The epic Shonen Jump crossover, Jump Force, is finally out! Does the fighter live up to the massive hype or does it wilt under pressure? Here is our review!
A Story Mode That’s Best Forgotten
When Jump Force was initially announced at E3 2018, it immediately became one of the most sought-after games, if only for the fact that it allowed anime/manga fans to play as their favorite Shonen Jump character, against other iconic characters from Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Naruto Shippuden (and Boruto), Yu Yu Hakusho, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures, Black Clover, My Hero Academia, Rurouni Kenshin, and so on. With all these characters colliding in the same realm, Bandai Namco had to give us a reason for the worlds to collide, with an original story, and boy did they.
The story begins with the all-too familiar scene of Goku fighting Frieza. Except, instead of being on Namek, it’s in the middle of New York City. It’s actually an impressively shot scene, as we see some of it through the perspective of a bystander on the street. The fight between the two longtime rivals ends when Frieza blasts said bystander, putting him on the brink of death. Fortunately, Trunks arrives just in time with a robot and a technologically advanced cube, called the Umbra Cube, and ultimately saves the bystander. Thus, creating your new customizable avatar. With your avatar in tow, you join an elite team of Shonen Jump characters, from a variety of Manga properties, known as Jump Force to take down the ones responsible for the colliding worlds and, in the process, defeat all of the Venoms (zombie-likepeople that have been taken over by negative Umbra cubes) that stand in your way. As part of Jump Force, you’re tasked with joining one of three different teams, Team Alpha with Goku, Team Beta with Luffy, or Team Gamma with Naruto. After taking on the movesets of the team you choose, you set off to save the world(s).
The idea of being able to create your own Anime/Manga hero is a pretty solid one, but much like the rest of the game, it’s just poorly executed. Despite the fact that you choose your character’s voice in the customization process, your character is basically a mute in the story. When their sent off on a mission or in just any interaction, they just nod and go along with whatever is going on, never rocking the boat or doing anything impulsive, like most characters in Manga do.
That, right there, is one of the biggest problems with the story, really. There is no heart, none of the personality we’ve grown to love when reading or watching these characters in action. They absolutely nail their individual combat styles, but when it comes to actually opening your mouth to move the story forward, it’s as weak as the bottom of a wet paper bag.
Furthermore, the events of the story are totally unrealistic. For instance, there is a moment, early in the game, where Vegeta is about to fight a group of Venoms. Instead of doing any fighting or talking, he just stands there until a Negative Umbra cube just rolls on by and possesses him. No fighting, no nothing, just a scene where Vegeta gets possessed. Way to make one of the strongest characters of DBZ look weak. The problem is, that situation isn’t limited to just one scene, it happens a lot and it’s a major detriment to the game.
Further showing how bad this story is, is the fact that Bandai Namco will not allow any screenshots, gameplay, or what have you to be streamed of Jump Force’s story. Not being able to stream isn’t a big deal, by any means, but getting constant alerts that you are in a shareable scene, not a shareable scene, in a shareable scene, and so on is just really annoying.
Even the way you’re made to continue the story is just tedious. They don’t exactly tell you what you’re meant to do, early on. So, you often meander around the Jump Force base (which also serves as the lobby for all online events) looking for something to tell you what to do next, both before and once a mission is over. Often times, you’re supposed to go from the mission counter, all the way down to the leader of the Jump Force, whose office is downstairs, and then back to the mission counter for the next mission. It’s just an incredibly monotonous way of advancing a story.
Another detriment stems from the translations. Jump Force features some of the most iconic Japanese voices, reprising their anime roles for this game. While they do a fantastic job with what they have, the subs do not. One of the biggest examples I can give you, is the one that really killed the story for me. There is a scene where the Jump Force members are discussing what happened to Vegeta. At one point, a now-free Vegeta doesn’t understand what they’re talking about and says, “Just tell me in plain English.”. Mind you, they are speaking Japanese. Never before have I wanted to turn off a game more in my 29 years of life, than at that moment.
What isn’t absolutely infuriating is the gameplay, which happens to save Jump Force from being a total lost cause.
Simplistic Gameplay Favoring Timing Over Skill
Most fighting games require a lot of time in the practice simulation, developing combos and learning how to land a character’s most devastating movesets. While it’s beneficial to do that in Jump Force, the game’s gameplay style is easy enough to get-by without it. That’s because Jump Force employs a simplistic system that allows players to hit devastating moves with relative ease.
