One might wonder why review Jump Force now, as it got “internet spanked” quite enough when it came out in 2019. Aside the fact i don’t need a reason to do so… Namco Bandai gave me a big one, by announcing they would remove the game from digital storefronts, alongside the 2 season passes, the DLCs characters and content by february 8th 2022, with online functionalities and features shutting down entirely by August 24th 2022, this on all platforms.
Now, i know this would be reason for joy to many, but i’m an archivist at heart, and while i won’t miss the microtransaction laden bullshit, i find it silly that they didn’t even managed to make a complete edition of it with all the content on disc, only the Deluxe Edition on Switch with the Season Pass 1 content baked in the cart.
So years in the future you won’t be able to play the Season Pass 2 characters at all, which isn’t exactly a loss given the game wasn’t good to begin with, but it’s even more soon-to-be legally lost content. The loss of the online functionalities was inevitable, to a point, but the rest not so much.
You know, experience told me not to expect much in terms of plot from crossovers like these, i feel like many people also didn’t really expect much, and i’m tempted to be contrarian and say the central idea of the real world becoming fused with the Jump series’ worlds wasn’t that bad in itself… but i can’t, i honestly can’t imagine how it could have been handled well, since it leads to a frankly uncanny, off-putting compromise, in a game that had to account for 50 years of shonen manga.
Presentation was always gonna be a nightmare, a losing battle to begin with, as it had to accomodate lots of wildly different characters from often wildly different series and eras of Jump, with very different character designs, but Jump Force attempt at “realistic style” is pure self-immolation by fire, Tibetan monk style. Sure, i understand they kinda had to do something different since it’s the 50th anniversary of Jump and J-Stars Victory wasn’t that long ago, but this is a textbook, academic example of a bad idea, one you shouldn’t built an entire art-style around.
Or do because “it’s different”, like trying to give cartoon characters a more realistic look without changing their designs is already stupid, because it will inevitably lead to a crap compromise, at best. Or stuff like your human OC looking like a different species than the anime characters, if that makes any sense.
Not that the Jump character look that better, as One Piece characters often come off as if they’re on drugs or sleep deprived, Dragon Ball characters look even angrier, All Might doesn’t even have the shadowed effect on its face, so he grins like an eyeless rapist, Jotaro’s hair literally springs from his hat , Gon Freecs… looks like a creepy living doll who never blinks… even if you clearly see him blink,, which is odd since Yusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho is here as well but looks decent enough.
To say nothing of the design for Glover, one of the few original characters, who looks like he should be in Kingdom Hearts… but still making me feel like i should censor his bald head, he just invites erectile jokes, to say nothing of the clearly Dragon Ball styled villains (one looking like a bootleg Thanos), or the lead villain’s design, so generic i can’t believe they greenlit it, looks like a first draft.
On top of all this, the animation is often incredibly sub-par as well, i mean, the infamous scene where Vegeta gets corrupted by a Umbra Cube isn’t unfair to put as an example, because it’s a combo of stiff animation and unintentionally hilarious direction, as it’s so badly put together it seems like the evil cube rose up into Vegeta’s bumhole. And yes, even after patches they never fixed that legendary cutscene, maybe because i feel it was accidental, but no one cared enough to be the asshole and put even more work on themselves to fix it, so as today it’s unchanged.
I wondered if it was too hyperbolic to state that Jump Force made Xavier: Renegade Angel look better in comparison… but it does, and XRA is actually far more stylistically coherent, and we’re talking about an Adult Swim show that looked like an absurdist ghost possessed The Sims 2 engine.
Characters just straight up float upwards portals without actually moving themselves, regardless if some of them can actually fly, float or something, characters never close their goddamn mouth because it would require a more flexible face for its model, so they flips their gums like a madman, which is more noticeably on some models, like Blackbeard’s bucktooth smile-fixed face.
That this, when they do fuckin move their lips at all, or IF that cutscene happens to have voice acting for it, it’s utterly unconsistent…..and even when the characters move their lips….they just move those, the faces are often very unexpressive and so they feel more like robots with uncanny anime masks (just short of Killer 7’s Ayumi mask) activating “voice interface module” to speak.
