JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD is Capcom’s latest rerelease of a fighting game classic. This time the company has chosen a more obscure title. Originally released in arcades in 1998 and on Dreamcast in 1999, JoJo’s is a fighting game based upon the manga of the same name. Now on PSN and XBLA, JoJo’s must compete with numerous titles, both downloadable and retail.
JoJo’s is a 2D pixel fighting-game with a button setup similar to Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s. You have a light, medium, heavy, and Stand button. The light, medium, and heavy buttons are just like any other attack button in a fighting game. You use them perform normal attacks and, along with stick movements, to vary the type of special you want to use. The stand button is JoJo’s most unique feature and it’s the thing that sets it apart from almost every other game on the market. For many characters the Stand button allows you to bring out your Stand, a magical force that takes a human like shape. While your Stand is out you control both it and your character. This causes variation to your characters move set, sometimes giving you access to entirely new specials and supers. Additionally some characters can give their Stand commands that cause it to move independently of the main character. Not all characters have a Stand that can manifest itself, however, and these characters use the button as an additional normal; for example, Mahrahia creates an electrical trap when you press the button. It’s a nice way of diversifying the cast and making sure that each character has some special quirk or rule.
It’s unfortunate then that the game really doesn’t bother to teach how to use any of these special features. There is a short how-to-play guide buried in the game’s options menu, but it only teaches you the inputs, not the applications of the powers. The lack of a character specific challenge mode really hurts the game, especially because its cast is so diverse. You will need to look up combos and other vital information online, although there is not nearly as much of it as there is for MvC3 and other more recent games. Normally the omission of such a mode could be forgiven, but Capcom is pricing JoJo’s at $20. In order to justify this price, they need to offer more, especially considering that their previous HD fighter was Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition, which contained both challenge and trial modes. JoJo’s challenge mode is simply a series of battles using the same life-bar. Otherwise the game only has story, training, and versus modes. The story mode is fine, but since you're playing against the AI it is hardly an ideal gameplay experience. The online versus is actually quite good with solid net code. Even when I played against players from Japan, I had very few connection issues.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was originally a manga, and that is very apparent in the games art and presentation. The characters have the overly muscled look and lack of fashion sense that you would expect from what is essentially a 1980’s super hero story. It looks crazy and stupid in just the right way, though some will probably not enjoy the ridiculous designs. Players can choose between classic and HD modes. I prefer the HD visuals as they clean up the edges of the sprites and add black lines meant to represent the artist’s pen.
If you do get the hang of the gameplay, JoJo’s can be a lot of fun to play. The uniqueness of the characters encourages experimentation. Stands are well integrated into the game and they feel natural. This feeling extends to the rest of the fighting and movement in the game. The hits are hard, the movement fluid, and characters responsive. It’s really unfortunate that the game doesn’t really teach you how to make the most of this solid gameplay. Instead you need to learn by playing against others online or searching the internet for combo videos. If the game had an integrated tutorial system, JoJo’s would be easy to recommend, but it doesn’t and that seriously impacts the game. Most players will have a very difficult time progressing in this game without a tutorial, and even those who are familiar with fighting games may have some trouble with the more unique systems. I was also disappointed in the game’s story. It picks up in the third arc of the manga and does almost nothing to explain to the uninitiated what is going on. The actual story itself, which is told in mostly static cut scenes in between fights, is pretty boring and really reveals nothing interesting about these cool and crazy looking characters. Furthermore many characters don’t have a fully featured story mode; only main characters have a significant number of cutscenes.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a fairly enjoyable fighting game. It has some cool gameplay hooks that you don’t see in many fighters, but the game does a very poor job of teaching you about any of this. Because of this and the game’s $20 price tag, only those who really enjoy fighting games or JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure should consider this release.