Review – J-Stars Victory Vs.+ – Missed Opportunity

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am a lover of all things Anime and Manga. I read and watch anything that takes my fancy and follow them religiously, contacting friends to fanboy over each weekly update of a particular series (I’m looking at you Naruto). When news came that a Shonen Jump crossover game was being localised and released globally, I went nuts. It would be nice to not have to import a game and then pray someone had translated the script online so I could actually play the game and finish it 100%.

For those not as well versed in the world of Manga, Shonen Jump is a pair of magazines (one weekly and one monthly) in which chapters to manga series (japanese comics) get their release prior to being published as a graphic novel and sold on shelf or animated by a production studio. While there are several titles published in this magazine that have ludicrous and long winded names that you would only relate to if you know the anime scene, many household names and “children’s shows” saw their beginning and end in this Magazine. This would Include Dragon Ball, Naruto, Bleach and One Piece just to name a few.

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So a game that could access and combine all of their properties into 4 player brawler gives you goosebumps, like the first time you heard what Super Smash Bros was. And funnily enough, some of their first cross over iterations were just that to those who played them; Jump Ultimate Stars on the Nintendo DS was essentially Super Smash Bros. with anime characters. I played this game. I loved this game. Hence my excitement when Jump Victory Vs.+ was announced for Playstation 4, a port of a Playstation 3 game that had released in japan a year prior.

The game arrived at my door, was inserted into my Playstation 4 and when it had installed and launched I was greeted with an opening cinematic of fast paced action and over the top, anime stylised humor from characters both easily recognised and easily unrecognised. The stars were aligning, the cogs were turning I was in heaven. This was the game I had waited for.

But then…I played the game. And everything changed.

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Now I know what you’re thinking, I had built up too high an expectation in my head for this to be able to live up to. But after Namco Bandai published so many great anime games on Naruto and One Piece franchise, this game had every chance to succeed but stumbles at almost every hurdle.

Let’s start with the campaign, which is split into four. The reasoning behind this is non-existent as all four contain the monotonous task of sailing around the overworld and challenging different fighters which get increasingly more difficult and complete meaningless fetch quests. In between locations, you are presented with cutscenes progressing the “story” (and I use that term very loosely) forward. These cutscenes are your typical jrpg portrait, static text style conversations between characters with very little voice acting to be seen. Combine this with the very blatant and at times cheesy and out of context dropping of references from each character’s respective series and you are in for quite the lackluster experience. But don’t worry, give it a few hours and you can start it all again in the next campaign, in which you do the same thing just with different characters. Isn’t that great!? (yay sarcasm).

What I see is a missed opportunity for a different spin on classic anime storylines and a chance to see who’s stronger or what-if scenarios unfold. Instead you get this boring back and forth that has no real payoff and gets old really quick. The boredom factor spreads beyond the stretch of the story campaigns, as the additional game modes are the staple 2 player and arcade style found in all fighters and the battlegrounds are all really bland and Identical and there is little variation to any of them. Sometimes it feels like its the same arena just slightly retextured, leading to this “same-y” feeling in each fight. What’s sad is that after a few fights with the same character, this feeling spreads to the large character roster as well.
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All the character models shine on the ps4, but in terms of gameplay, after a while they all start to feel the same. Hidden underneath the shiny exterior is a brawling mechanism that is both clunky and too simplistic, captivated with a camera that just falls over itself. Every so often, the music will pump up and your characters get to transform and blast each other with super moves that flourish in true anime style. These moments are awesome but are short lived once you realise that it’s the same simplistic system driving you and the same camera angles working against you.

The music sets the scene nicely, although it’s worth noting that there is an absence of licensed soundtracks from different series. Most of the Background music is just generic oriental or rocky sort of battle music, but this will be nothing new to anyone who has played previous anime inspired fighting games. That said, it would have been nice to hear some sweet Naruto or Dragon Ball pump-up music when you do a special move or transformation. All characters are voiced by their respective japanese voice actors and for the most part this is done well. However due to the lack of voice acting pertaining to the story or cutscenes, it feels as though this voice work may have even just been carbon copied from the animated works of each franchise wherever possible.

I cannot speak much for the multiplayer, except for maybe the word “don’t”. As with most of the game, the multiplayer aspects are a carbon copy of the genre, offering both split screen (in the vein and feel of the Dragonball Tenkaichi franchise) for local play and tournaments for online play, supporting 2 player in the former and 4 player in the latter. Unless you like squinting to read text or have a really big TV, steer clear of local multiplayer. The game becomes near impossible to follow with players who know what they are doing and even on the PS4, there are very noticeable frame rate dips. As for online multiplayer, I know Australian internet (at least at the time of writing) is horrible but for me this game was near unplayable online. I can only speak for my personal experience but my Cable internet connection holds up well in most situations gaming wise, so I feel like this may be an issue with their matchmaking or server loads. All of which are fairly common problems in bad ports of year old games.
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In summation, this is the same game that released a year ago in japan with an arcade mode attached to it. The only change to the boxart was a ‘+’ in the game title. And while some of these issues can be forgiven for a last-gen game from a year ago, much of it could have been fixed prior to its re-release on PS4. It’s a pity really, this game had me excited and had so much potential, but in the end pretty character models and cool special attacks cannot compensate for a mediocre gameplay experience.

Reviewed by Pat ‘Zael’ Braithwaite
Reviewed on Sony Playstation 4

 

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