Jump Force Review (Xbox One)
Fan favorite characters unite in this Manga crossover event
Developer: Spike ChunSoft
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release Date: Feb. 15th, 2019 (Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC)
There’s something that is inherently special when a large group of your favorite characters team up. We see it quite often in comic books, where team-ups range from small one-shots to universe-spanning crossovers. In the Manga universe, a magazine called Shonen Jump made this type of crossover a weekly event and featured many of the world’s favorite manga characters. With Jump Force, the manga team-ups have become a reality in video game form.
Jump Force tells the tale of a group of fighters who come together to save the world. More specifically, our heroes come together to fight a group of mind-controlled enemies called Venoms, led by Kane and Galena. Three teams made up of your favorite characters (as well as a character you create) must take on missions to free the mind-controlled army and stop Kane and Galena.
If you are a fan of comic or manga crossovers, then you know that a story is critical to the success or failure of a crossover event, and in the case of Jump Force, the story leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, the premise is a simple enough excuse to bring the multitude of manga characters together into one game; however, true crossover events work better when there are ample character developments and a true sense of danger. This story lacked that kind of development.
One could argue that a fighting game doesn’t need real character development, and I can understand that sentiment, but these characters have a long and cherished history in the manga community. I would have loved to see some interactions between characters that gave us insights that we have not seen in their original series. Alternatively, it would have been nice to be rewarded with interactions between characters that you wouldn’t see in a tradition manga series. Those moments never materialized for me. Manga fans will most likely enjoy the gameplay more than the story.
The fighting mechanics in Jump Force can only be described as simple to learn but hard to master. Each character has the same basic simple attacks. These attacks are linked to a single button (X for a strike, A to jump, B to throw, etc). I love this for the simple fact that it allows players of all ability types to jump in and play. Each character has a set of powerful moves that can be used when a power meter is filled. Pressing RT and X, Y, B, or A will unleash moves that are well known for each individual character. Some of the most visually appealing moments come from unleashing these power moves, and it’s an absolute blast to play every character and see the transition from comic page to the video game medium. Other moves include a simple block and dash that is very useful in keeping your character alive.
One drawback to this type of system is the temptation to button mash. Some players have a specific move set that they use along with an order in which to use them, but the battles in Jump Force can be a bit chaotic and fast-paced. I found myself mashing simple attacks along with the dash in order to create an opening long enough to use a power move. Again, it’s simple to memorize the move set, but difficult to master how and when to use different attacks. The enemy AI doesn’t make things easier because they vary greatly. Some villains are easy to vanquish, while others hit you with an onslaught that is hard to block.
There are a few other drawbacks to consider. You choose three fighters for each battle, but you only use one health bar during the fight. This is honestly an interesting mechanic since traditional three-character team battles will give each character their own health bar. It just means that you need to be mindful of your health and be strategic when it comes to swapping team members.
Another drawback is the combo system. The arenas in Jump Force are massive, so you need to be in the right place for combos to give you the most hits. Some power moves that you think will deal the most damage won’t do as much if you are too far away or use the move when the enemy is blocking or dashing. Some attacks just work better than others when it comes to dealing the most damage, so practice until you find a combo system that works for you.
As I mentioned earlier, you create a character that joins Jump Force in the action. The character creation is a blast on a number of levels. There are quite a few customization options at the beginning which allows you to create the manga character you have always wanted to make. You have several options for hairstyles and several more options for different aspects of the character’s face. As you play more you will unlock and purchase costume options that make you look like the baddest manga character of them all.
The best part of customization is the ability to purchase power moves that your favorite characters use. Do you want to use Goku’s Kamehameha, Naruto’s Tail Beast Bomb, and Zoro’s Three Thousand Worlds? Then go for it! At first, you will have a combination of moves based on the team that you join. Eventually, as you earn currency in missions, you can purchase a number of moves. Manga fans will know exactly what to buy when creating your character. If you are more of a casual fan, then you will most likely try different characters and purchase moves that you really like.
The bread and butter of any fighting game are the online and local battles. Jump Force has a similar lobby system where you can challenge players to online battles. I didn’t have trouble with any online matchmaking while playing Jump Force, and battles can vary quite a bit thanks to the number of characters available to play. The local battle system works great as well, although the cameras can make extreme shifts depending on you and the second player’s playing style. If you are not a fan of the story mode, then you will still have a blast playing with friends or playing online.
The presentation is a little hit or miss for me. There are some things I really like about the build of the game. Graphics look fantastic, especially during battles. The cutscenes leave a lot to be desired. They look nice, but there isn’t a lot going on. There isn’t a lot of movement except for the mouth. I’m curious how the cutscenes would look if they were a more traditional 2D presentation instead of the demanding 3D animation. Bear in mind that right now, the load screens are long and pretty unbearable (although, according to their Twitter post, the team should have a fix soon). I hit some funky bugs during my playthrough, so be mindful of that as well. For example – let me introduce you to Nightmare Fuel Goku, which happens to be the massive pink mass that I’m fighting in the picture below –
Jump Force has the difficult task of bringing together multiple fan-favorite characters into a smooth and engaging fighting game. For the most part, Spike ChunSoft and Bandai Namco nail the fighting mechanics and visuals to create a fun and fast-paced fighter. While I wish the story was more engaging and featured some character development, there is still fun to be had in character customization and local/online multiplayer. Perhaps the inclusion of future characters and missions can keep the fanbase engaged and happy for years to come.
Editor’s Note: A code was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes.