February 15th, 2019
Platform PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Publisher Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer Spike Chunsoft
I will never learn. I’ve played dozens of licensed anime games, and I’ve been disappointed almost as many times. Despite that, the love for my anime favorites persists, and each time a game is announced, I want to play it. Of course, Dragon Ball FighterZ proved that licensed anime games can actually be fantastic, with the right vision. Unfortunately, since its announcement, Jump Force hasn’t looked like the anime crossover extravaganza that we’ve wanted.
Let’s push the most obvious complaints aside and break down what Jump Force is. It’s a 3v3 arena fighter, with basic buttons combos that can be extended using special moves, assists and character switches to keep up the pressure. Combos will essentially amount to mashing one attack button a few times, mashing another a few times, and then using a special move to finish, activated by holding R2 and pressing a face button.
Once the stronger attack button has bounced the enemy, the special move connects, and a new combo can be linked from that by using an assist or switching characters. This loop, of course, can’t last much longer than that. You won’t be able to use special attacks forever, as they drain from a Ki meter, which you can refill either by doing battle or holding R2, which will leave you vulnerable.
Another meter you must watch is your dash meter, which allows you to close in on opponents quickly, or escape combos. Dashing in can be punished pretty easily, though it’s also incredibly helpful in a lot of situations. Regardless, having leftover meter so you can escape combos is something you should watch carefully.
All of these tactics are great, but in single player, they’re mostly unnecessary. Many missions won’t allow you to have a full team of three, and the difficulty is low for many hours of the game, until you progress to Hard and Expert level missions. Though of course, you’ll find a much steeper challenge online, against other players, who are sure to be using their combo extensions and move to the best of their ability.
To be short, I honestly like Jump Force’s gameplay quite a lot. Movement can feel rough, and at times you feel like there’s little control over your character, but while it’s going well, it feels really good. Many aspects of this game are being criticized — rightly so — but the gameplay holds up really well for an arena fighter.
The special moves look really cool, too. Incredibly cinematic and flashy, although they can start to feel a bit artificial. Perhaps it’s just seeing the animations too many times, but similar effects crop up a lot and don’t look all that impressive on your dozenth time seeing them play out. Though the big, impressive ultimate attacks are always nice to see.
That leads us on to the visuals and, wow, this will be divisive. In gameplay, in motion, they’re actually fine. They actually look fine. Characters don’t hold still for too long and, aside from some close-up shots of glassy-eyed characters, it mostly holds up pretty well. Yes, characters can look like they’re coated in some sort of disgusting vinyl, but when they’re dashing about the screen it’s just not a concern.
It becomes a concern in cutscenes. Here more than anywhere else, animations are stiff, characters can look off model, and interactions are cringe-worthy. The comparison I couldn’t help but make was that these cutscenes were on par with mid-tier Garry’s Mod creations. They just feel superfluous and ridiculous, dragging the rest of the game down just by being included. It’s really, bad.
The hub world doesn’t fare much better. It’s a ridiculous, oversized area where you run to characters to acquire missions, play online, or go to your team’s base. All things that could, and should, be done in a simple menu, instead of running around the environment. This isn’t an MMO, and seeing online players running around doesn’t make it one, nor does it improve anything in Jump Force.
But at least there’s a customizable character. You can make your own Shonen Jump dream character by combining moves from different shonen heroes, and putting together your own outfits from a large selection of different pieces to combine. And that’s all pretty fun, honestly. Not amazing, but definitely very enjoyable. It felt like a better goal to work towards than actually progressing the story, and was a good reason to keep grinding out the repetitive missions.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (code provided by the publisher).
Jump Force has major problems, but it can actually be really fun. It feels tedious when playing missions, and repetitive at times in combat. But using your favourite characters’ abilities in battle remains fun throughout. It’s going to be an acquired taste, but anime fans will actually find a lot to enjoy here. Just stick to the online play, where you can remain blissfully ignorant of the awful cutscenes and animation.
- Fun, easy to learn combo system
- Great variety of characters
- Awful visuals
- Stilted animations
- Terrible cutscenes
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