It’s crazy to think that Shonen Jump has been around for 50 years. That’s half a century of manga and respective anime adaptations. It isn’t a surprise that Bandai Namco wanted to celebrate it though, and thus Jump Force was born. Jump Force is far more stylized than any of Bandai Namco’s other anime titles, but it lacks much depth. However, the 3v3 tag team battles are a much better take than October’s My Hero One’s Justice in terms of character utilization.
In Jump Force, players take control of a custom character right in the heat of battle against Venoms. After a civilian is struck by a stray attack from Frieza, Trunks revives them with an umbras cube. An item that gives humans the ability to be a hero. However, the antagonists in Jump Force have their own “evil” version of Umbras Cubes, that allow them to turn humans into Venoms. The story is probably my biggest issue with Jump Force, among a handful of them. It takes a while to get going, and isn’t all that interesting.
It is pretty great to see all of these different franchises and characters come together, but the dialogue and lip syncing during cutscenes is done so haphazardly it’s almost jarring. I did really like the new villains that were in Jump Force, and they fit right at home in the new art style. Considering they were designed by Akira Toriyama, they have the right style for Dragonball, but mesh really well with the 3D realism upgrade that Jump Force employs. Overall though, a handful of the characters look strange under the new aesthetics, which is more apparent during story elements. Battles are a completely different story, but we’ll get to that later. In particular, a lot of the Dragonball Z characters look strange. Characters like Luffy, Asta, and Rurouni Kenshin look really great in Jump Force, and I love seeing them recreated using a different engine.
While all of the characters look great during battles, the mechanics of fights feel half-baked. I really like being able to switch between characters, which was something I wasn’t able to do in the last Shonen game, My Hero One’s Justice. Managing one life bar between all three characters is a bit of a chore, and I often found myself switch to a new character after launching an opponent just to keep one out of harm’s way for a moment, and getting a dash in with another. I do have to commend the developers at Spike Chunsoft though for making every interaction feel like I have a way out. There’s always something I can do in order to get out of a combo, from a counter, or a short recover move that slides my character away. Jump Force is heavy on button mashing, and because of that, players can get out of most interactions.
Battles are where the visuals in this outing really shine though. Fights are flashy and fun, even when they devolve into button mashing. Each character has unique abilities that are easy to perform, and ultimates that can literally fill the entire screen. There are some intricacies in the battle system, where characters have transformations that help power them up. Each character has a handful of iconic moves from their respective shows, and it’s great fun to see those abilities take place and shout “I know exactly what scene that’s from!”
There are some missed opportunities here though. Jump Force feels like it wanted to be similar to Dragonball Xenoverse, but it couldn’t quite get there. Battles are static in arenas, and not having any sort of co-op feels like a missed opportunity. I would’ve loved being able to take a partner in as one of my two assist characters to take on enemies. Also, there are no waypoints in the hub world. This was one of my biggest gripes from a technical standpoint, because I often found myself wandering around between key missions without any clue who or what I was looking for.
To its credit, there is a ton of content in Jump Force. Key missions are supplemented by different missions of varying difficulties, and completing bonus objectives can provide additional items or rewards. There’s a ton of customization too, and players can earn new items through the aforementioned missions. I spent a lot of time navigating menus in Jump Force, which seemed to be unavoidable while I was trying to take on missions that were relatively close to my level. There seemed to be about a 5 level disparity between what missions I could clear, and those I couldn’t. Even after completing the campaign, there are still a ton of missions I can take on, but I’m not so sure I’ll go back to it.
Jump Force really shines when playing online. The mechanics stay exactly the same, obviously, but being able to play with friends makes things more palatable. Playing with one of my friends, who is a bit more open minded about the anime franchises he enjoys, was really fun, because I got to listen to him be excited about the different characters and movesets from shows he loves. The one downside to the online portion of Jump Force are the terrible menus. Each fight lasts a few minutes, and there’s no rematch option. Load times are long, so spending a minute on loading screens on either side of a match stalled the joy of taking some of our favorite characters into battle against each other.
While I wouldn’t say Jump Force is a good game by any means, there’s still a lot of fun to be had, especially with friends. There are lots of fighters on the roster, and watching special moves fill up the screen is a sight to behold. Stiff animations, and terrible lip syncing in dialogue is almost comical. Jump Force couldn’t hold my attention for more than a few hours at a time, but after a little while, I kept thinking about the fun and flashy fights, and would come right back and dive in for more.
Jump Force is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on an Xbox One copy of the game provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.
- Flashy, fun fights.
- Large scale attacks.
- Really great with friends.
- Lack of additional language support.
- Simple combat that often devolves into button mashing.
- Stiff animations and terrible dialogue and lip syncing.
- Weird visual choices for some characters.