|February 15th, 2019
|PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Jump Force and I have a complicated relationship. On one hand, I really love the ability to take all the biggest names of Shonen and be able to pit them against each other. One the other, there’s so many mistakes and straight-up annoyances that keep it from breaking through the ceiling of just being “okay”. Jump Force tells the story of a member of the public (you) who walks into a situation where Frieza is breaking through dimensions into New York, and through a series of shenanigans you obtain superpowers. Through a twist of fate, you must now aid the heroes in restoring peace to their dimensions by defeating enemies known as Venoms, black and white palette swaps of other character avatars.
After the intro, the first thing you’re presented with is an avatar creator. I’ll be very clear; the avatar customization is lacking; like, a lot. You get the basics, the ability to change your hair, eyes, height, weight, skin tone, all the basic functionalities you’d expect from a character creator. However, the disappointment comes in that the options you have are just styles from characters in the anime that the game represents. So if you want a different hair style, you’ll have to choose between whatever hair styles characters in various anime have. Having original styles, or maybe even having the ability to combine styles from characters, would be great, or would at least be a better alternative to palette swaps of in-game hair.
But you’re not playing this for its goofy, threadbare story. Nor are you playing it for the subpar avatar creator. You’re playing because you want to pit Goku against Naruto against Dio against Joseph against Yugi and all the other huge Shonen characters and do amazing attacks with extravagant showcases of animation and sound. In that sense, Jump Force does very well.
The fighting feels good and fluid, despite the ever-changing framerates. Every attack feels punchy and the sound effects mixed with the onscreen visuals make for very satisfying fights. Every character plays exactly how you expect them to play, with Goku being very focused on martial arts and power beams, Luffy with his Pirate style, and Naruto with his Ninja style. All in all, there’s a multitude of ways to rival your opponents. Everyone has a balance and those balances are clearly defined, as well as the fact that every character’s movements and special move sets are taken straight from the source material. So if you use Deku’s special moves, every detail down to the camerawork and framing is lifted right out of My Hero Academia. You can tell everyone who worked on this has a great amount of respect for the source material.
However, once you exhaust your strategies in gameplay, you’ll find that even though the fights feel satisfactory, they are indeed all the same. Even to the point to where cheesing the game becomes involuntary, as you learn how to pick apart the AI fairly quickly. There’s a strict formula the game uses against you every fight, and once you figure out that formula, it’s a wrap. You’re almost undefeatable past that point, and find that you are just going through the motions with each fight.
The music is, for the most part, fine. There are a few catchy tunes, specifically the one in the main lobby which you spawn in every time you boot up the game, but most of the tracks end up being forgettable action movie fluff. It doesn’t really detract from the gameplay per se, but it doesn’t really add to it either. Graphically the game is, surprisingly, astounding. Many have been put off with the realistic style Spike Chunsoft chose, but I for one feel that they look great given what they had to work with, especially with all the differences in styles all the artists have. The special and super moves in particular shine strong in this aspect. In a sense, every character looks like one of those super-expensive Japanese-exclusive PVC figures and showpieces. If you look at it with a particular set of eyes, it’s like playing with your toys in a virtual way. If that was the intention, they pulled it off great!
Now for something a bit more technical; performance parity. I’ve beaten this game twice, once on the PS4 and once on the Xbox One, and must report that the Sony version drastically, drastically outperforms its Microsoft equivalent. From framerate to game stability, I’ve realized that the Xbox One version simply is not up to snuff like it should be. Through patchwork and updates they’ve stabilized it, albeit slowly, but even then the One version crashes every session I play it at least once, and the framerate always looks to be around the 24-30 range. The more optimized of the two, the PS4 variant, performs at a comparatively smooth 60 frames with minimal motion blur. While I’m not entirely sure why that is, I do think that kind of gap in stability is unacceptable, especially this late in the respective consoles’ life. Parity is expected at this point. Throughout the over 40 hours I’ve put into this game, 20 on each console, I feel like I can tell the difference.
While not entirely disappointing for the $60, there’s simply too many problems here and there that I can give this game more than an “okay”, and a “maybe” if you’re a fan of the characters in the game. They have a lot of characters coming as DLC and that means a lot of opportunities to push even more patches out, so hopefully, one day we’ll get a game I could say is “fantastic”. I felt no desire to jump nor use force while playing.
Review Copy Purchased by Author