I first saw JoJo’s Bizzarre Adventure: All Star Battle Royale on a stream at PAX 2014, and I instantly fell in love with it. The bold art and loud actors peaked my interest in this new version of Jojo. For those of you who don’t know, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is a Japanese Manga that has gone on for around 30 years now. There has been past versions of the game but this new one sets to make the bar higher than ever before. Let’s take a look and see if that is true.
If you are a fan or current reader of Jojo and you don’t want spoilage, do not play Story Mode. As I said before, Jojo has been going on for over 30 years with about seven arcs. Each “episode” of Story Mode consists of a named Manga Arc being slightly explained via text bubbles, then a battle. This came as a shock to me, I was hoping for a little more explanation of the world, and with all the apparent story that the developers decided to skip, I think they would’ve made a great lengthy tale. However if you want to unlock characters past the initial twelve, you have to play Story Mode so all I can say is don’t pay attention to the text if you want to read into Jojo. Random new characters are often brought in and killed off within a text of sentence, and you are never given a chance to even learn about them. I guess it’s Namco’s way of trying to get you to buy Jojo in manga form if you want to learn more about them, but contrasting to that notion if you already know what happens why bother?
Campaign mode gives players a set amount of energy (which refills every two minutes by one bar) to play against computer opponents based on a random player’s Avatar Card (which is your record card). Beating players gives you gold which you can use to unlock additional in-game items such as taunts, colors, victories, and etc. I’m not sure if computers you fight are supposed to be stronger based on the record of the player, but for the most part every single one is easily beatable. Also in this mode random “bosses” appear, which when defeated give you rare item only available through Campaign mode. Like I said it’s a nice bonus, but nothing to write home about.
The controls are rather easy to pick up. Combos are a breeze as there are one-button auto combos. In addition you can taunt a player which can be used after a knockdown to drain an opponent’s super meter. There are four different styles of characters that slightly variety each style of play. Fans of the show will recognize Hamon which is a fighter that can additionally charge his meter while striking a pose. The stand style projects a monster (called stands) that does most of your fighting for you, yet meter is gained only by damage and blocking. The mode style is a fighter that – changes their damage via a stance-like aura. The final style is mounted in which the fighter gets a giant horse helper to fight the opponent with. Mounted characters can be knocked off their steed though this is only temporarily until their horse is called back and their play style changes. Some players may grow tired from similar “flurry of punches/kicks” a lot of stand users have, but the game does a decent job separating each character with the super art cut scenes.
There are plenty of characters to choose from (32), but other than that if you don’t both to go past the auto-combo, you’re going to see the same combo order every single time. Though the auto combo is the best way for easy damage, the same combo might bore players after a while. As I go into below, lack of trial modes don’t allow you an easy guide to play around with mixing up combos. And I honestly cannot find the proper way to flash cancel (a meter using extender), it just sort of happens. The game-play relies on cut scenes, taunts, and environmental stage hazards to keep you on your toes. The speed of the game could be a little faster, or at least give the players an option of variant game speeds. However there are things called “dramatic finishes” where finishing an opponent with a super next to a ledge/hazard that will end the match with a special in-game cinematic.
The sound is a good part of Jojo . Why I’m not sure if any of the tracks come from the anime, all the tracks definitely feel like you’re at a party or at least in a place where everyone poses 24/7. Language is only available in Japanese, but most of the time in fighters I’m used to poor English quality so I can’t complain. The announcer is hype, and through all the exaggerated attacks (which everyone calls out usually) it just really gets everyone in the room smiling. I did have a problem with a guide character talking over EVERY option on the main menu and battle, but luckily you can turn it off. There’s too much happening anyway. You will be hearing A LOT of ORAORAORAORAORA. I guess that’s Jojo’s catch phrase.
The online as a whole is alright. In the couple fights I had, the game itself seemed to slow down during special moves, it didn’t feel like lag. I’m not sure if this is just from the small amount of players I fought, or the game itself. Also I didn’t notice any crazy combos during my matches, mostly people rotating between mashing and auto combo-ing with square. Again I’m not too hot on the 1 hit combo moves, but remembering this game seems like a casual fighter I’m not going to complain. I think to fix the waiting problem the game just needs to sell more copies.
The biggest problem I have with Jojo’s Bizzarre Adventure All Star Battle Royale is the absolute unbalance of characters. Some characters, like William Zeppeli for example, have moves/projectiles that such long startups and recovery frames that a person could literally punish it from a 1/2-3/4 screen away. It boggles the mind how the developers could have released a game with such a broken cast. I know that usually in any fighter, certain characters will be higher tier then the rest, but in Jojo it goes from A tier to all the way past D and down to somewhere near the other side of the alphabet. One character Father Pucci, can do an ultimate that slows down the opponent, and speeds up the timer as a way to win via time out. Stuff like this just straight bad game design, winning via time out should be the last thing people try to do. If Namco went back in the lab and tweaked certain moves, they could certain even out the strength of the cast. I am also disappointed that there is no trial mode or dojo to master a character, it seems to be the standard nowadays.