Bizarre – yeah!
Whilst I am a big fan of Manga and such, I must first admit that I have never turned a single page of Hirohiko Araki’s Manga series Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, so jumping into Bandai Namco’s latest videogame offering, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle may well be a little wasted on me. However, despite the copious amounts of fan service that I am sure can be found within the game, fighting is at the core and here in the UK that is more likely to appeal to the gamers than any references made to one of the story arcs from the Manga. Fortunately, I have played a few fighting games in the past…
So, start up the game and prepare to be greeted by some funky jazz while comic book animation is blasted at the screen in a stylish way. There is no tutorial to guide the new player through the complexities of the five different fighting styles that encompass the roster of strange characters that the player can use in battle. There is a practice mode for those wanting to get a feel for things before they jump in, but otherwise it is the sort of game that players will have to pick up as they go along.
But that is no real hardship. There are 32 different characters to choose from in the base game, and although there are five different fighting styles, players who have indulged in the other popular 2D fighting games will pick up the basics fairly quickly. Three different attack buttons of various strength are the core of the fighting, along with special moves and gauge-powered super moves. The more expert players will find themselves pulling off some really impressive moves as they learn the button combos, and things like side stepping and taunting will only add to their arsenal.
The Style button is tied in with the fighting style of the chosen character, and is where things get interesting. Of the five fighting styles, the Stand style is the most common and allows the fighter to bring forth a guardian of sorts to fight on their behalf. The other fighting styles – Hamon, Mode, Vampire and Horse – offer equally interesting ways to change up the combat including, but not limited to, having your character ride a horse. Yeah, a horse.
An extensive amount of time will have to be spent by the hardcore player to master each of the available fighters and their various moves, which certainly gives the game longevity. However, there do seem to be some balancing issues, with some fighters seeming far more powerful than others. The real challenge will not be to work out which are which, but to master the ones that are working with a disadvantage.
But before any player can start working towards mastering all of these fighters, there is the games story mode to work through. In a catch up for those not familiar with Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, the mode will take players through all eight arcs of the story with all of its bizarreness. Players will follow the story and take part in famous battles at famous locations. However, newcomers will walk away slightly dazed and still not really sure what the hell is going on, but at least they will unlock things along the way.
Aside from the story mode, All Star Battle is mostly filled with the standard fighting game modes, including arcade, ranked and non-ranked online, and Vs. The unusual inclusion is a campaign mode that has the player waiting between battles or paying a real world cash fee, in a similar way to many free-to-play mobile games. It does feel a little bit sneaky, but waiting is no real hardship if the player is intent on unlocking stuff like new costumes, taunts or sound effects.
Visually, All Star Battle is the best looking “Manga” game that I have seen, and the developers CyberConnect2, of Naruto Ultimate Ninja fame, should be applauded for bringing the artistic style of the source material so successfully into the game. You don’t have to be a Jojo fan to appreciate a game that looks this good.
But unfortunately, you do really need to be a Jojo fan to enjoy Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle. And you also need to be a hardcore fighting fan. The game is really complex and filled with a huge amount of fan service. While newcomers to either Jojo or fighting games can jump into the action of All Star Battle, without a drive to master the characters or a knowledge of the reference material, the enjoyment will likely be short lived. A stunning looking and surprisingly deep 2D fighting game, with a sadly limited market.