Oh, the '80s humanity!
It seems like Bandai Namco is on a quest to breathe life into classic franchises, because this isn’t the first “classic” anime brought back for a modern gaming audience. Either that, or as with Saint Seiya Brave Soldiers released before this, the publisher is trying to bring back some seriously feathered '80s hair and the over-geled helmets and the mullets… oh, I pray to everything holy, The Mullets… and just a touch of old-school stripper. Why so many characters have nipple-tastic accessories I still don’t understand.
With a look befitting a late-'80s/early-'90s revival complete with over-geled yakuza hair and the Billy Ray Cyrus hairstyle, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is a unique throwback to an obscure manga and anime era where craziness reigned supreme and Fist of the North Star was freshly off the air. JoJo is the story of a family that throughout the ages finds its descendants fighting all the time because someone is always angry at them. (Hopefully for their hair, because it just gets ridiculous.) They’re forced to fight a range of wacky characters, some of whom have what’s called a Stand, or a sort of dual-spirit that deals most of their damage. It’s like Fist of the North Star that way, only with seemingly less “one-touch explosion” action.
The title's gameplay is lackadaisical. You know in fighting game greats like King of Fighters and Street Fighter that if you spam one move too much, the computer will start to catch on? Either the computer here is needlessly stupid or the only moves worth doing are spammable. It’s the depth of a game like Divekick with the repetition of Chun-Li’s Lightning Kick except with punching. An opposing character will fall for the same trick twice, so why should I bother even trying other stuff?
The controls are smooth, they execute quickly and specials are easy to pull off, especially since the most usable of them is just mashing the square button. The fights are just unfulfilling. Even with characters having different, specific specialties, including a few who can fight on horseback, they all still feel too similar. The game looks good and moves well even if it comes off wanting to look like Street Fighter IV in “little brother copying big brother” fashion.
While fighting games aren’t necessarily known for their storylines, this is a major shortcoming for a game like JoJo. That’s not because it doesn’t have one—it does and it’s an intricate story—but because the story is entirely told through text. There are some sections that feature voice-overs and before a fight, characters will say a line of dialogue, but the actual story is still all text. While that might have been passable, to make matters worse the story doesn’t correspond in any way to the action that happens on-screen; winning a fight means your character is still sometimes going to die or get beat the hell up (made worse if you spam your way to a few perfect rounds), or drop the ball and lose the war. Being told after you’ve just defeated a difficult boss that the boss still won is outright stupid. Like I said in my Saint Seiya review, there is one major rule in storytelling across the board: never tell when you can show and JoJo has caused me great sadness by breaking such a rule.
But if you’re into that sort of thing, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle has multiple storylines to enjoy and downloadable campaigns to play through, with over 35 characters total (about half of which need to be unlocked via the Story and Campaign modes). I’m happy that they’re ready and willing to support the game after its release—at least for a little while—but actually playing proves a flashy snoozefest. Nice to see Bandai-Namco is bringing back some classics; maybe we can see more intense action and story next time.
Code provided by publisher. Review based on PS3 version.