Jump Force brings together a range of Shonen Jump characters in an arena-style fighting game. Compared to the previous versions of the Shonen Jump crossovers, Jump Force is more story driven and the whole game revolves around this. In this game, the worlds of Jump are combining with the real world, with villains from the various Shonen Jump series destroying the world alongside the mysterious Venoms. The Jump heroes have joined together, calling themselves Jump Force, to take down the villains alongside you! Yes, you begin the game being reborn into a hero of your own creation. You play as this avatar in the Jump Force base and for most of the story, in a move clearly inspired by Dragon Ball Xenoverse and the recent Naruto to Boruto Shinobi Striker. I can see why some people would be put off a bit by this, however, for me, it made the plot pretty awesome joining forces with my heroes. Plus, it has the perk of combining your favourite specials creating a fighter of your ultimate preference.
Where the plot is generally really interesting and gripping, it is let down by the poor quality of the cutscenes. Where the game looks great in the fights, cutscenes have really awkward animations and the styles don’t blend together well. This really dampens any sort of emotion in the scene and lead me to be a bit disengaged. Moving to look at the actual plot, there is one slight issue for me over the fact that it doesn’t include a lot more Shonen Jump series. I’ll talk about the roster later in the review, but why the plot didn’t involve more characters from other series, even if they aren’t fighters, baffles me. Sure it includes Light and Ryuk from Death Note, yet the easily the story could have involved a side plot of saving these characters and in turn, they fill out the Jump Force base. Just imagine how cool it would have been to see a wide range of Jump characters interacting beyond the fighters, running the shops/services, and generally hanging out. I mean that would be much cooler than seeing random people online running about which can be quite annoying. For me, this slight detail would of made the game a true celebration of 50 years of Jump but it seems they wanted to focus on the more serious fighting characters which I can understand.
Now let’s look at the fighting mechanics, the real focus of the game. As a whole, it is an easy-going fighting game. There are the usual light and heavy hits, both having a charged smash, added with a throw as the core. Interestingly, there are no real combos and for each character is quite basic and similar. Where it is basic, it works well to blend the different styles together, encouraging you to use different characters. That is not to say they don’t control differently, as there are some really interesting mechanics with Yugi, Jotaro, and some of the other characters, the core system being the same allows you to experiment and adapt to these different styles quite easily compared to other fighting games. Further to this, you have energy bars which allow you to unleash special attacks which are the character’s signature moves. The last detail is the awaking bar that builds up the more you get hit and attacked (including when you block). When at 50%, you can active awaking mode which for some characters means they power up in different ways such as Super Saiyan, Sage Mode, etc. Again, adding a nice touch for fans of the characters to be able to power up, but even so, every character has an awakened state to level the power. There is also a stronger awaking state at 100%, which gives more of a power boost, and some characters go to a higher-powered upstate (such as Goku turning Super Saiyan Blue). It is the awakening bar that also allows you to unleash a devastating final attack which is each character’s ultimate signature move. Where these are great, I have to say they are a bit too easy to block…
Battles are up to 3 v 3, with one fighter out at the same time but each team shares a health bar. It is an interesting move but sharing a health bar across your team demotivates you to swap characters. Sure, you can mix it up and catch opponents off guard, but I prefer just to stick to one character and opt to use a support move instead. Still, the heart of the action is being fast-paced, using blurs and dashes to make the hits quick and powerful. This is only increased by the more sophisticated mechanics of high-speed counter/dodge which can really turn the tide when in a pinch. This aesthetic furthered by the battle damage, where if a fighter receives a major hit their costume gets torn and cuts appear. It’s really cool, particularly it isn’t just because you are low on health which is the usual route, but a consequence of receiving a heavy hit. It works to make you feel like you’re truly in the anime, admittedly also made it a pain to get a good screenshot! My only real issue with the mechanics is I wish there was a block meter or something to prevent the CPU from over-blocking… Other than that, it is a great easy-going fighter. Particularly as you unlock the full roster very early on, which I found disappointing but it lets you get straight into the action.
Where the roster boasts around 40 characters, I was disappointed with the final line-up. For a 50th anniversary, it doesn’t celebrate the range of series I would expect. Where Dragon Ball, One Piece and Naruto are the core of the game, they are over-represented, leaving other series underrepresented or not present. For instance, Gintama does not appear at all which is baffling considering it was one of the leading Jump series last year… Then a lot of series only having 1 character, I’d rather each series have about 4 to ensure it is a good balance, then others as supports or just in the base. At the same time, there were some weird choices, such as in the Naruto group why Gaara was picked over Sakura? Why didn’t Ace from One Piece, and other characters returned from J-Fighting Stars? I guess it was trying to ensure the line-up was varied and interesting, but the drive for more serious fighters doesn’t fully scream Jump… Where it gets even stranger is Deku from My Hero Academia, who seemed to be rushed into the game as he isn’t up to date with his series… He doesn’t have Full Cowling as awakening, plus his special should have been Detroit Smash 100% Full Cowling, instead it is a blend of Delaware and Detroit Smash, which is just his previous All For One 1 million%… I would overlook this but Asta from Black Clover is up to date with his abilities, which is stranger as it is from plot very recently. There are 9 DLC characters in development, we can hope this will improve the range, yet the base game should have been the range and the DLC should be then extra characters from the over-represented series. That isn’t even mentioning the lack of female characters…
Performance wise, the game generally works quite well. However, the game has a lot of long loading screens, and putting it into perspective I played this on a PlayStation®4 Pro.. It’s one thing if it was between the base to a mission, but there are times when there is a short cutscene in one place that finishes prompting a loading screen, to then show another short cutscene… Considering the state of games today, I was quite concerned how much this game loads as each loading screen is a good few minutes. I did worry how this would translate online, though there were no issues when I played it which was promising. The controls were quite responsive, and you could pull off the high-speed counters/dodges. Which does show once the game has loaded it is completely fine.
To wrap it up, I’m pretty torn about how to rate this. It is a great casual fighter, bringing together characters from different series I love, and I enjoy playing it. Yet, everything else has been quite poorly pulled off. It seems very rushed to me and could have done with a bit more time in development. Hopefully, the DLC will round the game a bit more, and make it feel like a true celebration of all things Jump as the roster isn’t varied enough. For a game I was very excited for, it didn’t quite live up to the full hype. Where the story and cutscenes are poor, at least it is a fun casual fighting game.