Jump Force Review- Not a Huge Leap Forward

When anime characters get together for a super-brawl, it’s usually a moment that’s to be celebrated by fans of the community. Case in point- when Jump Ultimate Stars released years ago for the Nintendo DS, it became an instant hit with the community, even though the game never got a fair shake on these shores.

Fortunately, it appears that the market has loosened up a bit with licensing, resulting in more games like J-Stars Victory Vs+ coming our way, becoming a modest hit on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. And that’s led up to Jump Force, a game that was heavily hyped at last year’s Xbox press conference during E3, featuring a number of superstars from favorite anime series as Dragon Ball Z, Naruto and Fist of the North Star, along with obscure favorites like City Hunter and Black Cover, as well as a little My Hero Academia for good measure. So that means it’s an instant hit, right? Well…

Gameplay- 7.0/10

First off, the general combat set-up for Jump Force isn’t exactly what you’d call top-of-the-line. The developers at Spike Chunsoft have opted to keep things in the “keep it simple” category, while at the same time paying proper tribute to the characters involved. It doesn’t take a large step forward when it comes to its fighting, but fans are sure to enjoy the combat that’s on hand here.

There are over 40 playable characters in all, so even if you’re not a die-hard fan of a particular series on display here, you’re bound to like something that sticks with you. What’s more, the characters have a decent amount of special attacks to their credit, ranging from short range to dashing to long range, and even some on the defensive side, such as buffing and shielding.

The 3D combat isn’t the best we’ve seen- after playing so much Dragon Ball FighterZ, we’re spoiled by the distinct 2D fighting it’s provided- but it’s solid. You’ll be able to dodge incoming attacks like a pro while setting up what you have up your sleeve. The defensive side of things is more interesting, as you can utilize a dash to your credit, then strike back while your opponent prepares for the worst. In fact, this is one of the few instances where planning your next move defensively actually pays off over unleashing a steady barrage of fireballs.

That said, even with all these moves, it doesn’t feel like the game moves forward enough like FighterZ did. Sure, the fights can be a good time, especially against others. But I was hoping there was a little more to the combat, like perhaps tagging someone in.

Fortunately, Jump Force gives you lots of room to run around, between a Campaign Mode, added on Free Missions, and, of course, the multiplayer, which we’ll get to in the community section.

Innovation- 5.0/10

I noted above that the fighting didn’t quite go a step above as I was hoping it to, though Jump Force still provides a worthy brawl. Alas, I didn’t feel that way when it came to the campaign itself, which could’ve been like a “super team” sort of setup, but instead comes across as melodrama that fails to pay tribute to the material provided by the many characters on display.

In the campaign, you start out as a human that finds him or herself buried by a super-attack from Frieza. With a little help from your newfound friends, you’re able to come back and create a warrior, using a number of skills and other customizable skills to your credit.

It’s neat to have a customization system to make your character look like something out of an anime. Unfortunately, though, the story never lives up to the hype. As great as it is to see all these superstar characters- Luffy!- in this world, there’s really not enough to back up their actions. This is particularly true with the middle part of the game, where some stuff tends to drag.

What’s more, the animated sequences don’t really pop to life as expected. Some characters merely drift onto the screen, as if they’ve forgotten how to walk in their signature style. And what’s worse, the balance between male and female characters is staggering, as you really don’t see enough favorites from the series represented by women. That doesn’t mean they aren’t here, but it would’ve been great to see more obscure favorites thrown in.

The story probably serves as the weakest part of Jump Force, and that’s unfortunate considering what material Spike Chunsoft had to work with. It’s almost like Justice League film- all the pieces are there to make you feel like a superstar effort is coming, but it never quite gets there.

 

Community- 7.0/10

One area where Jump Force doesn’t seem to stagger too much is with its competitive modes. You can either take on a friend locally or dive into one of the many online offerings and see what the world has to offer. This is probably where Jump Force makes most of its effort, if only because it’s great to see what others can do in the field of battle.

A certain suggestion I can make here is to get lots of practice first before you even think of trying to tackle online. That’s because there are plenty of devoted players running around (particularly on the PlayStation 4 front) that mean serious business. We learned this the hard way after getting our butts handed to us within a couple of matches, forcing us to learn a couple of new fundamentals and then jumping in again to see if we could fare any better.

The matches are reasonably handled. And what’s more, watching these superstars mix it up is really something. Alas, the game has one serious problem that’s too hard to overlook, and it seems to affect it as a whole- loading time.

This is true in campaign and other modes of Jump Force, and it’s just too darn hard to overlook. That’s because everything requires a few seconds of loading. And it can take a while to get through before things pick up again. In fact, it’s to the point that, unless you’re absolutely patient, you may give up before an online match even begins, itching to find competition in something that runs far quicker. Dare we say it, that includes FighterZ.

