When Jump Force was revealed during the Microsoft conference at E3 2018, I was very excited to see another entry into the Jump Super Stars series that started all the way back on the DS. However, I was very skeptical due to my experience with J-Stars Victory VS in 2015. It was a good looking video game but wasn’t very fun to play. My hope was that things would be different this time around while reserving my expectations that it would be great.
I held onto those reservations for the most part until I got my hands on Jump Force at PAX South 2019. I was happy to discover that this was actually going to be a competent fighting game and began to anticipate release day. Now that I have had the opportunity to dive into the game to my heart’s content, my attitude remains the same, for the most part. However, there is still much here that gets in the way of Jump Force being one of the greatest anime fighters of all time.
Spiritual Content: Some of the characters in this game are well acquainted with versions of the afterlife, some of them being labeled “Soul Reapers” and “Spirit Detectives”. One character is accompanied by a Shinigami which translates to “god of death” or “death spirit”. They are the closest resemblance to demons and appear in Japanese religion and culture. This character accompanied by the Shinigami also references a book he is in possession of called the Death Note that brings death to anyone whose name is written in it. Evil auras are also a huge part of the story in Jump Force and possess the minds of the heroes in the game.
Violence: Jump Force is a fighting game in which three characters face off against one another in combat. Some characters use hand-to-hand combat whereas others use a variety of swords, guns, and energy blasts to defeat their opponents. Cries of pain can be heard when a character gets knocked down or takes damage and some blood is present in cutscenes. Visual battle damage can be seen on characters during a battle in the form of torn clothes with cuts and bruises.
Sexual Content: A few of the female characters in Jump Force wear outfits that expose cleavage. There are also some instances where characters make advances at one another or flirt with others. The most you will find here is labeled as “Suggestive Themes” under the ESRB rating.
Drugs/Alcohol Use: None. Strange, right, considering that there are Pirate characters in the game?
The basic plot of Jump Force is that the “Jump” world has collided with ours due to the works of an evil being that is trying to take over the universe. You create a character that has an important role in tilting the balance in favor of the good guys. This feature of character creation was unknown to me up until a few months before release and had me wondering how it was going to be implemented. How this was carried out is somewhat detrimental to what kind of video game Jump Force could have been.
After the introduction and making my character, I had a gut feeling that this wasn’t going to be the fighting game I was looking for. I was dropped into an online lobby similar to Dragon Ball Xenoverse or Destiny, for those less familiar. In this lobby, you will fight locally or online, accept missions, buy clothing and abilities, and purchase upgrades. The problem is that you’re never tasked with teaming up alongside your friends as you would in these aforementioned online multiplayer games, and it feels as though it exists only to show off your character. A small hub world that doesn’t require you to stay connected online would’ve sufficed instead of giving the option to go offline, which makes the area feel completely barren.
However, Jump Force is easily one of the best looking games in its genre and in the category of anime licensed video games. By mixing our world with the anime world, the result is a beautiful, yet odd mix of style. The plot enabled the developers to utilize real word locations for some of our favorite heroes and villains to fight in such as Hong Kong, Mexico, and the Alps. There are some familiar locations such as Namek and the Hidden Leaf Village that you can battle in as well, but these are visually less interesting. The graphical presentation gets a little weirder when you bring character models in the mix; most characters actually blend in quite well until characters with huge eyes appear such as Luffy and Midoriya. Seeing those characters is both a jarring and happy reminder that this is an anime game, and I find that for me to be immersed in such a way means that this strange blend is successful.
As for gameplay, it is best to make comparisons to Xenoverse yet again. You’ll be holding the right trigger or ‘R2’ to enable the execution of special moves via the face buttons. Though with the ability to perform cancels and counter-attacks, this control scheme now feels much more like a proper fighting game than a MMO. During my time with the demo at PAX, I was slightly disappointed that the 3 v 3 battle system was more similar to Tekken Tag instead of Marvel vs. Capcom. I wanted bigger, longer battles in which every character could battle it out until one was left standing, but instead, I got an enjoyable battle system that has made for some of the most strategic and close fights I’ve ever had in a video game.
My favorite strategy was to get in close and knock around my opponent with light and heavy attacks in order to get an opening for a special move. The battles system takes plenty of queues from Dragon Ball Z in that there is a rush ability that quickly brings you toward opponents, and your character can even go into a transformed “awakened” state when that respective meter fills up. Like any team-based fighting game, you can call in an ally for a quick assist; these assists and character switches are both on cooldown meters as well. Switching characters and knowing when to go for the ultimate move can mean the difference between victory and loss in the tense close quarter combat.
Jump Force truly shines when you’re actually fighting; everything outside of that just feels so disconnected. Your character and allies do level up, though there are no actual stats to upgrade. For your character, you will be upgrading a passive ability that is given to you depending on which team leader you partner up with at the beginning of the game, and you can upgrade assist abilities for allies. As for missions, you will pick them up from the mission board or walking up to specific characters. I spent plenty of time and money in the apparel and ability shops as I watched my character evolve from a “fusion-dance-gone-wrong” into an actual hero that could’ve potentially come from his own Shonen Jump anime. I never expected to spend so much time on other factors in a video game where the focus should mainly be on fighting.
If I said that the combat was the only thing that kept me playing, I’d be lying. The story of the game kept me interested even if the overall plot is fairly cookie-cutter and typical for a mash-up such as this. The player character gets caught in the middle of a battle in New York and is revived by Trunks with what is called an “Umbra Cube.” You are taken back to headquarters and discover that heroes from the “Jump” world have teamed up together and formed Jump Force. This story takes place at a point when it feels like the good guys are losing, which makes this story feel like the anime equivalent to Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
You’ll spend time chasing after the culprit of this cataclysmic event and preventing some of your favorite heroes from succumbing to dark power. I do have some attachment to the characters in this roster, but spending time with characters I was less connected with is what I enjoyed most—like training with Dragon Shiryu of Saint Saiya. This story did a good job of introducing me to characters I’d never heard of or didn’t know much about; it was nice to know who they are and what they could do, while also having more intimate interactions with others. On the other hand, I do feel that Jump Force is a bit lacking in female members on the roster, with only 4 out of 40. I’m sure there are plenty of strong female characters that fans would want to see such as Nami from One Piece or Eighteen from Dragon Ball.
For story-driven fights, you are given specific allies, but there is much more freedom in who you get the job done with when it comes to side missions. The only other options other than the story mode are online and local battles. The online connectivity worked smoothly and I won a few matches, but “throwing hands” with someone online isn’t my cup of tea unless it’s against friends or family; my preferred option is battling the CPU if I want to get some fights in without combing through the various menus just to get some action. However I choose to battle, I take my custom character and decide on the best jump heroes in order to craft the strongest team composition that will lead me to victory.
I went into Jump Force expecting a rock solid entry in the fighting genre—and I know there is one in here somewhere. It feels as though Spike Chunsoft was on the right track until Bandai Namco came in and told them to add a social space and other fluff that helps video games sell. I spent too much time walking around and shopping in a game that I was playing by myself; doing those kinds of things make more sense in a shared world experience. The great fighting mechanics and interesting story are what kept me coming back, and those very same things were what got me to make the purchase in the first place. You may find something to love in Jump Force if you are a fan of anime, but this should be a hard pass for anyone who isn’t.
The Bottom Line
Despite the fact that it suffers from the pressures of attempting to combine fighter mechanics and top selling franchises, Jump Force is a fun fighting game.