To celebrate fifty years of Shōnen Jump, Bandai Namco and Spike Chunsoft have teamed up to make an online three versus three arena fighting game with characters from across the many properties in the Shōnen Jump umbrella. With a character creator and an original story, we’ll see if this is worthy of such an occasion. In this Jump Force review, we’ll discover whether this is worthy of a celebration or if they should have gone a different route.
Reviewed On Xbox One X; Also available on PlayStation 4 and PC
If you love anime, then you’ll feel right at home with the game’s story because it’s something straight out of comics and manga. One of fictions greatest villains, Frieza, launches an attack on Earth with an army of Venoms, which are evil variants of what you and the other online created characters become. As he’s causing havoc, Goku confronts him and after some choice words and attacks, a stray beam of death accidentally murders you dead. This should be the end of your life, cut short on the way to the grocery store or to your local library to access our website to read the latest gaming news and reviews. Trunks, it’s always Trunks, makes it to you as the light of life is flickering from your corpse and decides to use the Umbras Cube to save you and turn you into a hero. From here your taken to the Jump Force secret base to learn that different worlds within the Shonen Jump universe have all collided with ours. It is up to Jump Force to save the universes and bring balance back to the force. From here you’ll join one of three factions: Alpha, Beta, or Gamma. Each one has their own objectives: fight off invading Venoms, reclaim territory from Venoms, and stealth recon.
The Jump Force story isn’t bad but it’s nothing that’ll redefine storytelling in gaming. If you’re a fan of anime, you’ll enjoy the tale being told. The best part is the interactions between each of the different characters from different properties and each Jump Force division has a healthy assortment of them rather than taking the lazy way of locking a certain property to a certain division. For example, seeing Goku leading the Alpha division and interacting with Zoro and Gaara is the ultimate fan service. The story also has other threads that we’re interested to see play out, like Vegeta being corrupted and Light having his own intentions. I had fun, enjoyed the ride, and at the end, I just wanted to see more interactions between all of the iconic characters present.
At its core, Jump Force is a simple fighter designed to make you feel as powerful as the characters that make up the roster. It succeeds in strides. You will select three characters, out of a roster of forty and your created characters, and an arena of your choosing. Sharing one life bar for all three characters, you will fight against another team of three that is either made up of the CPU or online against real human players. With the touch of a button, you can have either of the two characters not being utilized to perform a quick assist, or you can switch characters. This is essential when you’re trying to figure out which character fares better against another. Fights will end when either player loses their entire life bar or when time expires, awarding the victory to the player with more health. The latter happened far more than I expected, far more than any other fighting game I’ve played. Despite having a decent amount of options when fighting, it really does resort to mashing a projectile or combo string and this can become rather annoying when playing online. The game’s CPU is also very naïve and, so, spamming projectiles and cheesing your way to victory is sadly effective.
Now, should you play Jump Force I believe the way it was designed, you’ll find a healthy assortment of techniques and gameplay elements available. It’s just a shame the developers didn’t do a better job at encouraging and polishing this type of gameplay. When you fight, you’ll have a heavy and light attack that change the projection of the opponent depending on the direction of the left stick. For example, pushing the stick up will launch the opponent into the air and aiming down will lead you closer to the ground. You also have access to a dodge, sidestep, escape and counter. Your dash will send you towards the opponent and the vanish will teleport you out of damage range if successful. Every character has their own versions of abilities that are usually powers that respected character has performed in his or her show at some point. The team has accurately captured these attacks and the attention to detail is greatly appreciated. Over the course of the fight and receiving damage, a meter will build to allow you access to your Awakening. It’s different for every character, with some characters like Goku and Frieza getting two versions, and these power-ups give you a time advantage that results from stronger techniques or powers. For example, Naruto will get his six paths Kyuubi mode and then a generic power up but Goku will get Super Saiyan and then Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan. To access Awakening version two, you have to have had already used the first variant.
You won’t be able to perform these abilities without having enough power for it and, so, the game has a dedicated button for powering up. Your goal is to win but when you use all the mechanics and everything is flowing as I imagine it was designed to, you have a fun fighter on your hands. Now, because of the way the game has been being played there isn’t really a worry for balanced character roster. When I purposely had a friend play the game with me with trying to make it as competitive and by design as possible, I never felt I lost or won because of the characters chosen of fought against. It always came down to skill. That’s a good thing. With that being said I’m sure there is some tier list out there and it’s probably accurate, but I never got frustrated because of it. I did play with everyone at least twice and I did have certain characters I liked more than others but a lot of that had to do with what I watched as a child or because of the abilities they performed that looked rad. The game is very satisfying to play through, and you’ll always feel like a comic book cosmic deity from the visuals on screen. It’s so satisfying to be getting pummeled by your opponent and be barely fighting back to eventually vanishing after being Rush and Smashed attacked and accessing your Ultimate Awakening and using your Ultimate Technique. It’s a comeback straight out of the many Japanese Mangas represented in this game. This is the bulk of your experience.