Ironically one of the few characters to make the jump well is Hisoka, i guess because he looked and talked creepily anyway, unlike Gon Freecss who looks like’s he wearing a plastic mask of himself, and – somehow – feels both intense and emotionless.
Presentation it’s a complete shit show, but the plot itself outdoes even that in the crap factor, as it’s a senseless mess. It’s not a complicated story, at all, just the usual “portal extravaganza” that leads the various Jumps universes to fuse with the real world, letting through both heroes and villains from the imaginary worlds of many manga/anime series.
You play as a custom character that by fated chance joins the Jump Force, assembled to fight the anime villains invading real world locations, like Mexico or New York City, led by a trio of original villains who have a sinister plan to put in action…
As said, this isn’t complicated per se, but soon the story dives head first into convoluted subplots, some utterly insane in how convoluted they are, and its the kind of narrative that loves to overdose on cliches like characters becoming evil, changing sides forcefully or getting “evil clones”… and making you fight them at LEAST three more times, because you need to “re-re-re-save them”.
The biggest offender is the fact this one of those shitty anime scripts where it all makes some kind of sense only when the true villain lays down the hows and whys at the end, explaining made “necessary” by the many things that don’t make sense for most of the story, or when other character do huge asspulls and claim they predicted a thing happening… when they obviously didn’t, or are suddendly able to do shit that was never established anywhere before.
It’s a shitty ass script, but the ending-final explanation mostly makes sense, it’s shit writing regardless but there is an actual explanation…. alongside unexplained random last minute twists that just happen in total defiance of any logic or semblance of it.
And the hook for a sequel that will have good company in its inevitable media limbo.
Since the premise is what it is, i wish the story mode brought you in more real world places, after i while you just go “jesus, Frieza never goes anywhere but New York and Paris, the boring ass fuck?”
And yes, they added some arenas via patches, but it’s from the Jump series’ worlds, like Whole Cake Island, so my point still stands. Make me feel like i’m travelling the real world, since you invested the whole narrative on this gimmick, come on.
Even if you red just the big 3 ones (Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball), you could tell how absolutely – and ironically – brazen is Jump Force in accidentally spoiling characters attacks an design changes (hence the narrative changes these are connected to). These crossovers titles usually play it safe, as players are most likely already familiar with these series, but not necessarily invested.
Jump Force just assumes you already know potentially huge spoilers, and absolutely doesn’t give a flying fuck in this regard. Even for the standards of these “hives of potential spoilers” it’s brazen.
So overall the story it’s a complete mess most likely wrote with insanely tight deadlines, just gluying together all the anime cliches to give some kind of structure, but it did give us plenty of memorable “so bad it’s good” moments, like the exchanges between Goku and All Might, Light Yagami talking about the Dragon Balls with Goku like the Obama Sonic The Hedgehog memes, Dio Brando showing up twice out of nowhere to basically shrug off a possessed Jotaro, and then to inquire with Yugi Muto about his card deck…. then immediatly walk off after saying “I’m Dio Brando” (i guess to clarify things).
the encounter with the OC protagonist and Light Yagami it’s also an highlight, because we have your OC somehow able to see Ryuk without ever touching the Death Note, and Light Yagami, arguably the most paranoid shonen protagonist ever, just acknowledges it and moves on. XD
All elevated by the fact Ryuk has dialogue but NO voice acting, and his model looks notably worse than many others, including the horrendous one for Light, even him standing up still and resting his hand on his hip is a sight to behold, aas Light’s hand and hip do not make contact.
Even Light just moving his arms doesn’t look right, probably they cheapened out….. AGAIN, since he obviously isn’t playable character, was never intended to be, so no point making him a model that moves decently, i guess.
Despite Light being a fairly big presence (and having a not-so-minor role in the narrative) in story cutscenes.
