If I was to write this review in the style of Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure, it would be a series of manly, anime-esque shouts… ie.
AYYYYAAAAAAAA! BEKKKKAAYYYYYAAA!!! FUJJJAAAAAAYAAAAAA!!!
And so on. That’s the kind of feeling Jo Jo’s Bizzare Adventure: All Star Battle awakens in me. A primal urge to wear leather spandex pants, get an 80’s perm going on and get into fights with other androgynous guys… and gals. For the uninitiated, Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure is a long running Japanese manga. The first chapter of the saga was published way back in 1987 as Phantom Blood and told a tale of Vampires, Betrayal and … Hamon Breath?
Yes. That’s right, god dammit. Hamon Breath. What’s so difficult to understand? Hamon Breath is basically some kind of mystical energy used by first protaganist, Jonathon Joestar (a.k.a Jo Jo). He’s taught the powers by a freaky jester/magician guy by the name of Zeppelli to prepare him for his battles against his adoptive brother/evil vampire Dio Brando. Yep, this is certainly a Japanese franchise.
Subsequent chapters have told the story of Jonathons Ancestors throughout the ages and the game, All Star Battle, serves as a great compendium of Jo Jo stories, with the added bonus of some absolutely incredible beat-em-up gameplay. This is honestly one of the best beat-em-up’s I have ever played, with so much diversity on offer, a huge amount of game modes, more unlockables than you can shake your hamon breath at and gorgeous cel-shaded visuals from the folks who brought us Asura’s Wrath.
Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is pretty damn bizarre, but luckily… it’s the good kind of bizarre. Each chapter in Story Mode takes place across an entire chapter in the Manga’s history. This usually tells the story of a character, always named a variant of Jo Jo (ie. Joeseph Joestar, Josuke Jonestar, Jolion Joestar), who typically get’s caught up in some seriously crazy nonsense.
Most chapters consist of a series of fights, but unlike other beat-em-ups, the fights also have additional side objectives called secret missions. Secret Missions are things you can do in a fight to make it more comparable to the event’s that actually happened in the manga. For example, one fight might have the secret missions “Land the first attack” and “Pull off an Ultra Heat Attack”. Obviously, they are never going to tell you what the secret missions are outright and instead you will have to experiment in each fight, to determine the potential combinations.
There is also the “another story” feature, which allows you to replay every chapter from the perspective of the villain instead of the hero. Playable characters for Arcade Mode, Campaign Mode and Online VS are unlocked in Story Mode, so it should be your first port of call. There are over 30 characters in the game spanning over 20 years of Jo Jo lore. Each character plays in a unique way and although there were issues with balancing at launch in Japan, those have been ironed out for the international release.
Campaign Mode has also seen refinements since the game released in Japan. Campaign mode plays out similarly to most social games, which have you use energy to get into fights and perform certain actions. Once all your energy is used up you have to wait for it to recharge. Luckily, the wait time for a piece of energy was reduced from 20 minutes to 5 minutes in this version, making the campaign mode far, far better.
Online VS is where most beat-em-up fans will spend the bulk of their time. The matchmaking system is spot on and typically lands you with players of equivalent skill, so long as they are available. Currency can be earned by playing in any of the above modes and this can then be spent on Support Items or Collectibles. Support Items can be used at the start of battles in Story, Arcade and Campaign mode and give the player bonuses such as additional HP, recharging health or improved attack/defense. You can also use Support Items that impair the enemy, such as health drain, half health and attack/defense modifiers.
Visually the game is absolutely gorgeous, looking like the manga itself came to life and sprung onto the TV screen. The shaders used by developer CyberConnect 2, really make the game look like a living breathing comic book and once again prove that a distinctive art style is just as important as overall polygon count. Musically the game has some kick ass jams and the voice acting (which is entirely in Japanese) is suitably over the top.
Namco-Bandai and CyberConnect 2 have really outdone themselves with this top class beat-em-up, which easily cements itself alongside genre favourites like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. It’s a love letter to fans of the series, while also providing a perfect introduction for those with little to no Jo Jo knowledge.
The adventure may be bizarre, but the quality is exceptional.
If you are a fan of the manga, a fan of beat-em-up’s or just a fan of crazy Japanese stuff, you seriously need to consider getting this game.