With a trailer that included characters from Naruto, One Piece, and Dragon Ball Z, one of the most exciting and surprising announcements from Microsoft’s E3 2018 press conference was Jump Force. Aside from being a competitive fighter, the game also serves as a celebration of Shonen Jump’s 50th Anniversary that brings characters from Shonen Jump’s manga and anime franchises into the real world for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
During E3, I had the chance to check out the main 3v3 mode in the Xbox One version of Jump Force. While the game looked great and I had fun with the small bit that I was able to play, I was left with a sinking feeling that this game will be more concerned with its world and style than gameplay depth.
While I may have a few issues with its gameplay, the world that developer Spike Chunsoft created sounds interesting and looks great. Several elements from different Shonen Jump manga have begun to bleed their way into the real world. This results in some interesting stages like Frieza’s spaceship crash landing in front of Matterhorn or the God Tree from Naruto overtaking New York City.
The visuals also play off this interesting premise, presenting a more”realistic” take on these traditional cartoony-looking characters. According to Bandai Namco this was a huge challenge for the developers, but the visual style they ended up on looks great. These characters do look like they could exist in the more realistic world they occupy, even if Goku is using his Spirit Bomb in the middle of Times Square.
Outside of Tekken, Bandai Namco’s 3D fighters have all been hit-or-miss for me. The recent The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia was not very fun and, unfortunately, the same can be said for My Hero: One’s Justice, which I also tried out this year at E3. Its controls felt stiff, delayed, and clunky, and it lacked the depth a fighting game needs in order to stand out as more than a cheap anime tie-in.
Jump Force does feel like it was built upon that same simplistic framework, but it does fortunately feature more depth than a title like My Hero: One’s Justice with a variety of different moves for one to pull from. While players will control three characters in each battle, they all share one health bar, which does encourage careful planning and switching of characters.
Every character has standard rush and heavy attacks, each based on that character’s classic fighting style from the manga and anime they have appeared in. While they can be fun to watch, these attacks don’t really have any real rewarding feedback; for that, you need to use the characters’ special abilities or “Awakened Techniques,” which sees each character transforming and unleashing their most powerful attacks.
It’s always satisfying to see Goku go Super Saiyan or Monkey D. Luffy transform, so those moments tended to be the best parts of my fights. What I wasn’t so hot about were the moment-to-moment standard fights, which quickly got repetitive and could be easily cheesed by button mashing.
Changing characters or using their support attacks does spice things up, but Jump Force still doesn’t feature the depth that the best 3D fighters — like Bandai Namco’s own Tekken series — use in order to stand out and be viably competitive. There is still quite a bit of novelty in taking on Sasuke, Frieza, and Roronoa Zoro as Naruto, Luffy, and Goku; I just wish the fights had a bit more depth.
Jump Force is a crazy crossover that will be sure to please fans of the anime and manga that it draws from, and I have no doubt it will provide quite a bit of easy, flashy, enjoyment. I was impressed with what I played from a visual and conceptual standpoint, and do think this will deliver on what its audience wants.
However, I was hoping for bit more depth to the experience, as fan service would only do so much for me. While it is way more involved and entertaining than something like My Hero: One’s Justice, it didn’t make the leap to the deeper fighting experience that I desired. This will definitely appeal to fans of these franchises and casual fighting game fans, but those who desire more from Jump Force will only be impressed by its premise and visual design.
Jump Force is currently in development for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, and will be arriving sometime in 2019.