Last year at Microsoft’s Xbox conference the company announced my favourite fighting game of the year, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and they may have just done it again at this year’s E3 with the announcement of Jump Force.
Instead of just focusing on Dragon Ball characters this time around, the roster of Jump Force is comprised of popular heroes and villains from across Shonen Jump Magazine’s rich 50-year history of manga. For this very reason Jump Force is built as a celebration game at its core, but unlike Bandai Namco’s previous mediocre attempt with J-Stars Victory VS, this game has the depth and mechanics necessary to become a competent 3D fighter.
The E3 demo of Jump Force was rather limited, set up for only solo-play against the CPU and only featuring six playable characters (Goku, Frieza, Luffy, Zoro, Naruto, and Sasuke), but it was enough to showcase the proof of concept for what Spike Chunsoft is aiming to accomplish. Players begin by building a three-man team and picking a stage before they jump into battle. Once the fight begins players have many options available to them for how they want to pressure their opponent and win the round. My process was pretty simple. Use a combination of light and heavy attacks to break open the enemy’s guard then end my combo with a special move, like Naruto’s Rasengan or Goku’s Kamehameha.
While this is an example of the basics, the real depth to the combat started to appear when I began mixing in the other characters on my team by using their assist moves or switching between them mid-combo for more damage. I could even switch out while I was on the receiving end of a combo and avoid the brunt force of the damage. Once certain requirements are meant, players can even enhance or transform their characters by “awakening” them and unlocking a new set of flashy special techniques.
Compared to other fighters on the market, Jump Force appears to focus whole-heartedly on an offensive playstyle. I say this because the number of defensive options are limited and rarely provide the player with any sort of reward. Instead, the best game plan for the demo was to constantly go in for damage at every given opportunity and never once consider stopping the action to simply guard. It’s refreshing to see this kind of approach to a fighter, but it feels like there is a lack of balance that needs to be further refined.
Jump Force feels like a diamond in the rough. There’s a lot I already enjoy about the experience, but there are a number of things that need more work. First and foremost, I thought the time to kill was way too fast. After one combo from any of the playable characters, I was able to drain the CPU of half its health bar. What makes matters worse is that both teams have a shared health bar, instead of each individual character having their own like in other tag-team fighters. Most times I would never get the opportunity to even see the rest of my CPU’s team before the round was over. Lastly, Spike Chunsoft needs to create more uses for the energy meter instead of simply using it for special moves. Make assists cost a bar, make switching cost a bar, make it so that the meter is constantly being used in both offensive and defensive ways to keep fighters on their toes and more involved in the battle.
Despite these negatives, I still enjoyed my limited time with Jump Force immensely. The realistic art style is cool to look at, attacks have this great feeling of impact behind them, and every special technique is faithfully recreated from their respective source material and full of flashy effects. The roster might be small now, but if the previous Shonen Jump celebration games are anything to go by then Jump Force could feature well over 30 playable characters. Until then, we’re just going to have to wait patiently for more details until Jump Force releases in 2019 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.