One more: i find hilarious how they split into 3 teams in order to better mobilitize their forces, but Naruto’s team, the ninja team, doesn’t have Boruto. It’s not even that i hate Boruto as a character (i never cared to actually finish Naruto, let alone the sequel series about his son), but i just find it hilarious how not even Naruto chose to have his own son in his ninja team. XD
And before you ask, Boruto is with “team B”, a team otherwise made up completely of One Piece characters, “for reasons” which i do not known or really can’t fathom.
Jump Force story mode it’s also an academic example of a story stretched out by the “need” to make the game story last at least a certain amount of hours to satisfy the “content” expected requirements, so this entire storyline that could have been 4 hours long… but it’s 15 hours long.
There are plot points and subplots, but they’re incredibly hard to follow because the story basically works in loops of fighting characters to enlist or save them, and plot points feel almost disconnected by how they are arbitrarily dropped and reprised hours later, when the script feels like it.
It could have lasted the 4 hours One Piece: Burning Blood’s story mode required… but it’s kinda of a bad example, since the combat system was better there and i can kinda see why the story mode in that game wasn’t that overly long, since they decided to focus on the Marineford arc only. Which still feels like a convenient excuse for making less game.
This is more like J Stars Victory’s story mode, but at least there were smore rpg elements, a world map, and it was all spread among 3 campaigns, so it was way more easy to digest and take on the content load. Heck, even there you couldn’t accidentally spoiler yourself….
But no, in Jump Force you can also get accidental spoilers… for Jump Force.
Yep, they didn’t think you’d do a non-story or non-character based mission before finishing the story, so you could have done that and accidentally spoiler yourself the true villain, even more because it’s at the end of the character list, he isn’t even obscured, shadowed or hidden in any way.
The combat system is alright, it’s basically J Stars Victory but tweaked to be more akin to a Dragon Ball 3D fighter, with the emphasis on power chase or escapes, air-counter attacks or combo follow-ups, and the way you power-charge for the “ki” equivalent required by special moves.
You know what, combat system is fine for this type of anime fighter, you can have fun with it and there is some depth to the systems, Burning Blood was better, but for this scale and variety of characters, they had to make a more generalized one, and this is decent, i expected much worse to be honest, this isn’t original and could be better, but it isn’t bad or so generic to be worth of scorn.
Problem is, they clearly had to pad the hell out of this thing, didn’t even bother to add any variation to the fights, like, even the usual stuff fighters like these do, like “health halved at start” “poison” “specials disabled”… NOPE. All the way through, it’s always the same shit over and over again. And when you’re not fighting heroes or villains, you’re fighting fodders Venom (not THAT one) fighters, AKA the goons made with the same custom editor you have for your original character.
The mission aren’t that well balanced either, at least for the story fights, because sometimes a random group of Venoms will put up more of a fight and use the more advanced techniques of counter attacking and dodging mid-air… than the main Jump villains, sometimes not, but of course the final bosses are cheap arsehole, like Kane, with moves that are plain unfair, like the fire counterattack that basically ignores almost every other move and overrides it to deal damage.
The final boss, as you might expect, it’s one of those fighting game final bosses, cheap arses that spam one hit or two hit special moves with insane range and power…. but it’s also a cakewalk once you know of it’s easy exploit…. one that was never fixed in patches. As i fully expected.
And no, there’s no real destructibile enviroment, no enviromental interaction to speak of, no arena gimmicks… and don’t give me the “what do you expect, it takes place in the real world?” bullshit, since it’s a game where you have to search for Vinsmoke Sanji in Mexico or thwart Frieza near the San Francisco Bridge.
To say nothing of the Statue Of Liberty on Namek.
Then again, this is probably done in the name of balance and to make you focus on fighting instead of exploiting arena gimmicks, and it’s a nitpick… but at least they could have tried to make the story missions more varied. Well, technically you CAN make the adversary fly to another area, yes, but it’s hard and quite specific to pull off, you’ll simply never see it happen in Story mode.
That said, the character editor’s quite decent, i’d say, letting you also equip passive abilities, modify elemental attributes of the technique, upgrade the passive abilities, and there are a lot of moves to purchase and use for your custom characters, so i can’t fault the game on that front.
