When Bandai Namco first announced Jump Force during last year’s Microsoft
E3 press conference, I was skeptical to say the least. Though I’m a huge fan of
most Shonen Jump series, I was never quite able to forget the sour taste left
by the last major crossover title of the same nature, J-Stars Victory VS+. Still, I cautiously followed Jump Force during the course of its
development, hoping that developer Spike Chunsoft would learn from their
previous mistakes and deliver on what should be an epic title in the realm of
anime-based fighters. Although my prayers certainly went unheard, Jump Force does crawl up a notch above
its predecessor, however small that notch may be.

Jump
Force
is a 3-on-3 tag team fighting game, featuring
a little over fourty characters spanning across sixteen of Shonen Jump’s most
prolific manga series. The premise of Jump
Force
sees the real-world colliding with the different universes found in
Shonen Jump. This results in abnormalities such as a ruined Statue of Liberty
found on Planet Namek or a destroyed New York Times Square. Though the premise
is unique and makes for some great looking battle arenas, this is basically the
extent of how the idea is utilized. Characters rarely, if ever, comment on
their surroundings and there’s almost no reaction from the “real world” to any
of these insanely powerful characters suddenly appearing.

Jump Force (PlayStation 4) Review 5

The plot of Jump Force revolves around a war between the Venoms, an army of
mind-controlled villains and the Jump
Force
, a collection of heroes from the various Shonen Jump worlds. After
being struck down in an attack led by Frieza, players are revived by the Jump Force with technology that allows
them to become powerful enough to join the team and fight against the Venoms.
Beyond this introduction, the player’s avatar is almost entirely irrelevant to
the overall story. Due to their complete silence, it always feels as though the
avatar is being talked at and ordered around, never truly becoming a part of
the story, despite the game constantly insisting otherwise.

Since it’s premiere, the visuals of Jump Force have been a topic of debate
in terms of quality. Built using Unreal Engine 4, the realistic renditions of
characters appear noticeably off. At best, characters like Goku or Vegeta look
almost like action figures rather than anime characters. Unlucky characters
like Black Beard and Deku however, come off as a terrible mix of ugly and
uncanny. This rings even more true when the game is in motion. Character models
are so stiff that movement is nearly impossible. In fact, models are so poorly
animated that a handful of characters are unable to blink or even move their
mouths when speaking voiced lines. This makes nearly every cutscene in Jump Force unbearable to watch, as they
all feature a group of characters looking like immovable statues for upwards of
five minutes. While I have no issue with Jump
Force’s
lack of English audio, I do take issue with the game’s English
subtitles. At various points, I noticed that the subtitles wouldn’t exactly
match with what the characters were saying. An even bigger, and sometime
baffling flaw of Jump Force is its long and constant load times. Nearly
everything in Jump force leads to a loading screen which can take up to a
minute’s worth of load time. Even visiting one of the game’s shops or opening
the character customization menu can lead to a lengthy load time, potentially
deterring players from even wanting to edit their characters.

For those who are patient enough to sit
through the loading screens, Jump Force’s
gameplay could be considered a worthwhile reward. To start, players are asked
to create a customizable character to navigate through the rest of the game. I
was impressed with the character creation system, which allows for a good
amount of customization. The greatest problem of the avatar character is their
voice options. Although there’s a wide selection of voices available, the
limited amount of voiced lines is disappointing. Even during the fight
introductions, avatar characters remain completely silent, creating an awkward
delay at the beginnings of each fight.

Jump Force (PlayStation 4) Review 9
Jump Force – Review Images Provided by Bandai Namco

The structure of Jump force is very similar
to Dragon Ball’s Xenoverse series. Players take on fights in the form of missions, earning
them experience and rewards such as items, clothing or money. Again, similar to
the Xenoverse titles, Jump Force also contains a hub world
where players select missions and shop. Unlike those games though, Jump Force’s hub world is almost
entirely unnecessary and surprisingly empty. Beyond a line or two of dialogue,
usually explaining game mechanics, the characters found in the hub world have
almost nothing to say and serve no extra prupose. The few needed NPCs for
selcecting missions and buying or upgrading skills are copy pasted around the
map, making the world’s overly large size even more redundant.

Fighting in Jump Force is Despite being a 3-on-3 fighting game, characters in
Jump Force share a single health bar. Players can string together chains of
either light or heavy attacks, along with four special techniques which draw
from a chargeable gauge. Avatar characters can equip any four special
techniques used by nearly any of the game’s playable roster. Parrying and
counters are also possible, resulting in flashy teleports which allow for some
exciting high-level play. The learning curve of Jump Force is by no means steep, but it can be very satisfying to
dodge before dealing your own lengthy combo. Players can also activate
awakening forms which grant temporary powers boosts. Some characters even
change appearance after triggering this mode, allowing characters to transform
into their respective powered up states. Although the shared health bar
disincentivized my need to change characters during combat, the high-speed
action did create for some very exciting matches.

Jump
Force
’s single player missions become a tedious but
mandatory drag as they’re the only way to earn money or customization features
for avatar characters. To make things worse, the game’s use of RNG can be both
annoying and at times, unforgiving. There were multiple times where I’d
completed a mission only to earn no reward at all, forcing me to redo the
process. Thankfully, multiplayer will likely be the feature which keeps players
interested in the game. From the get-go, Jump Force’s entire roster is useable
in multiplayer so unless you’re determined to use your original character, Jump Force’s single player can be
avoided.

Jump Force (PlayStation 4) Review 6
Jump Force – Review Images Provided by Bandai Namco

I didn’t expect much from Jump Force and yet, I still can’t help
but feel disappointed. Its core gameplay makes for an enjoyable time, something
I haven’t been able to say for an anime arena fighter in a long time. Failing
in nearly every other aspect though, I find it extremely to wade through Jump
Force’s aggressive shortcomings, so much so that I almost wish the fighting
mechanics were bad so I could ignore this title completely. In a world where
titles like Dragon Ball FighterZ
exist, its hard to swallow the pill that is Jump
Force
.  



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