It is truly a gathering of "All-Stars" as the most popular Manga characters from Japan's weekly Shonen Jump magazine, come together to do battle in this fresh and exciting new brawler, but can so many large personalities co-exist on screen in a meaningful way?
J Stars Victory VS+ is the name and taking part in crazy battles is the game! That would be the short end of it, however how does this exactly work and why do all these characters come together in the first place?
Well, this is shown through the game’s "J Adventure" mode, where you get to play from the perspective of four characters; Luffy of One Piece fame, Naruto (our favourite blonde ninja), Ichigo from Bleach and food lover Toriko. The general gist of it is that you are invited to a tournament by a mysterious voice in the sky to determine who the strongest really is. The prize? One wish that will grant you anything you desire.
J Stars takes you all around a miniature world as you complete quests, come face to face with familiar characters and visit far off and familiar locations. It brings everyone together, though it’s not necessarily achieved in the smoothest manner and to be honest, it got to a point where I felt that it was dragging on a bit too long. Now I know that this isn't meant to be a narrative masterpiece, but I felt like it could have been done in a much more meaningful way besides everyone beating each other up to get their single wish.
|Kuroko showing everyone why he is known as a shadow.|
Clearly the main point of J Stars Victory VS+ is the actual fighting and while it’s not the most technical gameplay, I still had a lot of fun taking part in the battles. Fights take place in a 3D arena which is based on locations from each of the over-arcing Manga's. For example, you'll be fighting in the country of Alabasta from One Piece, Konoha village from Naruto or Soul Society from Bleach. There are also lots of destructible elements too, meaning you'll quickly find your opponents disappearing through objects all around the arena. Whether you’re riding solo or teaming up with two others, battles can get pretty insane. You can also choose a support character to jump in for situations when things are getting a little too heated. This adds a little diversity and eases the pressure off yourself.
The fighting mechanics are pretty straightforward. You have light and heavy attacks, a block, jump and variety of special moves that can be activated dependent on the character you're using, as some have a fair few more than others. Special moves deplete your stamina bar, along with dashing which every character can do, obviously again, some are better than others. Lastly is the Victory Burst, this can be activated once your gauge is full from beating down your opponent and allows you to unleash the strongest move your fighter has (which in Luffy’s case is the Elephant Gatling Gun - Which sends down a rainstorm of giant sized punches, coated in a special armour). In terms of these mechanics working at a higher level, I personally have not seen much of a difference between the easier and harder difficulties, as the latter only really steps up their game by either blocking, sidestepping an attack or depending on the character they use, attacking you solely from a distance and playing it safe.
|Goku and Vegeta are getting read to give Frieza everything they have!|
I mentioned earlier that you can play alone or go up against opponents in a maximum team of 3. The only differences here being when you reach Victory Burst, any person on your team can use their ultimate attack and secondly, you're able to perform short team combos with a partner resulting in an all-out assault. Additionally, unless your partners are human controlled, you can assign basic functions to the CPU such as attacking one person or spreading out to even the field.
While it may seem pretty simple, it still was incredibly fun to play. Maybe it was because I was mindlessly mashing buttons or perhaps it’s because I’m a fan of most characters on display; the fact remains that I was still enjoying myself. I thought the team combos looked really cool and being able to assign functions to the CPU team-mates during a match also gave the game a sense of strategy and depth.
J Stars Victory VS+ has quite a few characters and the only way you can get them all is from the J Shop. Here you can buy fighters and support characters to use in battles, along with using coins gained during J Adventure to get cards which can be assigned to your chosen fighter. I felt that this was a little gimmicky seeing as it made a lot more sense to me to simply have the characters unlock if you came across them in the story mode. However, I can see why this was done as I’m sure the most diehard manga fan isn't a fan of everyone that's available thus allowing you to pick and choose who you want. As for the cards themselves, I never even used them once so their inclusion confused me a little, but I’d lean more towards the notion that I didn't really understand how they become useful in general.
|Lala and Chitoge are offering support.|
Visually I feel that J Stars Victory VS+ falls a little short when compared to similar games of its type that have managed to capture the look and feel better. I remember at one point where I teamed up with a friend and he commented on how the graphics looked a little too “clean”. I wasn’t sure what he meant then, but after some thought I’m starting to understand why he came to that conclusion. Where most Animé games opt for warmer, vivid colours that blend well together, J Stars looks saturated in comparison and sticks out more like a sore thumb. I’m probably not explaining it very well, heck I’m not explaining it well at all, however if you look at titles such as Ni No Kuni or the Naruto fighting games, you’ll see what I mean. They're simple in design, but detailed in character.
J Stars Victory VS+ knows its audience and if you are a fan of Manga or any of the characters being represented in the game, you’ll probably want to pick this up solely based on that, however if you're looking for a deep combat system and visuals to match, there are other titles that can do it better. There is a lot it can improve on, but there is no denying that it’s a fun title to play.
Let us know what you thought about J Stars Victory VS+ in the comments or give me a shout on twitter - @TheLibanAli
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