Back when Jump Force was announced at E3, I wasn’t entirely thrilled. Sure, I’ve been a fan of the manga and anime the characters portrayed within are from for a little over 20 years now, but I just couldn’t look past the aesthetics — some of the characters just didn’t look right. Well, I had the chance to participate in the closed beta this past weekend and though I’m still not sold on that front, I can certainly say I’m excited about it now. I found it to be flawed in certain areas, but it’s very fun.
But before I continue, I feel like I should address something non-game related that annoyed me: the closed beta schedule.
The schedule wound up being rather inconvenient times for those living on the East Coast, with two of the testing periods (there were four in total) starting at 12 a.m. On top of that, they were only open for about two hours at a time, so it was very easy to miss out on the only period with a convenient time unless you went out of your way to make time for it.
Now, I’m not placing any blame on Bandai Namco or arguing that the servers should have been open for a longer period of time, but I can’t imagine obtaining comprehensive data when many potential testers could only realistically participate during one of the time slots. That said, I was able to do several quick matches and the lag was minimal overall, so the servers were clearly stable for the most part.
And from what I’ve played, the same can be said about Jump Force’s gameplay: stable — for the most part.
If you’ve played J-Stars Victory VS. or just a fan of manga/anime in general, then you’ll feel right at home here. Fights are conducted on a 3D plane, so players are given full opportunity to move around and the general control scheme and actions (light attack, heavy attack, throw, guard, dash, etc.) are easy to pick up on. Adding on to this, battles are now conducted as formal rounds and the victory condition is to win two of them (as opposed to reducing their health to zero and waiting for them to revive after a brief period three times), bringing them closer in-line with traditional fighting games like Street Fighter or Tekken.
Everything works just as it should when doing basic maneuvers — attacks are responsive, characters move in the way you want them to, etc. — but things started to get a bit frustrating once advanced tactics came into play. Admittedly, I’m not the greatest at this game (I was only able to play for two hours), but I couldn’t help but feel like some mechanics were designed poorly or not work the way they should.
For instance, Jump Force now allows for two characters to act as assists, and yet you’re only allowed access to one of them at a time (i.e. the point character can only summon the character displayed directly beneath them). I’m absolutely fine with the semi-long cooldowns because some characters have very powerful assist attacks (Frieza’s Death Beam is near-instant), but I don’t understand the point of allowing for two characters to aid you in combat (with shared health pools, no less) when one of them is functionally useless under most circumstances. Why not allow the player to summon either teammate and have them both share a cooldown?
Similarly, I think the teleport mechanic is undertuned. Upon being hit or a successful guard, players can teleport away to safety and presumably launch a counterattack. And the reason I say “presumably” is because there seems to be little incentive for the other player to stop attacking. Not only can they continue swinging at empty air as if nothing happened, but there are times when trying to counterattack with normal moves will just get you caught in the same attack string that you just escaped from.
I do have some other complaints (like the camera sometimes not tracking properly when using dash attacks), but I’m expecting all of these to be addressed in future builds.
Fortunately, whereas some of the mechanics are somewhat janky, the action and special attacks are top-notch.
The characters — as one might expect — are decidedly unique, each capable of unleashing the signature techniques (via an energy meter beneath their health gauge) that helped make them so popular in the first place. Goku has his Kamehameha and Spirit Bomb, for instance, while Naruto can use Shadow Clones and Rasengan and Luffy has his myriad of Gum-Gum attacks. These translate directly into the character’s fighting style as well, with characters like Ichigo and Roronoa Zoro being absolute monsters in close-quarters in exchange for weak ranged options, while characters like Goku and Sasuke are more well-rounded. Needless to say, once everyone lets their special attacks fly, the game will start looking less like a fighting game and more like a laser light show.
As far as special techniques are concerned, all I’m worried about is whether developer Spike Chunsoft put enough thought into how Awakened states (Super Saiyan, Bankai, etc.) and ultimate attacks work. Put simply, a character can activate their awakened state once the meter around their portrait is at least halfway, granting them boosted strength and access to their ultimate attack. The problem, however, is that by the time a character is able to activate their awakened state and have enough meter to use their ultimate technique, chances are that they could have done just about anything else to have won the match already. As they stand, they’re only use is to humiliate your opponent (which, admittedly, is a reward in of itself) and provide an awesome cinematic.
Despite that though, between the easy-to-learn controls, mechanics and clear respect for the source material (even if some of the characters look weird *cough* Younger Toguro *cough*), I had a good deal of fun with Jump Force. There is clear potential for it to be a solid fighter, and while I don’t foresee it having the depth or mass appeal to become the next big eSport (thank god), it can certainly become a game that warrants holding tournaments whether they be at a place like CEOtaku or online when you’re feeling Salty on a Saturday.
Going forward, all I hope is that more characters beyond Jump’s typical fare are added to the roster. Though characters from “Death Note” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!” are slated to appear, I wouldn’t mind seeing Korosensei (“Assassination Classroom”), Medaka Kurokami (“Medaka Box”) or Lala Satalin Deviluke and Yami (“To Love-Ru”) make their way in too. Hell, they could greenlight characters from newer titles like “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba,” “Black Clover,” “My Hero Academia” or “Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs” for the cherry on top.
In either event, the foundation for a solid game is there, now all that’s left is for the developers to build upon it.