Well after a long uphill battle we have finally reached the next station with J Stars Victory VS+, a colorful land ruled by random whacky violence apparently. To be fair I used to have a near encyclopedic knowledge of most anime and manga but then I had to fend for myself in the cold harsh world and had to make a choice, anime, manga or video games? I chose video games because I was young and stupid and figured I would be a big shot in a few years and could resume my other collections. How optimistic I was until ‘The Man’ slapped me upside the head. Point being, while I understand how these characters operate in their own worlds I have always loved cross over games because it adds a new element to the general equation. Of course it has to be evened out, we all know Goku would break Kankichi in half but where is the fun in that? We can answer our own questions like who is the better swordsman between Kenshin and Hiei? Or who is the creepiest between Arale, Luckyman and Taro? The problem is that many cross over games just fail to move past the most generic premise and most don’t make it out of Japan in general.

There is a good lineup of fighters for this game with 39 playable characters and 13 support characters spanning from many years’ worth of anime in the Jump universe. However, they do become rather obscure as the game goes on. I can break all the available characters into three groups, characters I know well, characters I recognize and characters I have no idea what drug induced hallucination they came from. I mean Taro and Bobobo? Jump couldn’t provide any more interesting characters from, just off the top of my head, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Shaman King, Ninku, Death Note or Eyeshield 21? On a personal note because I realize no one outside of this country cares, how can a volleyball manga make it in but an American football manga can’t? Or does calling one sport football in this country and a different sport everywhere else in the world confuse people?

Story mode has four main paths to choose from as well with the corner stones of Jump leading them including Ichigo, Naruto, and Luffy… and Toriko? Maybe Toriko is new but I feel like if it was important enough to be raised up on a pedestal that I would still probably now it. To be fair ever since Fighting Fudons I generally avoid any food based anime like it has the plague. The story is fairly minimal either way though. With little to no explanation all of the characters are just dumped in the same map as if they were always part of the same world and then Nekogami shows up and tells them to fight it out. What? Some cat from on high just gives you a boat and tells you to fight whoever and you just run with it? That’s not a plot, that’s just short hand for ‘go fight some dude but we don’t want it to feel like a fighting game but don’t care enough to actually put some work in’. All four arcs run the same basic course with the same basic characters to find until 3/4s the ways in when they all just figure screw it and form one giant team. The ending is also so anti-climactic you have to wonder why they bothered putting in an ending at all. Again it was just a feel good ending or short hand for ‘we couldn’t be fucking bothered’. There are side quest to do but they all either come down to go fight some dude or go get this item and can be skipped without any consequence.

All of this seems to be mainly for the purpose of adding token RPG elements to the game, something developers have failed to realize are only a good thing if they are any good. For all the fights, quest and random encounters you earned points for various meters but there is little to no way of knowing what they do. Some but not all of the playable characters, for reasons I suppose, have a level that goes up whether they were in the fight or not. What this level system does though is anyone’s guess. Characters don’t have stats so it has nothing to do with that, it doesn’t make fights easier and it can’t be to measure who you play with the most because they get points just for being on the winning team in general. You also get points for effort, friendship and whatever else but again it doesn’t mean anything. I searched and could not find it had any effect on the game whatsoever and even if it does it is so minimal there is no point to it. You can also earn cards that can be organized to add bonuses in combat as well but that usually didn’t help much at all or wasn’t really required because it was too easy. It seems like a lot of work was put into adding mechanics that no one wanted and don’t really do anything meaningful anyway making them non-factors. The most annoying thing though is how your ship just loses power as you go and if you don’t watch it closely enough you can enter a fight with almost zero health. How that makes sense is beyond me but it would have been nice if the game had pointed out I could upgrade the ship to slow it down.

The primary mechanics aren’t that good either. My main problem is that while they all have fairly unique specials that are fun to use on friends the most common base attacks all look almost identical. Even when comparing fighters of different types they all have near identical basic attacks and things get really boring really fast. Of course there are a few characters that feel grossly over powered like Goku and Hancock. All I had to do was spam their base attacks with certain specials thrown in and I could pretty much immobilize enemies and prevent them from falling down. Since players become untouchable briefly after falling over the entire game stops being a fighting game and becomes figuring out how to dodge long enough before you can attack again. While fighting online I had a winning streak because I could dodge behind the other guy the second he got up and start attacking again. I repeated this process with multiple characters for a number of matches until I was ejected from the lobby for winning. Support characters are entirely useless because 90% of them have little to no effect or chance of even hitting the enemy. The only support characters that seemed to have any effect either covered a huge area or are Kagura and Sadaharu, that girl and dog just tear up everything with little possibility of escape. Ally characters are also entirely useless and spend more time running around than actually fighting. In the more difficult fights they literally become liabilities because the game will just crush them. You can give your partner commands but all the commands might as well be run head first into a brick wall for all the good they do.

I’m probably disappointed in the appearance of the game the most though. The opening animation plays the game off as some huge comic book style 3d brawler but besides actual fighting portions there is no other animation at all. There is a lot of talking but much of it is done with lifeless 2d paper cut outs that seem to come in 1 of 3 expressions. A couple of the arenas are fun and unique but most of them are the same series of breakable buildings on a wide flat space with what could be a random anime scene copied and pasted on the backdrop. I swear at least four maps are nearly the exact same towns with different sky boxes. I especially liked the giant garden and how you could carve up the vegetables which oddly enough reminded me of dinner. NPC’s are by far the worst though. I understand that many of these manga are old and it is difficult to have enough artist to copy so many drawing styles but many of the NPC’s looked like a five year old drew them and they still didn’t deserve to go on the fridge. There is so much copy/pasting going on here I have no idea what the developers actually did.

Besides story mode there is also victory road and online. Online actually works surprisingly well and gave me a chance to pull out Toguro and just crush people. While it functions well and team fights are surprisingly fun it just becomes a game of ‘who can be the biggest dick and exploit an overpowered character’. How many times was I against someone using Goku who just spammed his long distant moves until he could pull out a special? It was rather irritating especially when his partner double teamed me so I couldn’t even stop it. The lesson there was to find better help that doesn’t just stand around watching you get your ass kicked. Victory Road is the linear all fighting all the time portion of the game where you can construct your own team from scratch, what this game should have been from the beginning. Some fights even have challenges like ‘Use this move so many times’, a generic way to make fights more interesting.

This game missed the mark entirely for me which is disappointing because I had high hopes for it. Beyond a new game with some of my favorite characters from growing up there is little to do and just turns into a huge bland blob that gets really boring really fast. They should have gone the same route that PlayStation All Stars went, a linear fighting path and after you beat the entire thing your main character gets a special individual ending. I would have loved to see separate endings for all these characters regardless of how short they are. Not some giant meaningless ending to wrap up all four paths in a single easy finish. There is a lot of ambition here but it all just falls short long before reaching the finish line. Maybe a lot of it does more than I am seeing but I doubt it and even if it is it is so negligible there was little point in the first place. If you have someone else to play with the game actually gets a lot better because again, your friendly AI had its ass put where its head should be and have trouble with the simplest commands. Even online is better than the main story if you can avoid the Dragonball and Naruto fan boys. All in all, a random mash up of nostalgia that fails to meet any of my expectations. I almost feel embarrassed paying for the PS4 copy. If I had bought it on the Vita I could probably call the graphics okay and would have saved money without losing any actual content. This entire stop has been a complete let down but in the distance I see Onechanbara Z2. I hesitate to call Onechanbara a good game but it is… interesting…. Which can be summed up thustly… assassassassassassassassassassassass.

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