Also, both your custom OC and the other characters level up by playing, which increases the stats, but thankfully the game adjust the other characters levels as you level up the others, so you won’t need to grind from level 1 a character you didn’t use yet, which is good streamlining. And thankfully you can disactivate the level stuff when fighting, for obvious better balance.
Even if some characters are clearly “broken” or more powerful than others, not necessarily talking abou the original boss characters introduced here (Galena, Kane, Prometheus), you can tell fairly easily after a while that some are simply stronger than others, but in regards to the actual roster of characters chosen… it’s good enough, even without the DLC ones you have a fairly good sampling of characters from lots of series both old and new, though a far less niche selection of fighters.
Aside from fighting, you can interact from the main hub of the Jump Force headquarters, with various team/squads having their own little area in it, alongside random NPCs and various shops, and it obviously doubles as an online lobby, with some stores and facilities requiring you to be online to access them… including the store where to buy Jump Coins, the shitty premium currency that i guess it’s necessary to buy some specific stuff, like the various little mounts for your characters i saw some people riding in the lobby/hub, like the Mini-Merry or the Yu-Gi-Oh’ bikes.
I’m guessing because i didn’t bother to go online (yes, at the very least it’s not a live-service thing) until i beat the story, i was curious but relented, not just because going online makes the framerate dip even in the lobby/hub, but because the game crashed on me, and i had enough after beating it. Can’t imagine how stable was actually having a match against another person online.
Speaking of the microtransaction currency, here called Jump Coins, i eventually figured out you could also earn them by playing online, partecipating in events, as clan and rank rewards, but the game doesn’t really pushes the microtransactions existence in your face, or does the usual “first dose is free, kid” operation to get you hooked. i’d say the microtransactions here were fairly “benign” ….. as in they don’t slow down the rate at which you acquire gold and unlock stuff or interfere with story progression.
Still predatory garbage.
Given the artistical direction disaster that this title embodies, it’s no surprise to see that’s also a very cheap looking and not technically up to par, with most of the effort spent on the “realistic style”.
It’s amazing how the game, even after patches, still manages to have some absurd framerate slowdown… during the very poor cutscenes using the in-game engine. I couldn’t believe it, since the gameplay doesn’t have this issues (at least not to this laughable huge degree)… but this is Jump Force, of course the cutscenes can start chugging like a horse for NO REASON in random points.
And happen multiple times. Heck, in Jump Force even the many loading screen have framerate issues (even after the patch put out exactly to reduce loading times), so it’s no wonder the gameplay itself has hiccups too, can’t imagine it on Switch. In short, it sports bad optimization and middling performance, sometimes it will just randomly crash too.
So overall, i’m not exactly that sad of the future funeral Jump Force will soon receive, as it’s pretty bad, but at the same time you will still be able to pick used physical copies and experience this trainwreck for yourself if morbid curiosity will strike you, without online and with half of the DLC roster legally unavailable to buy, but still, it won’t be lost as the many “live-services” will.
It’s a shame because this really should have been a way better game, but clearly was rushed and underbudgeted, and so it just became a “so bad it’s good to gawk at” kind of videogame, a circus freak cousin of the anime fighter circle, with a surprisingly ok – if already done – familiar arena anime fighter gameplay, and a hilarious, so bad it’s good combo of story, characters, dialogues and presentation based around a stupid “anime characters join your real world” gimmick.
A game where clearly most of the money went into licensing the series appearing in it more than the game itself, and that was kept alive/ supported by paid DLC characters more in order to try and squeeze even more money from Jump fans via the squallid microtransactions, until the cost of the licenses clearly wasn’t enough for Namco Bandai to bother keep selling the darn thing.
So if you’re up for some enjoyable dumpster fire camping (you know if you want to), i’d say snag the thing and its DLCs that are on sale just before being delisted.
Otherwise, we’ll still have this legend in our hearts and in form of cutscenes uploaded on Youtube, which it is – admittely – the best way to enjoy Jump Force.