If there’s one thing people know about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, if indeed they know about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure at all, is that it’s stylish. Flamboyant hand gestures, leather getups that make The Matrix blush and a colour palette of thousands, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is an anime world created with shovels full of camp, sparkle and extravagance to such a point that it frequently borders on becoming a parody of itself. In fact, people commonly refer to the characters elastic movements as “trademark JoJo’s poses”, so there’s an accepted level of silliness wrapped around all the death and pain portrayed in the series’ time jumping narrative.
Not that there’s much of that narrative in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle. All Star Battle does cover all eight parts of the manga, but it does so in an incredibly lazy fashion. Small text snippets intersperse fights, and the bouts are preceded only by slightly specific fighter intros.
That’s about it, aside from the fact that said scraps feature a few barely noticeable conditions that mirror the source material, and that these story missions do also ask you to find hidden “conditions” (acts that mirror the actual fights of the manga) to unlock more art. So admittedly there’s stuff here for JoJo’s fans to enjoy, but All Star Battle’s story mode does not work as a stand-in for the original manga at all. The game does, however, work as a “stand” for the manga, which is a horrifically specific joke that only people that know JoJo’s would actually understand.
A “Stand” is a presence that protects many of the characters in the JoJo universe. Check out the screenshots and occasionally you’ll see a proud-looking thing hovering near a character, possibly impersonating E.Honda’s hundred hand slaps – that’s a Stand. A Stand character is one of the types of fighter you can choose in JoJo’s – a character with a summon-able assistant that can augment their attacks. See? The game is like a Stand to the manga because it’s a part of the whole and makes it better? Y’dig? (Tenuous, but we’re with you – Ed)
Ok so it’s not a very good joke but the point I’m trying to make is that while JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle isn’t a good way to digest the JoJo narrative, it is a wonderful love letter to the manga as a whole, and works well alongside it. It’s also just a dang entertaining fighting game, period.
Firstly, Cyber Connect 2’s art is gorgeous. Coming from the chaps behind the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm titles and Azura’s Wrath you’d expect All Star Battle’s visuals to be top notch but that’s an understatement: All Star Battle looks truly outstanding. I struggle to think of a released title (covering my credibility for when Guilty Gear Xrd launches, naturally) with better manga CG, it’s just that sumptuous to ogle.
Secondly, there’s a nice amount of nuance to All Star Battle. This took me by surprise because I’d initially heard that it was a bit of a joke fighter, built for pure entertainment over a fair fight. While it is a bit silly, it’s far from un-competitive. The game is built around three attack buttons, a dodge, and a special command. The three attacks fit the usual light, medium, heavy system, and the special attack relates to your character’s “style”; Hamon, Vampirism, Stand and Mode being the main four.
The Hamon style, for instance, means that a fighter is a single character that can charge their super meter with the special button, and is able to spend their meter on more powerful special moves, akin to a more traditional fighting game character. A Stand fighter, meanwhile, has access to a “guardian” of sorts, and can change between two “forms” of attack (one where the Stand is always visible, one where they appear only for special attacks). While the concept sounds similar to Persona 4 Arena the use of Stands in JoJo isn’t as complex as in Arc’s take on the concept – a Stand cannot be damaged and is purely an offensive tool.
Thirdly, characters are just varied enough. Some have tools to control space, others use bendy bullets to zone, and one can summon tentacles from the very earth. Oh, and one fights from a horse. There are 32 characters in all, which you’ll have to play Story mode to unlock, with a further 9 available as DLC, adding up to a grand total of 41.
And finally, it’s just plain stylish. It’s not just in the animations either, which do capture JoJo’s flexible eccentricity perfectly as fighters weave around each other and land their wonderfully over-animated attacks. The fighting itself, once you develop beyond simply mashing out the simple combo (hitting light attack constantly lands an automatic light to medium to heavy to special chain), manages to embrace a stupidity that’s very evocative of the manga, helped in no small part by frequent camera cuts and a system that even rewards appropriate taunts. Stages chime in with hazards such as rampaging chariots or falling chandeliers, too, while characters trap each other in bubbles and maintain a combo as they mount a horse. Its style is visually intoxicating, and it’s worth saying again that this is one of the best looking 3D fighters I’ve ever seen.
Is it style over substance, though? When it comes to modes, certainly. There’s no true tutorial, meaning you’ll have to look elsewhere for a lot of tips and tricks, and once the basic story is done you’ve only really got a basic arcade mode and a restrictive campaign mode (which pits you against other player’s customised fighters and harder bosses) to fall back on in terms of solo content. You can take JoJo’s online and play local versus, of course, and if you have the chums to play against, or the desire to take on the world, then All Star Battle is a compelling and enthusiastic enough fighter to provide an alternative to the big hitters, but it might not last if you’re a solo player.
An alternative to the big hitters, is a sentence worth reiterating. If we’re being truly critical then “style over substance” can be applied to the game at large. I’m not retracting my prior statements – All Star Battle is a genuinely entertaining brawler with staggering production values – but none of its combatants or mechanics feel quite as fleshed out those in the genre’s best titles. That said, fighting games evolve, and I’d love it for the community to prove me wrong.
VERDICT: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is a visually ballistic and staggeringly polished fighter that offers great lip service for fans of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure while also delivering a game with enough flair to appeal to both determined and casual fans of the fighting genre. And if there’s one thing people will remember about All Star Battle, it’s that it’s stylish. Mission accomplished, Cyber Connect 2.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.