JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle Review

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle brings the popular Japanese manga series to a new generation, thanks to the efforts of anime/manga video game conversion specialists CyberConnect2. Responsible for the .hack and successful Naruto titles, All-Star Battle has the same gorgeous visuals you’d expect from CyberConnect2 but is lacking is other areas.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle Review

Developer: CyberConnect2
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Platform: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed)
Players: Single-Player, Multi-Player
Genre: Beat-em Up
Release: (JP) August 29th 2013, (NA) April 29th 2014, (EU) April 25th 2014, (AUS) April 25th 2014

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle is based on the manga series created by Hirohiko Araki back in 1986. The series has gone on to sell over 80 million copies in Japan alone, becoming one of the best-selling manga titles ever produced. For those not familiar with the series, the manga centers on the Joestar family and its line of descendants. Their adventures are retold in All-Star Battle via an 8-part Story Mode, although not very well.

Story Mode is divided up into Parts where you play through a series of repetitive battle. The environments rarely deviate from the one locale and the opponents are only a handful of different characters at best for each Part. Adding a degree of challenge are requirements to overcome, such as lower starting health, regeneration health for your opponent, or the in-ability to charge your special move gauge.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle Review

In between each battle, the story is essentially told in dot-points with no cut scenes or in-depth explanation. It’s all very confusing for anyone who hasn’t read or watched the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime. There is a glossary section included which covers characters, terms and various bit of info about the game however it isn’t the easiest menu to locate. The exclusion of cut scenes really hurts the story and character development where I was left wondering whether or not CyberConnect2 ran out of time given how many cut scenes feature in their Naruto titles.

Environmental hazards such as falling chandeliers or rampaging drawn carriages add to the mayhem, as does the flamboyant characters and move sets from the game. Story Mode is not very long, clocking in at approximately 6-hours of gameplay at best, but worth trying simply for unlocking new items, characters and a slew of trophies.

If you take away the under-cooked Story Mode, All-Star Battle stands alone as a fairly solid beat-em up experience. There’s the usual Arcade and Versus Mode, but there’s also an odd Campaign Mode as well. Campaign Mode isn’t exactly campaign in the normal sense, but plays more like a free-to-play experience. You’ll be able to face off against bosses and opponents to unlock new extras such as costumes, taunts, tag lines and more, but these actions deplete energy and once you’re out, you’ll have to wait for it to replenish before you can keep playing.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle Review

There’s even micro-transaction with real currency in the game to reduce the cool-down period, which seems strangely odd for a retail title that you’ve already paid for. It’s an unwelcome inclusion and you’ll need to download a patch for it before you can play Campaign Mode, but its best avoided if you’re not looking to complete everything in All-Star Battle.

An online game mode is available where players can compete in ranked and unranked matches. Although promising, the connectivity issues with lag and games dropping out ends up ruining the experience. Given All-Star Battle is still relatively new, the community is small right now so the pairing of available players is limited. Hopefully this can be alleviated as more players flock to the online competitive mode.

Although the sprites are drawn in stunning cel-shaded graphics, the gameplay exists on a 2D plane, with the ability to side-step at a tap of a button, effectively rotating the axis. It borrows from the Street Fighter EX series in that regard as the backdrops are three dimensional and animated while the action still plays out in 2-dimensions. Combat comes in the form of special moves, grappling throws and combo-damage, although descends quickly to a button-mashing fest due to its overly simplistic mechanic and overly useful combo system.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle Review

To trigger a combo, all you’ll need to do is get in close proximity and spam the light attack. Provided you can land the first hit, a chain will be initiated if uninterrupted. If your power gauge is full at the end of the combo, your character will automatically activate their ‘super’ move which is quite the joy to watch. The ease of play is great for fighting game beginners; however it does leave hard core fans completely high and dry. It isn’t the refined, balanced masterpiece of a Street Fighter title but it is loads of fun to play given the roster includes over 30 fighters to choose for. Each character has their own array of moves and employs different fighting styles to keep the action upbeat and visually stylish to watch.

By far the stand-out in All-Star Battle is the quality of the visuals. Carefully crafted and detailed cel-shaded graphics capture the personalities of each of the characters from the anime, while adding a refreshing updated appearance to keep them looking current. Colours explode onscreen with each devastating special move keeping the action lively. There are nice homages to the manga series at times as the camera pans out to reveal comic book panes and expressive facial emotions the series has become well known for. Those concerned about English dialogue need not worry as the Japanese voice work has been retained in favour of English subtitles.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle Review

The backgrounds benefit from the cel-shaded art style, however there just isn’t enough arenas with only 12 different settings to fight in. The locations are interesting and different enough, with plenty going on in the backdrop. Arenas can feel a little gimmicky with their special Dramatic Finishes and pre-set hazard, yet offer a lively feel to the microcosm of activity happening behind.

CyberConnect2 have done an admirable job with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle in its quality visuals and overall presentation. Combat is a joy and faithful to the source material, as are the interpretation of the much-loved characters. It’s a shame the story hasn’t been thoughtfully fleshed out like a Naruto title which leave an underdone and incomplete after taste. All-Star Battle is a good experience, just not as great as it could have been with a little more development.

7.0 – Good. Entertaining but is held back by a couple of flaws. It will certainly capture its intended audience but it won’t appeal to everyone.