During Microsoft’s E3 Presentation in Los Angeles last year, Bandai Namco revealed Jump Force to a packed theatre. The crowd reaction came off as cautiously optimistic. I’m a fan of anime video games but I am also caution when trying them., my reservations needed considering before jumping in once again. Developed by Spike Chunsoft and published by Bandai Namco, Jump Force crossover event 50 years in the making celebrating a piece of Japan’s culture.
As it were, Jump Force celebrates the 50th anniversary of Weekly Shonen jump this year. Having iconic characters such as Luffy from One Piece, Goku from Dragon Ball Z, and Yugi from Yu-Gi-Oh join together for the greater good is my childhood dream. Although certain elements drag the game down, there’s an excellent fighter hidden beneath the messy exterior.
Jump Force starts off strong and begins with a battle in the real world. After an introduction, it’s off the character creator. I’m a big fan of character creators and in Jump Force, you’re able to create one with a handful of available options. Basically, your character dies in the chaotic battle between Goku and Frieza, who is then revived and given powers thanks to a umbras cube. Depending on preference, there are three schools of fighting available – one based on Goku, one based on Naruto, and one based on Luffy. Subsequently, all this leads to joining the eponymous Jump Force, bringing together many Shonen Jump characters.
It’s time to Duel!
The most important aspect of a fighting game is the gameplay. Without competent gameplay, all is lost, and while Jump Force excels at creating a good fighting game, everything around that is subpar. Your basic controller scheme maps light and heavy attacks to two face buttons while the other two feature jump and toss. Holding Square or Triangle create heaver versions of the base attacks allowing your character the chance to shatter your opponent’s shield. Holding R2 and using the face buttons allows for powered up abilities like the Kamehameha, Light Grenade, Sand Jitsu and so on. There’s also L1 serving as a Rush ability, and R1 serves as guard.
In addition to that, battles are a 3v3 tag match with all three combatants sharing one life meter. While you’re free to pick and choose who you want on your team, the tag mechanics don’t mesh well. Tapping L2 sends out the next available fighter and holding L2 initiates a team attack.
For the most part, Spike Chunsoft nailed the fighting styles across the various franchises in the game. Each character playstyle varies enough that no one plays similarly and there’s an even battlefield since controls for each character are so similar. However, the downside to this is that after playing for some time, battles all begin to feel the same.
Weekly Shonen Slump
In general, the story is far too serious for my liking. This is a game where Goku and Naruto are leaders, two of the biggest clowns in anime. While the story isn’t great it does a serviceable job. Jumping from mission to mission while unlocking customizable items and gear for your custom character, which I found to be convoluted and upgrading your character ends up being a chore. Then, to make it worse, several difficulty spikes end up causing unnecessary frustration.
Much like the Xenoverse series, there’s a central hub where a host of events are available. Load times getting to and from the central hub to a match takes time and loads times are long in most cases. The main hub is expansive but empty and there’s nothing worth checking out. Often I’d end up teleporting to my location.
Playing offline or online is about the best experience in Jump Force. After finding a confident streak during several story missions, I decided I’d move online and test my skill. I was promptly put to bed and learned my lesson – there’s more than button mashing to a win. Against real players, defence is a good offence, punishing those moments the enemy slips up with a combo and ability finisher. Playing online matches I find is the best use of time when playing and the best way for learning the battle system.
Ultimately, if you like anime then this is for you. If you like mashing buttons and watching as Shonen characters enact fights you see in manga pages, you’re going to enjoy Jump Force. However, soon after the spectacle is gone, you’re left with a shallow but a pretty video game that’s story never really goes anywhere. With such an enticing roster at its disposal, I expected to see more from this game that’s supposedly celebrating Weekly Shonen Jump.