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October 2018

Jump Force

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 2019


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Jump Force'

by Thomas Wilde on June 22, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

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.

Pre-order Jump Force

This year marks the 50th anniversary of "Weekly Jump" magazine, the monthly anthology manga collection. A lot of the biggest hits in manga and anime have gotten their start in its pages, most notoriously the "Naruto" and "Bleach" franchises, and there have already been several "Jump"-themed crossover games as a result.

Basically, Jump Force is "The Avengers."  A threat has appeared that is inexplicably too big for any one manga series to withstand, even in this medium, where people casually blow up planets and attack entire universes. The titular Jump Force — comprised of Goku, Luffy and Naruto — has come together to defend both Earth and "Jump World" from whatever threats may arise.

Jump Force is a three-on-three arena brawler that reminds me a lot of Power Stone and similarly unrestrained games. You select up to three characters for your team — the roster at E3 2018 included Frieza, Goku, Ichigo, Luffy, Naruto and Roronoa Zoro — and go after your opponent in a big room full of obstacles and destructible terrain.

The best word for the gameplay in Jump Force is frantic. Between the flying debris, giant lasers, projectiles, teleports, and an array of manga-faithful special moves, there's a lot going on at any given time. You can hold down one button — RT on the Xbox One build I was playing — to activate one of four special moves for your character, which blow up enormous chunks of the landscape and leave devastation in their wake. Not only can you detonate half the room with, say, the Kamehameha, but that also has the side effect of covering half the room in pulsing laser effects.

All three characters on a team share the same health bar, and once it's gone, the whole team is knocked out at once. You can tap a button — LT on the Xbox One — to call in an assist from one of your off-screen characters, or you can hold down the same button to swap out entirely. The game focuses heavily on air combos, verticality, and using quick teleports to catch up to an opponent and continue beating him. A particularly hard hit, in the best genre-faithful fashion, might send a character flying across the ring where they hit a building, a mountain, or an unfortunately unattended full tanker truck, which will collapse and explode.

Characters also have access to Awakened mode, which activates their various super forms. Goku goes super saiyan, Naruto turns into a giant fox monster (I'm told this is his Sage form), Luffy goes Gear mode, etc. I never got a chance to use these on the E3 show floor, but the footage makes them all look like truly over-the-top supers.

What's odd is that all of the participating characters have received a redesign to make them fit in with one another and the story of Jump Force. This is apparently a story where all of the Jump Force characters live on the same version of Earth, as part of the same universe, and the game's plot involves them crossing over to a version of our world; one of the playable stages, in fact, is Times Square in New York City.

As a result, the characters' appearances have been balanced between a more pseudo-realistic approach and their home series' designs. They're still identifiable as themselves, but the game liberally uses cel-shading and shadow to make them appear as if they might have been designed by the same artist in the first place. It's actually kind of neat to see in motion, since a lot of crossovers like this usually deal with artistic incompatibilities by refusing to care about it one way or the other; instead, this begins with the conceit that "Jump World" was always its own place and tries to remain consistent with that.

I don't feel like I really got enough time with Jump Force to make any real calls about how it plays. As far as I could tell, I picked up a controller, everything exploded, and then somehow, I was declared the winner. In some ways, this is pretty faithful to my limited experience as a manga reader, but it also means I have no real idea what just happened. Still, it's refreshing to see an arena brawler on consoles right now, and I could see this being an accessible party game.

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