Review: J-Stars Victory Vs+

J-Stars Victory VS+ Cover ArtIt’s pretty rare for Shueisha, the company that runs Weekly Shonen Jump, to publish a video game title. Heck, I’m pretty sure Pluto was a still an official planet in our Solar System the last time fans got a game. Needless to say, it was exciting to hear about a new title coming out. I was a huge fan of the Nintendo DS games Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars, so bringing a game onto on a more powerful console seemed like the next logical step to give fans an epic game. The thought of playing as my favorite characters from comics like Naruto, Dragon Ball, Bleach and several other comics sounded amazing! Any fan who tries to keep up with Japan in manga chapters has seen or heard of J-Stars Victory Vs+ (I don’t know who thought this would be a suitable title, shame on them…) because they advertised it almost every week in their magazine.

Unfortunately, like their previous titles, the game wasn’t set to release anywhere else but Japan. The only reason I even played the previous games was because the Nintendo DS didn’t have regional lockout (Why Nintendo decided to start this with the 3DS is beyond me…). With how many titles Weekly Shonen Jump actually publishes in Japan vs. the rest of the world, it makes sense that the games would mostly cater to a Japanese audience. Several titles, while amazing, simply don’t translate well, or the West just isn’t interested, and it’s rare for readers to get a title as different as Death Note from Jump’s repertoire, as most of their manga usually revolve around a story that feels like it’s been done before.

The Jump video game titles usually add several characters from various comics they’ve produced over the three decades they’ve been in business, and fans not knowing who those characters are could really hurt their desire to buy it. Most people tend to only know the more famous titles like One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball and Bleach, because they’re some of the few titles that have actually been licensed outside of Japan. When I heard this title was actually coming out onto the PS4 for fans outside of land of the Rising Sun, it was a pretty big deal. Sure it was a year later than the original PS3 version, but the West was finally getting it! Unfortunately, it wasn’t what I anticipated…

The story itself, like with any fighting game, is pretty terrible and generic. With a focus on a “Jump Tournament,” players take on one of four stories that revolve around a specific set of characters on their path to become the best warrior. While I’m not expecting a critically acclaimed story, the dialogue feels forced, the characters seem out of place, and they don’t have any of the elements that truly makes them the characters we know and love. Sure this is a collaboration game and all of the characters don’t necessarily fit together, but with such a boring plot, it was just painful to watch. It wasn’t even animated, so much as the developers used cutout drawings of the characters during dialogues. It felt like it should have been on the Playstation 1, rather than the Playstation 3 or 4. If I was a developer and the story was that bad, I would have just opted to take it out and give fans a basic fighting game at its roots.

What bothers me most about the story is that there isn’t even a villain. The previous Jump games did a much better job about having a specific villain threaten the Jump multiverse. The characters you chose didn’t need dialogue, just a goal. Beat up the bad guy. I’m pretty sure that throwing in Disney villains would have made for a better story. The only reason this section is getting an extra .5/10 is simply because there are cameos by other Jump characters.

With how amazing and simple CyberConnect’s Naruto games are, and how much I love Dragon Ball Xenoverse, my expectations for this game were somewhat high. If Naruto and Dragon Ball could have such fluid fighting mechanics, I would expect J-Stars Victory VS+ to be on the same level, considering this is also a 3D fighting title that could have been as big as Super Smash Bros (Wishful thinking on my part, I know…). Unfortunately, a more powerful console doesn’t make for a better game. They probably spent all of their money on advertising…

The fighting mechanics are so choppy and terrible, J-Stars feels more like a really poor hack ‘n’ slash than a fighting game. Players get a choice between heavy and light attacks with the ability to mix both, but in all honesty, one only needs to mash the light attack button. The heavy attack is so slow that it usually gets interrupted, making me question why it was even implemented in the first place… After every combo, the opponent goes into a long invincibility frame that gives them plenty of time to counter attack, leaving you stuck with either guarding or taking a hit. With no means to get yourself out of an enemy combo, you’re pretty much unable to do anything until it’s over and even blocking doesn’t last very long..

The team battles are also too chaotic. I would often find myself getting double-teamed by the computer with my own teammate drooling in the corner, shooting attacks that missed more than they hit. With the team sharing one support character, you had to be very careful about when and where to use it, as the support characters have a cooldown after every use. Unfortunately the computer likes to hog this function, which leaves you unable to play them when you would like to.

Trying to stay true to the manga, each character also has a super mode they can go into that reenacts a famous moment in the manga/anime. This was honestly the best part about the game. Players are allowed to go into Super Saiyan mode with Goku, the Nine-tails chakra mode with Naruto, and so on. Unfortunately, some characters had better transformations than others. Ichigo from Bleach unleashes a devastating attack at the cost of his life, not even bringing you down to a sliver of health- a bona-fide kamikaze attack. While dying doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the fight, it gives the opposing team points, so if you enjoy losing, then Ichigo’s the character for you.

I’ve played several anime/manga related games, and utilizing cell-shaded graphics provides an anime-like feel to the game. The developers at J-Stars didn’t seem to want to use it though, and opted to just go a more standard route, and it shows. As I said, the game looks like it belongs on the Playstation 2 rather than the 4, which is a real letdown.

While this may be a fighting game, someone had the idea of adding a world map to make the game more RPG like, and traveling can be tedious. With a large map and a slow-moving boat, going back to places to complete side quests felt more time-consuming than rewarding. The side quests either consisted of fighting other characters, or going from one side of the map to the other to collect a trivial item and deliver it. The worst part about this was that you couldn’t even unlock characters this way, you just got money in order to buy them.

With a total of 39 characters to play as, and 13 support only types, the roster isn’t small for the game. Unfortunately, it’s not a huge roster compared to their previous titles either. While 39 characters is quite a bit, they leave out several titles, like Death Note and Shaman King. The developers decided to take only one to two characters from a few of the most current or popular comics, with the exception of a select few that had three playable characters, and while I enjoyed some of the selections, there were a few characters that definitely didn’t need to be there. Yes I’m talking about you, Boa Hancock…

With how awful this game is it took everything I had to play through it the first time. Playing it again is simply out of the question. While you can go through other stories, and even participate in in-game tournaments, the need to play these things was pretty low for me. I was only interested in unlocking every character to see if there was anything redeeming about the game. There wasn’t…

It’s such a shame that this title was as terrible as it was. With the potential of having a Super Smash Bros-like game for anime fans, this game could have been amazing. While some fans may enjoy the game and want to play it just to support Shonen Jump, I was completely let down, and regret spending my money on it. It’s a shock this title even got past testers without serious complaints. I would have loved nothing more than to see Shonen Jump and other mangas get more exposure, since there are really good titles out there that deserve more readers. Unfortunately this game might set them back a bit with future games. Let’s just hope we don’t have to see another planet taken off of the official list before that happens. All in all, I’d suggest leaving this one on the shelf and saving the $60. I wouldn’t even recommend it if you find it used.

Story: 1.5 Gameplay: 2 Graphics: 4 Sidequests: 2 Character Roster: 5
Re-playability: 1 Overall Score: 2