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JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: CyberConnect2
Release Date: June 28, 2016 (US), July 1, 2016 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven'

by Brian Dumlao on Aug. 23, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven, Joseph Joestar, Kujo Jotaro, Higashikata Josuke, Kakyoin Noriaki, and Caesar Zeppeli will return to the action while new characters Diego Brando from Steel Ball Run and Rudol von Stroheim from Battle Tendency will join.

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle, which was released in 2014, re-introduced Horohiko Araki's oddball cast of characters to the gaming world. Imperfect but enjoyable, it lacked story for those unfamiliar with the manga, but the variety of fight styles and quirky characters with music-related names made it endearing enough for non-fans to stick around and give it a shot. Things have changed a little since then, with the anime now being scheduled to air in North America later this year. To coincide with the originally scheduled air date is JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven. Developed by the same team that worked on the previous title, it is very different in both good and bad ways.

The good news is that the character roster has been expanded quite a bit. There's a good selection of 52 characters who span all of the different story arcs released thus far. Like the last game, all of the fighters fall into five different fighting categories. Hamon users can charge up their special meter when they're not attacking. Mode users can give themselves stat boosts and a few new moves for a limited amount of time. Vampire characters unleash moves that help give them back some life once they successfully connect with combos. Mount users are interesting because they bring horses to the battlefield and gain more damaging moves in exchange for more vulnerability. Finally, Stand characters will be more familiar for those who have played the old Capcom title, since they mostly fight using a proxy character.

The fighting has completely changed from the previous title. The game has transformed into a full 3-D arena brawler that is either played with 1v1 or 2v2 fights. The change in fighting style makes the stages more important, since positioning and elevation play a big part in whether you'll get in hits or get hit. It also means that the environmental hazards are back, such as having flames erupt halfway through a bout or jumping over chasms before you fall into them. The environments also give you the chance to throw objects at enemies, but don't expect arenas to be full of boxes and chairs.

The addition of a partner who fights alongside you opens up some opportunities for special moves. Wait long enough, and you'll have enough power to unleash a rather flashy team move — if you connect with the initial hit. You can also call upon a Dual Heat attack, which temporarily displays another meter. If you and your partner land enough hits to fill it up, another special team attack is unleashed. Combined with the ability to provide a cinematic killing blow in each stage, you get the feeling that the game always wants you to end a match with style.

The change to a full-on 3-D fighter means that the core fighting has changed, but some may not find it to be better. The simpler fighting system is expected, so attacks move down to only two buttons, but the game uses a modifier button in conjunction with the face and shoulder buttons to unleash special moves. It works well enough for more casual fighting fans, but it can feel a little cumbersome for those more familiar with the genre. Equally as cumbersome is the task of picking up objects, which also requires the use of a shoulder button and a face button to execute. You'll get used to it in time, but it certainly isn't an intuitive scheme.

Eyes of Heaven's biggest flaw is the camera. The usual complaints about bad cameras, such as it getting stuck on walls and buildings, applies here, and when you pan around, the camera can feel rather sluggish. The lock-on feature is supposed to alleviate this, but it can be dumb, since it may aim at the ceiling if the enemy is a level above you. Flicking the right analog stick to change which enemy you're targeting works fine, but toggling the lock isn't as responsive as one would like, forcing you to deal with whoever you locked onto first until they're gone, so you won't encounter issues.

The main focus this time around is on the campaign titled Eyes of Heaven, a side story to the manga. It starts off with Jotaro's bout against Dio in Egypt, where he finally defeats the immortal vampire and turns him into dust. With things settling down and Jean Pierre homeward bound for Paris, it isn't long before things turn bizarre, as dead allies are resurrected and turn against the heroes in service of someone referred to as the Noble One. Enter Robert E. O. Speedwagon, a mysterious figure who has been tracking down the heroes. He arrives just in time to revert the resurrected allies to their normal state using parts of a holy corpse. He believes that gathering all nine pieces of the mummified being will permanently stop the anomalies from occurring. The heroes join him, and they travel through different locations and eras to bring things back to normal.

