JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle Review

May 27, 2014

There’s not a lot I know about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, but I am familiar with the franchise. The series falls into that gap of cool shit I really should get around to consuming, but have never put aside time to. I assume what attracts me to JoJo is the same for most fans: the quirky, campy, simply fabulous mania in character designs, personalities, and premise. Advice from friends has swayed away from the anime in favour of the manga source material, which is fine, but I’m still largely ignorant when it comes to what exactly JoJo is all about. Except for the fabulousness, of course.

Enter JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, an anime/manga tie-in game that, like so many of its type, takes the source material and squeezes it into the framework of a fighting game. This really is the call-to-arms for all Japanese developed manga/anime virtual adaptations, as making a full 3D story driven adventure would probably cost a pretty penny. Fighting games are a safer bet, if a little less appealing than something more original. But that’s not to say JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is unoriginal. Or bad. It’s actually pretty damn great.


But it would be better if I’d read the anime. Reason being that while¬†Bizarre Adventure draws heavily upon the source material but isn’t an adequate substitute for what substance I assume said source material can provide. The solo adventure takes you through various chapters/acts adapted from the manga, starring the main cast (and then some) while introducing and developing them with a little bit of cinema. It’s all basically fluff. Fun fluff, but fluff, a campaign there to give solo gamers an experience that has a little bit of direction. It’s long enough, all things considered, and made more appealing by ‘secret mission’ variables that challenge you to complete chapters and fights while meeting certain requirements (eg: performing a specific combo or move). This too is fluff, but in a fighting game this kind of stuff can act as a positive learning mechanism for people (like myself) wrapping their head around the combat system. Challenge yourself to, err, meet the challenges and you’ll soon come to understand how Bizarre Adventure plays.

Campaign mode supplements story with an arcade-like experience that requires players gamble “energy” on a random fight against who-knows-what and occasionally under special conditions. Where does energy come from? Mostly time, as waiting produced more energy blocks. The reason you’d gamble these energy blocks on a random fight is to win an assortment of customisation goodies. Remember, JoJo is all about being fabulous, and in campaign you’ll have the chance to make your character even ~more~ fabulous with new poses, colours, etc.

Campaign is kinda like story in that the appeal is relative to your enjoyment of the game itself, the modes alone hardly a reason to pick up the game. Versus, local and online, is perhaps more appealing in the long run. After all, fighting games are made to be played with friends (and enemies).


And so we beg the question “is JoJo enjoyable?”. I should preface this by declaring myself fairly unskilled at fighting games like this. Inexperienced wouldn’t be the right word, as I do love them. But I’m not all that great at them, and a lot of subtle nuances behind the fight systems will be lost on me. That being said, Bizarre Adventure is surprisingly accessible, if just because it the core fighting system uses a standard light/medium/heavy attack combo, as well as super/ultra style attacks triggered when the super bar is filled. I assure you you’ve played similar systems a hundred times before.

Why does make Bizarre Adventure a bit more interesting than the norm is the “style” button, as each character adopts one of several “styles” that somewhat define the unique qualities of their fighting style by changing their attacks, strengths, and weakness. Perhaps the most popular example of this are “Stands”, supernatural entities that can be called forth usually to replace the character’s moveset wtih something else, each Stand style character posessing one different from all others. Meanwhile “Mounted” style calls forth a goddamn horse to ride.

While styles go a long way to define each character they do bring into question the fighting system balance, something of which I’m shamed to say I’m just not experienced enough to understand. I do feel, based on my casual player, that casual ~players~ will probably find certain stands or other styles significantly easier to use than others. But it’s hard to gauge how pros will feel, balance issues more like to pop up in tournaments and online play.


I hate using the argument “style over substance” (shut up, I know I’ve used it), so I won’t use it here. Instead I’ll just say this: for me the appeal of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and much of my enjoyment playing, came from the ~style~ over anything like a rich campaign or a ton of content. There actually is a ton of content if by content you mean playable cast and customisation options, but it’s how all of this is presented that had me smiling from ear to ear. JoJo, as a series, is just so goddamn cool it’s hard to put into words. Bizarre Adventure is aesthetically brilliant, from the gorgeous character designs to the bright colour palette, both of which are diverse and interesting. Fights play out as a kaleidoscopic mix of particle effects and cel shading that is probably my favourite implementation of the effect in a fighting game, far better than the likes of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The menus too, even in their simplicity, have a certain charm, and the soundtrack is a simply magnificent cacophony of upbeat jazz and digital numbers.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle just oozes so much cool and style you immediately get an impression of what this franchise is known for: being fabulous. Fabulous to watch, fabulous to hear, and though I do question the simplicity a little bit, fabulous to play. I do think the appeal of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is geared more towards fans of the franchise. Being familiar with the characters, the stands, the back story, and so on would certainly add an extra layer to the overall package, but it could still be worth a look to fighting game and manga/anime fans looking for an entry point into the series.


Style, simplicity, fabulousness.


Value to JoJo newbies.

Overall Score: