I’m going to go ahead and just get this out of the way; I have not read the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga or seen the anime or even played the original game. I went into this game, which is clearly designed for fans of the series, completely blind. Normally, that turns out terribly with the uninitiated left in the dark and the majority of story points, in jokes or even the relevance of most, if not all, of the events. Somehow, though, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure makes this work for them and I think it may be because this is one of the craziest, off the wall, batshit crazy games I’ve ever played and not knowing what the hell was going on simply added to the mayhem. Just to be clear, this is a good thing!
As you might expect from a 2D fighting game, JoJo’s has a variety of modes for you to experience all the multicoloured, flamboyant insanity that the game has to offer. You’ve got your classic story mode, versus mode, practice mode and something called the campaign mode (I will touch on the campaign mode later). In story mode, you play through the variety of manga stories that comprise the series… I think. They sort of just explained what were likely huge story arcs in the manga with nothing more than a few short text blurbs and then you fought a baddie. I’m being very vague about this, because this is as much information as was provided me, which was fine for the end purpose of punching people in the face, but wasn’t exactly fulfilling on the story front. As you work your way through the variety of foes, you get to unlock them for play in the campaign or versus modes which made for some interesting match ups.
As for the actual game play, I’m going to – once again – reiterate the point that it is pretty nuts. A lot of flashing colours, extra flamboyant characters and seizure inducing finishing moves made this at least a very entertaining play. I decided to wing it instead of reading the move list for the first little while and that proved to be much more difficult then I had thought. When I actually did look at the move list, I realized why I was having such trouble since a lot of the better moves can be complicated. This brought a layer of depth to the game that I wasn’t really expecting.
It was also quite challenging, which was a big plus. With four levels of difficulty, I hardly dared moving up from the second tier since I was already struggling to finish the levels. Helpfully, they have a variety of power-ups that can be purchased and used before each level to help out. One of the things I really liked about it was that they incorporated aspects of the story into shaking up different stages of the game. In one level, your character is hurt in the story in between levels, and so your health is gradually deteriorating. A helpful health boost purchased before doing that level will help even the playing the field and get you through an otherwise challenging level.
The art and the music are equally delightfully frenetic as the rest of the game is. I really like cel-shading, so I liked the art from the start and I’ve mentioned once or twice that the characters are outrageous and over the top, which was both funny and strange at the same time. The music is a classic fight game soundtrack (a throwback to its time) that neither stood out nor was drowned out, it was sort of just… there. Also, the entire game is in Japanese, so add in reading subtitles to the general chaos of playing.
Of course, as with almost every game, there are some definite drawbacks. I’ve been commenting on how I actually had fun not knowing what was going on, but it is a problem if you aren’t familiar with the series already. I promise that you will have no idea what is going on. The controls were also a bit of an issue. I had a hell of a time just trying to keep my guy facing my opponent as we kept spinning all around the stage, let alone trying to slap together a killer combo which seemed easier to do via button mashing. Speaking of the stage, the level design left a little to the imagination in the sense that there was only one stage per section of the story. At one point, you go from London to Paris to Rome but fought on the same stage each time. I mean, it’s not that big a deal, but it made my OCD flare up a bit. Then, there’s the campaign mode. They explained it in the tutorial but I just didn’t understand the point of it. Sure, you get unlockables, but it seemed like they could’ve worked it in to other parts of the game and kept it a little less complicated, because I honestly still don’t understand what was going on in the campaign mode.
Overall, I had a blast with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle. Is it perfect? Far from it, but the sheer level of chaos that comes from playing it made it fun overall. With great artwork, bonkers fighting styles and a lot of replay value (even if I didn’t understand one of the modes), it is a game that should at least be tried, just to have seen and played it. It is definitely a game for fans of the series and the original but it’s definitely worth at least a check out for everyone!