For those who are unaware, Shōnen and V Jump are massive manga magazines that run in Japan. Hosting some of the most recognisable manga such as Naruto, Bleach and One Piece, their serialised manga have a massive following in both the East and West. It comes as no surprise that they would capitalise on the multitude of successful manga by releasing cross-over games. What does come as a surprise is that none of the previous 4 cross-over games have been released in the West. One of the speculated reasons for this has been that licensing for the many characters are held by different companies in the West. With each release fans have been disappointed as the games have just stayed in Japan.
This is finally changing with the release of J-Stars Victory Vs+ for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Over a year after the initial Japanese release, J-Stars Victory VS+ has been released in Australia.
Initially starting out as just Vita and PS3 games, Victory Vs+ was ported to the PlayStation 4 for its Western release. This is becoming a common occurrence for niche games, with Digimon: Cyber Sleuth having just been announced for the West in similar circumstances. While it’s great to finally get Victory Vs+ released in the West, its PS3 and Vita origins are clear to see when you play it. Character models and environments show jagged lines and have fairly basic textures. The anime styled graphics fit the game well, but a little more polish for the up-port would have been nice. It’s well below what is expected from most PS3 games, let alone PS4 games.
While the graphics may be basic, you generally won’t see too much of them because of the constant energy skills you will use. Seeing lighting and energy beams flashing across the screen is always fun. However, when you have 4 characters, plus 2 summonable support characters, it can quickly overwhelm you and leave you unable to tell what is happening on the screen.
While the visual noise from abilities can make it hard to follow a fight at times, it does feel great pulling off your favourite character’s signature moves. Where Victory Vs+ really shines is in its varied character roster. With 39 playable characters and 13 support characters from 32 different manga and anime, it’s safe to say that there is a lot of variety. From Goku, Gon Freecss to Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, every single character has been built to have their respective unique fighting style. No two characters are alike and all use powers and move as you would expect them to after watching or reading about them.
Where this falls down is that while every character has its own unique feel, they all play the same. All characters have a weak attack, strong attack and a knockdown attack, along with 3 special attacks. This means that while each character looks different, you quickly get bored as you’re basically using the exact same tactic with every character. A combo system with more variety would have gone a long way to making Victory VS+ much more varied and replayable.
Along with the varied characters, Victory VS+ is also filled with music and locales from many of the anime and manga included in the game. It does feel great to run through the Hidden Village of the Leaf as Sasuke while destroying buildings and listening to the distinct songs we remember from the Naruto anime.
Victory VS+ comes with a story that focuses on a tournament in which combatants from the various manga and anime will compete for supremacy. It’s a well-worn trope in fighting games and is the easiest way to have multiple series come together. While tropes are oft-used, they can still be effective with the right writing and scenarios built around them. However, Victory VS+ doesn’t make up for anything with its writing or scenarios. Both, like the graphics, are extremely basic and completely skippable. The story has you selecting one of four main characters and travelling around a world map from quest to quest. Typically as you start each main quest or side quest you will be treated to around 5 to 15 lines of text before you either start a fight or get a marker on your world map for another fight.
Along with the story mode, you also have an arcade mode that is new for the Western release, as well as a mode called Victory Road. The arcade mode is exactly what you would expect, with you selecting your team and difficulty, and then fighting through 6 matches to emerge the victor. Victory Road is a series of single player matches in which you have to complete various pre-determined criteria to win battles.
As well as the three single player modes, you also have access to both ranked and free battle online multiplayer modes. At the time of this review we were unable to find a ranked match to test out the multiplayer mode. As well as this, when we were able to find a free battle lobby. We were quickly booted so that the other players could instead fight against the AI enemies while unlocking online achievements. To combat this, we created our own lobby, but were still unable to find a participant. This is quite worrying for a fighting game which would normally rely on a fairly dedicated fan base to drive competitive play.
All in all, J-Stars Victory VS+ is great fanservice for the multitude of anime and manga fans out there, but it is a somewhat lacklustre fighting game.
Great character roster
Multiple modes to play
Heaps of fanservice
Shallow fighting system
Forgettable story mode