You have your basic buttons with jump as X (A), light strikes as Square (X), heavy strikes as Triangle (Y), and throw as Circle (B). After those, it gets really interesting. By using L1/LB, you can dash to and from your opponents in the same fun way most anime/manga characters do. It gets even better when you hold the right trigger, as your character begins to charge and a menu of special moves appears. In extremely simplistic fashion, all you have to do is hold RT and press either Square (X), Triangle (Y), or Circle (B) and BOOM you’re unleashing awesome abilities. To make thing even easier, every single character’s most iconic and powerful move is ridiculously easy to hit too. Just by getting your power level up over halfway and attacking your opponent enough, you can just hold RT and hit X/A and suddenly Naruto is changing into his ultimate Sage form, summoning the Kyuubi, and hitting a massive Jinchuriki attack. It’s just that easy.
Once you’ve got the extremely easy button layout memorized, you can employ it with literally ever character. The trick to Jump Force is having impeccable timing. That’s where training does come into play. Jump Force employs a 3 character system, where you go into each game with a party of 3, to interchangeably switch between, by pressing LT. When you’re charging and attacking, it’s important to know when to Hold LT, because that will summon one of your party members to arrive, wreak blast your opponent, and disappear again. Press it too early or late and you’ve missed out on prime damage dealing.
Speaking of damage dealing, the massive, devastating special attack I spoke earlier about, isn’t always reliable or as effective as it likely should be. For a lot of characters, it’s mainly sizzle and not a lot of steak. However, if done right, you can catch your opponent in the exact perfect spot to hit them with your special and deal the most damage. Abilities like Goku’s Spirit Bomb and even Naruto’s Nine-Tails Bomb require your opponent to be in the right spot. If not, then it’s just a waste. Similarly, others don’t even go into effect unless your opponent is directly caught in the initial attack. So, that’s where the real strategy of the game comes into play.
It’s understandably hard to create a game that includes all of these unique characters and be able to tailor movesets to them. Somehow, Bandai Namco accomplished it and it’s really where Jump Force shines. That being said, it’s emphasized most in challenging matches within Online mode, where you’re able to face other players. It really creates the most invigorating moments of Jump Force, whereas fighting CPUs in missions just lacks the same feeling.
For the most part, I’m known as the level-headed optimist amongst the Cinelinx gaming team. I like to give things a chance before writing them off, because I want to experience what several hard-working developers spent hours, days, weeks, months working on for our enjoyment and their passion. However, there were a few things that found their way into Jump Force that are absolutely inexcusable in today’s gaming and downright hurt its replayability, and it all begins with Load Screens.
Not since the days when developers released games on PS2 that were meant for PS3, have I dealt with the excessive load screens that Jump Force has. Start the game, Loading, Start a Mission, Loading, Lose and Hit Rematch, Loading, Finish a Mission, Loading, Customize Avatar, Loading, Open Shop, Loading. This isn’t hyperbole or any sort of overreaction, this exactly how the game is and it makes it incredibly hard to play. Now, I understand that load times are a thing and they aren’t going away with most games, but the level in which Jump Force’s load times are is above and beyond what most current AAA titles allow. It made scrolling through every social media boring. I ran out of apps to check on my phone...it got sad.
Another part of the game I had a problem with had to do with the aforementioned shop. While in the shop, you’re able to purchase an assortment of things from moves to avatar gear, just by using in-game currency. It’s a pretty great one-stop shop. The problem is, they won’t allow you to see your avatar wearing the gear before you actually buy it, which often gave me buyer’s remorse when I put the new gear on my avatar. Most games have a preview option for new gear, so it’s just surprising that Jump Force doesn’t.
My last grievance is more of a preference, than anything else. Bandai Namco published one of the best fighters last year, in Dragon Ball FighterZ, which featured a fighting system where every character had a health bar. In Jump Force, all characters share one health bar, which to me, isn't as fun. I don't like the fact that gamers can go through an entire round, never once trying their favorite character. I would've much rathered every character having their time to shine.
Amazing Idea, Terrible Execution
I remember sitting inside the Microsoft Theater, during the Xbox E3 Briefing at E3 2018, listening to Phil Spencer sell the next game coming to the Xbox family of devices, when suddenly we’re whisked to a video that shows a ravaged New York City and Goku, Naruto, and Luffy standing together again, as Light and Ryuk of Death Note look on. For a lot of us, Jump Force, instantaneously, became a must-have game. Especially, if you’re like me and spent most of your life reading about these characters in Shonen Jump manga and watching them when they became anime. It’s just unfortunate that the final product just wasn’t up to par.
The mechanics and fighting system are extremely well-done, but the satisfaction of playing as your favorite characters wears off after some time. Even the best parts of the game, like Online Play, are mired with loading screens just to get to that point. When you combine it with the disappointing storyline, it results in Jump Force being a tragic disappointment. It’s had all the potential in the world, but just ended up being terribly executed.
I would, Goku, but I'm stuck behind a load screen...