Review: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle
Longtime DC readers might remember that I originally reviewed the import version of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle back in August last year. At the time I enjoyed it quite a lot, but certainly didn’t think it would be localised. Am I glad it did? Of course, but now its problems are clearer and it stands out as a game that isn’t for everyone.
Playing an import game is always fun, as you know you’re playing something that was never intended for you (and was presumed to be pretty much unsalable in your country). If you don’t like it, that’s fine, no one thought you would. That’s why no one bothered to make it in a language you speak. But here’s a game that did get localised, and with it comes important questions. Questions like ‘What the hell is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure?!’ and ‘Is it as good as Street Fighter IV?!’
Short answer: Popular Japanese manga that’s been going for over twenty five years, and ‘no’. See below for long answer.
I’ve already read some other reviews of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, and a fair few are by gamers who openly admit that they were completely unfamiliar with the franchise before playing the game. This is of course fine, and it’s likely that in the future (if not already) more people will know of/have played the game than know of/read the manga. Yet despite this it should still probably come with some sort of waring (aside from the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure logo and the pictures of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure characters) that clearly reads THIS IS A GAME FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE.
I think we’ve partially solved the mystery of why Famitsu gave the game a perfect 10, and for fans of the series there’s certainly a lot to enjoy. But if you don’t know who JoJo is, and are simply looking for a fighting game that holds up on the merit of being a fighting game, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle fairs only slightly better than average. The mechanics are fairly unoriginal; you have three levels of attack ranging from light to heavy, a heat gauge that lets you unleash special attacks, and a dodge move that allows to sidestep out of the way of danger. The character balancing isn’t perfect, the fighting itself feels a little sluggish, and the stages have some temperamental environmental hazards.
Gameplay wise, JoJo’s isn’t likely to leave a lasting impression, but the game compensates for this with a lot of style. The graphics are a cool mix of 3D and cell-shading (an art style that’s almost hinted at in the new Stardust Crusaders anime intro) and whilst some of the character’s facial expressions are completely terrifying, the game has an overall defined look with some impressive animations, beautiful stages, and a slick interface.
The game also has a sizeable story component that covers events from all eight parts of the manga. How many have been published in English, I hear you ask? Err, one I think (the third one) which isn’t very many, but the rest can at least be read online. Still, my point is that you could easily be a fan of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure but also find a lot of unfamiliar faces on the roster. To fully appreciate this game you essentially need to understand twenty five years worth of manga (and will have presumably read most of it on a screen). There’s also a chance you’re experiencing the story for the first time in the currently running anime (which has just reached Stardust Crusaders). If this is the case then you’re about to reach a minefield of spoilers.
The exact problem you’ll have with the game’s story will depend on circumstance, but every kind of gamer is likely to find it flawed. To an outsider it’s an incomprehensible mess. For those watching the anime the game’s release is certainly well timed (within a month of the new series), but All Star Battle will spoil the show by covering future events in enough detail to give away key plot points, but not enough to make it an engaging or entertaining way to enjoy the story. For those who studied JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure at University (or, y’know, just read ‘em all) the game’s faithfulness to the original story is fairly admirable, but it still makes for a basic experience. As each part focuses on only a very small selection of characters and stages, there’s a large amount of repetition, and if we’re being super technical then some of the fight locations have been changed from the manga/anime.
If you’re new to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure then the anime is a better place to start. This is a game for the fans, and whilst not perfect, it’s a fairly good one, and a faithful one too. I was quite positive about this game in my original import review, but now it’s been released in the West I feel as though a whole array of new criticisms can be fairly levelled against it. This is a fighting game deemed fit for the general population, and to be honest many people will find it to be a relatively average experience. But we got it, and it’s pretty awesome that we’ve been given the chance to decide this for ourselves. There was always going to be problems, but we got it anyway.