Jump Force on PlayStation 4
Anime sure has come a long way over the last few decades, something that Jump Force shows by bringing together heroes and villains from across Shonen Jump’s long history. Unfortunately, Jump Force also shows that anime games haven’t come nearly as far. Despite a strong combat system, most of Jump Force falls short of reaching the ideal its announcement had set.
Jump Force’s story brings together different Jump worlds and fuses them with the real world, letting you create your own avatar to play alongside iconic characters like Goku, Kenshiro, Ichigo, and Naruto.
Together with these characters you join the “Jump Force,” an impromptu task force trying to save the world from villains, both iconic characters and brand new ones designed by Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball.
At the core of everything is Jump Force’s frenetic fighting system, with two teams of three characters duking it out in arena battles. All the mechanics you’d expect are here with a basic attack, heavy attack, throws, dodges, and more. Each character has four unique skills they can use by building up an ability bar, then holding R2 and pressing a face button.
On top of this, an Awakening Gauge lets you enter an Awakened state when it’s at least 50 percent full, bumping up your power and letting you use your 4th Awakened ability.
Combat is incredibly fast-paced in Jump Force, and it takes a little while to get the hang of everything. Timing is the key to everything; perfect guards let you teleport behind the enemy, abilities can be comboed with attacks if you time them right, and using your Awakening at the right time can turn the tide of battle.
Jump Force doesn’t have the same level of depth as something like Mortal Kombat, but matches flow incredibly well and despite all the crazy action happening onscreen, the frame rate manages to stay spot on.
The sheer spectacle of battles is a blast, and the wealth of particle effects and over-the-top actions on abilities really help the game nail that anime feel. This is bolstered by the game’s roster of characters, with each character feeling unique.
For example, Kenshiro excels at close range fights and counters, while Boruto is best zipping around the battlefield and switching between long and close range. While the roster certainly isn’t all-inclusive, it’s a pretty good representation of iconic franchises.
I’ve been pretty positive on Jump Force so far, and it’s a good thing the game’s combat is so fun, because boy does the game fall short in so many other aspects.
Most of the story is made up of fights, but it’s almost surprising how uninteresting the actual story itself is. It’s severely ironic that a game that brings together the most iconic anime franchises, feels like nothing but filler.
It takes forever for the story to go anywhere, and oftentimes you’ll be fighting the same boss multiple times in a row, like three different battles with Frieza back to back. The issue is only compounded by the long load times Jump Force has.
There are some fun characters actions for fans to see, like how Naruto consistently calls Goku old man, but unfortunately, most of the dialogue in Jump Force fails to rise above your typical anime schlock.
You’ll watch a 20-second cutscene, get 30 seconds of loading, watch another 20-second cutscene, 30 seconds more of loading, and then a battle. For some baffling reason, the game also doesn’t let you skip cutscenes or even pause them.
Between missions, you get to roam around Umbra Base talking to NPCs, shopping for new abilities and outfits, taking on new missions and more. This hub area is mostly static, however, only serving as a funnel between fights and missions, and there’s a fair amount of running around you’ll do to get to the next objective.
Luckily, the game does let you hop in a lobby vehicle to jet around faster, but Umbra Base still remains fairly uninteresting. Your created avatar can equip any ability from any character in the game, as well as a number of J-Skills that boost their parameters.
Unfortunately, if you want to get new abilities you’ll have to earn quite a bit of Gold through playing missions, but it’s pretty easy to at least pick up the ones you want. Jump Force also has a leveling system that factors into each and every character, as well as missions.
It’s pretty easy to level up characters, and despite each character having their own level, it seems like everyone scales based on your character’s level. Because of this, it’s kind of confusing why everyone has their own level if they’re all going to level up anyway.
Despite gaining levels quickly, the main story has some severe difficulty spikes, with enemies suddenly causing a ton more damage to you than the previous mission. All of the Jump characters also have support skills to boost their parameters, and you’ll need to spend time putting skills on each one if you want them to be able to hold their own in battles.
Of course, the good news for all of this is that the leveling system doesn’t matter at all for local multiplayer or online battles. Online battles don’t factor levels in at all, and you can choose to turn levels on or off for local multiplayer. It’s definitely good to have this option, keeping the game’s core combat simplified and streamlined.
The game’s problems also translate over to its graphical aesthetic and soundtrack. Fans have already been poking fun at Jump Force’s plastic-y graphics, and I hate to say that it really is a little jarring in the game.
Every character has been adapted into this new art style, in an effort to give them a more “realistic” look for the real world. Some characters honestly look really cool, like all of the Naruto characters look perfectly fitting. However, some characters just look completely unnatural, almost like alien versions of themselves.
Dragon Ball characters look a little too roided out, but my favorite example is Deku from My Hero Academia. The character’s body is freakishly huge when put up against others, and Deku’s head is literally 3-4 times the size of others. It almost feels like Bandai Namco tried to make each character feel realistic, but wasn’t super concerned with making it a totally unified art style.
To top this off, character animation can be super awkward outside of battle. During battles, things look fine outside of some awkward run animations, but outside of them characters’ faces display almost no emotion and animations are super stiff.
Audio-wise, the game just feels super bland. Voice acting is good overall, using most of the original Japanese voice actors, but the soundtrack feels entirely generic. There are a few fun songs, like the upbeat lobby music, but otherwise, everything else feels like your generic “epic” movie score.
It’s a little disappointing considering the really strong source material the game could have drawn from. One supremely strange decision is having Ryuk be literally the only unvoiced character in the game. I’m not entirely sure why he has no voice, but all of Ryuk’s lines are just displayed with subtitles, while Light and other characters talk like normal.
There’s so much about Jump Force that just feels like it was incredibly rushed, from the super generic score to the stilted character animations and long load times. It’s definitely disappointing considering how much a promise a huge crossover like this has, but there’s still fun to be had with Jump Force.
The core combat is incredibly fun, and you can especially have a blast if you’re playing with a group of friends at home or online. While the combat consistently kept me entertained and on the edge of my seat with tense battles, the fact of the matter is there’s just not much to the game outside of it.
Everything outside of that core combat feels so wishy-washy and uninteresting, that I can’t recommend Jump Force to anyone that doesn’t have an immediate interest in anime. If these characters have been a huge part of your life, or you’re familiar with a few of the series, you’ll definitely enjoy it, but go in with some lowered expectations.
Score: 3/5 – Fair
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