Do you remember that episode of Dragon Ball Z where Goku teamed up with Monkey D. Luffy to defeat the evil Naruto Uzumaki and his counterpart Ichigo Kurosaki? No? What do you mean it never happened? Then it’s time to make it happen!
Chock to the brim full of Shonen Jump’s history, J-Stars Victory VS+ brings together some of the biggest names you know, and mixes them with a heap more you’ve probably never heard of! With a decent roster and some impressive graphics, this all-out battle is sure to keep even the simplest Jump fan entertained.
Characters from all across the many worlds of Shonen Jump have been brought together in ‘Jump World’ to take part in the J-Battle Festival, to determine the strongest Jump character of them all. Summoned by the mystical (and at times quite comical) narrator, the story splits into four character narratives, each focusing on a particular member of the Jump universe and their journey to win the festival and be crowned the strongest Jump warrior of them all.While relatively simple (as expected from a fighting game spanning multiple manga adaptations), the plot does well at attempting to tie together the expanded universe and give them a reason to battle each other, while throwing in various challenges along the way to introduce other characters. J-Stars brings each character to life in a vibrant and vivid way; character models are not only proportioned and recreated in 3D to stunning effect, but on the PS4 the textures are smooth and rounded – really adding that sense of manga brought to life. These faithful recreations of each character don’t just stop at appearance either; the signature special moves for each fighter are also drawn from their respective manga and anime iterations, and as such will have fans jumping for joy when selecting their favourites. The environments don’t quite get the same treatment as the characters though, but when being played at such high speeds details like this can be forgiven; with the majority of obstacles and buildings entirely destructible.
During battles, the imagery tends to move extremely fast, and this is in no way a negative; the game manages to really feel like a three-dimensional anime fight rather than a simple chaotic brawler, with flashing lights and bursts of energy and fire flying left right and centre in the midst of a flurry of punches and kicks. Unlike other releases such as Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z, everything is fast-paced yet still easy to follow, and will not leave players confused.The game switches between text-laden cutscenes akin to an RPG to progress the story, which do begin to get tedious after a while, but these are easily skippable; character images in these are usually relatively general images of each character, and are onscreen for conversational effect. Even the menus are not made boring, with lots of neon and bright colours highlighting the entire game.
Character voices sound authentic, too; but this could purely be from a Westerner’s perspective, as the whole game is dubbed in Japanese. Repetition of moves begins to get annoying from certain characters, but usually the gameplay is too fast and involved to draw your attention to such things. The soundtrack is half-decent at times, a mixture of J-Rock and orchestral music scoring the game and making it really feel like one big adventure. At times the music begins to get repetitive and annoying, but the pace of the game makes up for it and ensures that the player does not linger on the same track for too long.J-Stars allows players multiple game modes, including ‘J-Adventure’, ‘Victory Road’, as well as an arcade mode and cooperative modes as well. None of the modes shy away from the core of the game, which is the combat.
At its base, J-Stars’ combat is relatively simple; buttons are allocated for light and heavy attacks, as well as special attacks and blocking. With 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3 modes, the goal is basically to take the opponent down either a certain number of times or before the time runs out. Heavy attacks can break blocks, as can special moves, and attacks can be chained together to keep the enemy subdued and knock them away. Some attacks have knockdown ability, meaning opponents don’t have a chance to counter, however these basic attacks can be dodged with proper timing. Using attacks drains a rechargeable stamina bar which, when depleted, prevents the player from making more attacks until it recharges. Players also have the ability to recharge this, however it makes them vulnerable for the time that they are recharging, leading to the player having to employ tactics to defend.
Players have the ability to choose which enemy they wish to target and attack through the fight, and can switch at any time. This is done with the lock-on system, and ensures that you can follow the opponent no matter where they go. This however does not stop other enemies on the opposing team from attacking you, or your allies from attacking your target, leading to the ability to gang-up on single targets and take them down faster. The gameplay becomes unpredictable chaos, as there is a constant struggle between fighting and getting the upper hand to having every attack thwarted by the enemy team.Through all of the fighting, a ‘burst’ bar begins charging for each team, and the longer the fight goes on the more the bar charges. Once this reaches maximum, teams can activate a ‘Victory Burst’, which engages the character’s ultimate move; this attack can be triggered several times before the burst ends. Unlike most of the other attacks, ‘Victory Burst’ attacks don’t have a chance of being blocked, but for some characters they can’t be deflected; if the enemy moves just outside of the attack’s range, the move fails to hit and it is wasted. It also can only be used when all team members have activated it, otherwise it fails and has to be charged again.Support characters are also a major part of the game; during the match the player can press the L2 button and have their support character attack. Depending on the character, this can add an extra chance to throw the enemy off-guard, as support attacks are usually fast and cannot be blocked. The downside is that once the attack is used, there is a cooldown period until it can be used again, leading to it being saved for strategic attacks.
The combat is relatively easy to get a hold of after a few matches, and becomes extremely fun once the initial stage is past. It is here however that things begin to seem unbalanced; some characters have easier knockdown abilities or faster recharges, or are a lot quicker at attacking than others. The gameplay also does not vary much from battle to battle, so aside from trying out new characters and different attacks, the fighting begins to get stale and repetitive. Different character combinations can make for more fun gameplay but even this grows boring after a while, and especially in modes such as ‘J-Adventure, which focuses on travel and then fighting, it can get tedious.
Even if you have no idea of any of the Shonen Jump manga series or characters, J-Stars Victory VS+ is a relatively refined and balanced fighting game that seeks to allow the player to just have fun. With unlockable characters and items, and a pretty funny storyline that does its best to mash different source materials together, the game is worth a pick-up for fighting fans and manga fans alike.