Big guns, big breasts, and more macho-ness than the Macho Man can exude is the standard formula for any fighting game. Well, that is until you meet JoJo and go on his bizarre adventure. Welcome to a fighting game universe where the standard convention of normality is thrown out the window in a way only the Japanese can accomplish.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All-Star Battle for the PlayStation 3 is based off of the manga series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and takes the player through key points in the multiple storylines of the 30+ year, on-going series. The two things that pop out at the player the moment they begin their first fight are the art style and the fighting mechanics. Every fighting game has their own unique style which differentiates themselves from each other, like DOA5: Ultimate and Persona 4: Arena as an example. JoJo is different in a negative way because of how bulky and slow the fighting actually is. There is very little range to the attacks, combos are almost non-existent except for some easy button mashers, and timing is literally everything. A person could spam throw moves without consequence if they get the frame rate timing down perfectly, and the opponent doesn’t have enough of their power meter saved up for a flash cancel.
As mentioned, frame rate timing is the key concept of this game. Characters move slowly across the battlefield, and with such a short attack range, it becomes a battle of wits and strategy. Wait for the counter-attack, go for the opening every time it is seen, or be patient and build up your special meter for a special heart attack. While the regular combat is dull, the heart specials are fun to see. They are easy to pull off and highlight the game’s vibrant artwork with a lot of close-ups. Do one at the right location as the finishing blow and it’ll set-off a ‘dramatic finish,’ which is an environment attack scene added in for good measure.
The artwork for the game is what really draws people into the experience, and easily ranks as one of the most beautifully drawn titles on the market. The best way to describe it is to take TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead and give it a Japanese overhaul — and that’s essentially JoJo. Needless to say, I felt compelled to play the game more just to gawk at the artwork. What sets the character artwork apart is how backwards the characters are compared to every other fighter. The female characters are more flat-chested, and muscular than their Mortal Kombat counterparts, and all the men are very flamboyant in their mannerisms. For example, instead of backing up in a traditional defensive pose, some characters will prance and skip. This character design pushes the standard conventions of sexual identity in a genre that is set in its conventions.
As an added bonus, panels from the manga pop up during the gameplay when the combatants perform attacks that are similar to what happened in the manga. It is a little bit of fan service that helps the game find its own identity compared to the legion of other fighters on the market.
Sadly, this game doesn’t have the soundtrack to match with the likes of a Street Fighter. No individual track stood out as something I wanted to download off YouTube and listen to for hours on end, nor even get me pumped up and ready to smash some faces in the game. Overall the music was forgettable, which was sad considering how good the artwork was. Another issue with the game was the unnecessarily long loading times. When two players want to play, it should not take a minute to wait between character select and the combat. Loading times should be quick and seamless for a genre that relies on numerous character changes. What the developers did do to off-set the wait time, at least initially, is they allowed the player to read parts of the manga’s plot on the loading screen. The first couple times this kind of fan service helps alleviate the loading times, but after that either the gamer is going to not care about the story or have it memorized, which leaves a boring screen to look at.
All the standard modes are included, from arcade to story, and online to offline versus mode. There is also a campaign mode that allows you to earn special customization medals. However, the online and campaign modes require a free DLC compatibility download, which is almost 800MB in size. Without the DLC, these two modes cannot be played. Fair warning to those who buy used games or have multiple PSN accounts, the compatibility DLC has to be of the same store as the game itself. As such, a North American copy means you’ll have to pick up the DLC from the U.S. store. For the sake of this review I was using a European disc, thus I was forced to download the EU DLC and play while using my EU account. Does it break the game? No, and while it’s free of charge, it still prove an unneeded annoyance for anyone who just wants to put the disc in and play.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a unique fighting game; there are no two way about it. The artwork and character design helps compensate for the flaws in the combat system, but if you’re a fan of the JoJo’s manga then the lackluster combat can be easily overlooked. Conversely, If you’re not a fan of the manga, it is more of a curiosity game for those who are into the genre rather than becoming the beat-’em-up of your choice like DoA or Street Fighter.