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December 2022

Jump Force

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: Aug. 28, 2020


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Switch Review - 'Jump Force: Deluxe Edition'

by Cody Medellin on March 9, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

The greatest heroes and villains from the 50-year history of Shueisha's influential Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump manga will battle against each other across iconic locations on Earth in this anime fighting game fan's dream come true.

Buy Jump Force: Deluxe Edition

Longtime Nintendo fans will note that they've seen this kind of crossover before. In fact, Nintendo was responsible for the crossover with Jump Super Stars on the Nintendo DS in 2005 and its sequel Jump Ultimate Stars a year later. The fighting games were big hits in Japan and emulated a Super Smash Bros. style of fighting. Despite no plans for localization, the game was popular enough that retailers like Best Buy imported a few copies for hungry Shonen Jump fans who didn't want to order it online. Those who didn't migrate to the PlayStation platform missed out on J-Stars Victory VS+, but some would argue that they dodged a bullet since the move to 3D didn't make for a particularly engaging fighting game. Thanks to the massive popularity of the Switch, fighting fans are getting another taste of a fighting game that encompasses a number of Shonen Jump mangas. Unfortunately, it isn't a new game but a port of Jump Force.

The story starts off without much explanation. During a fight between Goku and Frieza in the ruined streets of New York City, an errant energy blast Frieza hits your character. You're close to death, so Trunks infuses you with an umbras cube to revive you and give you the ability to become a hero. After your fight against a mind-controlled minion known as a Venom, you are invited to Jump Force headquarters, where you learn that the real world and the heroes from other worlds have merged together. Now a newly minted member of the team, it is up to you to battle the Venom invasion while also trying to figure out who's behind this.

For a game that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the manga anthology magazine, the story is worse than the one in J-Stars Victory VS+, which feted the magazine's 45th anniversary. The storyline feels derivative and predictable, and it doesn't go in any interesting directions. The game requires you to have extensive knowledge of every series, since the title won't explain much about the characters or let them grow. Some of the more exciting crossover meetings fail to have an impact, since a chunk of the scenes are conveyed with text instead of voices. For newcomers and longtime fans, the story is a letdown, even more so when you realize that it's the game's focal point.

Before you start the campaign, you'll be tasked with creating your own character. You can change a decent number of parts, and while there aren't a ton of options, you have enough to create a few knock-offs of absent characters. You can also choose your character's fighting style, whether it's sword-based or more of a ninja style, a martial artist style, or even one that emulates Luffy. You can also choose to equip your character with super moves that belong to the other fighters, whether it's the trusty Kamehameha or Jotaro from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.

As expected from a fighting game, the campaign consists of a series of fights, but the pacing kills the excitement. There are plenty of cut scenes, but a number of them seem nonsensical, as the different characters repeat things or tell jokes with awful punchlines. Instead of immediately going into a fight, you have to run around in the hub world to talk to quest-givers and determine if you take part in a fight that progresses the story or earns extra XP. Those fights will be punctuated with even more cut scenes before and after each bout, and what kills the excitement the most are the loading screens. It feels like almost every transition between menus to cut scenes to actual playable portions is bookended by loading screens, and even though the game is running off a solid state drive instead of the spinning hard drives of the Xbox One and PS4, the load times seem just as long. The campaign may clock in between 12-15 hours, but it'll feel like most of that is spent looking at the loading percentages.

There are indications that the fighting in Jump Force would be deeper than a typical anime fighting game. The game is presented in a behind-the-shoulder view just like the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series, so you have weak and strong attacks, along with a dodge move and a jump. You can use a rush move to dart away from an attacking opponent or close the gap between you. Special moves are initiated by pulling the ZR trigger and using one of the face buttons. Powering up the meter necessary to pull off the moves can either be done with the sustained pull of a trigger or by landing blows on your opponent. Finally, the game might remind you of The King of Fighters or Marvel vs. Capcom 2, since you pick out a team of three fighters. Even though the pool of properties is smaller compared to the previous Jump titles, especially since they went for the more popular stuff, 40 characters is still plentiful.

None of the supposed depth matters when you discover the many flaws with the fighting system. The special moves look flashy, but most lack range, and even though the game tends to auto-target opponents, some of the moves rarely land. Your opponents are usually so far away that you need to dash to connect. Despite having three fighters at your disposal, the tag moves also rarely connect, and everyone shares the same meter, so you can't switch out fighters to keep a battle going or buy more time. The most damning flaw is that you can mash the quick attack button to win a majority of the fights. You'll lock an opponent into three quick hits before throwing out two more that toss the opponent all over the map, forcing you to dash forward to execute that combo all over again. Every character has this combo in their arsenal, and since it's good at dealing damage, there's rarely a reason to do anything different, so each fight feels uneventful.

At first glance, Jump Force looks to be one of those "miracle ports." Like Mortal Kombat 11 or Wolfenstein II: The New Order, it looks just like the Xbox One/PS4 game but with a resolution drop to 540p. While the frame rate only hovers around 30fps, it still makes for a responsive enough fighting game if you're playing offline. It stops being impressive when you see how mangled some of the characters are in 3D, such as Trunks, who looks like his neck is gone and his shoulders are too high up his body. The animations for characters seem stiff, and it hurts when you reach a cut scene and characters' mouths barely move. The cut scene frame rate issue in the more powerful consoles also rears its head here, where some seriously impressive fights are ruined by a low frame rate that make it all choppy. The frame rate issue also creeps up if you play online; the lobby's frame rate tanks into the teens, but the online fighting holds steady.

As far as audio goes, the voice work is great since the Japanese vocal track uses the same actors to voice the characters from their respective anime incarnations. On the other hand, the soundtrack varies wildly in tone, and it does so in a way that doesn't fit the situation too well. Reach your base, and you'll hear a track that starts off seriously but quickly becomes humorous. Get to a cut scene, and you'll hear something that sounds like it could've been ripped from a scene in "The Avengers" when the team seems beaten down. Go to a fight, and you might hear a track that doesn't put anyone in a mood to fight. It is all over the place, and with no tracks seemingly calling back to the anime iterations of the mangas, it feels like a wasted opportunity.

Jump Force: Deluxe Edition isn't a terrible title, but you have to be willing to forgive its numerous issues to enjoy it. The fighting is flashy, but it lacks depth since you can button-mash the attack button and win just about every match. The character roster is smaller compared to previous Jump games, and some of the dream interactions are hobbled by a less-than-stellar story and a lack of voices to make the interactions impactful. There are certainly better fighting games on the system, including a few licensed ones, and the only reason to give this one a look is if you really, really need to have some sort of crossover going.

Score: 5.0/10

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