Jump Force has a plethora of well known Animé characters and has been on the radar of fighting game fans for a while now, but is it worth picking up or destined to fail against the competition?
To begin, I never had the chance to try out J-Stars, so though I've heard Jump Force is largely comparable to that, there's one far more successful series I find myself constantly comparing it to - Dragon Ball Xenoverse.
When you first fire up Jump Force, you'll have to create your own custom character before you can jump in. The customisation options aren't bad and there are games out there with far less options, but when it comes to creating your own unique avatar that you'll be spending 30+ hours with, it's always nice to have a large amount of options. Jump Force has an okay amount, but I wouldn't say it has a great amount of options, which is a bit of a shame.
None of the customisation options really inspired me, so unsure on what to create, I eventually settled on making a young Yakuza member who's become sick and tired with all of the fighting, and has now made it his mission to help end the mindless destruction. Naturally, there are no story elements to accommodate for this in-game and so it's all on you and your own imagination to decide on your characters reasons for being here, though ultimately you don't even need a reason as I'm sure many of you will just be playing for the character crossovers.
When you're done with character customisation, you'll be asked to side with one of three groups - Goku's (Team Alpha), Luffy's (Team Beta) and Naruto's (Team Gamma). Each of these teams have their own reasons to fight and considering the character I had in mind, I joined Luffy's team with the intention of grabbing some of Sanji's kicks. Sadly, once I'd obtained these moves, it quickly became apparent that there weren't many more to obtain after the first few hours of gameplay. By this point, I had already obtained all but one of the moves I wanted, only to discover Ryo Saeba's gun attacks are unique to him and not able to be learned by your own character. This was pretty disappointing and so I stuck with two moves from Sanji and two from Luffy, adopting more of a brawler fighting style. On the upside, this didn't look weirdly out of place because your arms don't stretch like Luffy's, so punching your enemies into unconsciousness looks a little more natural.
If I were to compare each character within the roster, I'd say they all feel reasonably balanced, though where some have cheap ways of breaking through your defenses, others others do not. You can of course block, dodge or counter most of these attacks, but considering very few characters handle differently, you'll find yourself mindlessly inputting the simple commands you're used to, only to be caught off guard when one of the few more unique characters force you to switch things up. This isn't terrible design, but I really feel each character could have been made to feel more unique. Each character has their own set of signature and highly recognisable moves from the series they originate from (including Bankai for you Bleach fans out there), but as it stands that's not enough. It really doesn't matter which character you pick because in all likelihood your custom character will be the strongest regardless, seeing as you can cherry pick a number of your favourite moves from other characters. Just note that only four of these can be equipped at any one time, so you'll likely play around with this feature for a small amount of time before committing to your choice for the remainder of the game.
The full current character roster is as follows:
Unique - Your own custom character
Dragon Ball - Goku, Vegeta, Trunks, Frieza, Piccolo, Cell
One Piece - Luffy, Zoro, Sanji, Blackbeard, Boa Hancock, Sabo
Naruto - Naruto, Sasuke, Kaguya, Gaara, Kakashi, Boruto
Saint Seiya - Pegasus Seiya, Dragon Shiryu
City Hunter - Ryo Saeba (probably the best character in the game)
Fist of the North Star - Kenshiro
Bleach - Ichigo, Renji, Aizen, Rukia
HunterXHunter - Gon Freecss, Killua Zoldyck, Kurapika, Hisoka Morow
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure - Jotaro, Dio
Yu Yu Hakusho - Yusuke Urameshi, Toguro (younger brother)
Rurouni Kenshin - Himura Kenshin, Shishio Makoto
Yu-Gi-Oh! - Yugi Muto (his moves are mostly trap cards and attacks from Dark Magician)
My Hero Academia - Midoriya
Black Clover - Asta
Dragon Quest - Dai
There are also power ups you can obtain and as your progress through the story, more and more costumes will become available to you. This allows your character to stand out further from the crowd, but it takes time and you really have to work for it, mainly by leveling. Said power-ups will increase damage dealt, add elemental attributes to your attacks and also help to minimise damage taken. You may be fooled into believing this would be great for thinking up fighting strategies, but really it's an unnecessary feature and one I stopped caring about altogether.
To give greater meaning to the more realistic look of the game, Jump Force is set in the real world, with battle arenas taking place in locations such as France and Japan, but other more notable locations have also been included, such as Planet Namek for example.
