Jump Force (5)

For the last fifty years, one of the biggest comic books on the planet hasn’t been a Marvel or a DC production. Heck, it hasn’t even been produced in America but that hasn’t stopped fans from all over the world enjoying Japan’s best pop culture export: Shonen Jump. The weekly magazine is home to many a series, usually focusing on several adolescent boys with incredible powers and varying levels of mental retardation to match their endless appetites as they strive to be the best in their universe.

There’s more to the weekly comic book magazine, with some incredible standout one-shots and limited series, but if you ever grew up watching badly dubbed episodes of Bleach, Naruto and Yu Yu Hakusho, this is the wellspring from where it all began. Characters with planet-shattering powers, abilities that go far beyond the ken of mortal man and whose very presence can cause evil itself to be frozen in fear.

Jump Force (1)

Sounds perfect for a fighting game, right? Right! There’s no shortage of Shonen Jump games featuring various anime and manga properties crossing over, but Jump Force may just be the grandest and most ambitious of the lot. Five decades of history, characters and worlds, all combining into one almighty explosion of colour and anime madness that is stunning to look at.

Stunningly boring that is.

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I cannot overstate just how gorgeous Jump Force is to behold in action, as it juggles not only dozens of characters but also several unique art styles and palettes that were pulled from the hands of some of the most talented manga artists in the industry. Jotaro Kujo from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has the posture of a chiropractic session gone wrong and yet he can still punch a hole into a mountain. Akira Toriyama’s famed collection of Dragon Ball characters have so many muscles that several of their biceps are probably fictional stories in their own right.

Jump Force (2)

Hunter X Hunter’s optimistic wide-eyed style has somehow been retained and even Uzumaki Naruto looks like he’d be an ace ninja were it not for the fact that shinobi probably don’t wear orange or scream their attacks/names of their best friends at you. It’s an amazing act of balance, one that is augmented by enhanced textures and dozens of attacks which will leave your eyeballs reduced to cinders.

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Manga isn’t just a visual experience however, and that’s something that Jump Force fails to realise. At its very core, it’s a 3 on 3 brawler where players can chain together a multitude of light, heavy and special attacks, while also escaping at the last second using the three-dimensional arena to its maximum extent.

Jump Force (3)

On paper, Jump Force is plenty accessible: Combos are easy enough to chain together, special attacks can be pulled off with a mere button press while you hold down the shoulder button and activating an ultimate ability comes in handy when you’re in a pinch. Jump Force is easy to pick, but rarely is it challenging to master and that results in a boring game as the majority of characters feel too similar to one another.

Sure, between the Rasengans and the punch barrages from Star Platinum, characters do have their own identities, but the differences are minute at best and overlap with other skills all too often, leading to drag-out fights that overstay their welcome when the same cinematic animations are used over and over again during battle.

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It doesn’t help matters either that Jump Force’s story is terrible, even by anime standards. It’s your usual excuse for the cast to lock fists to faces, with MacGuffins resulting in allies turning on one another, classic clashes being reignited and your custom avatar being stuck in the middle. It’s all told dreadfully however, with character models being stiffer than your dad after he overdosed on Viagra and the hub world around you pinching ideas from games such as Dragon Ball XenoVerse.

Only y’know, it does so in a manner that is nowhere near as fun or even good.

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Which seems to be a running gag in Jump Force. There’s a lot of content that feels repurposed from previous games, only badly. The combat smacks of ideas taken from other Bandai Namco 3D brawlers, progression and wardrobe unlocks feel oddly familiar and the overall presentation is missing that crucial balance that makes good fighting games great.

It’s a pity, but also obvious when you see how Jump Force emphasises quantity over quality. As a pure power fantasy, there is still some fun to be had but your mileage may vary as the core challenge in Jump Force doesn’t rely on enemies outperforming you in combat but rather just being able to take more damage and dish out even more pain in return. When your only viable strategy is levelling up some more so that you stand a better chance, that doesn’t say much for the tactics needed to succeed in Jump Force.

Jump Force (7)

Last Updated: February 27, 2019

Jump Force
Jump Force is a stunning explosion of iconic manga characters across decades of publication, all wrapped up in a single package of over the top brawling that is decadent on the outside and ultimately hollow inside when cracked open.
6.0
Jump Force was reviewed on PlayStation 4
56 / 100

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