You’ve just announced Jump Force, an anime best-of featuring all manner of characters featured in Weekly ShÅnen Jump in order to celebrate the magazine’s 50th anniversary (mainly just to make the game, but the anniversary factors in a bit), and thousands of people just cheered like idiots at the reveal of a couple of Death Note characters at the end of a trailer.
Who better to come play your game, then, than me – Ian “I Know Shit-All About Anime Outside of DBZ” Dransfield? Lots better. I know my games, I know something about this anime stuff you all love so very much, and I know what’s good and what isn’t – apart from that time I gave Hitman: Absolution 93% in a magazine, but we don’t talk about that…
Jump Force brings the iconic anime… people… from the Jump universe into the real world by realistic-ifying their look. Goku still has ridiculous muscles and Frieza still looks like a white and purple penis, but they look more realistic in their silliness, and the quality of work you see on the cloth textures is genuinely amazing. Yes, I did write that, and no, I’m not deleting it. [Editor's note: Yeah, I'm not deleting it either. The cloth textures look nice]
This battle for the real world featuring all of these characters plays out in a series of three-versus-three team battles. You’ve got your combos and specials and tags and all that good stuff, though there’s the uncommon decision of making all three of your team share one health bar. As I found when I beat ten bells out of Penisman on my first go.
The actual fights – when you’re not easily battering that guy who shouted “YOU’RE JUST A MONKEYYY!” so brilliantly all those years ago – play out in a couple of main ways. First you have your general approach – full three-dimensional movement around the large, open battleground with dashes and teleportation at play to keep distances short when you want them to be, and your regular punches, kicks, and cries of NINE THOUSAND (oh god I seriously need different reference points for anime).
Where Jump Force ramps it up is in the special moves, which play out like mini cutscenes in the middle of the fight; you’ll grab someone, twat them through a wall, follow up with a bit of a battering, launch a fireball through their throat – that kind of thing. It breaks things up and, honestly, isn’t really My Thing, but it does look spectacular and certainly suits the over-the-top nature of the source material.
In fact, from my brief time with the game, it actually felt a bit too easy to make things look good. There’s every chance this is down to Jump Force being set to easy so us uncultured swine on the show floor could actually last more than 20 seconds, but it does make me wonder if there’s going to be any real depth in the finished product. I’m not expecting high levels of complexity, but if matches are just a series of one cutscene after another, I’m turned off.
My other complaint rests with the large environments – on one hand they look great, and there’s some truly lovely reflection work going on in one of the city levels I saw, but they feel very empty. For all the action going on, for all the smashing heads against walls and teleporting into the sky to Kamehameha someone’s penisface off, it feels a bit like you’re wandering around a small section of a ghost town.
The line-up revealed so far in Jump Force will surprise few – even anime novices like myself, though that’s the entire point. Your Goku and Naruto and Steve One Piece or whatever he’s called (it’s Luffy, I’m joking) are all expected and – importantly – recognised by a worldwide, slightly less obsessive audience. That has to be done to get people interested in the first place.
But Spike Chunsoft is aiming to include some surprises, niche types and a general selection of people who make the vast majority of us smirk in that bemused fashion we do when we’ve no fucking clue what’s happening. You know the one.
Jump Force isn’t very far along, to my knowledge, and the game won’t be hitting until some point in 2019 – so there’s still a fair bit of work to go, which is good because this early demo hasn’t filled me with a huge amount of confidence.
I’m willing to put a (very) small part of that down to a lack of interest in most of the subject matter, though I am currently working my way through DBZ Kai because hey fellow kids I too am cool. And another chunk of it is obviously thanks to the fact it’s a more complex game than playing it a few times will reveal, so there should be plenty more to learn, and subtleties to pick up on and appreciate.
So there’s potential; Jump Force is certainly a good (if not actually unique) proposition, and one that’s made a fair-sized section of gaming fandom lose its collective shit. I hope for all their sakes Jump Force turns out to be a good ‘un. For now, though, I’m having to sit on the fence over this one.