Did you know that Capcom’s rendition of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure focused solely on the third part of the epic manga? The more inquisitive among you probably did, but then again exposure to this particular manga in the West is limited at best. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle attempts to cover all existing parts, featuring a selection of characters from each. CyberConnect2 have a pedigree for making decent manga inspired fighters, however there are a few design decisions that just don’t quite work.
One area where it gets completely right is the presentation. Inspired by Hirohiko Araki’s almost 30-year-old manga, the flamboyant look and feel of the character models is unlike anything you will find elsewhere. The Street Fighter IV motion flares work really well, emphasising the detail in both character models and backgrounds. There is also a sense of arrogance in each translated text that is truly fitting.
Running at a constantly smooth frame rate despite all these punches being thrown at great velocity is a difficult feat, which CyberConnect2 have done wonderfully. Easily one of the best looking fighters in recent history, however beneath the sheen there are gameplay issues with balance and ease of learning.
Part of the biggest problem with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is that there is nothing in-game to teach you the more integral parts of the combat system in play. More successful games in the genre either feature challenges that teach you combos or robust tutorials like those found in Persona 4: Arena or Killer Instinct, supplemented by looking at move sets. Skimming through move-sets is your only real source for knowledge here, which in the modern fighting game era is an outdated source.
Characters do come with various abilities, such as Vampirism, Stands, or Modes; but those with Stand abilities are easier to use than their counterparts, making the roster imbalanced. You also have access to special moves, finishers, and effortless looking dodges, which all feel as good as they should. However, the Persona 4: Arena style “Easy Combo” system is too powerful for its own good, meaning that the fighting is oddly soulless overall.
Stages are somewhat big, stylised arenas that have a single glowing point marked where you should aim to down your opponent. This activates the stage feature which could be something running through a set path indicated by a glowing track, or a weapon being fired that affects glowing spots. Should either you or the opponent take damage here, it’s a sizeable chunk that occasionally inflicts a status element. You can also perform Dramatic Finishes, which use the scenery in knocking out your opponent. They’re not especially complicated unlike other similar fighting games, but they make the fights slightly more interesting and are a highlight as a result.
Aside from the Arcade mode where you fight eight random characters in a row, there is also the Story mode that provides a very brief synopsis on the events spanning throughout the manga. Disappointingly, it opts to have unattractive text and voice only loading screens rather than animated cut-scenes that can be skipped. As a result, it fails to engage the player within the series if they’ve not previously heard of it, which given the limited exposure players outside of Japan have had feels like a missed opportunity.
Each battle has its own unique conditions, from increased attack power to draining health, but the catch is that you can add support effects of your own to counteract them should they put you at a disadvantage. Given how easily the in-game currency is to obtain, practically hemorrhaging money in the Arcade mode, buying perks takes away any challenge should you allow it. You do have the option to fight from the other character’s perspective, but this artificially lengthens this somewhat uninteresting mode.
Campaign mode on the other hand is a very strange addition. Think of it like free-to-play mechanics where a timer counts down until an action is available, while you can buy support abilities using your gauge, with the aim of tackling bosses. Each time you log in, your avatar report indicates how well your avatar did against other players and rewards you for wins with money.
Events will happen before or after battles where you can spend more of the energy bar for a perk, have the chance to gain a random perk, or heal your energy bar by one point. You will fight either avatars designed by other players or bosses in multi-stage battles. By completing battles, you’ll unlock new items or ways to customise characters, including taunts. If you’re into that sort of thing, there’s plenty to fight for. As a result this mode is fun…
…until the sudden realisation that the free-to-play model is actually a fully realised concept. Support items are available, but at a cost to your real-world wallet. Given that you paid for the game in the first place, these free-to-play mechanics are a little extortionate. Thankfully there is also an online option for fighting opponents directly, though there are severe lag problems at times in both input delay and frame skipping.
If CyberConnect2 had spent more time making the fighting mechanics as fluid as Capcom’s 2D version instead of the weird premium options in the Campaign mode, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle would have been an easy recommendation. Some may get a kick out of what’s on offer, but it doesn’t feel as polished a competitive fighting experience as the more popular works from Capcom, Arc Systemworks, or SNK. There is definitely need for Araki’s epic manga to be fully translated into English and this game has highlighted this fact, but as a fighting game on its own, it just doesn’t hold up against more polished fighters.