Also On: XBLA
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD is a 2D fighting game originally introduced to arcades in 1998, based around the manga by series creator Hirohiki Araki. The manga has been around for a long, long time, running in some form or another since 1987 with arcs that span generations of time throughout its interwoven, and often strange, storyline.
The arcade version of JoJo was ported to both the original Playstation, and the Sega Dreamcast, which is where I grew familiar with the game at some point in the early 2000’s. At that time I was more than willing to absorb just about every fighting game I could get my grubby little paws on and JoJo was a particular breath of fresh air for me.
The game’s mechanics aren’t too far removed from other Capcom fighters like Darkstalkers and Street Fighter 3 or Alpha. You’ve got a hefty roster of fighters to choose from, each with standout designs and unique move sets that play off of the manga characters nicely. The game focuses on the third arc of the manga, featuring that arc’s protagonist of Jotaro Kujo.
The big mechanic that helps JoJo stand out from the rest of the pack of late 90’s / early 2000 fighting games was its use of the Stand system. In the comic and the video game, a Stand is a spectral being that’ll jump into the fray and fight, and essentially acts as a second man on the screen for you to try and pummel your opponent with. The Stand will act in tandem with your attacks, which are centered on three basic attacks consisting of Light, Medium and Heavy strikes. You can summon your Stand at will, and the Stand has its own life meter of sorts, so that if it takes enough damage it’ll break, leaving you open to attack.
Not all characters have Stands to use, and as such compensate by more inventive attacks and specials that help to give them a fighting chance. However, being a slightly older fighting game, it’s a little less focused on making a competitive scene for itself, with some seriously unbalanced characters featured throughout.
And as far as looks go, while I absolutely love the character design, its animations are a little sluggish compared to the more top-notch Capcom franchises of the time. Sprite work looks pretty great, even while playing in the original visual filter found in this HD version, but something about the animation quality feels a little off or stilted to me. I also find the game to feel a lot more sluggish then I remember, which I’m sure is more due to me not having touched the game in nearly a decade, as opposed to any actual issue with this port.
Another complaint I’d level at JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD, is that it’s pretty barebones for a $20 asking price. I get that this is a fairly obscure fighter that probably isn’t going to light up the sales charts, so the higher asking price might be a way to compensate for low sales volume. But for that price I certainly would expect a handful of features, or at least some type of historical bonus that’ll give me glimpses at more information about the game’s original creation, history, or concepts. There’s just nothing here other than the story mode, online play, challenge, and training modes, and it does little to capture your attention.
Story mode is somewhat robust, considering there’s individual tales to explore with each character, but other modes like Challenge and Training are ripped straight out of the 90’s, and haven’t been brought up to speed on modern mechanics in the least bit. Move lists are buried behind menus, and there’s little in the way of helpful info for new players that haven’t experienced the Stand system prior to this release. There’s a small in-game manual that you can check out, but again, it does little to accommodate unfamiliar players.
And the online mode feels a little hit or miss too. There are some filtering options to help you find players in your region, with decent connections, and with a skill level close to your own. But the connection strength seems to be all over the place, and often results in matches literally filled with awful amounts of lag, making online play nigh unplayable. If you end up having to connect with a player halfway across the globe, which seem to be the only players actually online when I try to play, then it’s almost guaranteed to be a mess lag-wise.
Overall, for the asking price, I’d hesitate to say this is worth picking up unless you already know what you’re getting into, and have a fondness for the original release. As a new experience, I don’t think there’s a whole lot here to appreciate without some type of nostalgia for the original release. With a bit more content, and a better online experience, maybe you would have had something here, but JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD feels a bit like a lazy port outside of the decent HD re-skin.