Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review #117: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure - All Star Battle

 JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is a bit hard to review, y'see, while it looks and plays like a fighting game, it's a JoJo game first, and a fighting game second. CyberConnect 2 did an amazing job in creating a game from fans for fans, but does that mean that they made a good game?

  At it's core, this is a 1 on 1 3-D fighting game. You get a simple three attack buttons, a sidestep button and a Style button. As for the mechanics, it has a very basic chaining system, light attacks chain into heavy attacks which can then be cancelled into Special moves which in turn can be cancelled into Super moves(Heart Heart Attacks) or Ultra moves(Great Heart Attacks). Furthermore, while you can use the Sidestep button to sidestep at any moment, pressing back just before getting hit will instantly sidestep the attack, while performing a fabulous pose, allowing for a swift counterattack. The Style button is a fairly fun addition, as it behaves differently depending on what type of character you are using. There are Ripple Users(Style allows to charge Meter or unleash EX versions of the special moves), Stand Users(Calls forth a "Stand", a spirit of sorts, which usually changes up the whole moveset while active), Vampirism(Can restore White health after a while and suck HP to restore its own), Pillar Men(Similar to Vampirism, but instead of sapping HP, they get special modes) and Horseback(Can ride horses) still, there are exceptions, like Hol Horse who is classified as Stand but plays very different to stand users, or Old Joseph who uses a Stand and the Ripple, or Cool Ice and Dio(3) who have both Stands and Vampirism, heck, Cool Ice's Stand plays nothing like the other stands! There is a lot of variety, both in movesets and styles, almost every character of the 42 plays very differently from one another, even though the "repeated punch" special move is shared by most of the cast(It is a staple of the series after all!). Needless to say, there's bound to be at least one character that suits your style.
 Delving deeper into the mechanics, there's also an Easy Beat combo, mashing the Light Attack button will produce a small, simple combo that usually(but not always!) ends in a Heart Heart Attack if you've got the meter to spend. While I'm not a huge fan of this, since you can't turn it off, the combos are fairly simple and easy to pull off, so it's not like it gives them a huge edge, and lets you play as a character even if you don't know how to use him/her. There's also more advance mechanics, like Flash Cancel, that lets you spend meter to cancel a combo, or the Stand Rush to fight as your Stand performs an Special move. There's a bit of a comeback mechanic in the form of Resolve and Rumble modes, both modes are activated automatically after a character's health drops below a certain threshold(30% for Rumble Mode, and 20% for the few that have Resolve Mode) and offers a wide variety of buffs. It's not necessarily a game-changer, but I wasn't too fond of the mechanic. Furthermore, each stage has a different gimmick(Which can luckily be turned off!), usually some sort of telegraphed attack that deals damage to any player on its way.