The characters creator at Jump Force is the first area you’ll mess with after the opening cutscene. The creator isn’t as deep as RPGs but there is more than enough here for this type of game. From head to toe, you can edit and customize your character with a variety of clothing and items from all the properties represented by the roster. You’ll find a lot of items, hair options, and clothing items from members of these series that didn’t make the roster. I’m more subdued in the designs of my creative characters but I’ve seen some very creative and cool looking characters online. Overall what’s available should satisfy the needs of most and if you can picture it with what’s available, it’s creatable. After creating your character and finishing the tutorial, you’ll reach the game’s hub world and where you’ll always be when not embarking on missions or fighting online. It’s here you’ll find the shop to purchase more clothing options as well as unlock some by completing missions.
NPCs are around the surprisingly big hub world and in the different sectors and they will provide missions for you. When playing offline, they usually involve you picking your team and facing off against a present team. The missions all have tiered requirements of objectives to do to earn rewards and at the end of it all, you’ll get experience points to level up your fighters. These RPG elements are very shallow, and the game could have done without it. From what I can gather it’s only there to motivate you to grind to higher levels to fight against the harder A.I. opponents but the entire thing is pointless and not needed when the CPU is so naïve that it constantly loses to spammed projectiles. How can I defeat an enemy several levels higher than me by simply having Goku on my team and spamming Kamehameha? It’s sad. Your other missions are the story based ones that push the story forward, pretty self-explanatory. My friend did complain to me, the one who helped with the gameplay mechanics, that the lack of direction to find the next story mission was annoying. I didn’t have this problem because I’m a book nerd who loves to read and pays attention to all the dialogue. Just wanted to throw that out there in case you get lost, you’re not alone.
This is where you’ll fight players of similar rank and skill in an attempt to rise in the ranks and become the greatest Jump Force fighter of all time. Online does a great job of matching you up with players in your bracket but the online unfortunately suffers from the spamming actions I mentioned earlier where it’s less about skill and more about mashing the same combo or projectile until you get an anticlimactic victory. If experience points and leveling up actually makes a difference, you won’t have to worry about that here, but I notice not a lot of people use their created fighters here. That could have been just my experience, but I found it weird and it stuck out, especially when I jumped into Friendly Match. Another odd thing is that the game is stingy with rank points and it takes hours to go up but going down can be done with only a few games. Makes it all feel pointless sometimes.
This is the unranked mode, the wild west of the online fighting. This is the best experience to play online in Jump Force. Playing for fun is always the best. The game even offers the ability to modify rules as long as both parties agree. I’ve spent most of my online experience here and dealt with less of the spamming that is prevalent in ranked. Quick Match does as the name applies and throws you against a player using stock rules with the goal of getting you into a match as quickly as possible. It’s effective and works.
When you’re waiting to find an opponent, you can enter the game’s practice mode to train and kill time. Now let’s talk about the performance of the game’s online infrastructure. Crashes, long loading, hiccups, rubberbanding, and in match loading have all been an issue I’ve had while playing online. I only had one crash when pursuing the story and none of the issues mentioned above. This has made playing online, with all the other factors mentioned above about player tactics, a pretty abysmal experience and one I had no issue in partaking in. Now, since the patches, the game has gotten better, and these issues are vastly fewer than before but need to be documented.
let’s go ahead and start with the game’s environments. This game actually has its moments where it looks stunning, gorgeous even. The main story has the heroes broken into three factions and in the section where you see Luffy’s boat is a work of art. The graphics of the water, of the boat, and the way the sun reflects off of it creates an almost picturesque imagine that can be captivating. It’s one of those moments you accidentally discover and are filled with awe at what this game can be capable of. The hub world has the unique ability to makes these sceneries that are visually appealing and offer you a welcomed surprised at the graphical abilities within Jump Force, like the Gamma location that is filled with shadows due to all the trees and the light filtering through is something breathtaking. The Alpha location lacks both of what makes the other two locations unique, the use of color and the impressive lighting because it is in a desert wasteland modeled after where Goku faced off against Vegeta in the first arc of Dragon Ball Z. It is faithfully recreated, and it comes across as your childhood memory of an iconic encounter created to the most lifelike degree because of the power the graphics can push in this game. I mentioned the lighting earlier and I need to emphasize how impressive the engine is and how it can really remind you that, even though there are some rough areas graphically, this is a true current get spectacle at times. The hub world itself, the other areas and mechanical looking corridors, capture the whole hidden, secretive, base that it represents well.
