J-Stars Victory Vs+ brings some of Shonen Jump’s biggest characters together for a big old bash. If you’re a manga or anime fan, this probably excites you. If you’re not, this game has absolutely nothing to offer you, leave it alone. Having characters from Dragon Ball, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece together in a brawler is pretty nifty. Outside of fan service though, J-Stars lacks in almost all regards.
I might as well start off by explaining the gameplay. Each character has a standard attack, a strong attack, and three special moves. You can block, evade and jump, too. Each character does feel appropriately unique, to the point of even having unique mechanics in some cases. All of this would be great if it weren’t for the absolute bore of a fighting system in play. By the end of my very first fight, I was tired of the gameplay, and once you’ve played one match, you’ve played them all. There is absolutely no sophistication or elegance in the combat. You could utilise defensive moves or string together the handful of uninvolved combos, but the 2v2 combat becomes such an imprecise mess that you might as well just mash square. The only thing stopping you from bashing dudes with the basic attack for an entire fight is the annoying invulnerability a fighter gains after being knocked down. A young kid that’s into anime could probably have fun here, but even that’s pushing it.
Victory Vs+ tells its story in J-Adventure mode. Here, you can play through Dynamic Arc as Luffy, Hope Arc as Naruto, Investigation Arc as Toriko, or Pursuit Arc as Ichigo. As far as I can tell, each arc differs only in character selection and the perspective from which you experience the narrative. There are some cool ideas at play in this mode, for sure, but nothing developed to a point of being even enjoyable.
You control a ship and sail across Jump World – an amalgamation of the source material in question. As you play, you’ll unlock upgrades to your vessel, allowing you to access new areas. I love this kind of Metroidvania stuff, but it was entirely arbitrary here. Captaining your ship really just facilitates pointless fetch quests and pads out the length of the adventure. Certain points have you aimlessly search the map for something to move the story forward. It feels like a complete waste of time. If the explorative ideas and upgrading mechanics had been properly realised, this could have significantly improved the game. As it stands though, I wasn’t only bored through J-Adventure from start to finish, but I had a bad time.
If you’re interested in anime, you probably care about the way these characters interact with each other. What would Vegeta and Sasuke say to each other, you’re probably wondering. I was. Well don’t worry, you’re not missing anything in that regard if you sit this one out. The writing is terrible. Even by anime standards, the dialogue is shallow and stupid. I’m sure it’s not just a localisation problem either, unless the dialogue was entirely rewritten for western audiences. I really love some of these characters, and their interpretations here are barely one-dimensional. It’s almost like the writers knew one fact about each character. “I’m hungry,” “I’m angry,” “Let’s fight.”
The character models and animation is easily the highlight of the game. Crazy characters like Bo-bobo and Ryotsu especially look great and animate with personality. Environments don’t look nearly as nice, going for more of a realistic vibe that just doesn’t sit right with anime characters running all over it. Of course, there’s going to be lots of energy balls, flaming punches and the like involved, but these don’t look good either. Even the earliest PS2 era Dragon Ball games boasted far nicer looking effects. Here, textures look stretched, and attacks that have models like spirit bombs or rasengans even have visible seems.
The sheer breadth of the properties represented here is the only legitimate draw to the game, but even that feels lacking. There’s no sign of series’ like Ultimate Muscle or Yu-Gi-Oh, but perhaps these franchises aren’t as significant in Japan as they are here, relative to their kin, at least
If you aren’t an anime fan, stay far away from J-Stars Victory VS+. If you are an anime fan who plays video games regularly, you won’t like this. If you’re an anime fan that has played very few games in your life and is happy to pour hours into doing the same thing over and over, you might get a kick out of this. I wouldn’t recommend J-Stars Victory VS+ to anyone.
DISCLAIMER: this game was supplied to us by the publisher, and reviewed on PS4 across 12 hours of gameplay.