It's really weird to me when anime characters aren't fighting. I watch Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai and think "But why doesn't bunny girl just take her TRUE BEAST FORM and annihilate that dude?" And in all twelve episodes of Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san, not once did Honda unleash his THOUSAND MANGA SKELETON SMASH on an annoying customer. It's major narrative oversights like this that draw me back to fighting games that are based on anime and manga where everyone is fighting, all the time, often for little to no reason. And it's why I'll wind up playing Jump Force when it comes out.
Regardless of your feelings on the playable characters (It's 2019. The Jump Force roster should logically be the cast of My Hero Academia and then maybe Krillin), there's no doubt that Jump Force is going to deliver on spiky haired anime protagonists beating the tar out of other spiky haired anime protagonists. But it doesn't come out for... 4 days. What am I going to do until then? Play the critically accliamed Resident Evil 2, a game that critics and fans alike have deemed to be almost perfect and has seemingly revitalized the survival horror genre? Easy, there. I'm gonna play some underrated anime fighting games, and I'm gonna start with...
JUMP ULTIMATE STARS
I wrote an entire article about this game but honestly, every article on the internet, regardless of its topic, should show tribute to Jump Ultimate Stars. After you create your team (from the 56 playable characters and the 249 support characters) by assembling them on a manga page, you unleash them in arenas based on various manga series. The combat is fast and intense, and the art style is perfect. If the characters on an issue of Weekly Shonen Jump suddenly leapt from the page and began strangling eachother, it would look like this game.
Now, Jump Ultimate Stars never got an official English release, so if you want to play it on your DS or 3DS, you're probably going to have to pull up a GameFaqs walkthrough at the same time. But it's not that hard once you figure out the menus. And honestly, it's pretty worth it, especially if you've spent years thinking "The cast of Dr. Slump COULD beat up Sasuke."
DRAGON BALL Z: BUDOKAI
I didn't watch Dragon Ball Z growing up, because I was raised on limited cable in the South, which means that if I wanted to watch anime, I either woke up at 5:30 in the morning to catch Pokémon on UPN, or I hoped that Pat Robertson ended The 700 Club with a Kamehameha. And so, my first exposure to it was through my roommate's PlayStation 2 games in college. I take that back. My FIRST exposure to it was through my friend's fan art in sixth grade. He drew Vegeta bleeding from the mouth, and then when a girl he liked asked him what he was drawing, he threw away the picture and said "Just stupid stuff." And I never respected Dustin again.
But my friend Tim, who unabashedly displayed a seemingly endless collection of three Dragon Ball Z games, supplied me with a great introduction to the series. Now, especially when you compare them to the beautiful, measured combat of Dragon Ball FighterZ, the Budokai series can feel clunky. They seem less like a tounrament between the world's greatest martial artists, and more like two drunken Super Saiyans fist fighting outside of a Chili's. However, they are so fun and I love them.
ONE PIECE GRAND ADVENTURE/ONE PIECE: BURNING BLOOD
Yeah, I'm putting two One Piece games on this list. One Piece is kind of my "ride or die" series and it's my list, so I can and will do what I want with it.
If you've ever listened to the absolute banger that is the 4Kids One Piece pirate rap, and you thought "If only all of One Piece could be more like this," you are in soooooo much luck. The opening cinematic to One Piece Grand Adventure includes what can only be generously described as "rapping," and it includes all of the "random record scratches and misplaced hip hop! Kids these days like that, right?" that the 4kids opening had. Also, it is dubbed by the 4Kids cast as well, so that's kinda fun.
One Piece: Burning Blood was weird for me at first because, by the time I started playing it, nearly everyone who played it casually had left. So, by the time my thirty minute matchmaking session had ended, the people that I was playing against were god-tier, S-Class warriors, much more akin to the secret, borderline invincible bosses that you run into unexpectedly in JRPGs than actual players. However, in retreating to the single player options, I found solace, and I believe when it comes to arena battle anime games, Burning Blood is one of the best. Also, after playing Burning Blood, Monkey D. Garp is my next choice for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC. Don't overthink it.
YU YU HAKUSHO 2: KAKUTOU NO SHO
The aesthetics of the Yu Yu Hakusho anime are PERFECT for the Super Nintendo, and that's why the Street Fighter-esque YU YU HAKUSHO 2: KAKUTOU NO SHO is such a pleasure to play. Its story mode takes you up through the end of the Dark Tournament arc, which means that you spend about a third of the game fighting Younger Toguro. But considering that Yusuke vs Toguro is one of the best rivalries in the history of fiction, I have absolutely no problems with this. It'd be like complaining that I got to eat strawberry shortcake too many times this week. Why am I complaining? IT'S STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE, BRO.
Now, this is another game that only got an official release in Japan, so if you don't want to import a copy, you could play Yu Yu Hakusho: Dark Tournament for the PS2. It's not a bad game, but something about it feels off, like the protagonists often move super slowly in comparison to the demons that are pummeling them. I have to wait for Kuwabara to deliver an uppercut, and meanwhile, Chu has already punched me in the groin seven times.
NARUTO: ULTIMATE NINJA STORM SERIES
Talking about the visuals in a fighting game can be odd, because fighting games never really give you a chance to "stop and smell the roses." If you wait to say "Dang, I LOVE how Kakashi's outfit looks," Sakura will have already pulled out your spine. Also, the lazier anime fighting games tend to hope that you'll be too wowed by the fact that you're playing as familiar characters to even care about the graphics, which is like hoping that you'll be excited to see your Uncle at the next family reunion, without noticing that he's currently made of slugs.
That said, the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games are quite awesome to look at, with really vibrant, energetic colors. And the gameplay is super fluid, living up to the rad fights in the actual show. Also, exploring the Hidden Leaf village in the first game and doing training quests between fights was way less of a chore than I thought it would be. Overall, the Ultimate Ninja Storm series takes what could be some really lazy cash-ins and turns them into great games.
What's your favorite anime fighting game? What do you think about the games listed here? Are you gonna play Jump Force? Let us know in the comments!
Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Crunchyroll that uses Twitter for the dumbest reasons. On Jump Force, he wants to main Luffy, Younger Toguro, and Hisoka.
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