Having come into publication in 1986, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has amassed quite the roster of quirky characters and strange abilities. One might even go as far as to call them bizarre. Regardless, with all of the climactic battles that have taken place throughout the JoJo timeline, it’s only natural that fans would wish to relive them. Thus, All Star Battle came to be.
As I’ve already mentioned, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a phenomenon unto itself. With a massive 28 years of content behind it (with more still being produced) the developers really couldn’t ask for more. Countless, battlefields, a bevy of odd characters to work with, eight storylines to recreate. Truly the basis of a fantastic story…if only the game had used it. Look, I’ll be fair here, the game does include a number of the central characters you’d expect in a JoJo title, that’s not the issue here…it’s the story. The game’s so called “Story Mode” throws you into the world of each character who has worn the name JoJo, from Phantom Blood to JoJolion, it’s all there. Vaguely. That is to say that Story Mode itself features no form of cutscene to set up each fight, relying on simple and short blocks of text. Essentially, if you haven’t actually read the manga or seen the anime (for the earlier parts), you may find yourself fairly confused. Of course, the low number of stages doesn’t help this. For example, after four brief paragraphs explaining Dio’s transformation into a vampire, Jonathon Joestar and Will A Zeppeli fight…in Dio’s mansion. As fans would know, the heroes of Phantom Blood didn’t arrive at Dio’s mansion until well into the arc. Also, despite being a representation of Jonathon’s Hamon training, he has access to every single move, including the climactic Sunlight Yellow Overdrive. Now I understand that some titles (especially fighting games) utilise a form of gameplay and story segregation, but come on. Basically, this is a fighting game through and through. The story mode really only serves to unlock additional characters and maybe give you a refresher on the broader points of JoJo.
Alright, onto some positives. Despite possessing a rather eclectic mix of fighting styles, as we’d expect from JoJo, the game does an excellent job of maintaining balance between the fighters. Spanning the entirety of the JoJo franchise and the many forms it has taken over the years, characters are divided into five main categories: Hamon, Vampirism, Mode, Stand and Mounted. Naturally, each of these classifications possess their own unique abilities and require slightly different methods of controls. Allow me to explain. Hamon, though able to cancel the healing abilities of Vampirism, rely solely on regular kicks and punches that limit their range. However, they are also the only fighter type able to charge their Heart Heat Gauge without outside assistance. Vampirism allows characters to restore small amounts of damage taken over time (unless damaged by Hamon) and grants a draining element to attacks that restore health and Heart Heat. Mode characters are also share this ability to regain health, though trade out draining attacks for the chance to briefly transform mid-battle for a power boost. Stand wielders are, of course, able to summon their spiritual extensions and utilise them in combos, altering their moveset and providing range to every move. Finally, in a photo finish, we have Mounted. Racing into battle atop mighty steeds, these characters are able to attack both with and without their mount, providing them with two movesets…and a horse.
In addition to the abilities lent to them by their respective fighting style, some characters enjoy further individualisation. One clear example would be the extra power up method of each character from Part 7, better known as Steel Ball Run. True to form, these fighters are able to collect pieces of the Corpse, increasing their combat acumen and strengthening their moves. Opposing players may knock these pieces from an enemy’s grasp by dealing enough damage, though Steel Ball Runners may simply pick them up again later. It’s a vicious cycle. Due to their nature and fighting style, Vampires and the Pillar Men of Part 2 also share a unique trait: aversion to sunlight. As such, unless they are bested in story mode, Dio, Esidisi, Wamuu and Kars are usable only on night time or indoor battle stages. As if there weren’t few enough stages to choose from already. Though the attention to detail is a nice touch.
In addition to regular combos, characters also have access to more powerful techniques known as Heart Heat Attacks and Great Heat Attack. As characters give or receive damage, their Heart Heat Gauge fills. Once sufficiently filled, certain button inputs will unleash a character’s unique ability, such as Dio’s classic steamroller attack.
