Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Ever since Jump Superstars became such a darling for the Nintendo DS years ago, fans have been wondering when they would get another anime-packed brawler. Well, leave it to Bandai Namco to pull off a small miracle with J-Stars Victory Vs. +, a game that packs in every anime face that you can think of…and even a few you wouldn't have imagined.
The whole gang is here – Naruto, Dragon Ball, One Piece, Bleach, and even a few franchises you probably haven’t have heard of. They all get together for four player fighting action in 3D environments, unleashing everything from fireballs to multi-punch attacks to some truly strange techniques that defy description. It certainly caters to the anime fan – but for those looking for depth, it doesn't quite scratch that surface.
The J Battle Festival awaits
The main mode of J-Stars is the Adventure mode, where you choose from one of four fighters and dive into the J Battle Festival, a tournament where you'll meet new allies and make enemies with each stop you take. It's basically structured like a story mode, but it comes up a bit short.
First off, why stop at just four main characters? Don't the other cast members deserve their say in the Shonen Jump legacy as well? Also, why aren't there more anime-style sequences? This is supposed to be a PS4 brawler, after all – static images can only do so much to justify their actions.
Quibbles aside, this is a decent "tour" mode that gives you a glimpse of what all the game has to offer – and even then, you're likely to find a secret or two that may take you by surprise, like a comical character that appears out of nowhere or, surprise, Naruto pummeling the crap out of Frieza. That's where J-Stars' potential is best – the possibilities of creating some of the better anime super-brawls out there.
There's plenty to do, but not much to do it with
The game features a variety of modes outside of Adventure, including a quick Arcade mode, a J-Adventure mode where you journey down different paths of foes, and, of course, online multiplayer. It's a satisfying selection, although there are some restrictions that you must fight through in order to unlock, such as four-player battles. It's a bit strenuous, but made with a decent enough unlocking set-up.
Now, here's the problem – the gameplay doesn't go nearly as in-depth as it should. That's not to say that J-Stars lacks its moments of pleasure, they're certainly there. Goku's Kamehameha is as awesome as you'd expect it to be, and some of the other super techniques can be fun to watch. However, some fighting fans may be let down by the lack of complexity.
You have small and large fighting moves, super attacks, dodges and other techniques to keep you in the fight. But that's pretty much about it. The developers at Spike Chunsoft would've been wise to implement a sharper, leveled-up fighting experience where we could call on allies more, or, at the very least, unlock a new set of moves once we reach a certain tier. Without this, we're performing the same moves pretty much over and over again, with nothing new to unlock. Some people won't mind, but those looking for an evolved experience certainly won't get it here.
It's forgivable once you jump into multiplayer, though. Four player fights are definitely the order of the day with a game like J-Stars, as battles can become absolutely manic, and watching supers executed left and right is like a fireworks display. On your own, however, you'll be doing the same old thing. Do yourself a favor and stay in the hunt online, you'll feel much better.
Not exactly a fighter with killer looks
For a PlayStation 4 fighting game, J-Stars doesn't quite take its presentation to the next level. Sure, the animations look good on all the fighters, and some of the environments, taken from popular series, aren't too shabby. However, it all comes across like something you'd see on the PlayStation 3. There's nothing here that really screams next-gen – not even the super attacks that occasionally fill the screen. Had the frame rate been bumped up, or the game received some extravagant lighting effects, we'd really see the difference. Alas, it doesn't really happen. Still, it's not bad as far as fan service goes.
Then there's the audio. The music is about on the right cheesy level with most of the anime licenses featured here, and the voicework is about on par with each character, with Japanese voiceovers faring best when it comes to capturing the tone of each fighter.
Again, though, I can't help but think corners were cut when it comes to the lack of cut-scenes. This is a series that could've used some comic book style when it came to its cinemas, instead of lazy wallpaper and text. It's the sort of game that needed to push to the next level, not run by the basics. Talk about a missed opportunity.