off-putting and wrong with this pseudo hyper realistic 3D aesthetic that the developers decided to go with.
I will never get over seeing the Dragon Ball or One Piece cast in 3D. The One Piece cast all have this unnerving bug eye thing going on and Luffy just looks weird. Trunks? His neck and head seem like they’re being consumed by his shoulders and torso. Vegeta looks like a chunky little monkey.
So many of the cast just look bad. There are some characters that made the transition fairly well. Rurouni Kenshin, the cast of Bleach, and Jotaro? They all came out fairly unscathed and look alright.
Yet, I still find myself wishing that the developers had gone with a different visual aesthetic for this one; anime characters just don’t look right in this environment.
I should also mention this little tidbit. While not technically part of the graphics section of the game – Jump Force has absolutely atrocious load times.
Just about anything and everything you do in Jump Force requires some form of loading. From checking out the stores, to altering your character, talking to NPCs or starting a fight, the game will have to load something.
These load times? On average we’re talking around 20-30 seconds per load, especially when going in to any sort of fight. God help you if you accidentally click on a menu or a character you weren’t meaning to.
You could easily lose two minutes or more just waiting for the game to load to the section you were hoping for. This is all on a PS4 Pro mind you. I shudder to think what the load times might be on an original PS4 or Xbone.
The next big issue for Jump Force would have to be the actual gameplay found therein. Normally, I can look past a few small, if glaring issues, if the overall mechanics are solid.
Unfortunately, being an arena fighter, even a small issue with mechanics or balance will be a death knell for a game, and Jump Force has more than a few small issues.
Early on in the game the player will be tasked with a story fight featuring the main enemy from the second arc of Yu Yu Hakusho, Toguro the Younger. Much to my chagrin, I spent more time than I care to admit trying to complete these sets of fights.
Most of my issues came from just how over powered some attacks and characters are. There were several times during the fights where I would attempt to jump over or otherwise dodge his attacks and I would be knocked out of the air and caught in a combo.
That is not even to mention the number of attacks with no sort of wind up or telegraphy to let the player know that the attack is coming.
One moment you’re rushing in for an attack and the next moment, a fourth or more of your life bar is missing because you got hit with an inescapable attack.
The game does say that you can press square or R1 to try and counter or dodge attacks, but the timing is either so incredibly tight or just as wonky as the rest of the mechanics, because I was very rarely able to accomplish this miraculous feat of dexterity.
The player can also press L1 during attacks to quickly dodge, but it will deplete your entire dash meter, forcing you to wait until the meter replenishes in order to pull it off again, or even use the dash to quickly get back into the fight.
There are several other instances of wonky mechanics like this, such as attacks that you can’t force stop with attacks due to invincibility to grab attacks missing fighters you are right next to.
After the Toguro fight, most of my fights devolved into constant blocking matches where you wait for the enemy to attempt a combo or a special attack, then attempt your own attack combinations. Once you get the hang of how the fights play out, there actually is a pretty decent game underneath it all.
The player will choose a team of 3 characters and you can either swap them out by quick pressing L2 or holding it down to make the next character in the rotation perform a support attack.
These attacks coupled with the standard/strong attacks (which can be augmented by holding a direction on the left stick) and the characters specials, can allow for some fairly great attack sequences that really do look like they belong in an anime adaptation.
You just need to get past the characters and attacks that are over powered, the hit boxes that make no sense, the defensive moves that seldom work as described, and the fact that most of your fights will just be characters blocking until someone messes up and doesn’t hold guard at the right time.
Now, there is a fairly substantial single player experience found in all of this with a ton of extra missions ranging from experience gaining fights to gold farming fights, ability gathering fights, J-ability fights, and so on. The character customization options are fairly robust as well.
Your self made character has a ton of aesthetic options and they can be kitted out with almost all the abilities from the many different fighters. Their base attacks will be very similar to either Goku, Luffy, or Naruto, but their specials can be chosen from all the different fighters in the game.
Not to mention you can further augment these attacks with buffs or debuffs that take affect during the fight. J-abilities are semi permanent buffs to your character to help make the fights easier.
Beyond that, each of the fighters can be augmented with support abilities to make them stronger or more easily resist attacks and the like. As I’ve said, there actually is a decent-ish game underneath all the flaws, both mechanically as well as aesthetically.
I just don’t think that anyone outside of the most hardcore of anime fans and weeaboos will stick about to discover it, and even they will probably get tired of the issues and move on to greener pastures sooner rather than later.
Story wise, we’re pretty much looking at a fairly cliched and bog standard story line. While this may fly with other games in other genres (I recently semi praised another game just for having a story), in a game based off of some of the most well known anime and manga, I expect a bit more in my story than just ‘standard’.
With so much to choose and to draw from, there should have been more here. I also have a hard time believing that many of the characters would have been so easily duped and manipulated. Well, Goku might have been, but he is the eternal optimist, so that might explain a few things. The rest of the cast? Yeah, not buying it.
Really, Jump Force had everything going for it and there really is an alright game under all the slag, but there are just too many issues to over look to make this game a recommendation for anyone, even the most hard core of fans.
If you really wish to check out this one, all I can say is, wait for a sale. Either that or haunt the update files and wait to see if the mechanical issues are ironed out in the first few updates.
There’s no fixing the aesthetics and the bug eyes, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll fix the issues during the fights and we’ll get a more balanced experience.
Outside of that right now? Jump Force is a hard pass from me, which really is a shame, as I was hoping for so much more from a game of this pedigree.
Jump Force was reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro using a review copy provided by Bandai Namco. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.