If you can withstand waiting a little bit, you’ll find Jump Force’s online community to be very, very game. But…if you can’t, well, you might want to stick with one of the earlier anime-themed brawlers, if only to avoid the “yawns” coming in.

 

Graphics/Sound- 6.0/10

Here’s where Jump Force can be kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Spike Chunsoft did a great job with the in-game environments, making the real world come to life beautifully for the anime characters that arrive within it. And the cast looks really good in the heat of combat, with their distinct styles perfectly captured, right down to the special attacks they execute against one another.

Then we have the other hand, where parts of the game look like it was rushed. We’re talking about the cinemas mainly, in which, again, the characters barely do anything. Spike Chunsoft could’ve easily taken the route that Arc System Works did with Dragon Ball FighterZ, incorporating marvelous anime-style sequences into each fight so that it brings them to glorious life. As it stands, Jump Force just doesn’t do that. In fact, you’ll probably click through as many cinematic sequences as you can, just to get to the fights.

And that brings up the loading time again, which, I hope, Bandai Namco will remedy with a forthcoming patch. It’s long, especially on the Xbox One X (and keep in mind that’s a pretty powerful console), and may dwindle the excitement for some players. That bears repeating.

That brings us to the lip-synching issue for the game. The Japanese dialogue is spot on, but the lip-synching just can’t keep up with what’s being said. And what’s more, some of the characters sound a bit samey with this option. That’s not to say fans won’t eat it up- they will- but this again comes down to production value, and how a little more effort really could’ve gone a long way.

The music’s pretty good, though FighterZ’s rock soundtrack runs circles around it. But it’s not bad, considering the themes that Jump Force utilizes. It could’ve been far, far worse.

 

Value for Money- 7.0/10

So will you find any long-lasting value from something like Jump Force? It really depends on how you approach it.

Let’s say you’re looking for a single player adventure akin to what J-Stars Victory Vs+ provided. Jump Force just doesn’t have that spark when it comes to storytelling, mainly, again, to that lazy second act. And while the ability to create and implement your own character into battle is cool, there could’ve been more effort to make everyone more involved in the story. Not to mention those lazy cinematic sequences. Like…really?

But on the flip side, let’s talk about multiplayer. There is something worthy of value here when it comes to opponents fighting against one another, due to the nature of the gameplay and the chaotic style that comes from both attacking and defending. Online works pretty well, and the local battling isn’t too shabby either. Just remember, though, that the game takes…a…good…while when it comes to loading, and that’s bound to be a headache for some. If you can get over that, however, you’ll like what Jump Force has to offer on the competitive side.

Finally, if you’re a rookie, I would suggest tackling both sides of the game. The single player fights will get you ready for what’s online, even if that means enduring some of the campaign along the way. And that’ll be useful considering the anime-loving fighting maniacs you’ll be going up against. If you can, call upon some friends to fight alongside you. You’ll be happy you did.

 

Summary- 6.5/10

This is a pretty rough game to review. I expected Jump Force to come out guns blazing over what J-Stars Victory Vs+ and even that import DS affair offered in the past. We are talking about a game for the current generation of consoles that brings together some of the best anime names in the world here after all. And yet, it feels like an almost-ran in some places.

The campaign story is probably the most disappointing part of this package, if only because, well, a lot more could’ve been done. At least the fighting itself, while not revolutionary, packs a punch, especially when it comes to how the online community gets thrown into the mix. Bring experience, though- you’re going to need it.

Presentation also feels like it’s taken a step backward, which is a real surprise. Considering how powerful current consoles are, you’d think Spike Chunsoft would’ve delivered a real showcase that would’ve put Dragon Ball FighterZ to shame. Instead, it’s a mixed bag, with some great looking fighting blended together with plain cinema styles, poor production values in spots and, worst of all, loading times that take quite a bit of patience to endure. C’mon, we want to fight already!

It’s not a terrible game, but one that could use a patch or two to bring things up to speed. Jump Force will definitely entertain those that live for an all-out anime brawl, but maybe next time around, Bandai Namco can go the extra mile and give the developers the resources needed to make this a real anime brawl-for-it-all. As it stands, it comes up short instead of delivering an epic experience. It’s still worth, ahem, jumping into, but maybe don’t go in with both feet like a madman.

Pros:

  • Brings together a robust cast of characters from a variety of anime franchises
  • The fighting itself, while not anything new, delivers, especially when it comes to online brawling
  • The customization system is pretty neat and lets you build a cool anime character alongside the greats

Cons:

  • The campaign is disappointing, especially considering the available characters and scenarios at play
  • Long loading times may put a damper on those that want to get into a “quick” match against other players
  • Cinematics and poor lip-synching show off some flaws within the development
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