Platform: PlayStation 3
Reviewed by: Sam Fourie
The utterly demented canon of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has been a mainstay in manga/anime culture for nearly 25 years now. A twisted mash-up of Western glam-rock and Eastern anime eccentricities, it follows the story of the Joestar bloodline through various eras as each generation fights all manner of evil incarnate. It’s a great property to base a fighting game around and with All Star Battle, CyberConnect2 have managed to create a game that is stunningly faithful to source material, but one that crumbles when judged solely on its merits as a fighting game.
The cast of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is perhaps one of the most flamboyant and eccentric to be found in all of manga, and All Star Battle does a commendable job at depicting the strangeness of its fighters; however, the actual components of the fights feel under-baked, sluggish and unresponsive. Even relatively simple actions such as running around the arena or throwing heavy attacks feels annoyingly slow. Numerous fighting games use a slower pace to ratchet up the tension to an effective degree, but in All Star Battle it left me more frustrated than anything else.
All Star Battle’s fighting system revolves around the tried and true system of having three main attacks: weak, medium and powerful, all three of which need to linked together to result in a combo. You can finish off combos with a number of special moves, most of which are performed via circular inputs that you’ll be intimately familiar with if you’ve ever played a round or two of Street Fighter.
While it does sound pretty run-of-the-mill thus far, All Star Battle does distinguish itself with a few mechanics, some more welcome than others. Each character has an auto combo available to them that can be performed by simply spamming the light attack button, this results in a powerful combo chain that ends in a super move provided you have enough energy in reserve. While this is certainly helpful to inexperienced players, it soon devolves into the game’s most cheap and overpowered tactic. While the game seems like it takes place within a 2D realm there is a dodge button that allows you to step into the foreground or background to avoid your opponent’s attacks, but apart from that it still very much plays like a 2D fighter.
The central mechanic though, takes the form of the style button. Each character’s style has a different function depending upon their stance. Characters who use the Stand style for instance, summon powerful spirits to fight for them in battle. Hamon fighters on the other hand perform powered up versions of their regular attacks, while vampiric and mounted characters switch between entirely different command lists when the style button is used. The system provides some welcome variety between characters, but the fighting system as a whole feels pretty lacking and shallow overall.
This is further exacerbated by the absence of any meaningful tutorials or game modes designed to teach you the nuances of combat. The game expects you to get to grips with the entire system through a series of short tool tips in each character’s command list, but these are woefully inadequate for the job they’re expected to perform. For example: a few characters have unique attacks that can be performed from a “stand rush”. What exactly a “stand rush” is never explained in the moves list, controller layout or anywhere else in the game leaving you to look outside the game to simply learn how it works.
For most characters the move-list feels very constrained, with minimal room for on the fly improvisation in the middle of a match. All Star Battle is very much a game where you’ll need to memorise your chosen characters command list if you want to have any hope of being competitive player. Speaking of which, the game’s 30fps framerate all but kills any hope of this becoming a game for the competitive circuit.
It sacrifices performance for good reason though as the game looks absolutely stunning. All Star Battle sports one of the best cel-shaded aesthetics I’ve seen in a game yet. Characters, animations and environments are all exquisitely well detailed and gorgeous to look at. What’s more is that the voice cast does an exceptional job at giving the characters some extra life and the soundtrack is exactly what is needed to accompany the visual splendour and sheer flamboyance of the whole ordeal.
If you’re looking for an avenue through which to experience the insanity that is the story of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, you’re better off looking elsewhere. The game does a big disservice to the story, regulating any and all plot to simple text snippets before matches in the story mode. This is massive let down especially considering that this is a the studio that brought us Asura’s Wrath and quite a few Naruto titles, all of which boasted very well done cut-scenes. While the narrative aspect may as well be absent entirely, the story mode does throw its fair share of interesting twists into the combat system. Each fight has special conditions attributed to it such as automatically regenerating health or certain moves being unusable during play. These can be completely avoided though, by way of spending an in game currency that you earn through playing matches.
There is also a Campaign mode on offer where you start out with 10 blocks of energy, which ultimately deplete when you search for new opponents to fight. Defeating your opponent grants you new customisation items such as taunts and victory poses for your characters. In theory you can expend all your energy, leaving you without any means to fight further, however the game goes out of its way to ensure you always have an ample supply at the ready. The entire energy system is only in place to be monetised with the player able to spend real money in exchange for more.
The are some online components present, but they are pretty bare bones. Online matches only support two players and lack any replay or spectator functionality. Matches perform well enough under optimal conditions but anything below that renders an instantly noticeable degree of lag that harms the entire experience.
All Star Battle is an exceptional adaptation of the characters of JoJo’s Bizarre adventure, capturing the spirit and eccentricities that makes them so unique almost perfectly. When judged as a fighting game though, its quite lacking all round with a sluggish feel and awful tutorials bogging down what is already a system lacking in meaningful depth…. However, fans of manga and anime will no doubt love the characterisation that All Star Battle does so well.
Lasting appeal: 5/10