It’s rare for a fighting game to extend an olive branch allowing both casual and hardcore players to have their fun, but JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle R does a remarkable job while evincing the massively popular anime series’ undeniable charisma.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R, developed by CyberConnect2, is a remake of the 2013 PlayStation 3 2D fighter for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The game’s roster of modeling hunks has grown from 32 to 50 characters, and its beefy arcade mode and authentic JoJo feel has the potential to transform even filthy casuals into more seasoned fighting game enjoyers.
In terms of a life cycle, fighting games tend to have a bell curve:
- Casual and hardcore players become acclimated to the feel of the game and construct strategies and meta for characters to achieve a swift victory.
- Metas and strategies are well-established with occasional patches from developers to balance the game.
- Casual players either rise to the level of their more seasoned counterparts or they drop the game entirely, either because they were late to the party or because it isn’t fun when you’re getting your ass stomped into the ground.
However, Battle R seeks to head that last point off at the pass by giving casual players an incentive to improve through the game’s simplified mechanics, a surplus of customization options, and by injecting an authentic JoJo feel into every aspect of the game.
If you love JoJo but aren’t a fighting game aficionado, Battle R guides your hips as it were with its simplified move list and its attention to detail on JoJo stand types. For example, if you were to play as Jolyne Cujoh against Part 2’s Joseph Joestar, you’d be at a bit of a disadvantage because Jolyne’s stand—a sort of guardian spirit most characters can summon to help them fight—is a close-range fighter. Although Joseph doesn’t have a stand in this form, his utilization of hamon, projectiles, and his clacker balls make getting close a challenge unless you can trap him in Jolyne’s spider-like threads. While this breakdown might read like fighting game lingo, it’s actually rudimentary knowledge any reader or viewer of JoJo would be able to pick up on and utilize in battle. In a bizarre (pun intended) turn of events, mental chess confrontations in JoJo manga and anime somehow translate naturally to fighting game conventions like zoning, punishing, and footsies making the barrier of entry for novice players with Battle R less daunting.
Another way Battle R extends its olive branch to unseasoned fighting game players is through its simplified movelist. Similarly to Dragon Ball FighterZ, a majority of All-Star Battle R’s moves have easy inputs, with the fanciest moves requiring nothing more than a traditional “fireball” or “dragon punch” motion. So long as you can consistently input quarter-circle rotations followed by either a light, heavy, or strong attack, you’re golden.
A new edition to Battle R is its “Support Attack” battle system. If you’re in need of creating some breathing room from a comboing opponent or wish to extend a combo of your own, with the press of a button, you can tag-team your opponent with a secondary character you chose on the character select screen. Support Attackers have a cooldown, so strategize appropriately.
Battle R’s strong suit is in its dogmatic authenticity to the unmistakable feel of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Even when you aren’t comboing or button mashing your way to victory, the game’s menus are littered with the authentic feel of the world of JoJo. Even non-playable characters like D’Arby, Emporio, and Ringo Roadagain have a role to play by serving as the game’s accompanying customization, shop, and versus menu characters—all very appropriate to canon. While it isn’t wholly unique for a fighting game to utilize characters for its menus, being greeted by popular characters in the series not only instilled a familiarity for me as a lapsed fighting game player, it it also encouraged me as a newbie to the game to check out and frequent modes I might’ve felt discouraged from bothering with I dunno, hearing Ringo’s badass voice in particular really lit a fire under me to dive into the online play. Welcome to a real man’s world indeed.
Another ingenious detail to Battle R is its stage gimmicks. While you can set battles to not have stage hazards, you’d be cheating yourself of all the extra strategy and fun that makes up a JoJo battle. As in Mortal Kombat and Injustice games, you can deal extra damage to your opponents by knocking them into an oncoming horse carriage, the splatzone of raining poisonous frogs, and the like.
For example, if you get too close to the mantlepiece in Kira Yoshikage’s house, the floating picture of his dead father will come to life and run amok on the field by swiping at you with a knife. This gimmick is not only referential to what happens in Diamond Is Unbreakable, it adds another dimension of strategy to battles where kiting your opponent toward the trap can be instrumental in your victory. But much like Bart Simpson’s adage, “if you get hit, it’s your own fault,” gimmicks can backfire and hit you instead.
While figuring out metas and map hazards initially got me on the hook, collecting the game’s vast array of customizable skins, poses, and voice lines—which you can mix and match into your taunts and victory screens—kept me playing daily. Hell, you can even choose which onomatopoeia characters accompany your character and how much size they take up on your screen. Nice.
Although I am susceptible to enjoying fighting games for a honeymoon period before dropping them in a couple months’ time, Battle R’s streamlined fighting mechanics and its wealth of customization and attention to franchise detail effectively establishes an air of familiarity for me as a hardcore JoJo fan. In fact, it’s got me feeling more committed to breaking free of the fighting game bell curve and legit becoming more proficient. If that’s not the mark of a good fighting game, I don’t know what is.