Oh, bizarre is about right, actually. But not quite about right bizarre… enough.
The fighting game genre back in the 1990s and early-2000s was a beautiful era. There were so many interesting new ideas bouncing around, from weapons in Soul Blade/Soul Calibur to the development of "HOLY SH-" combos in Killer Instinct (which I still want to see a return of), crossovers and character crammers in the King of Fighters series, and all of the "standards" we have today from both the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter series. But there's a layer below those big guns, that group of titles that made us all sad and disappointed. You know the types, the interesting ideas that seemed to never be play-tested to make sure they were any… good.
After thankful departures from the likes of Time Killers and Way of the Warrior, we got JoJo's Bizarre Adventure—the manga-based fighting game that few in the US had heard of before the game was released in 2000, and that even fewer took the time to investigate further. I knew it was released on both the PSOne and Dreamcast, and I actually wanted to try it on my Dreamcast back when it still sat on store shelves. Now, we get a HD port of it… and I'm glad I didn't pay full-price for a boxed copy back then.
This is exactly what one might expect from a Capcom fighting game released around the turn of the century (I admit, I do get giddy when I get to say stuff like that): animé-like sprites jumping around like crazy, almost looking like sketches, fun and upbeat music, and a wholly indecipherable storyline for the casual observer. From what I can tell, the majority of the 13 selectable players hate the one guy, Jotaro, and many have use of a Stand (a sort of demon summon/possession) to help them kill him. If that’s confusing, think Persona 4 Arena-esque fighting styles, with Personas coming in and out of the bout, but subtract the story coherence, remove the developed characters, and date the graphics back about twelve years.
All of the 22 characters I had access to—apparently 26 are in there to start, but I couldn't unlock any others—plays very differently from every other character. There are only three actual "attack" buttons per character, sometimes four if your character has no Stand and occasionally five with the L1 button attacks. It's not that confusing at all, pretty run-of-the-mill. Each attack feels vastly different from every other, and special attacks are just as wildly specific to every character. I suppose it's ideal for the super-hardcore of the fighting game community; when you find your preferred sprite, they're uniquely yours and nobody will play them like you. For the rest of us, it just leads to button-mashing and frustration and feels even worse in the new online mode.
Of course, it doesn't help that the difficulty is scattershot. For the hell of it, I checked for any differences between 4-star and 1-star difficulties, and found just as much trouble rambling through the story mode. So not only is it hardcore, but completely unwilling to accept the idea that new players might need a bit of a handicap from the early-goings. Seriously, I enjoy my fighting games, and I know the difficulty settings might be a little wonky from time to time (King of Fighters XII comes to mind) but being on the overly "hate yourself" side of things isn't going to garner too much positive attention.
And then there's the price tag. I don't like to consider this, but asking players for twenty bucks for a port of a crummy experience few people played the first time is just begging to be mentioned. I thoroughly enjoy firing up Marvel vs. Capcom 2, also on my PS3, which also came out in 2000, and I only paid $15 for it. Or, on another thought, I could buy Street Fighter IV—is one of my favorite fighters of all-time—and pay $20. Or $15 for Skullgirls.
The point is, there are enough kickass alternatives for the same price or less to buy instead of a 12-year-old port that's long since had its chance (and blew it). It feels less like a polished title and more like a cash-grab with a funny name. Sure there are online matches, but playing is sluggish, special attacks (which are usually somewhat slow to initiate anyway) are delayed further, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of matching up players… just setting up matches.
There are isolated moments of the funny and interesting, like one of the 26 fighters being a small dog (I think it's a chihuahua, but I'm not entirely sure). It makes me feel like a bad person, but kicking a possessed dog is mildly amusing… the first time. Then it becomes another cheap and frustrating match with the AI. The era of some great fighting titles had plenty of casualties littering the pixilated landscape like dead leaves on the grass. This one will just blow away.
Code provided by publisher. Review based on PSN version.