A love letter to anime fans, delivered with a punch.
Developed by Spike Chunsoft and published over here by Bandai Namco, J-Stars Victory VS+ plays to anime fans by bringing together a massive number of different anime characters from different shows and challenging them to a punch up. For those who do not think of themselves as anime fans, it’s a fighting game with a great range of different characters.
Interestingly, the fighting mechanic in J-Stars Victory VS+ doesn’t offer a depth that will manage to keep most fans of fighting games interested for very long. The combat is quite simple to grasp and carries through the different characters, making the game much more accessible to gamers who perhaps do not spend all of their time learning combos and perfecting their timing. This is a fighting game for anime fans, not an anime game for fighting fans.
A quick, light attack and a slower heavy attack can be chained together to form different combos. Then you have the special attack button along with the option to block and dash. The relative accessibility of the game means that it doesn’t take long at all before even the newest gamer is pulling off incredible moves on the screen, many of which will result in the opposing player being knocked to the ground. At this point, the knocked down character will be given a short moment of invincibility, which is great for avoiding being stuck in a cycle of beatdowns, but does take some getting used to for the attacker who may want to press their advantage. It seems to be another decision to enhance the accessibility of the game, but veteran fighters will have to take this into account for their tactics.
There is a stamina bar which dictates much of what happens during a fight, such as the use of a defensive stance or special attacks. Although one on one fights do happen, the game is more geared towards team battles with two fighters facing off against another two, and support characters available to call in for back up and support. The support characters have a countdown timer limiting their use during a match, giving the player another thing to consider as they pummel their way through so many different anime stars.
And it is the anime stars that are the real appeal of J-Stars Victory VS+. A massive roster of fighters from so many well known, and not so well known, shows ensures that almost any gamer will be able to find someone they recognise. The characters that I personally know all looked nicely recreated in the cel-shaded visuals of the game, so I am sure that the rest were equally authentic. As far as fan-service goes, J-Stars Victory VS+ hits the nail on the head, with the characters bringing their personality and own special moves to the game.
The battles are played out in large, open fight arenas with destructible scenery, making for some really impressive matches. The only problem here is that these environments are not always the most interesting to look at, and the fact that there are not that many of them, meaning players will find themselves fighting in the same arenas over and over again.
When it comes to modes, the game has quite a lot to offer. The fact that the player will be earning points no matter what they do in the game, which can then be spent on unlocking new fighters and support characters, means that everything is tied together quite nicely. Aside from the free battles, both local and online, the biggest draw will likely be the games’ story mode. Here, players are given a choice of four characters, each with their own story arc as they set off in a little boat to take part in a champions tournament and prove themselves to be the best fighter from across the anime universes. This mode is quite good fun, offering up some lite RPG elements for the player, but it does drag on. It is also a real shame that the four different arcs are so similar, giving the player very little incentive to play through more than one of the stories in their entirety.
Aside from the story and the free battle modes, there is also a basic arcade mode, which will come as no surprise, and another mode which offers set fights with objectives. It is not the largest selection of modes, but as the real draw will be fighting alongside the stars of multiple different anime shows, this can be forgiven.
Visually, the game looks good on the PS4. I have already mentioned how well the different characters are represented on the screen, and that the environments can be a little bland. Overall though, it is a nice looking game, and becomes a feast for the eyes when special moves are unleashed. However, the game does not make the most of the PS4’s hardware and some may be disappointed if they were expecting a visually ground-breaking fighting game.
J-Stars Victory VS+ is an easy going, enjoyable fighting game which will hold a special place in the heart of any anime fan. It is not the deepest game, nor the most technically accomplished. But for the target audience, any fan of the myriad anime shows that are given fan service in the game, there is a lot of enjoyable brawling to be had here.