By William Haderlie / July 6th, 2016
|Title||JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Eyes of Heaven|
|Publisher||Namco Bandai Games|
|Release Date||June 28, 2016|
|Genre||3D Free Roam Fighting Game|
|Age Rating||ESRB T for Teen|
One reason I wanted to review this game is that my exposure to this franchise has been very limited, but I’ve had interest in getting into it quite a bit over the years. Its primary form is in the Shonen magazines as manga. There are also several anime series, anime movies, OVA, light novels, and video games surrounding this series. The manga is every bit as long-running as Dragonball, Bleach, or Naruto. However, unlike those previous examples, this story is separated by generations and locations. There are overall themes that connect them together, but you won’t find one character (like Goku) tying it all together. The only major thing that ties the generations together are the same bloodline and the name JoJo. The current iteration of the story is Part 5, called JoJolion. And that, ladies and gents, is even more information than I had on the series before I went in. My only previous experience was with Part 3, Stardust Crusaders.
And it happens to be fitting that Part 3 was my previous experience. I don’t know whether that just happens to be the most popular portion of the saga, or if it’s just chance, but it definitely plays the largest part in this game, even though the story spans the entire series. The primary characters of all Parts show up, but the main character of this tale is Jotaro Kujo, from Stardust Crusaders. The story basically starts right at the last scene from that arc, but it quickly diverges from there. This game is much less concerned with replaying through story beats than even Dragonball Xenoverse was. They do use a somewhat similar mechanism that allows the characters to basically warp to different times and places to pick up various party members to join you on your quest and fix the world.
This series is so varied, and so frankly bizarre (well named), that the list of characters you will be fighting as and against ends up being quite the odd list. One moment you will be fighting with a character on a horse that is basically useless if he’s dismounted from it, and the next you will be fighting against a small dog or hawk. No, I’m really not kidding. However, that is really one of its charms, as long as you embrace the oddity. The way I like to think of this series is that it’s to Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star) as Tropic Thunder is to Platoon. It is very much meant to be an absurd parody. However, there is also room to tell an interesting story and to also have fantastic battles. The initial couple story arcs were a bit more like Hokuto no Ken, but it steadily got more and more bizarre as it embraced various influences like gay culture (especially with the outfits) and strange Hollywood tropes. So as you explore the story of this game you will definitely see how this series has evolved over time, and that is really a lot of the fun. I can’t say much more about the story other than you gather all the major characters from each story arc, both because I don’t want to spoil it, and also because it would be so absurd without reference that I would be speaking Greek to those out of the loop.
The developers definitely knew that the large draw of this game, beyond connecting stories together and getting characters to meet each other when they never did in the main story, is the ability to play as your favorite characters. They spent an enormous amount of time and resources including a huge cast in this game, as you can see in the above screenshot. You only play as protagonists in-story, but in free play and network mode you can play as all the villains as well. Not only that, but since this is a tag-team style fighting game, you can make up some very interesting pairs (feel free to pair DIO with the small dog and imagine his head practically exploding with the insult). The fighting is free roaming, but the stages are relatively small. Imagine the Naruto games, only with a lot more stage obstructions. You can pick up various power up items, but you can also pick up items scattered about the stage to throw at your enemy. Sadly that ability is almost too powerful. If you want to cheese your way through the story, just go around throwing all the items at the enemies and they will not be able to last. The fighting engine is pretty fun, and very flashy, but don’t expect anything with the depth of a true fighting game like Street Fighter or Tekken.
Even though the fighting itself isn’t tight enough that you would want to play it competitively, it still does have some complexity. As you can tell in the above screenshot, it may take you a bit to get used to all the different controls and different icons that you will see on the screen. In the end, however, it did not prove to be too difficult. I’m not certain how much it has to do with my fighting game experience, or whether this was meant to be easy, but I only ever had to retry a Story stage two times. And, as I said above, if I wanted to cheese my way to a victory, I could have. So really this title is meant to be much more fun than it is challenging. Your characters will gain levels in the Story Mode, which earns them AP to spend on Skill Trees, and it will also give you an increasing damage modifier. The skills that you unlock will help a little, but I ended up not noticing it much. I never had to replay stages to grind up XP for levels or AP for skills. Pairing a duo up repeatedly will also raise their affection meter, and with each Rank it will make their Dual Heat and Dual Combo damage increase.
Other than a couple surprise rounds of poker, the tasks that you end up needing to complete in each stage end up being very similar, so I can’t exactly recommend this game for its variety. The stages themselves look really nice, but they are a bit small and there are only about a dozen different examples. The stages are also a bit sparse. There is really no mystery as to what they spent all their development time on. And, if I was a fan of this series, I would not have it any other way. The character number is huge and diverse, they are all very well voiced, and their fighting styles are very different. You can also spend some time customizing the different poses that your characters will strike and the quotes that they will say when fighting. That is very much keeping with the style of the series, so those things may not be of interest to the casual player, but they are definitely keeping with what a hardcore fan would want.
Speaking of pleasing the hardcore fans, not only does the music from the series make it into the game (and mastered quite well), but something else makes an even better appearance, and that is the sound effects. This series has very over-the-top sound effects that really make the sounds memorable and fitting to the series. The manga also makes frequent use of visual sound effects as well, so without that, it just wouldn’t feel like JoJo. Other than the small and sparse stages, there is really nothing to complain about presentation-wise. Realistically many Marvel and DC fans would love to have their own comic book characters reproduced with such love.
The real sticking question remains, will people who are not fans of the series still enjoy this game? I would have to come down on the side of possibly not. Unless you are someone who just has no exposure to it, but would have been a fan, then you might use this to get interested in the series itself. For me, I already knew that it was something I would be into. I’ve just never gotten around to it. So it ended up being an enjoyable experience, but not as enjoyable as it would have been if I was caught up on everything. It definitely made me at least want to check out Part 6, Stone Ocean. And for the value proposition, not only do you get a ton of different characters to choose from and online multiplayer, but the story is actually quite long. It was hard for me to believe, but by the time I finished the story, the game said that I’d been playing for 26 hours and most, but not all, of that was story missions. I can definitely see paying the full $60 if you are a fan of this series or this genre. If you are not sure you would like this series, though, check out some videos or wiki content and see if you might be before purchasing it. The series and characters are almost the entire draw here. And really, who wouldn’t like to get just a bit bizarre?
Review Copy Provided By Publisher
3D Fighting gameCyberConnect2JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of HeavenNamco Bandai GamesPS4PSN