What They Say:
For the first time ever, the most famous Manga heroes are thrown into a whole new battleground: our world. Uniting to fight the most dangerous threat, the Jump Force will bear the fate of the entire humankind.
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the famous Weekly Jump Magazine, Jump Force is also making the most of latest technologies to bring characters to life in a never-seen-before realistic design.
- A unique setting, merging the Jump World and the Real World.
- The Jump Force, an alliance of the most powerful Manga heroes from Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto and much more
- Realistic graphics bring Manga characters to life like never before
- XBOX ONE X Enhanced / PS4 Pro Support
As a 50th anniversary project for Shonen Jump, Jump Force had a good amount of hype surrounding it, and for good reason. The basic concept-characters from various Shonen Jump series appear in the real world and start fighting is straight up cool, and Spike Chunsoft has a solid record of with these kinds of fighting games. The end result, however, is a decidedly lopsided product. Some aspects are exactly what we expected, while others felt decidedly underwhelming, particularly the story mode. Let’s start with the positives.
Where Jump Force really shines is in the gameplay itself, particularly the online battles. The combat style isn’t anything unusual for an arena brawler there’s standard light and heavy attacks along with special abilities and ultimates-but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Beyond the simple cool factor of matchups like Luffy vs. Hisoka, the battles themselves are a lot of fun. The basic controls are relatively easy to pick up, and each character has moves that can combo together in a variety of ways, which rewards experimenting with different combos and supports to extend those combos. Every character has a unique enough playstyle that players will have no trouble finding at least one who they enjoy playing.
It’s hard to fully appreciate some of the more technical combos when playing against the AI since it’s relatively predictable and generally not much of a challenge to fight, which is what makes online battles against other players so rewarding. The ranking system, combined with the ability to view the leaderboard, makes it really satisfying to improve and rank up as you play more. Of course, there’s always the risk of running into players who rely on spamming special moves, but the ability to close distance quickly and easily break guards means those strategies aren’t as effective as they might be in other games.
The size of the roster is also worth noting for how many different franchises it features. There are a few noteworthy absences (like Gintama and Toriko), but for the most part, you’ll likely be able to find your favorite series in there somewhere. It obviously includes the major franchises like One Piece and Dragon Ball but also includes characters from older franchises that aren’t as well known in the US, like City Hunter and Saint Seiya.
With so many characters present, there’s obviously going to be some balancing issues. Anime-inspired brawlers like this have a tendency to be completely unbalanced, and Jump Force is no exception here. Skill is still the main factor in who wins a match, but it’s also obvious that some characters are just downright better than others. Characters like Aizen and Goku can sometimes feel like playing the game on easy mode, while characters like Gon and Deku are so limited or gimmicky that you’re at a noticeable disadvantage unless you’ve completely mastered them. Custom characters, which are able to use abilities from any number of other characters, can also be frustrating to fight against with how unpredictable they are and how obnoxious some ability combinations can become.
On the other hand, fans of character creation will have plenty to enjoy in Jump Force. The game gives you a lot of freedom with how to design your character, allowing you to take aspects from a variety of different Jump characters, even ones that aren’t in the game. Want to make a Soul Reaper with DIO’s hair? You can do that. Want to make your ideal Pirate King? You can do that. Some of the outfits require completing missions or earning in-game currency for the shop to unlock, but you can modify your character at any point outside of a match, so that’s no issue. Where custom characters are an issue, however, is in the story.
Anime-inspired fighting games aren’t known for having great original stories, but Jump Force falls short even by the standards of its genre. The basic premise is that characters from alternate realities (known as Jump worlds) are appearing in the real world, so the heroes team up to fight the villains. It’s nothing too unusual for these kinds of crossovers, but nothing particularly entertaining either. Rather than focusing on Jump characters like Luffy or Goku, the entire story is from the point of view of your custom character, who is completely silent during the entire story. Half the appeal of these kinds of stories is seeing characters from different series interact and bounce off each other, and it’s just not fun watching random Shonen Jump characters reciting generic dialogue at a random custom character who just stares blankly. There’s still the occasional fun interaction between characters, but those are far outnumbered by forgettable conversations with your custom character.
The story itself is also pretty bland even by fighting game standards. Most of it consists of missions where some character has been mind controlled by the villains, you go rescue them, and then they join up. The battles themselves also aren’t anything special; there aren’t any special conditions or cutscenes mixed in like with the Ultimate Ninja series, so they just feel like any other battle you could set up. The missions that actually have you fighting the villains are a little better, but even those fall into the same repetitive formula of encountering the villain and fighting until the villain decides it’s time to leave. This is supposed to be a battle with famous Jump villains for the sake of the world, but Jump Force’s story just lacks the weight you’d expect from that. It honestly becomes a chore after a while, just a distraction from the far better online battles.
Unlike most games, Jump Force doesn’t feature any kind of main menu. Instead, you select gameplay modes and such by going to different counters in the hub area, which is a nice idea in theory but falls flat in execution. The area seems large and bustling at first, but then you realize there’s not actually much to do there. Most of the NPCs serve no purpose beyond reciting canned dialogue, and even the Jump characters don’t have much to say unless you have to talk to them for a story mission. It would honestly work better with just a main menu for different modes, since at least then you wouldn’t have to run back and forth so much just to switch from doing online matches to continuing the story.
The hub area is also where you can upgrade your custom character with various new abilities and buffs, which ends up being another good idea that doesn’t go anywhere. There’s a lot of stats in the game that influence resistances for different damage types, but it doesn’t have much of an impact on gameplay. Most of the stats are only given an icon to indicate what they are, and it’s difficult to tell what they actually do. Sure, some characters might take a little more damage from something like fire, but it’s not so much that it’s a noticeable advantage. Similarly, most of the buffs you can put on your character, aside from things like making a move debuff your enemy in some way, aren’t all that important for the battles themselves.
Where Jump Force stumbles the most is in its visuals. Battles and attack animations all look solid, partially because they’re so fast-paced, but virtually everything else looks awful. Character models look plastic-y and unexpressive, character acting is nonexistent, and textures mostly look flat. There are even plenty of moments that are downright meme-worthy and look like they were animated in MSPaint. Some scenes outright look like the characters are floating across the screen rather than walking. It also doesn’t help that Jump Force’s semi-realistic style doesn’t mesh very well with a lot of the more cartoonish character designs. Characters like Goku and Kenshiro look okay, but Luffy and Deku fall squarely into the uncanny valley with their large eyes and flat expressions. Why the developers went with this style over the cell-shading used in Ultimate Ninja and Burning Blood, I don’t know, but it wasn’t a good decision here.
I’ve been pretty negative about parts of it, but I have genuinely enjoyed playing Jump Force. It’s a decidedly lopsided game, with an underdeveloped story mode paired with a great online mode, but that just means it’s perfect for people who only want to do the online or versus matches. If you’re eager for a new fighting game and you love Shonen Jump, then you won’t go wrong with Jump Force. Just don’t go in expecting a riveting story, and you’re golden.
Released By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Release Date: February 15, 2019
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Steam, Xbox One