Publisher: Bandai Namco
Many years ago, Capcom once created an Arcade fighting game that wasn't Street Fighter and didn't have “Vs” in the title, it was a little known fighter called JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Based on the Japanese Manga of the same name, the game featured strange characters who fought each other with even stranger special moves. It was considered a favorite among hardcore fighting game fans and even got the HD upgrade treatment on Xbox Live and PSN. Now, it's Bandai Namco's turn to see if they can make a solid fighter out of the bizarre world of JoJo as Capcom once did.
With source material as weird and out of this world like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, any developer that tries to make a game out of it has their work cut out for them and Bandai Namco has succeeded where many have failed. Like the previous game in the series, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is still largely a 2D fighter, but presented in a 3D world similar to Street Fighter 4. The fights are one on one with outrageous moves and combos that most fighting fans will feel right at home with. It's like Bandai Namco took what worked from the original Capcom effort and just turned it up to eleven.
From the start of the first battle, you will have a blast, pulling off specials and super moves with screen filling effects. Most of the fighters in the world of JoJo are accompanied by sprit creatures called “Stands” that the fighter uses to create special moves. Some fighters don't use stands, but it really doesn't cause issues with balance, as every fighter is packed with a sizable arsenal of moves. Everything is presented in Comic Book/Manga style as everything has a slick cel shaded look and even animated comic panels for entrances and some special moves. From the very beginning you are hit over the head with All Star Battles' craziness, even with the selection menus. When you make some selections, instead of a simple YES or NO selection, you can either select from “YES! YES! YES!” or “LIKE HELL I WILL”. It's small touches like this that will appeal to the fans of the Manga and Anime since it fits with the overall source material. When you actually begin playing, you have several modes to try out. Arcade Mode is a simple 7 fight battle to reach your selected characters ending, and it's a good place to begin to get used to the characters and moves. Story Mode is where you can fight battles taken straight from the comics and follow the legacy of certain characters.
As you fight your way through the story, you unlock new characters and can earn gold that can be used to purchase special items that can be used in the next mode we'll discuss, the Campaign Mode. Here you venture online and fight opponents to unlock customization items that you can apply to your own custom fighter for use in this mode. You begin with a limited amount of energy that recharges overtime. Everything you do in this mode requires energy, so once you run out, you can't fight again until it refills. The gold you acquired in other modes can be used to buy upgrades like increased attack power or more armor so you can survive the more difficult battles. It's sort of a neat little extra mode, but I really didn't find myself spending a lot of time here since the whole set up is a little confusing and seems like it offers little payoff. Since you can't use a custom character in any other mode, it seems like a time waster.
The visuals in All Star Battle look like they've been ripped right from the Manga, with outrageous panel transitions and a patterned look to the fluid animation. It's a joy to pull off a screen filling super move on an opponent as it's presented so beautifully that you can't help but be amazed. Some of the specials do get stale after seeing them a few times, but you won't get bored of them too quickly with the nice amount of characters available. Control is tight and precise with your standard fighting game movements that most players of fighters will feel comfortable with. New players can grasp the controls quickly and can pull off specials with little training. Sound wise, you have standard “fighting game” hardcore metal tracks that can either annoy you or get you pumped. Everything is spoken in Japanese (since this is largely a Japanese license) but subtitled in English for those who can't make out what the characters are saying (like me). Some of the sound effects and screams you hear during the fights can get a little grating on your nerves, but you'll be paying little attention to this with all the outrageous action on the screen.
With its over the top characters, fantastic visuals and fun special moves, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is a great experience for fighting game fans. If you were (or are) a fan of the Capcom version, you will find tons to love about this game right from the start. New players may be turned off by the downright weirdness of most of the characters, but after few plays, even the most jaded player can have fun. Some of the modes may seem like tacked on fluff, and some of the menus may seem a bit confusing, but there is very little to not like here. Bandai Namco has done an amazing job and deserves praise for bringing this extremely heavy Japanese title to the USA. As a fan of the original and fighting games in general, I highly recommend this one.