Also On: PS4, PS3
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
I'm playing J-Stars Victory Vs+ as Luffy, the rubber-armed, straw-hat-wearing pirate from One Piece. I'm up against Ace, a cowboy-looking guy who also happens to be one of the One Piece pirates. We both want to become King of the Pirates, because…I don't know, what else do pirates do? Chasing after him, I punch him a couple of times, and we fight back and forth until we find ourselves in front of a building. I charge up a particularly strong punch, and let it fly, and knock him through the building.
And that's the exact moment I realized I loved J-Stars Victory Vs+.
I should note, of course, that this particular scene takes place in the very first match, just moments after the initial tutorial has concluded. This means, in turn, that I probably approached the rest of the game with a less-than-jaundiced eye. No matter what other flaws the game may have had, it always came back to that fundamental, underlying reality truth: the environments are destructible, and you can kick or punch people through buildings.
Not that J-Stars Victory Vs+ has many flaws, of course. The story, I'll admit, isn't exactly the deepest, but at the same time, it doesn't really need to be: it's a bunch of people fighting to find out who the best fighter is. I'm not exactly a fighting game connoisseur, but I don't get the sense that games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter are retelling War and Peace or anything.
Better still, even though the game brings together characters from all kinds of different anime series, you don't need to know their backgrounds in order for J-Stars Victory Vs+ to be fun. I'm sure that it probably helps, but I went in with what little knowledge of One Piece I gleaned from One Piece: Pirate Warriors, plus a couple of vague memories of last year's Dragon Ball Z game on the Vita, and I had no problem getting into it. Admittedly, some of the interactions and dialogue seemed completely and utterly nonsensical as a result, but that only added to the game's oddball charm, as far as I'm concerned.
Ultimately, though, the big thing working in the game's favour is that it's ridiculously fun. As I said, you run around punching people through buildings. Different characters have different moves, but the game doesn't require you to learn any big, complex combos: you just jump in and start whaling on your opponents until they get KOed. To top it all off, the game runs pretty well on the Vita — even with all the movement and destruction going on, it never feels like the handheld is struggling under the weight of it all.
Even if it did, though — or even if the story was long and convoluted, or even if the game expected players to have a detailed knowledge of its characters' various universes — I'm not sure how much it would matter to me. When a game delivers rampant destruction in such an easy way, that will always count for a lot in my eyes. That J-Stars Victory Vs+ delivers its rampant destruction in a way that goes down so smoothly, even for newcomers to the genre/universe…well, that's more than enough to make it worth picking up, as far as I'm concerned.