Developed in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Weekly Shonen Jump, Jump Force features many of the most popular manga characters to ever exist. Similar to past crossover titles, this 3D fighting game should be an otaku’s dream come true as it features everyone from Dragon Ball Z to Naruto and One Piece. However, that sadly isn’t the case as instead of relishing in fan service, the end result feels more like fan punishment due to it becoming an exercise in redundancy.
The core setup is similar to the 45th-anniversary celebration, 2014’s J-Stars Victory VS, but with some important changes. Battles are now three-on-three, although only one fighter is actively on the field during the bulk of the battle. This allows the combat to feel more focused, as dealing with multiple enemies often felt like a chore. The entire team also shares a health bar, which makes changing fighters more of a strategical maneuver than a standard part of gameplay.
If there’s a downside to making the fights mano a mano, it’s that Jump Force‘s combat lacks the necessary depth and enjoyability of a proper fighting title. Even with some high/low variations, the core of combat revolves around getting the opponent stuck in a combo attack that’s triggered by simply pressing the attack button repeatedly. Every character has four special moves, but otherwise feel far too similar to one another. Simplicity can work in these type of titles, one just has to look at CyberConnect2’s excellent Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series for an example, but this engine lacks a solid base that makes the player want to come back for more. It doesn’t help that the artificial intelligence isn’t enjoyable to play against as aggressive play is often quickly countered, so it’s best to play in a more boring, conservative style in order to avoid the lengthy load times that take place in between battle attempts.
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While the unsatisfying combat is certainly a bummer, Jump Force‘s terrible story mode is even more of a disappointment. Getting to see iconic and beloved manga characters interact with one another should be the ultimate treat for fans. We’re actually getting to see Monkey D. Luffy and Goku interact for crying out loud. This interplay between protagonists should result in constant highlights as personalities and fighting styles clash. Instead, we’re treated to extremely wooden exchanges (both in terms of animation and writing) that aren’t enjoyable in the slightest. The lone exception comes in the form of City Hunter‘s Ryo Saeba, whose penchant for hitting on any beautiful woman is played up for some cheap, yet enjoyable, laughs. Even evil celestial beings like Naruto‘s Kaguya Otsutsuki aren’t spared from Saeba trying to get some action during a cataclysmic event.
Most of the early story missions revolve around meeting the various members of the roster. While the big names are certainly a big get for Jump Force, there are also some unexpected additions like the aforementioned City Hunter protagonist and Dai from the Dragon Quest manga. These are some nice additions, but it’s still hard to not be underwhelmed by the roster list when compared to past Jump crossover titles as they represented more franchises overall. Not having some fan favorites like Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, Gintoki Sakata, and Toriko is a bummer. It’d be one thing if the more focused cast allowed for the story to explore them each more, but most of the screen time everyone gets wind up being pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things. I don’t get how one can craft such an uninspired narrative with so many exceptional characters, but Spike Chunsoft have managed to do just that.
Similar to Dragon Ball Xenoverse, players have to navigate an actual hub area filled with other players in order to jump from mission to mission. It’s a cool idea, and it actually serves to make a title like Xenoverse feel more alive, but it just becomes an extra layer of busywork in between modes since there isn’t a proper menu to simply select options from. Thankfully, there are some vehicles that the player can hop into in order to make their traversal take less time, but this sort of hub adds nothing to the overall experience but annoyance.
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The hub is also where the most motion blur can be encountered, as simply moving the camera with the right analog stick causes such an annoying visual effect that I began to feel physically sick. Not helping matters is the other players constantly zipping in and out of view. While still unenjoyable, the motion blur isn’t as much of an issue during actual battles because the camera is automatically locked on the opponent. Regardless, Jump Force gets the unique distinction of being the first game to make me feel nauseous while playing despite putting hours into Driveclub VR and countless other virtual reality titles with less than optimal control schemes.
Playing online with friends is also more of a chore than it should be. Once you finish a friendly match, there is no option to simply battle again. That means that players don’t only have to sit through the lengthy load times and character selection process again, but they also have to send another invitation. A lot of Japanese titles have underwhelming online interfaces, but Jump Force is so clumsily constructed that even those that manage to enjoy its monotonous combat won’t want to play online.
There isn’t much nice to be said about Jump Force. Other than being a crossover title with some pretty special moves, there isn’t anything to applaud here. The fighting is repetitive and dull, the infrastructure is more annoying than entertaining, and it’s a gigantic disappointment from start to finish. Not only do the franchises represented deserve better than this, but it’s an awful way to celebrate the manga giant’s 50th anniversary.
GameRevolution reviewed Jump Force on PS4 with a copy provided by the developer.