One of the many world premieres shown off at this year’s Xbox E3 press briefing was for the new fighting game Jump Force, which features characters from such popular manga franchises as Naruto, One Piece and Dragon Ball Z all fighting it out. When I was younger, I read a lot of manga, and the three aforementioned series were all some of my favorites, so I freaked out a little bit when the Jump Force trailer was revealed and I knew I had to try the game out at Bandai Namco’s E3 booth. So I did.
During the reveal trailer, we saw Naruto himself, Luffy from One Piece and Goku from Dragon Ball Z all beating on Dragon Ball Z’s Frieza. In the demo I played, I also learned that Naruto’s Sasuke Uchiha and One Piece’s Roronoa Zoro are playable characters as well. In Jump Force, players will select teams of three to battle each other. You only control one character at a time, but you can switch out to another character on your team whenever you want. Whenever one character’s health is completely depleted, however, you lose the fight; you won’t be playing until all three characters lose their health. This provides for quicker, and arguably more dynamic and challenging gameplay, but I can understand why some players will enjoy this mechanic while others won’t.
As for the fighting itself, you’ll find all of your basic fighting game mechanics in Jump Force. Each character comes equipped with a light attack, a heavy attack, a guard and a run/dodge. You can also charge up your energy meters, which will allow you to use each character’s special abilities. All characters have four abilities, all of which are signature moves that any fan of that character will know. One of Goku’s special abilities is Kamehameha, for example, while Naruto can use Rasengan and Luffy can utilize his various Gum-Gum attacks. Additionally, each of these special moves have different effects. Some are strong short-range attacks and others are strong long-range attacks; some even seemed to operate more as a counter move, waiting to take effect until your opponent tries to strike. There are also abilities that have added effects. Abilities like Goku’s Spirit Bomb or Sasuke’s Amaterasu stay on the field for a while after you use them, further damaging your opponent if you can get them in the area where your ability is still affecting the stage. Other abilities, like Frieza’s Death Saucer will follow your opponent around if they manage to dodge them initially.
In addition to all of this, each character has an Awakened state they can enter when their Awakened gauge is full. This is a stronger “form” that each character becomes, like Goku’s Super Saiyan form. While in a character’s Awakened state, they become generally more powerful, but also gain access to another special ability that is their strongest move and absolutely decimates the enemy. The problem with this model is that by the time you’ve been fighting long enough to enter your Awakened state and use your strongest move, you’ve probably already dealt a good amount of damage to your opponent anyway, so using your Awakened ability just feels unnecessary. But they’re still really cool to watch, so it almost doesn’t even matter that they’re not particularly practical.
Between the standard fighting game mechanics, each character’s list of unique abilities and the Awakened states and abilities, there is a ton of potential depth in Jump Force. It felt like the kind of game pretty much anyone could enjoy. Fighting game veterans will enjoy the game’s intricacies and many mechanics, while those who don’t normally play fighting games can just mash buttons until they really learn how to play and still feel like they’re pulling off some cool moves. Obviously, the roster that was available in this demo was pretty small, but fans can be sure to expect a lot more characters from these three franchises, as well as other Shonen Jump franchises. The announcement trailer also implied that some Death Note characters may be playable, so who knows who else will eventually be included? (Yu Yu Hakusho better get some representation, just saying.)
Jump Force is scheduled to release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC sometime in 2019.