Sunday, October 07, 2018
Jump Force is a fighting game in which you can get by quite easily on persistent button-mashing, its retina-searing action unfolding at a pace that can be fairly difficult to keep up with. You choose your team of three characters, whizz around your opponent, then see which one can hurl the most fireballs to knock the other out. Obviously, there's more to it than that, but if you've played J-Stars or the Dragon Ball Xenoverse games, you'll have a rudimentary idea of what to expect.
The primary difference is that most of the brawling remains firmly rooted on the ground, although the blasts of pyrotechnic destruction play out across the arena of conflict in a similar manner, tearing through the landscape leaving behind huge furrows and craters. It's pretty typical Shonen Jump fare then, but for a fan of the manga books and anime, Jump Force's mash-up of characters ought to prove a dream come true, enabling you to finally determine who would win a fight between Goku and Naruto. Or Luffy and Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Yugi Muto. Or Ichigo and Sasuke. Or... you get the idea.
Cherry-picking the best-known characters from Shonen Jump series like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Hunter X Hunter and the like, Jump Force adopts a somewhat unusual aesthetic for a game of this ilk, eschewing bright colours and bold anime visuals in favour of a slightly more detailed, dare we say, 'realistic' style (as realistic as anime characters can be). During bouts, characters become increasingly grimy and scuffed up as the incessant combos, devastating explosions and fireballs take their toll, and it's an unusual look for characters you're used to seeing in full, blisteringly bright colour.
Despite the sometimes confusing on-screen action, Jump Force is remarkably simple to get to grips with, simple attacks mapped to the face buttons with modifiers on the triggers. Charge your Ki meter to a certain level and you can unleash eye-hurting, screen-filling finishers, while a more subtle meter that surrounds the character portrait by your health bar denotes when you're able to enter 'Awakened' status by clicking in the right stick.
Upon activating your Awakened state, you can unleash special Awakening abilities that tear through your opponent's health bar like nobody's business. It's a case of risk vs. reward, however, as waiting for your Awakening meter to fill can be a gamble, and it's possible to finish the fight with Jump Force's 'conventional' special attacks. And you still get all of the lovely eyeball scorching fireworks, just slightly less so.
While Jump Force is an entirely different proposition to the majority of Shonen Jump brawlers, perhaps the biggest obstacle the game faces is convincing fans to embrace the darker, more 'gritty' art style. Having the characters do battle within real world locations like Times Square in New York or in front of the Matterhorn mountains does look a little incongruous, but should the action prove satisfying enough, these concerns ought to pale into insignificance.
But there's the rub. Are Jump Force's core fighting mechanics reason enough to give an unusual idea a chance? We're not entirely sure that Jump Force is a game that Shonen Jump fans are going to lap up, given how it plays fast and loose with the eclectic cast of characters taken from the manga and anime. Still, as a chance to pit some of your favourite Shonen Jump faces against one another, Jump Force certainly looks like it will at least deliver on that promise. With fireworks.
Jump Force launches for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC in February 2019.