For 50 years the manga magazine Shonen Jump has been influencing pop culture in its native Japan and beyond. The publication is known for printing some of the most popular franchises to date including Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece. These manga have gone on to be redone as animes and many of them have spawned video game series of their own. Now Shonen Jump is getting a game of its own to celebrate its prolific career thanks to Bandai Namco. Jump Force attempts to take half a decade’s worth of content and turn it into a 3D-brawler that fans of all ages can enjoy, and in many ways, it succeeds in doing just that. But the anniversary celebration does have some unfortunate flaws.
When Worlds Collide
Shonen Jump takes place on an Earth that has experienced some sort of tear in the space-time continuum. Characters and locations from popular Shonen Jump series like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Rurouni Kenshin, Hunter x Hunter, and more have started appearing around the world. Mysterious items known as Umbra Cubes have started turning people into mindless lackeys for the villainous group called Venom. Some cubes, however, can turn people into heroes with powers and abilities to rival those of the greatest manga superstar.
Players will take on the role of a person turned hero who was caught in the crossfire of a battle. The custom character players create at the beginning of the game will team up with Goku, Luffy, Naruto, and a brand-new character known as Director Glover to save other heroes that have been corrupted and take down some of the most nefarious villains ever known. In between matches players will spend most of their time at the Jump Force HQ, which is reminiscent of the hub world from Dragon Ball Xenoverse.
Three the hard way
Jump Force provides a cornucopia of missions for players to experience, some that move the plot along and others that help earn supplies, gold, or experience. Unfortunately, most of the story missions get repetitious quick and some have you fighting the same character several times. I have to give the game credit for having a ton of single player content. But, taking out the same generic enemy more than one fight in a row does not make for a compelling experience. At least the missions outside the main story have optional challenges like getting a 10-hit combo in a match or winning with over 60% of your health.
Just like the Jump Force hub world, much of the game’s combat seems to be based on the Dragon Ball Xenoverse fighting model. Players have a regular and strong attack that can be charged to execute a block breaker, there’s a dash/evade meter, and each character has a set of three abilities that eat up a power meter when executed. As players lose health they’ll also fill up an Awaken meter, which will allow them to pull off what’s essentially an ultimate move.
Characters fall into three different classes that are broken down into Alpha, Beta, and Gamma groups that each focuses on their own style of combat. Alpha team is run by Goku, Beta by Luffy and Gamma is Naruto’s team to give you an idea of their styles. Most playable characters have a variety of long and short range abilities, but some have abilities that give them stat buffers. The fighting mechanics are easy to pick up but there’s a decent amount of nuances to it, like figuring out how to work abilities into combos and learning when to counter or attack someone while they’re charging up a move.
There’s a massive line-up of playable characters to choose from when making a team of three and Jump Force finds creative ways to integrate some of its more unique characters. I never thought I’d enjoy playing Yugi from Yu-Gi-Oh in any game, but here we are.
While Jump Force’s main cast is rooted in Japanese comic book history, the visual styling isn’t the super-bright cel-shading that most anime games go with. Instead, the game goes for more realistic textures and settings. There’s a lot of detail in things like the fabric on character’s garments and more gritty shading and texture to their 3D models. Arenas can range from neon city streets to ocean shores each with their destructible aspects.
What’s confusing though is why they spent so much time making these models so detailed when they did such a bad job with the cutscenes that were rendered in the game engine. While the CGI scenes look clean, polished, and highly detailed, the in-game scene animations are stiff. In particular, Director Glover’s neck does some really weird stuff due to the way they anchored some of his animations.
A world divided
Overall I felt like Jump Force was in some ways its own fighting game with an A-list cast of enjoyable characters and in other ways, it felt like a watered-down version of Dragon Ball Xenoverse. If players are interested in the core fighting game, there’s some depth, but it only goes so deep. This is definitely a game made to be played by a varied age group and it shows.
What this game is really about is fan service and I must admit that it succeeds in offering folks up a hefty chunk in that department. Jump Force knows that it’s really for the Shonen Jump fans and if you are a fan there’s plenty to like here. One would probably be better off focusing on the core fighting game aspects though.
This review is based on a PS4 code provided by the game’s publisher. Jump Force will be available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC February 15.
- A versatile and large roster
- Realistic look with manga flair
- Easy to pick up the combat system
- A lot of missions
- In-game cutscenes not up to par
- Story missions get repetitious
- Mostly just for Shonen Jump fans
Blake Morse posted a new article, Jump Force review: Fan service fantasy
@Blake I've had a great read of your Jump Force review. I couldn't agree more with what you've said. It has a simple fighting style and a decent story. Its saving grace is that it's a fan service game. It appeals to those who enjoy playing with different anime characters. Anyway, if Jump Force failed to make it to anyone's to-play list, you could always find an alternative at OGreatGames.com. Cheers!
Glad you enjoyed the review! Thanks for the comment!