As mentioned before, All Star Battle includes a default story mode for you to play through, “reliving” the moments of the JoJo franchise. Just to compound the concept of challenge, battles will occasionally place extra conditions upon victory. For example, when fighting Kars, both your attack and defence are lowered whilst he gains the ability to regenerate health and Heart Heat…so not fair. As you progress through a chapter however, you are awarded with Gold, a currency that allows you to purchase Support, such as an attack boost, should any battle become particularly difficult. This concept is also carried through to Campaign Mode, wherein you challenge the Avatars of other All Star Battlers. Utilising a system that forces you to deplete an Energy Gauge in order to begin a fight, Campaign Mode allows you to unlock medals that, in turn, allow you to customise your fighter’s taunts and sound effects. It’s pretty cool. However, with each expenditure of the Energy Gauge, there is a small chance that you will encounter a Boss. Besting said boss in combat will unlock rarer customisation options, allowing you to alter a character’s colour, costume and/or dialogue. Even cooler.
Though Story and Campaign are the bulk of the game’s predefined content, the Western release of All Star Battle decided to throw in an Arcade Mode. Forgoing the intricacies of the other modes, Arcade simply pits you against eight AI fighters for the sheer thrill of it. But, when all is said and done, there is one thing that defines a fighting game:Versus Mode. Well you’re in luck because All Star Battle does indeed include a Versus Mode, with both online and offline options. Talk about being spoiled for choice. As you’d expect, this mode grants you the ability to battle any opponent across the world, even one physically sitting next to you! Remember when videogames let you do that? No gimmicks, no Gold, no Support, just a good ol’ fashioned JoJo battle.
Belonging to the wave of games still being released on what is now the old generation of consoles, All Star Battle’s graphics are not the best. However, as with most JoJo material, it covers up any sign of weakness with inexorable style. Utilising a specialised engine known as the JoJo Shading Requiem, the entire game possesses the look of its manga source material. This creates authentic representations of each present character, rather than an off model 3D recreation. This is definitely a benefit to the game, as it allows you to visually enjoy fights as you would with the manga. Plus how else could you represent the hulking masses of muscle that make up each JoJo character?
The same courtesy of detail given to the characters is also lent to each stage, though they number few. Though the stages themselves are flat sections of land within a larger environment, the little touches in the background are a nice little touch that remind you where, and when, in the franchise you are fighting.
Though localised for Western audiences (as we all know too well), the game includes only the original Japanese audio. And that’s just fine. Fans of the anime franchise will recognise the voices from Parts 1, 2 and even the currently running 3rd arc. This serves to unify the vocal representation of characters across the franchise, preventing the disconnect that arises from utilising multiple voices across multiple formats. Of course, every character outside of these parts has never actually been voiced before, so All Star Battle is their first speaking role. Though I have to say, every character’s voice is a perfect fit for their personality. That isn’t to say some voices don’t get annoying through repetition, but they are true representations of the fighter. Just a note for all you All Star Battlers out there, spamming Jotaro’s attacks will earn you the ire of your opponent. There’s only so many times one can hear “ORA ORA ORA” and retain their sanity.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is about as true a recreation as you can get. Flamboyant characters, intense shading, ridiculous powers. All the hallmarks of the franchise that we have come to know and love. Which is good, because in order to truly appreciate the game, you need a strong interest in JoJo. Though newcomers will enjoy the combat system, enjoyment of Story Mode requires previous knowledge of every single Part. I know that fighting games are in fact mainly about the fighting, but when something as central as story seems like an add on, it can really limit a game’s appeal. This of course is unavoidable in All Star Battle, as playing through Story Mode is required to unlock more than 50% of the roster. All I’m saying is some cutscenes would have been nice. I mean they already had an entire vocal cast, why not fully utilise them? All in all, All Star Battle is a fun, crazy game with a solid combat system and an interesting roster of fighters. Just don’t go in expecting to truly relive the series.
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