Talk about strange… If you’re unfamiliar with the anime and manga series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure then you’re about to receive quite an education. This fighting game is based on the anime/manga of the same name and features: English nobility battling vampires (thanks to a certain stone mask), flamboyant combatants circa World War 2 but with added ancient Egyptians, a collection of leathered up fighters with their own spirit warriors from around 1985. glam-rock high-school students beating the snot out of each other right up to the present day where there’s a lady who can turn herself into string with an affinity for whacking opponents with baseballs at high speed. Oh, and fighters on horseback because you really, really need to have a few of those.
Yeah, us too. But that’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle for you. You’ve got character from the series, which takes place in different time frames but uses people from the same bloodline as its heroes (things get a little complicated there but they all have the letter J as their first name) fighting battles because… we’re not actually sure. That stone mask has something to do with it. But that’s not really why you’re going to be playing if you’re not already a fan of the series.
JJBA: ASB – no, the abbreviation doesn’t help much – features a surprisingly deep combat system to go along with its over-the-top visuals and attacks. The game was developed by CyberConnect2, an outfit that has had a lot of success with the Naruto stable of fighting games but this is a bit of a departure for them. JJBA: ASB is a 2D fighter, or a 2.5D fighter if you want to get technical, at heart so brawling between characters feels a lot like the defining game in the genre – Street Fighter. Players can get horrendously technical if they want to, implementing perfectly-timed cancels and interrupts or unleashing combo chains that would make Ryu consider handing in his headband. For all that, combat is actually fairly simple, with basic quarter and half-roll + button inputs bringing out the more devastating attacks.
Or you could just go for the easy route, spamming the light attack when your character’s Heart Heat (HH) gauge has a bit of a charge. Landing consecutive hits will eventually unleash a special attack that will blind you with awesomeness. Yes, button-mashing is an option but JJBA: ASB will punish you severely at higher difficulties or if you elect to play online against someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Rule one: learn how to taunt. A taunt (the Select button) just after an opponent has been knocked down will see their HH gauge drop a little, while you’ll gain a corresponding boost.
Madness has options. Not many, but options
Don’t feel bad if you’re not up to speed on the anime or manga that this is based on. The Story mode will bring you up to speed with a crash-course in what the hell is going on. More or less. It’s also a nice way to get to grips with the various heroes and villains at your disposal. There are 32 characters available right out of the gate, with additional fighters purchasable online. We’re not too impressed with the microtransations needed to get other fighters though, there’s no option to get all of them in a bundle. You need to buy each roster-filler individually.
There’s also a stock versus mode, for couch-combat, playing against an AI or just watching the computer thump itself into oblivion. You can also access online multiplayer here. A ladder-based Arcade mode is available – eight fights and you’re done with the character you’re playing as.
Lastly there’s the Campaign mode. This isn’t anything like Story mode though but since little else makes sense for newcomers, this is about par for the course. Campaign is a way to play online without encountering other humans, instead you’re up against player-created custom fighter. Beat them and unlock medals, used to customise your own combatant, and other extras within the game. There’s a strange energy mechanic involved, you can play as long as you have energy but you can also stock up on more by using in-game cash (earned by fighting). This cash is also used to buy other extras like artwork and viewable character models.
If you’re fond of fighters, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Stars Battle is something different that should satisfy your combat cravings but the modes listed above are all there is to it. Campaign will keep players going long after the story mode is done but eventually the lustre will pale and you might find yourself becoming bored with the loopy action. If you’re a fan of the original manga though, disregard anything negative you might have read and get your hands on it now. You won’t be disappointed by the presentation, action or wealth of extras at all.