Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle (PS3)
Normally with a game review you can have a rough idea in your head of what to expect. Despite being slightly familiar with the 1993 anime Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, I was still taken aback by how wonderfully insane ‘Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle’ on the PlayStation 3 is. What surprised me the most though, is how polished and addicting a fighter lies underneath the eccentricity.
For those of you unaware, ‘Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle’ is based on the Japanese manga, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, which was first published in 1986 in Weekly Shonen Jump, and has seen a number of anime adaptations, the first being released in 1993. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has been continuously running since 1986, and there are currently 8 active stories within its universe.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle allows players to experience all 8 current JJBA storylines, as well as battle each other using 40 characters from those storylines, either in story mode or in free battles of their own creation.
The first campaign in story mode is set in England in the 1880s. Jonathan Joestar must thwart his adopted brother, Dio Brando’s plan to usurp their father’s power and claim their inheritance. When confronted by Jonathan, Dio reveals an ancient mask which turns him into a vampire. Jonathan must team up with Will A Zapelli and Robert E.O. Speedwagon to defeat Dio Brando, who now wished to conquer the entire world.
If that sounds crazy, it only gets crazier as All Star Battle attempts to condense all 8 of the storylines into one video game. For the most part, it does this exceptionally well. The only real problem comes from the fact that once you finally get a feel for the different characters (and their stories) they abruptly end and you are introduced to the next descendant in the Joestar family. It does, however, make me want to go and find as much of the manga and anime that I can to learn more about the characters (and to experience more of the crazy story).
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is known for a number of things: over-the-top muscle-bound characters, bizarre fighting styles and personalities and poses. So many weird poses. All of these are intact in the game. Each character is as unique and bizarre as the next, whether they shoot champagne bottle corks at each other, throw squirrels at each other, or sprout wings claiming everyone should “celebrate their rebirth”. My favourite part of each character, are their Heart Heat Moves. Receiving damage and dealing out special moves fills the players Heart Heat gauge, and when that gauge is full the player can unleash some of the craziest super moves I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. Will A Zapelli stabs at his enemy with his little finger, and then unleashes a spiral of light energy. The camera cuts are very cinematic, similar to Street Fighter IV, although I feel they have more effect because of the kanji that flashes on screen.
The most popular element of JJBA’s multiple storylines, are the “stands”, incredible guardians of energy that protect their users. In Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, stands can be enabled via special moves or permanently enabled, with each use having different strategies attached to it. The Stands come into play in the third chapter of the game, though players are able to use them in free play immediately. Characters with stands do feel a little overpowered compared to some characters, but fights in Story Mode are completely balanced.
Now, onto the gameplay. When I first fired up JJA:ASB, I didn’t think the gameplay would be as polished as it was. At first, I had my butt thoroughly kicked, but after coming to grips with the basic controls and techniques, I was well on my way to mastering the Hamon techniques (Ripple techniques, AKA special moves). Each character plays extremely different from the rest. Some move quickly, other are slower (though less likely to lose their footing when attacked), some have ranged attacks but short reach, and other have extremely long reach compared to others. There have been some complaints floating around on line about the original Japanese release saying that the characters are completely imbalanced, but i feel that each character possesses as many strengths and weaknesses as the rest, they just aren’t as obvious as in other fighting games.
JJBA:ASB has three normal attack buttons, instead of your standard three punch and kick buttons. In addition to your quick, normal and strong attacks (which are used to form combos), you have dodges, and a character specific “Style” move. The Style moves can be anything from counter attacks, to weapons attacks and even Stand attacks, such as a spirit extending from your body and unleashing a powerful high-count combo.
In addition to normal moves and special moves, there are also counters and dodges. Dodges are used to avoid projectile attacks and can also be used to move your fighter to a better position. The counters involve delicate timing, but when pulled off, are extremely impressive and rewarding. Once I got the hang of them, I was ducking and weaving (And femininely twirling) around my enemies and using their attacks to rack up a powerful counter attack combo. When two players learn to counter each other, you can have epically intense matches, similar to Dead or Alive, but more accessible as the counters are a single button.
Where other fighting games have tried to add more depth via a series of needlessly complicated additions and different fighting systems, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle feels like a classic fighting game from back when fighting games were king, except with modern graphics. Because of this though, some fights really boil down to one or two different tactics or moves used during a fight, without much variation. Most of the time though, the sheer challenge of difference between two fighters make for highly entertaining match ups.
In terms of game modes, you have the Story Mode, which takes you through the 8 stories of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Campaign mode, Arcade Mode, Versus mode, Practice mode, as well as a gallery and game options.
Campaign mode, is actually quite strange. It serves as a means of unlocking additional customisation items for your online profile and characters, but features an energy bar and real-life money transactions like a smart phone game. What bothers me about this is opposed to genuinely working your way up to a good challenge, the game simply nerfs you, meaning no matter how good you fight, you do less damage to a boss, and have to either pay for damage increases or fight the same person multiple times to beat them. If it takes five or six identical fights to beat someone (even if your skill is much better), what is the point? It really doesn’t feel like anything but a way to throw away your money, and the unlocking of gear could have been featured in a number of other game modes, considering this feels like an inferior version of Arcade Mode.
Arcade Mode is similar to Campaign Mode, in that once again you are fighting the A.I. Lockedin to a series of 8 battles, the player must try to get as high a rank as possible for bonus gold at the completion of Arcade Mode. The gold can be used to purchase artwork, voice clips, background music and more.
Versus Mode is exactly the same as other fighting games. You can fight a friend in your own living room or via the internet. ‘Nuff said.
Practice mode allows you to set up how the A.I. opponent behaves so you can practice and improve your fighting style. There’s also a move list for each character, though there are moves that aren’t in the list for each character too. There is an outside community on the internet and YouTube in particular that can show you how to perform every move, but the game itself does not offer such a luxury. While it might be cool to know a move your online opponent does not, it really should be a level playing field for everyone, especially as JJBA:ASB will have a pretty small niche audience.
- Simple controls make the game accessible to anyone
- Very, very stylish camera cuts and manga moments
- Brilliantly unique and bizarre
- Silly use of real-life money in Campaign Mode
- Difficulty spikes
While Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle may have a few different design choices, they simply take getting used to. While Campaign Mode irks me I really can’t fault the Story or Arcade Mode, and the gameplay itself is fantastic. While we’ve all gotten used to the many bells and whistles of other modern fighting games, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle offers a unique and simple fighting game that is without a doubt fun to play.