Shonen Jump has created hit franchise after hit franchise. Much of the manga that debuts in its pages end up standing the test of time. Fans fire up for every new chapter and video game containing these characters, and they're all together in Jump Force. Even those not familiar with the term Shonen Jump will know titles like One Piece, Naruto, and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. While many themes are common between Jump series, you never want too much of a good thing.
Jump Force is a tag fighting game where players can put together teams of three fighters to take on one another in the ring. An interesting aspect of Jump Force is that all three characters share the same health bar. Initially, this might have been a way to maximize the player's experience with a variety of characters. Instead, it robs the player of any need to swap out when in a dire situation. In a purely 3v3 game, the lack of a need to swap makes practically turns it into a 1V3 affair.
Characters like Jotaro, Boruto, and Kurapika get to show off a variety of their special abilities. For what should be a large and flashy battle unresponsive controls, broken mechanics, and clunky animations ruin the fun. The most glaring issue of Jump Force is the overpowered nature of blocking. While there are a few characters that can stun someone out of a block unless you use a charged punch or grab can sit shielding indefinitely.
While this would be ok the lack of response to charged punches makes it difficult to rely on them. You'll see your grab animation passing through your opponents almost as much as they connect. It's not just normal attacks that blocking protects against either, any special or ultimate attack will also bounce off you like it was a tickle. Learning to play the slow game and block is something you'll learn quickly watching CPU opponents while you practice.
Unlike a spam-friendly attack or an overpowered character, Jump Force's mechanics lack balance. Having an exploitable combat trick like this hurts the entire experience. Having some level of interaction across every aspect of battle the overuse of block takes what should be a fast-paced and engaging spectacle into a slow game of baiting your opponent into attacking, defending, or grabbing with limited success. I was a fan of Hunter x Hunter but even Gon would tire of this much Janken. When you finally do manage to bait your opponent into a brief combo and special attack that's where the game should have tried to spend more time. The animations are faithful to their origins. There's fast-paced combat that's visually appealing to watch. It gives you a sense of power that you should get from playing as a Shonen Jump protagonist.
In a mostly unexplained cataclysmic event, the worlds of Shonen Jump and the Real World merge. Everything falls into chaos as villains and heroes fight one another in the streets. An unknown force uses a device called an Umbra Cubes to take bad natured people and turn them into evil super warriors. During a battle between Goku and Frieza, a stray energy blast mortally wounds your created character. Luckily an Umbra Cube can also enhance a good-willed person, and that's you. With new fighting abilities and room to grow, the Jump Force recruits you to help slow the encroaching evil. Goku, Luffy, and Naruto lead the Jump Force as they work to regain lost territory, fight at the front lines, and invade enemy terrain.
After meeting the Director of Jump Force at the Umbra Base (a secret floating base between dimensions), you'll get to pick what team you want to be on. Picking a team decides you new super-powered character's starting special attacks as well as who you represent during seasonal events. Other than that, this decision doesn't impact the story in any way. Don't feel like you're going to miss out on a Naruto team up if you side with Luffy. The Director will find disturbances in energy across both the Real World and Jump Worlds, sending you and others to go and stop the threat. Thanks to the Umbra Cubes, you'll fight possessed versions of Jump fighters, normally in order to recruit them. You can also end up fighting Replicas.
The story is extremely disappointing and frustrating. Even as far as a fighting game storyline, what Jump Force brings to the table is embarrassing. There is a heavy focus on hero characters like Ichigo and Gon appearing as possessed villains. After single fights and extracting their evil Umbra Cube, they're ready to help you out. This approach repeats over and over for practically all the hero fighters. These interactions grow repeatedly stale as you see how little substance there is. Even when rescued, there is minimal interaction between the heroes, even when they have shared interests like swordplay.
Hero characters earn the spotlight, either as friend or foe. The little bit of plot left over for the villains might as well be table scraps. As early as the first cutscene characters like Frieza appear, followed shortly after by the likes of Blackbeard and Aizen. Through the story, they do appear, but new villain Kane doesn't give them the time of day. Characters that could add substance to the story as generals leading part of the Venom army barely register as soldiers.
These stale interactions and wasted enemies just serve to highlight the weak plotting. You could easily whittle down this 20-hour experience into 3 without missing any character growth. The battles you fight are already uninspired enough, but to have you fight the same replica three times in a row is laziness. The conclusion of Chapter 2 has you take on Toguro Replicas three times in a row with a cutscene between each showing one fading out of existence, and another coming up to take its place. Between the repetitive hero interactions and the overuse of generic, repeated battles, it's clear that the campaign plans to waste as much time as possible.
An added insult to this is the long loading times. For each cutscene or battle, you enter you'll be spending upwards of 40 seconds watching tooltips. While for many games this would be normal when the cutscenes are two lines of non-voiced dialogue you find yourself watching the game more than playing it.
Jump Force continues the trend of recent fighting games like Dragon Ball Xenoverse replacing a menu with a lobby system. At the Umbra Base, you'll buy items and abilities, start missions, and fight other players locally and online. While the center of the hub gives you access to everything you'd need a lot of the Jump Force characters are hanging out in the team areas branching out. Each of these areas is themed after the big three; Naruto's forest, Dragon Ball's deserts, and a beautiful coast-line for One Piece. While you can have some fun here interacting with other players in the lobby the complete removal of menu navigation between these functions can get quite tedious.
While the story and even the lobby system are frustrating, to say the least, the focus of this game is its fighting. Key Missions progress the story. Free Missions present preset fights against themed teams. Extra Missions give you a chance to increase your fighter's level caps. Each fight will reward you with experience, gold, and the chance to win items and abilities to rank up your characters. The more your character grows the more Free Missions you'll gain access to. These themes can be as simple as fighting all characters from Naruto or can focus on characters that are all in training like Boruto, Deku, and Asta.
Going through the list of Free Missions, some of the character pairings are honestly quite impressive. It's a simple formula of a battle for experience to get more battles for the experience. If you're really into the game this might be able to hold your attention. For many others, this will get old fast.
There's a lot that could really go well for this game. Well-known characters with deep stories like Goku mix it up with newcomers and older characters alike but they just don't do anything together. What could be an interesting plot if the use of the cast were better comes across as a chore to play. The biggest disappointment is that you can have a battle of Jotaro, Ichigo, Vegeta, Pegasus Seiya, Yusuke, and Hisoka and it's clunky and boring. There's a lot of lost potential with a game like Jump Force and with no interesting character aspects and combat in a fighting game that doesn't feel good, this isn't that game that many were looking forward to.
Jump Force on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the developer. The game is also playable on Xbox One and PC via Steam.
Jump Force brings together some of Mangas biggest and best characters and instead of making you feel powerful leaves you fighting bad gameplay, an aggravating plot, and your own patience. Even big Shonen Jump fans may want to avoid this one...
- Large Cast of Characters
- Bad CPU AI
- No Effort Story
- Combat Isn't Fun
- Walking Around A Main Menu