JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle (PS3) Review
Posted by Marc Morrison on 05.07.2014
411mania’s Marc Morrison gets his anime fighting game playing on in this revival of a classic series. See what he thinks of the game inside!
Title: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Rated: T for Teen
When the trumpet was sounded over who wanted to do the JoJo’s review, I threw out a “If no one else wants it, I’ll take it”, to the man in charge. I know nothing about the anime/manga series at all. If you want an in depth analysis of how big of fan service the game is, look elsewhere. The only knowledge I have on the JoJo’s franchise is playing the old video game (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure) on the Dreamcast. I remember it being, A. Pretty weird, and B. One of the characters was a dog. This is the extent of my JoJo’s knowledge. Having said that, I dived into All Star Battle and actually had a really good time with it.
JoJo’s gameplay and fighting system, to lay the foundation, is a mix of three recent fighting games: Street Fighter 4, Persona 4: Arena, and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. It kind of takes elements from these three games, adds in their own roster, licensed-specific elements, a kooky online mode, and thus the game is born. It’s not a bad way to do it, honestly, if you’re going to make a fighting game, you might as well try to emulate the most popular/well-known games on the market.
JoJo’s kind of shares Street Fighter 4’s general art style, and overall technical presentation. It’s not an exact match, JoJo’s looks a bit more cell-shaded then SF4 did, but the games have that similar detailed/stylized look that makes them great in action (including cutaways for super/hyper moves). The difference is that SF4 was 2D and JoJo’s is a 3D game. It’s not as 3D heavy as something like Tekken or Soul Calibur, but you can move in and out of the plane you’re on to attack your foe, or side-step out of their attack. There is an odd either special move, or auto-defend mechanic that occasionally does this, as well as certain characters do it more. I never quite figured out what caused it or not, but that’ll be detailed a bit later. Normally, when you and the enemy are close to each other, it looks like a standard 2D fighting game. But at the start of a match, or when you are far away from one another, the camera has a shift to it that makes the game look impressive.
The elements from Persona 4: Arena is related to how the story mode is constructed. You have about 8 chapters to choose from, where each having their own independent storyline progress and character arc. You could be on episode 7 of one character’s storyline, and on episode 3 of someone else. The presentation is also somewhat the same with text screens getting the basic story points/motivations across. Thankfully, JoJo’s doesn’t go nearly as insane as Persona did with its heavy-handed story. The most you’ll usually see in an average storyline scene is 5 to 7 text messages. Persona had up to 30, which kind of crushed the forward momentum of that game.
Finally, the part taken from Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the basic fighting engine itself, at least in my view. JoJo’s is basically a three button (weak, medium, strong) fighting game, with a few extra buttons for the 3D dodge, a throw button, and a button to call out your “Style” ability. Like with MvsC3, you can use the same input combinations for your attacks, down forward and an attack button, but the time/power of the attack depends on which button you use. There isn’t any tag/launcher mechanic in this game though, as opposed to MvsC3, everything is just between the two characters on the screen.
I know that the above few paragraphs make it seem like JoJo’s copied a lot from the above games, and they did to some degree, but they also just made some good improvements. The biggest thing that I appreciate about this game is that the fighting engine itself is just very simple and basic to grasp. Even the Style system is pretty easy to figure out, once you get the hang of it. Compared to something like Persona 4 Arena or even MvsC3, this is a godsend. I don’t mind complex systems in games (MvsC3 was about right), but Persona 4 went overboard big time. Aside from not really knowing who the basic characters are on the roster, the fundamentals of JoJo’s are extremely easy to grasp and it’s a very new-player friendly game.
Except for one thing, and this is kind of my only bone to pick with the game, it really needs a tutorial system. It has a practice/training system sure, but there are a few gameplay systems in JoJo’s that just aren’t explained that well. Things like the auto-dodge mechanic (from above), how dramatic finishes work, or how move-cancelling can work, just aren’t explained in the game. It’s nothing game-breaking or hugely disadvantageous but it is noticeable on high-level play.
The Style system should be worth mentioning, it’s the unique hook of this game but can be a little odd at first. Each character has a “Style”, basically a psychic projection that they can cause to manifest. There are 5 types of Style in the game: Stand, Hamon, Vampire, Mode, and Mounted. One character, Ikuro Hashizawa has a unique Style called “Boah”, but it’s only related to him. Each Style does different things in battle that can help you out:
Stand – the basic Style is one that brings out a manifestation of a powerful fighter. They are used for when you want to do special attacks, but can be toggled on (or off, with some characters) for increased damage, at the risk of increased damage taken.
