Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Platform Played: PS4 Pro
Hours Played: ~20
Review Read: ~10mins
When I started playing Jump Force, I found myself whipping my phone out and checking social media very regularly. Not that because the game wasn’t interesting, but more because of the long and frequent loading times. By the time I engaged myself in a handful of fighting sequences, I already felt like I was finished with experiencing everything the game has to offer (with the clear knowledge that I wasn’t even done with the whole thing.).
Jump Force is a fighting game. It’s basically a game where you ask yourself questions like if Naruto can win Monkey D. Luffy in a brawl; it’s a game where the most notable Shonen Jump characters band together into one universe. The term “Shonen” being a genre of an anime whose plotline is targeted for the male youth, centred around high-octane action scenes, a storyline about a team of guys building camaraderie, guys learning self-sacrifice, self-discipline, and honour; things like that. Even the premise of the game is meta in a sense that it’s Shonen: The myriad of realities based on these Shonen anime has amalgamated into one singular reality. The good guys from these realities band together to create the Jump Force, while the villains band together for control of these Jump universes. So, you’re this guy (or girl) that becomes a Jump hero that goes under the tutelage of characters like Goku, or Naruto. And then you learn their moves and get stronger and stop villains like Freiza from Dragon Ball, or Dio from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Right after your near hour-long tutorial (Yes, the tutorial is about an hour long. Time flies when you’re having fun sitting around waiting on loading screens.), you’ll be introduced to this hub that doubles as the base of operations for all characters in the Jump Force and as something like a menu for game modes. From there, you’ll be able to play through arcade fighting modes, buy cosmetic items and move sets for your very own Jump character, and progress through the story via missions.
Let’s talk missions first – You have story missions where you end up meeting different Jump characters and fighting different villains while progressing through the story, unlocking new content and having events unfold. And then there’s free missions, which is basically missions to help level up your character, gain more gold for upgrades, etc. The problem with the story is that it feels very long-winded. Sure, we would like character development, but once you’ve gone through a character arc of, say, Yu-Yu Hakusho and how it plays out in the Jump universe, the thought of how it would play out for the other characters in the Jump universe is just so daunting that it’s more of a deterrence than it excites you to go through more just because of unnecessary dialogue and chopped up cutscenes. Nevertheless, I ploughed on with the romanticised idea that I would be able to develop my character in a way where I could combine moves by Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star and Jotaro Kujo from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
About near 10 hours into the story, I began to doubt the possibility of having to develop my character to the way I wanted it. Near my 20 hours of experience, I just gave up and told myself that I’m probably not going to unlock moves that can be purchased that has anything to do with the Jojo franchise. You see, to unlock moves, you have to go through the story and fight against or play with the characters in the story arc. However, I realised that as I encountered some of these characters in the story, their move sets are hit or miss in terms of unlocking them. This has led me to believe that I’ll only be able to unlock moves from characters that make sense. Jotaro has, in his canon, a “Stand”, a spirit to manifest his powers; my Jump hero doesn’t, therefore, I cannot unlock his moves. Therefore, my dream of creating a character likened to the ultimate fighting machine in the Shonen universe is dashed.
On top of the story, what deterred me from pressing on was the loading times. With every fighting sequence and every cutscene that involves a different locale, you would have to go through a 30 to 40 second loading screen before it plays out, regardless of the length of cutscene or fighting sequence. So there will be instances where it’ll be a cutscene from a locale, then a cutscene from a different locale, and then a fighting sequence. With each gap from locale to locale, and then to the fighting sequence, I’ll have to wait 30 to 40 seconds. After two to three missions, I’m left tired with playing the game – tired from waiting and fighting this urge to do something else that would’ve been more productive than waiting on loading screens.
Regardless, Jump Force is a fighting game at heart, and it’s a pretty multi-dimensional one too. Each character has their nuances in their fighting moves. If you jump into arcade mode of player vs player or vs computer, you’d realise you would already have the roster of 40 characters available to you. These 40 different characters from the different Shonen Jump characters all have varied fighting moves that are flavoured according to the meta of their manga or anime. And with each of these moves, they are dependant on three things: Timing, space, and type.
Let’s use a more notable character to explain the dynamics of the fighting – Naruto. Most of us would know his flagship move: Rasengan. Just like the anime, Rasengan will take sometime for him to conjure before he dashes toward his opponent with the ball of air. This time that he takes to conjure the ball of air leaves him vulnerable to various attacks. On top of that, whoever is playing against Naruto should understand that the Rasengan attack covers a lot of space in front of Naruto. That means that as long as his opponent is of a notable distance in front of Naruto, he would be vulnerable to Rasengan. Similarly, Naruto’s ultimate move involves him summoning Kyubi, and shooting a giant fireball at his opponent in the distance. People who’ve familiarised themselves with the game would know that they would not be hit with that fireball if they got close to Naruto enough to not be hit in the radius. On top of the understanding of space and timing of attacks, some characters are weaker in certain physical and elemental resistances, so that adds in to the dynamics of the types of characters you would want to use like in a form of rock, paper, and scissors.
Jump Force is a game with a nuanced fighting mechanic. The roster of 40 characters to play from the get-go is a very attractive idea. For the fans of the different franchises, having to see the iconic move sets of your beloved anime characters brings a smile to your face for a visual treat. However, as much as I love watching Jotaro Kujo summoning his Star Platinum Stand and bashing onto his opponents with all his “ora!”s, I’m left to wonder how long would this marvel sustain itself because of the game’s long loading time and unengaging storyline. Nevertheless, it’s a game all Shonen fans should try out and judge for themselves.
For more on games in 2019, check back Playbomb Reviews.