 The game contains: Arcade Mode, Story Mode, Campaign Mode, Versus, Practice, Customize and Gallery. Now then, Versus, Practice and Gallery are pretty much self-explanatory, so I'll talk a bit about the others. Firstly, Arcade Mode, which is a simple ladder-style mode in which you fight 8 random opponents, with no real reward besides money which can then be spent in Gallery Mode, simple yes, but keep in mind that the Japanese version didn't have this mode. Then we get Story Mode, as I'll explain further, CC2 went the extra mile when it came to fanservice in this game, which is why it's so surprising that this mode is so barebones. While it goes from part 1 to 7(And makes up a scenario for Part 8 where Josuke faces off against the other JoJos), you do get some preface before each battle... in the form of short text snippets. There's no accompanying images, no panels from the manga, no character cut-outs, just dry, flavorless, bare text. The story rushes through events, mentions characters that aren't even featured as NPCs and does away with them in a matter of sentences, which kinda makes you wonder why even bother mentioning the character if it won't be a big deal at all when it comes to this mode. It tries to make up for it by having "Hidden Missions", the objectives usually have you use moves that were used when the fighters fought each other in the Manga, which rewards you with extra money and unlocks stuff for you to buy in the Gallery Shop.
 After you are done with the oh so very short Story Mode, you'll have unlocked every character(which is a good thing) and "Another Story Mode", which is the same mode, with the very same text snippets, but you play as the opponent this time around, superfluous at best. After getting done with this short mode, the next mode is... Campaign mode. This is where the game placed all of its Microtransactions. Yes, a full-priced game(except in the USA) has the audacity to place Microtransactions. Campaign Mode is the only place to unlock the real cool extras, like the taunts, colors and costumes. "But this is so much better than having to buy the costumes!" kinda. Y'see, in order to gain the cool extras(Colors and Costumes) you need to defeat bosses, and by defeat I don't mean "Defeat them in battle" but drop their HP to 0. Unless you spend Energy from your 10-stock battery, you'll only deal 250 damge(They have HP ranging from 1500 to 15000). Bosses are found at random(You can buy microtransactions to up the chances to find them, and if you don't find them after using an item... too bad, its gone for good(The game does give you a very few of these for free after playing a lot in this mode)), and the most damage you can do is 4000+ using an entire Battery.... This is a very, very disappointing mode, I spent more time waiting in order to milk the bosses as much as I could. I spent more time waiting than playing. And look on the bright side, after Namco closes down the servers, this mode is gonna be gone for good, alongside all the unlockables, so you better get cracking right now!

 As for the extras, most of the alternate costumes are merely cosmetic changes, so even if they wanted to sell them to you, they would've had trouble finding an audience that wouldn't complain! To be fair, these costumes are based off on the covers of the different volumes of the Manga, so while, most, are small variations, they are very neat references to the manga. The taunts, as well as the poses, are ripped straight from the manga, so extra points for that as well. Even the alternate colors(You start off with 2 per character, and can unlock 2 more for every character in Campaign Mode) are based off the manga. Furthermore, the art pieces in the gallery are all very high quality and look really good. Finally, there is a disappointingly 9 DLC characters, while I'm usually against this, I think the amount of work CC2 put into fanservice was very well worth it, plus, the core roster gets all the essential characters, while the DLC are merely fan-favorites or Araki favorites(Like Shigekiyo!) that aren't really needed.
 The game is drop-dead gorgeous, there's no two ways about it. Models look fantastic, and almost every move, every pose, every word they speak was taken straight from the pages of the manga(There are a ton of videos showing where moves and poses are from!). The game uses a special cell-shading that looks fantastic, the coloring is bright and colors look very liquid, it tries to look as a moving manga and it very well succeeds, there's no other game that looks like this. Keep in mind that JoJo is known for its very extravagant and flamboyant male characters, there are a lot of rather feminine poses and pink alternate colorations, so not everyone might "get" what JoJo is all about, which would be a shame. It sounds too good to be true, and it kinda is, there is a cost for such beauty.... the game, a fighting game at that, runs at 30 FPS with occasional framerate drops when it gets too hectic. Serious fighting game players might scoff at that, but remember, this is a JoJo game first and a Fighter second. The Soundtrack is fairly extensive, with a ton of very good and fitting pieces, but if you are so inclined, it possess a custom-soundtrack option. Voice-acting is Japanese only, but top-notch in quality, most characters were recast(Like Giorno, no longer voiced by Paku Romi) for the better.

 Needless to say, as a I huge JoJo fan and a huge Fighting game fan, I adored this game. The framerate drops, easy beat combos, stage hazards, long Great Heart Attack animations and flamboyant characters will probably turn off a lot of Fighting game fans, but fans of JoJo look no further, this is the game you have been waiting for. And hey, we got an even better deal than the Japanese, we actually get an Arcade Mode! which is something, as the lack of modes is fairly noticeable, and the Campaign Mode was downright disgusting, but the gameplay was so good, and the amounts of fanservice(The good kind!) were off the charts.
 8 out of 10.

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