In comparison to Dragon Ball Xenoverse, you're actually somewhat limited to the moves you can learn from other characters. I played up to level 20 and found more moves become available to you the higher your level, but where as in Xenoverse you can talk to individual characters to learn their movesets, in this you have to buy seemingly all of the moves you want. It also felt like your chosen team determines which characters moves you have access to. Playing Xenoverse was fun because I didn't have these limitations - I could learn the moves of practically anyone, allowing me to be as creative as possible. In Jump Force, you don't have such luxury.
During the story, your created character takes centre stage and though you'll be forced to use your own character for the majority of the game, you enter almost every battle in a team of three. A lot of the time set characters relevant to the story at the time will be assigned to fight alongside you, but you will occasionally be given the option of picking your own team. This is different in other gameplay modes however, specifically during online and free battles, where you're freely able to play any character within the existing roster.
That being said, a couple of the characters are particularly strange to use and not necessarily in a good way. In my recent preview (which you can read here) I covered this with Sanji, but the second offending character is Dio. I've seen a lot of Animé, but Jojo's Bizarre Adventure just wasn't one I could get into, so not knowing much about the character I found it odd to find he wasn't on the character select screen until I worked out he only turns up during night stages. I'm assuming this is very much linked to how and when he appears in the Manga/Animé, considering how faithful the game is to Sanji when it comes to attacking female characters, but I just found this to be a poor design choice.
Jump Force is also very different to most fighting games in how it handles character swapping. Apart from unique one on one story missions, you're always going to go into battle in a team of three. I believe this was to keep things fun and fresh, so you can see which characters work best together, get a feel for how they synergise and swap your characters in and out according to the situation. The only problem is there's almost no point in ever changing your character mid-fight (unless you're playing Sanji and end up fighting women...), because all characters share one life bar. In Tekken Tag and Dragon Ball FighterZ, if you swap your character out, your next character will join the fight with their own individual live bar. If your main is losing too much life, this gives them a chance to recover as you swap them out for somebody with a fresh health bar. In Jump Force, swapping characters is next to pointless unless you simply want to mix things up, because this isn't the case at all. It's almost as if the team had several ideas and forgot to fully execute them, which is a shame.
For the majority of your story missions, you'll find yourself talking to a man known only as Director Glover. He's your main informant and almost always guides you to where you need to go next. He has a rather mundane personality and though there's nothing wrong with him per se, he looks better suited to being a Sonic the Hedgehog villain than anything else.
When Director Glover isn't assigning your next mission, you'll often find yourself running around the hub area trying to find where to go next. If there are no icons above the heads of those standing at the mission counters, you'll have to find some of the other characters around the map to do their side-quests before you can progress any further into the story. To my knowledge, there are no icons telling you where to go next in this case, so it really is trial and error as you visit each section hoping for the best.
The story can also be summarised into a single sentence - Go to your next mission objective, fight an opponent corrupted by an umbras cube, purge them of their corruption and darkened heart, convince them to join the Jump Force team (done automatically via short dialogue sequences) and go after your next biggest threat with your new allies to eventually take down the Venoms (main villains). Rinse and Repeat. The story is really lacking - It's not engaging in any way and all the title really has going for it are good graphics and a decent level of fan service.
That's not to say the game's terrible (it's not). It's just Jump Force could have been so much more than it turned out to be and instead all we're left with is a "pick up and play for ten minutes until you get bored" kind of game.
As for online play, most of your training and advancement through the story is what will level your character up the most in single-player. This can all be carried over into multiplayer no problem and the game does reward you more for playing online battles, but online battles are pretty basic at best. They do the job and there even seems to be some kind of punishment system in place to penalise those who would rather disconnect instead of lose a fight. This is a good thing, but Jump Force is very "does what it says on the tin". It works well for what it needs to do, but it does nothing new for the fighting genre and sadly feels like any other average fighting game out there. Additionally, Jump Force features Japanese voices only.
Overall, the best way to describe Jump Force is by calling it a Xenoverse clone, only not as fun due to lacking many of the elements that actually kept me going back to the Dragon Ball series time and time again. It's not a terrible game and there is fun to be had, but it's a very average game. Sure, the arenas are nice and if you perform smash moves you do get arena change animations, but no amount of arena design can save this game from being anything more than average. Jump Forces motto is "We're the force to save the world", but perhaps it needed to have saved itself first. If you're a die hard Animé fan you'll get some enjoyment out of this, but otherwise you're better off sticking with Tekken.
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