Everyone who’s ever read a manga or watched an anime has asked this question least once in his or her life: if my favorite character fought your favorite character, who would win? That’s the entire premise of Jump Force, a glorious free-for-all where different Shonen Jump characters duke it out to be king of the ring. After playing the demo, I think the game will satisfy most players’ need to think up crazy crossover death battles.
So, you probably want to know how Jump Force plays since the trailers don’t display a lot of information. To put it simply, the game is what would happen if you combined the Marvel vs. Capcom games with the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi (or Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm) games. Fights are relegated to 3-on-3 matches in arenas that look like some childish god slammed together the real world with various anime worlds all willy-nilly. I’m talking about giant ninja statues flanking the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty partially buried on Namek Planet of the Apes-style.
So, about those fights. As I said, they are 3-on-3 fights, and while players can switch between characters with a tap of the left trigger —or have an ally attack without switching by holding the button— they all share the same health and energy pools. In other words, don’t go into Jump Force thinking you can turn a fight around by swapping characters at the last minute. I tried this tactic. It didn’t work.
Jump Force’s controls were mostly the same as the Budokai Tenkaichi games. The X and Y buttons (the demo provided some cool yellow and orange Xbox One controllers) unleashed fast and heavy attacks respectively. Holding down those buttons released stronger attacks. The B button tossed opponents away; the A button made characters jump; the left and right bumpers dodged and guarded respectively, and the right trigger charged up a character’s energy.
Now, you might wonder how characters used their signature attacks. After all, what Shonen Jump property is complete without an apocalyptic ball of energy that takes 15 minutes to form? These various special moves were activated by holding down the right trigger and pressing the X, Y, and/or A buttons. Plus, each character came with an awakened form that could only be activated by clicking down the right joystick after an awakened form bar was filled. Each awakened form featured two bombastic ultimate attacks that were unleashed by holding down the right trigger and pushing either the A button or the left trigger.
Of course, those were only the standard moves. A handy controller layout placard mentioned advanced techniques such as tapping the X button before being attacked for a high-speed counter, but for the life of me I couldn’t get these to work. Maybe I’m just not good at fighting games that aren’t Super Smash Bros, or maybe that’s what I deserve for picking a team made exclusively of villains. I would have gladly added a few heroes to my roster, but recently-announced characters like Yugi weren’t available. Such a shame; I was really hoping to see Slifer the Sky Dragon devastate everything in its wake.
Even though I lost the fights, I still had a lot of fun with Jump Force. I was positively giddy every time I saw the characters rush across the screen and unleash all sorts of hell on the opposition. However, not everything was Santoryus and Rasengans. While the game ran buttery smooth for the most part, I noticed a bit of slowdown whenever Naruto summoned the Nine-Tailed Fox. That one attack did almost as much damage to the opposition as it did to the framerate. Goku’s Spirit Bomb cooperated with the framerate, as did Marshal D. Teach’s Dark Dark Fruit powers, but I guess the fox is just too powerful for the game engine.
Speaking of Marshal D. Teach, my time with him allowed me to notice a fundamental flaw with Jump Force’s camera. Teach is pretty big —just over 11 feet tall— easily the biggest character in the game (so far), and the camera didn’t know how to cope with his girth. The camera didn’t spin out of control or get stuck on anything, but thanks to the camera angle, Teach blocked most of the action. It was nearly impossible for me to tell where my opponent was, and half my time playing as Teach was spent swiping at nothing or getting kicked in the face.
Now, even though I lost the demo fight horribly (and was upset), I enjoyed Jump Force. It sets out to create extravagant, explosive fights between iconic characters, and it succeeds in spades. I am confident the game, when released, will please anime fans and gamers alike.
Jump Force is scheduled to launch on February 2019 for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.