Mounted – this Style involves the character calling up a horse to use in battle. The horse changes how the characters moves and attacks (some are practically immobile without it), but offer a larger target for attack.
Hamon – The player can hold their Style button to recover the heat (power) gauge used for special effects. They don’t have a spate manifestation of their Style, like the Stand style has.
Vampirism – The attacks the player inflicts will translate into restored power and life. Like with Hamon though, no separate manifestation occurs (save for special/super attacks).
Mode -- Finally, Mode characters can increase their attack power but at the cost of their super meter. When the super meter runs out, they get weakened for a short time.
Each character has a different Style associated with them, which tells you on the character select screen On the whole, I found the Stand, Vampirism, and Hamon characters to be generally easier to figure out then Mode/Mounted characters. Mounted characters, in particular, are very tricky to figure out how to do well with.
Honestly, while the fighting system is easy to get into, some of the things surrounding it are a bit complicated. The story mode has a bunch of different status effects that go into each fight. Your enemy could regain health or super meter, your defenses could be cut, you may have to win in only 60 seconds, etc. The game does a good job of telling you what’s going on, but there aren’t a lot of “normal” fights in the game. This is a bit compounded by the secret goals and support items you acquire in the game. During the normal story mode you get gold for just winning/completing episodes. You can do certain hidden goals in fights though that net you more gold. Hitting the enemy with a specific attack, taunting them, not losing a round, etc, all can net you more gold. However, you don’t know what these objectives are. The game mentioned that you can spend gold to see them, but either it was lying to me, or else I haven’t found out how to do this.
With the gold you get, you can buy support items for use before battle. These items have effects like giving your character health regen, boosting attack/defense, causing the enemy to weaken, raising your super meter, etc. If you’re having a particular problem with a fight and they have a lot of additional status effects to make them more powerful, you can use support items to even the score.
The support items lead into what is arguably the weirdest mode in the game. JoJo’s has the required modes for a fighting game these days: story, arcade, versus, practice, etc. However it has a mode called “Campaign”. This isn’t a story mode of the overall series in the slightest. Campaign is an online affair where you fight Avatars (ghosts of other players) and bosses. Bosses are just normal characters, but you have to beat them multiple times to reduce their overall HP to 0. A boss might have an overall HP of 1500, for example. Normally, when you fight a boss, if you win, it’ll take down 250 HP of their life. So in the 1500 example, you’d have to fight that boss 6 times to vanquish them.
However, there is an energy system you have to contend with that can aid you. You have to do a search to find either an Avatar or Boss to fight. This costs one energy unit (a unit recharges every 2 minutes). You can use energy a different way though and that is to increase the damage to a bosses health after the fact. Normally, you only do 250 damage, but if you use another energy point, you can do 500 damage. If you use another energy point you can do 750, and so on. You only have 10 energy tanks overall though, and it becomes a balancing act if you want to use them all up front, or space them out. They do refill over time, but sometimes you’ll need more energy at one point, then another.
The nutty part comes before and after the match though. There are at least 15 or so random events that happen in this mode, and they are all given wacky names. One of them is “Germanic Pride” where a cyborg looking Guile clone will fire guns at the enemy character which will reduce their health in battle. Another is “Janken” where you play Rock, Paper, Scissors with the “Janken Boy”, where if you win, it will force a boss encounter where you pick the boss. You can spend additional energy to lock out one or two of his moves guaranteeing a victory. Other events can damage a boss’s global HP, give you more energy, let you clone support items, etc. It’s all randomized and ludicrous but adds a ton of fun into a ghost/arcade style mode. This mode also unlocks additional taunts, medals, colors, and costumes for the playable characters in the game.
An easy to understand battle system
The game looks great
Campaign mode adds a lot of depth
Only anime/manga fans will appreciate roster
Lack of tutorial about gameplay systems
Campaign mode can be hard to grasp at times
I’ll admit I was surprised by JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle. It is a bit incomprehensible at times, but the fighting engine is incredibly easy to grasp and a lot of fun to see everyone being crazy. A few systems are a challenge to figure out, but compared to most modern game, this game is a breeze and a joy to play. The Campaign mode is a great way to keep players invested, if they so choose. I enjoyed my time with this game which is shocking because I typically don’t like anime in the slightest.
Bright and colorful. It fits into the anime style well and has a lot of nice detail to it all
I was surprised by how much I liked this game. It's a fluid and fun battle system helped by a great online mode
The music is good enough, the voice work is all in Japanese which helps the authenticity of the game
The online mode will keep you coming back, if it hooks you in. Online multiplayer itself is good
This has been a revelation to me and how much fun I had. It's worth a look, if fighters are too complicated for you