The fighting maps where you’ll actually be doing battle are also visually stimulating and very nice to look at. You’ll be looking at a destroyed New York, decayed roadways, cherry blossom trees, frozen tundras, and grassy areas. There is a nice balance on what is shown, and it’s all accurately captured how you might escape. The roadways are damaged from destructive impacts either caused by a previous encounter or due to the collision of two universes, one of which is contrasted wonderfully with the cherry blossoms I mentioned earlier. The icy areas offer that sheen to them that looks as if you could slide right on them if you move too fast. These maps tell their own tragic stories in a way and when they are mixed with other universes it all looks and feels seamless, never out of place. When it comes to the fighting on these maps, your eyes will see the overabundance of effects a game like these needs and is executed spectacularly here. All the character have their moves perfectly recreated from their anime displays here and the effects are truly wonderful to see. Sasuke and his lightning looks beautiful with the inky blacks and electrical discharge that looks almost lifelike before drilling it into an opponent. Likewise, all the blasts from the Dragon Ball cast look like realistic counterparts from the show. The effects are great, and the team should be proud of them. I particularly like the small liberties they took that tie it in better to this more realistic look from these Japanese animations, such as Goku’s entire Gi having a golden sheen to it when he transforms into a Super Saiyan.
Then we have character models. Some of them have taken well to this more realistic look, such as Midoriya, Kenshin, and Cell to name a few. Others, like the Saint Seiya cast and Yugi, look out of place in this art style. This could also be something I just need to get used to, as it did with the One Piece characters, but the model is more hit than miss. The created characters all look and feel as if they fit the world and you can get creative with them. The NPCs in the game, specifically the ones created for this game, feel more a part of this world than the rest of the game. Animations in this game are great as well with one major exception. The cutscene animations in the game’s story mode are beyond atrocious. Now, I love horror movies. They are some of my favorite. So, when the game began with the horrible animations within the story mode, I knew it wouldn’t bother me as much as most. With that being said, in this day and age, there is no reason they are the way that they are. No excuse and just plain lazy. One of the very first scenes sees Frieza giving a monologue and then he’s supposed to fly away. Literally, all they did was keep him in the pose he was in and lift him straight up. I couldn’t believe my eyes and even though I laughed, my wife asked me to remind her how much I paid for the game again. Is it patchable? Probably. Is it worth doing so? Probably not. It shouldn’t have been this way since day one and there is no excuse for this lack of polishing or self-respect from the devs in taking pride of how their game’s story mode would be perceived.
If you watch anime in Japanese, all your favorite actors are voicing their respective characters. It always surprises me how much passion and power these Japanese voice actors put in their performances. It’s commendable and impressive. With that said, not everyone wants to use the Japanese cast in their game. Especially if they bought the game in an English-speaking region or other dub. I hate all English dubs with the exception of Dragon Ball and, so, only having the Japanese voices don’t bother me one bit but other languages should have been included for others. Other than that, the sound department is another hit in this game. Punches have the impact and sound like they hurt, blasts sound like energy emitting beams of death, and it all sounds like it hurts like hell. The sounds complement the visuals accurately and it accurately reflects what has been shown in their anime. Now, I find it odd that with such a large selection of properties that none of the iconic music from these shows is used at all. The hub world has music but it’s generic and not memorable in the slightest. During actual fighting, there isn’t any music from what I can remember and all you have to listen to are the actual attacks from you and your opponent. It’s not a big deal, just odd, and other fighting games do this so much better.
Jump Force is a fun, casual, fighting game that does its purpose in making you feel like an overpowered superhero. These characters are faithfully brought to life and a great deal of detail went into every aspect of them. All of that is undermined by poor A.I. and the abuse of easy to perform attacks online. There is no emphasis on skill, and no one really wants to go out and try to learn these characters. Which is a shame because when you actually try to be good at the game and play it how you’d imagine it was designed, you have a really good and fun game. The character creator is nice, and you have the freedom to make some elaborate beings, with a healthy assortment of fan service in clothing options and hair designs. You’re constantly unlocking more and can always change up your character if you feel it getting stale or want to recreate a look you saw. The story is as over the top as most anime, but it could have been better and the animations during cutscenes are abysmally atrocious.
Graphically the game is very nice, with only a few blemishes on certain character models who don’t translate well into a more realistic graphical style. The effects, however, are tremendous with various lights and colors and particles constantly on display. Beautiful destruction. Character clothing ripping, signs of dust and debris accumulating on character models, and the destruction from the map your fighting on adding more to the experience. Though they opted for only having Japanese voices, the cast nails their performances and brings these characters to life. The game does suffer from a plethora of performance issues that do affect the enjoyment of the game, especially concerning the online aspects of Jump Force. It helps that the game is fun, despite long load times, but it does lack a lot of polish that should be there from day one.
If you’re into anime and fighting games, I think you’ll find an experience here that you’ll enjoy. I did. I loved fighting and seeing all the effects and feeling like an overpowered deity as I fought against similarly skilled opponents. I loved seeing all these different characters interact with each other and it was pretty awesome to create my own character. It’s a fun game that can look gorgeous at times.