You'll dig it if you can get past some major issues
The "Hey look! My favorite character is beating the crap out of my other favorite character!" genre of video games has been pretty strong lately, with stuff like Injustice 2 and Dragon Ball FighterZ surpassing expectations and draining me of my social life. Jump Force, a fighting game centered around the characters of Weekly Shonen Jump mauling eachother, wants to be added to that pantheon. And why shouldn't it be? It features a bunch of your favorite anime and manga characters all screaming out their attacks as they fight across surprisingly large stages in chaotic combat. I should be holding a copy of Jump Force up on my roof while I scream, shirtless, at my neighbors to come try and challenge their new god.
Instead, I'm politely cracking the window and whispering to them that if they have a quick second to maybe give Boruto a try, Because there is a very cool game inside of Jump Force, a game where Jotaro Kujo, Seiya, and Roronoa Zoro team up to stomp on the skulls of Gaara, Blackbeard and that one Dragon Quest dude. That's a game that makes you want to buy a crate of Mountain Dew, steal a country's supply of Doritos, and kick it with your friends like you're in an old school commercial from 1998. That game is in there. It's just tough to find sometimes.
See, in between all of the combat, Jump Force fills you with questions. For instance, why am I playing as some kind of self-created avatar that's just a Frankenstein'd glob of other anime character features? I don't know anyone who wants to do this, outside of the people that just buy WWE games to say "HAHA. I MADE PICKLE RICK. EAT IT, TRIPLE H." But those games tend to have complex, gratifying character creation systems, while Jump Force gives you a few options and then sets you loose to stand beside Trunks and Naruto in awkward cutscenes that are so vengefully clumsy that you'd swear they were making fun of you.
Side note: Why do I even have to use this avatar? Why can't I just switch between the characters that people are buying the game for? I got excited to play as Toguro and Gon and Boa Hancock. When I first saw the trailer, I didn't watch Luffy, Goku, Naruto and Light Yagami and think "But where the heck is my favorite Weekly Shonen Jump character....ME?"
A bunch of these cutscenes take place in your headquarters, which sadly takes the place of a simple menu in this game. In this abandoned shopping mall-looking area, you run around to accept missions, talk to characters, upgrade stuff, and just kinda look at the goofy designs other players have inflicted on their own avatars. This layout is cool for a bit, until you realize that it's far bigger than it needs to be. I don't want to spend a decent chunk of my time as my dumb avatar, running around, looking desperately for things to do. And while there are things to do, your instructions for them are pretty vague. The Jump Force boss will tell you "Have you communicated with your allies?" and this is code for "Run halfway across the base, stupid, and see what Yusuke's having anxiety about."
Speaking of the Jump Force boss, the story of Jump Force is almost exactly what you'd expect it to be: an elongated system of unlocking new characters. See, a bunch of them that appear outside of the core Dragon Ball/One Piece/Naruto series have been infected by evil cubes and you have to beat them unconscious to get them on your side. However, it's not a bad story. It's no worse than most Mortal Kombat games, where the plot is pushed along by another person entering the room and saying "Now, YOU will die," or Dragon Ball FighterZ's, where you spent hours pummeling the same Yamcha clone.
That said, Jump Force does succeed in a really crucial way, something that's necessary in all of these "Who would win?" simulators: It makes you play as (and love) characters that you never thought you would. I remember, when Injustice 2 came out, I figured that I'd probably stick to Batman and Bane if I could. One week later, I was all about Swamp Thing, Scarecrow, and Wonder Woman. In Dragon Ball FighterZ, my sights were locked on Cell and Vegeta, but I ended up almost totally ignoring them and joining Team Yamcha, Majin Buu and Tien.
And when it comes to Jump Force, I was dead set on making Luffy, Toguro and Hisoka my main team. But you know who is AWESOME in Jump Force? Boruto. I don't know if there's a character in the entire game that's more delightful to play as than Naruto's kid. Yusuke is awesome, too, and I looooooove how it feels to squash an opponent with Roronoa Zoro. If you can get used to him, Jotaro Kujo is also very cool, even if that's partially due to the fact that I like to yell "ORAORAORAORA" along with the game. I'm terrible as Yugi, but I just can't stop using him. And if you're able to master Asta, you will rule the world.
Another thing that I didn't mind very much was the arena combat. I know that, when I played FighterZ, I thought that all fighting games should either be like FighterZ or just be a different copy of FighterZ that I had lying around the house. But the arena battling works here. There's something really epic about sending your opponent flying and then rushing toward them to deliver another blow. I know that it's not a proper adjective, but the fighting in Jump Force feels very, very anime. The fighting noises and all the copious explosions and earth-shattering moves make you feel like you're controlling the final battle at the end of an intense arc ALL THE TIME, even if you're just having a friendly spar with Sanji.
Honestly, the story in Jump Force doesn't really matter in the long run. The labyrinthian headquarters doesn't either. They're just there to get you acquainted with the game and the characters, so that you can jump into Online and Offline battles and settle grudge matches with your friends and people on the internet. So if you can wade through some of Jump Force's clunkier set-ups and finally get down to mashing buttons and yelling about how Sabo could totally win against Ichigo, you'll find something to like here. Jump Force is pretty good, as long as you can forgive the non-fighting stuff that's pretty bad.
+ The characters are all pretty fun to play as, as long as you don't like playing as Sasuke
+ Combat is fast and chaotic, with a bunch of cool explosions and sweet-looking moves
+ Online matchmaking for ranked matches is very simple
+/- Story is simple, but it's kind of just filler anyway
- The main menu area feels sloppy
- I haaaaaate playing as my avatar, and you probably will, too.
Are you gonna pick up Jump Force? Who are you gonna play as? Let me know in the comments!
Daniel Dockery is a Crunchyroll writer/editor that has a Twitter, but more importantly, now has a love for Boruto.
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