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JoJo's Bizarre Adventure - All Star Battle - Review
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle is a fighting game. You punch people, they have a health bar, it drains. It's also one of the weirdest manga adaptations in quite some time.
Based on Hirohiko Araki's long-running manga series the game takes a bunch of the comic's characters and dumps them into a general Street Fighter IV-style combat system. As with every fighter there's the typical arcade mode and online versus play, but, given the material, developers CyberConnect2 have also included a story mode, allowing players to play through several "arcs" of the manga's storyline.
I'd be lying if I understood anything that was going on though. The translations are iffy at best, and given that there's very little animation, (there's just some general text-based narration before each fight), it's hard to understand what the hell is happening. Characters appear and disappear at the drop of a hat, and each arc introduces some other weird super-duper ultra-powered McGuffin that must be obtained in order to save the world. Granted, that's kind of to be expected, it's the kind of storyline that's almost set in stone by Shonen manga. If you have no prior experience with JoJo however, then there's little hope of you understanding the story.
Still, all this is filler to what a fighting game is really about: the combat system. Jojo's takes most of its influence from Street Fighter with each character being more suited to a particular strategy; some being more long-ranged oriented, others more content to be scrapping right up in their opponents face. Special moves use the same button prompts as Capcom's esteemed figher, with Hadokens and Shoryukens being the typical ways that your fighter pulls off their selection of special techniques.
This isn't quite a 2D fighter however. By hitting X, characters can side-step around their opponent, potentially dodging moves or attacking from a different angle. It makes for a gentler introduction to a fighting game, that's for sure. CyberConnect2 seem aware that players are likely to play because their a fan of the series, and not necessarily fighting-game aficionados.
Likewise, super attacks can be carried out with a tap of a shoulder button, unleashing a ridiculous, over-the-top assault on your opponent. Granted, these take special meter to use, which also comes into play when using other techniques, or wanting to cancel certain attacks into another. It makes for a game that on the one hand emulates a lot of classic Street Fighter yet at the same time appeals to the more fan-pleasing, instant-gratification that you get from the likes of the Dragonball Z games or other casual fighters.
It's an interesting mix, and combat is suitably flash and fun, but with enough strategy underpinning the whole thing. The story mode mixes up the characters for pretty much every fight, whilst also introducing special conditions or handicaps, such as starting a battle at half health for example. Oddly enough though, there's also the option to purchase upgrades pre-fight, some of which negate the handicap(s) and others which make battles ridiculously easy -recharging health, anyone?
Outside of story mode the game's source material unfortunately damages it's competitive streak. Some characters are simply too overpowered, with the game's multiple protagonists usually being overwhelmingly stronger than most of the supporting cast. There's also the problem that too many of the game's characters function very similar to one another. What works for one character is likely to work for at least five others.
Alongside online multiplayer there's also Campaign mode, a weird addition that lets you fight against other player's fighters that are controlled by the A.I. Winning fights unlocks various medals, awards and alternate costume colour schemes. It wouldn't be all that bad had CyberConnect2 not decided to include a micro-transaction system that means you have to wait every five minutes (it was originally twenty), to set up another fight or cough up additional money. Added to the fact that several characters have to be purchased in order to use them and the whole thing leaves something of a sour taste in your mouth.
Ultimately, All Star Battle sits in an uncomfortable state of limbo. On the one hand it's much deeper than your typical anime brawler, requiring at least a general understanding of fighting game basics in order to succeed. At the same time however, it's simply not as well balanced as Street Fighter IV, Killer Instinct or many other competitive fighters. If it's story mode had been given a bit more love, perhaps this would have been a could have been a good way of getting into the manga, but as it stands this is a game best left to fans of the series.
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle was released on April 25th exclusively for the PS3.
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