The side story contains a number of spoilers for the various story arcs. In fact, you're greeted with a quick synopsis of what happened at the end of each era before you arrive. The spoilers are actually helpful to newcomers because they tell you just enough to get a good idea of what each major character is about before you interact with them. Numerous in-game cut scenes bookend each and every fight, which follow the standard anime blueprint in that they are full of exposition but can feel long if you just want to jump into the fighting.

Though this game is classified as a fighter, the campaign takes on a few RPG elements. Characters level up at the end of each fight, which lets you earn points. Those points can be used on a sizeable skill tree to unlock new moves or buff up stats. You'll gain new characters as you progress, and each chapter provides a small hub world to roam around, though they're simply the battle arenas with extra characters and hotspots.

The campaign also does a very good job of giving you plenty to do on top of an already lengthy story. There are extra collectibles once you're one-third of the way into the story. There are a few minigames, and you also have lots of extra fights for even more opportunities to power up your crew. Even if the other game modes didn't exist, there's plenty here to satisfy fans looking for a JoJo game with more substance.

Aside from the main campaign, you have Free Battle mode, which plays out like a typical fighting game. You can have 1v1 battles and 2v2 battles against the CPU or another human player, and just about every fighter is unlocked from the get-go. Their special moves are also unlocked, saving you the trouble of having to do that in the campaign, but you do have alternative costumes and quotes to unlock. It plays well enough offline, but you will find that playing against the CPU is much tougher since the difficulty has been upped from the campaign.

The online mode is pretty standard. Player matches let you engage in the full spectrum of 2v2 or 1v1 battles, while ranked matches are restricted to 1v1 bouts. You can make your own cards that show off your stats, preferred borders and character quotes, and you have full access to all of your character's quick special moves. One of the more interesting mechanics only comes about during 2v2 matches. Whether your partner is computer-controlled or controlled by another human, you aren't completely out of the match if you die. Instead, you can roam around the world as a ghost and can't attack but can take all hits. You'll still collapse if you get hit, but you keep getting back up as long as your partner is alive. You'll come to appreciate it since you can spare your partner damage that was originally intended for them.

However, there are two problems with this mode. The first has to do with performance. Unless you get someone with the best connection possible, you're going to get a slow fighting experience. It is a better alternative to lost button inputs, but the overall speed of the game makes it much harder to engage in a proper fight. The second issue is the lack of community. It's a little over a month since the game's North American release, but the community is rather small. You won't find a 1v1 bout in either ranked or player matches unless you arrange it beforehand, so the inclusion of CPU players to fill in as partners in a 2v2 match is a godsend.

Graphically, this is exactly what fans of the manga would want. The characters are stylized like they are in the manga, with heavy use of black for shading and the same outrageous poses. While their movements are fine in-game, they tend to be much stiffer in cut scenes. The backgrounds aren't anything special, but they also match the style of the manga, with the odd color scheme and constant use of words to signify sounds. The frame rate holds up well enough, but if you had to find a complaint in this department, it would be that the move to the more powerful console didn't come with any benefits. While we don't have the PS3 version available for comparison, the previous game's graphics look so close to this that the only difference is the bump to 1080p. This may serve as good news for PS3 owners who think they might be missing out by not going to the more powerful platform.

Audio-wise, Eyes of Heaven is spot-on. The music is a mix of hard rock and jazz, a fusion that seems odd on paper but works well in practice. The original composition blends well with the scenery, whether you're fighting or just engaging in casual conversation. The effects hit hard, and the Japanese-only cast does a great job of transitioning all of the characters and their emotions from the manga to a more animated form. Those with sharp ears will notice that the original dialogue doesn't contain the newly translated names for North American audiences, so while the subtitles will say differently, the likes of Vanilla Ice and Aerosmith are still here, just like in the manga.

In the end, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven can be divisive. The new fighting system is fine, but the lack of depth in moves, a few cumbersome commands, and bad camera make it less fun to work with than the previous title. The campaign is deep and understandable enough that people interested in the lore will gladly go through it, and the character mannerisms and presentation are as authentic as expected. It has a decent versus mode and a weak online mode, but in the end, things balance out just enough for this to be a recommended title for fans looking for more than just a pure fighting game experience.

Score: 7.0/10

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