Have you ever thought about the ramifications of Goku’s Kamehameha going up against Yusuke Urameshi’s Spirit Gun? When two unstoppable forces collide, the destruction caused by it is immense. Now think, what if a powerhouse like Naruto Uzumaki went head-to-head with a speed demon like Ichigo Kurosaki. Which would win; Uzumaki’s Rasengan of Kurosaki’s Getsuga Tensho? Disregarding the millions of dollars worth of collateral damage, who would come out on top? Questions like this are constantly thrown across tables of like-minded pop culture fans all discussing their favorite characters from their favorite pieces of media, each with their own theories regarding who would best who in combat. Usually those questions can never be answer, but it is with the release of crossover fighting titles like J-Stars Victory Vs+ that it all becomes just a little bit clearer.
Not since the Japan-only Nintendo DS title Jump Ultimate Stars have we seen this many Shonen Jump heroes and villains come together to throw down in the combined arena. Ever since it was announced for a Japanese release, Western fans of the Manga publisher have been hoping and praying for it to hit local shores. Just over a week ago, Bandai Namco Entertainment released it across North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 4 to the joyous screams of Shonen Jump fans living outside of Japan.
Bandai Namco Entertainment have given us the chance to review this game for the PlayStation 4, which means we’ll finally be able to see, first hand, just who the strongest Shonen Jump character really is. Though Goku has always been the clear king of the castle, I’m hoping to prove otherwise by decimating as characters like HunterXHunter’s Gon, Reborn!’s Tsunayoshi Sawada, and Medaka Box’s titular character Medaka Kurokami. While they may all be the mightiest heroes, is J-Stars Victory Vs+ the mightiest crossover title? That’s what I’m going to try and figure out.
What level of story justification do you need to be able to enjoy a crossover fighting video game that brings together a group of the most popular Shonen Jump characters of all time? Not much? Fantastic! You’re in luck because J-Stars Victory Vs+ gives you almost nothing in regards to a proper storyline. Here’s how it goes: You’ve got the choice to partake in four different yet expectantly similar quests lead by three popular Shonen protagonists and one who just seems as though he’s thrown in there for the sake of it: Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece), Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto), Ichigo Kurosaki (Bleach), and the titular character…Toriko.
After you’ve chosen your affiliation you’ll then set off on a very One Piece-esque adventure using a pirate ship as your mode of transportation. Contacted by a humble stream of pure light that finds it hard referring to itself as a God, you’re given a very brief explanation about some holy tournament that only the most powerful Shonen heroes can participate in. You’re then sent off to collect pieces of a bigger treasure that will allow you to partake in the final match of the tournament which will grant you all the glory in the world. That’s about it.
You’ll spend most of your time sailing around, getting intercepted by enemy ships and completing side quests that do not add to the story nor add characters to the unlockable roster. Well…in a roundabout way they do, but not in the way that is enjoyable. The story seemingly goes…nowhere, and you’ll find that you’ll quickly swap over to other, more engaging, game modes like Victory Road that will allow you to fight against even more characters with any character you’ve already unlocked, unlike the story mode which will only let you use those who have joined your crew, which aren’t many.
The game isn’t that hard to play, in fact, it’s a pretty tight combination of many other fighting titles based on Shonen Jump games. You’ll notice it shares similarities between One Piece: Pirate Warriors, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm, Bleach: Heat The Soul, etc. Though it does indeed feel like a mix and match of other titles, it is through combination that it creates a feel of its very own.
Granted, if you’re not playing with a character that suits you…this game really sucks: You can be easily overpowered and crushed within seconds if you’re not quite good with the hero (or villain) you’re using but once you find who you’re good at it’s very easy to breeze through the early to middle stages of this game. Once you start going deep into it, you’ll find that it does get a lot harder, but by that point in time you should be good enough to hold your own. The controls are very nice and react well to your inputs except for when you’re guarding. Because you’re mostly battling computers, it’s a lot harder to get into a strategic guard and dash fighting style so I think you’re better off saving that for when you’re going up against friends.
Speaking of going up against friends: The local multiplayer mode isn’t as great as it could have been. Instead of simply sharing the screen as well as certain gauges that react to the performance of both players simultaneously, J-Stars Victory Vs+ splits and then shrinks the screen to the point wherein which you can barely see what is happening to yourself or the person you’re playing against. It floods the screen with team colours (either red or blue) and simply proves that the designers of this particular mode don’t have much of a grasp on using screen space wisely. Thankfully I have a fairly big television. Playing local multiplayer on something smaller than fifty inches would make this game practically unplayable.
The good thing about local multiplayer though is that you can choose which team to be on, meaning that you and your friend could team up to battle computers. The game also adds in the option to play multiplayer into almost every mode, and that’s including the story. This means if there’s a particular enemy you can’t seem to beat on your own, you can call your actual friend in for some legitimate backup. Hopefully they perform better than your usual CPU partner who, on occasion, simply refuses to help you fight a two-on-two match, making your beat down ever so one-sided.
Visually, this game is pretty damn good! It allows you to see your favorite Shonen Jump characters in full high definition which alone is incredible but it is backed up by some smooth animation quality and well-polished character models that don’t look at all like they were rushed or pushed out too early due to time restraints or whatever excuses other developers have come up with in the past. Because it is a crossover title, there are so many different types of characters to bare witness too alongside their own environments from their respective series’. Despite the fact that there are only a handful of arenas to fight in, they’re all drastically different from each other and still retain the same charm as they did when they first appeared in Manga form.
The exact same can be said about the game’s soundtrack too: Each environment has it’s own small soundtrack which takes tracks straight from the Anime it was from so even though you’ve heard most of the music before, you still get a sense of it being fresh and new yet at the same time an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia washes over you, especially when playing on old-school stages from series’ like Yu Yu Hakusho and Fist Of The North Star. Most of the characters present in the game or voiced by their original Seiyuu (Voice Actors/Actresses), apart from maybe one or two, the most notable being Koro-Sensei from Assassination Classroom who’s voiced by someone who still retains the character’s comedic value. What’s fantastic is that certain characters will interact with one another. My favorite being Goku (Dragon Ball Z) and Gon (HunterXHunter) discussing their Scissors, Paper, Rock fighting style.
Simply put; the game is absolutely fantastic! For me, it doesn’t take much to love a crossover fighting title, especially one that features so many of my favorite Shonen characters. it would have been great to see even more characters, maybe even from some more contemporary titles like My Hero Academia or One-Punch Man, but it seems as though Spike Chunsoft went for the most popular ones without breaking any barriers or stepping over any proverbial lines and I think it is great for what it is.
No, there wasn’t much of a story to grasp onto and, at times, playing through it became tedious but there’s so much to do in the game! All I had to do was switch from one mode to the other and I was back having fun again. Some people will say that the game doesn’t feature nearly enough to justify buying it but I disagree: If you have a love for Shonen Jump productions than I can say without a shadow of a doubt that you’ll find a reason to also love this game, just don’t compare it to Jump Ultimate Stars…nothing could ever beat THAT Shonen Jump game! It is what it is, and what it is…is a simple but great fighting game.
J-Stars Victory Vs+ is out now at any good video game retailer and on the PlayStation Network.