JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is one of Japan's longest-running and popular weekly manga. The new PlayStation 3 fighting game JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle is a love letter to the manga that any fan will enjoy. Sadly, while it is quite fun, it has several glaring problems.
All-Star Battle is a JoJo fan's wet dream. There are 32 characters in the main roster (with several more coming as DLC) from across the manga's eight sections. This, of course, includes an excellent cross section of both the series' heroes and villains. Moreover, every location, special attack, and background character has been featured prominently at some point in the manga's 26-year run. The creators of the game even painstakingly re-created the myriad of character poses the series is famous for.
More than that though, the characters, attacks, and stages all look great. The cell-shaded graphics provide the game with the perfect manga look that is pleasing to the eye even if you know nothing about the manga's plot.
All-Star Battle is one of the few games out there that feels like it was created out of sheer unbridled imagination. How do you put Johnny Joestar—a paraplegic jockey—into a fighting game? Easy, you design a system for letting him ride a horse into battle. Of course, they didn't stop there: When knocked off the horse, Johnny gains an entire secondary move set that, while low on maneuverability, is still incredibly powerful.
All in all, the characters fall into four categories: ripple users, vampires, Stand users, and the aforementioned horse riders. Stand users and horse riders have dual move sets. Ripple users can charge their special bar and vampires have life-sucking attacks. And beyond that, many characters have their own unique special move systems.
When it comes to the level design, each stage in the game has a unique hazard based on something that happened in the manga—be that a chariot pulled by vampire horses or a rain of toxic frogs out of the clear blue sky. Each stage also has a special ending animation which matches the manga that can be triggered if certain conditions are met during the battle.
The downside of all this imaginative content is that the game is unbalanced. Some characters—i.e. those on horseback—are huge and fast but have few low attacks. Other characters are so short that many combos and attacks simply float right overhead—making for an easy counterattack.
At launch, the game's largest problem was that several characters had infinite combo loops—which might as well have been one-hit kills for skilled fighting gamers out there. Thankfully, these combos are patched out as of last week—though several combos that do nearly half a life bar's worth of damage are still present.
While the game has a story mode, it is nothing more than a series of text screens between each battle that do little to capture the breadth and detail of the manga's plot. To the game's credit, these text scenes are all voiced—allowing fans of the later parts of the manga to hear their favorite characters' voices for the first time. But after all the creativity put into the fighting engine and level design, it's clear the story mode is little more than an afterthought.
I've already gone into detail about this, but to unlock the vast majority of costumes, poses, color pallets, and taunts the game has to offer, you must play the game's "campaign mode." This mode is structured like your average microtransaction-based social game—you can only play for a certain amount of time before you must pay to continue. And as this is the only way to get the game's awesome unlockables, you'll either be spending a lot of time waiting for your next battle to be available or a lot of money so you can just play to your heart's content. For a free game, such a business model is fine. For a full-priced retail game, it's inexcusable.
In the end, I had a lot of fun playing JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle. Trying out the different characters and stages and playing around with friends in versus battles is a real treat—especially if you're a fan. However, as a serious fighting game, it still has balance issues that need to be worked out before it shows up on the professional fighting scene. If you're a fan of the manga or are just in the mood for an amazingly creative fighting game, it's certainly worth your time to give JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle a try.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle was released in Japan for the PlayStation 3 on August 29, 2013. There is no word on an international release.
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