I began playing JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle with no prior knowledge of the manga series, which is widely successful in Japan. The story centers on individuals that have special fighting abilities, whom also fight alongside their supernatural protectors known as ‘Stands’. The story is crazy, has many twist and turns, and is diffidently bizarre. The game was developed by CyberConnect2 Co., which produced the .hack series and Naruto, using stunning cellshaded characters and environments. Rather than feel that I was lost because I did not know the back story of the manga, I had the feeling that I wanted to learn more about the series and characters and it did not detract from my experience.
As I was playing through the Story Mode, each of the eight chapters are broken up into episodes. Before each fight you get some dialog that tells you why you are facing off with each competitor. Because you encounter the same person more than once, it is nice to have some background as to why you are beating them up again. Not only do these scene give you different context for each fight, but before each round you are given different effects that take place during that match. These circumstances range from starting off the match with half your players health, to giving your opponent better defense. You are able to purchase, from your rewards after each match, different cards that can help you balance the round more. In contrast to the round effects limiting your character or helping your enemy, these cards can help you start with more health or decrease your enemy's attack. The wide range of each match coupled with the variety of characters you face, make the Story Mode worthwhile well after the first chapter ends.
The Gameplay is mostly 2D with the ability to dodge and move around the stage in 3D. If you have played the previous JoJo’s Bizare Adventure: Heritage for the Future game or Soul Calibur, you know what to expect. I played on the PS3 d-pad and had no problems, but an arcade stick for serious players would be ideal.
Each player has a signature move, which deals heavy damage and really brings to life the anime style of the game. It is not hard to deal your signature move, because it only requires the simple action button timed in repetition. These moves gave my friends that just picked up the controller to play a round with me, the feeling that they had some experience with the game even though they never played it before. The signature move scenes are very lively and a true joy to watch, because they involve the character either surprising their prey or attacking them Mortal Kombat style.
If you are able to deal the final blow to your competitor at the end of the round with your signature move, you receive a dramatic finish that involves your move and the stage environment in some epic attack. Some stages hands are flying across the screen and other stages you are thrown into a water tower. The scenes that involve your signature move or Dramatic Finish are so out there and quirky, that you will want to give every character and stage a try to see what unfolds.
Much like Injustice, each stage has gimmicks that can also hurt the player and change the tide of the round. Ranging from chariots to chandeliers, you will diffidently have enough to avoid each round.
There are a total of 41 eccentric characters (32 available and 9 DLC) that fall under very different fighting styles; Hamon, Vampirism, Mode, Stand and Mount. If you are new to the series like I was, beginning in the Story Mode helps you understand why characters are so different and unbalanced. Character abilities are based on what has happened in the manga series. While Stand users are the most prominent on the select screen and gain access to an adjusted move-set whenever they call forth their guardian, there are but two Mount characters that can switch between standing and a horseback stance. With so much diversity and variety in characters, this game is far from balanced. It does differentiate itself however; and if you do not want to take this game too seriously, which it does not take itself seriously at all, then a match or two with friends really is enjoyable.
Of course, you can play against people online, which is as good as any experience you would have playing this game locally. Much like the other modes, there are occasionally some spots where the game will stutter or lag. The rare moments are when you have two Stand characters, that have their guardians out at the same time, and a signature move is activated. A lot of effects and animations are on screen and it drops for a split second, but is no real problem.
Where this game takes a different path again, is the online-only Campaign mode. This is where you have your custom character face off against AI-controlled players in an effort to win taunts, victory poses, quotes, colors and alternate costumes. There is a micro-transaction element, where you have to wait two minutes or pay to not wait, but you will either live with it or pay for it.
Though it is a minor part of any game, the Trophies in JoJo’s are very fun and urge the player to try every aspect of the game. It is a game that literally hands you the trophies if you simply play it. Some people may want harder to acquire trophies, but the simplicity approach gives you more gratification in the game, especially in the Story Mode.
After playing this game, I felt like I wanted to experience more of the series altogether. Every mode felt perfect and different than any fighting game before it. There are balancing issues, directional controls could be more solid, the game could embellish more of the story, and the voice over could have been translated into English. The negatives out of the way; the game has many lively characters to play around with, has a great cellshaded-anime-style art direction, gives great customizable game options, and has a story that only a Japanese manga could pull off.
As I said before, I came into this game with no knowledge of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure series and it had no effect on me other than wanting more from the series. I would urge fans of the Dragon Ball Z or Naruto fighting games to check this out, if they want something similar or if they have been burnt out on the other two. This game could be played competitively, but is one that I will come back to as a great pick-it-up and play.