In a surprise announcement late last year, Bandai Namco announced their plans to bring an updated version of J-Stars Victory VS westward. Typically, these games are left to the realm of importers due to the complicated rights situation involved with licensing the huge cast of popular characters in the game. However, Bandai Namco have seemingly decided to double down on their anime licenses and are bringing the game over for PS4, PS3, and Vita with cross-save between versions.
Overall, the game reminded me most of the Dissidia: Final Fantasy series in that you’re placed in this large free roam arena where you can quickly get around, send enemies flying and perform some cool stylish moves while you’re at it. It really captures the feeling of a Shounen Jump manga. The game is team based, you pick one or two characters for your main team followed by a support character. There’s a huge cast of characters available to unlock, but some are limited to support roles only—usually characters that don’t have a lot of battle experience such as Chitoge from Nisekoi. The two main characters will be the ones in battle while the support character is summoned, performing an additional move at the press of the a button.
Winning a match isn’t as simple as emptying your opponent’s HP bar, though. Like 2D fighters, you win by the amount of KOs you’ve earned, so in a two-on-two match, you need three KOs to win. Unfortunately, the game didn’t do a great job of explaining itself, and I felt like I learnt more from the game’s loading screens filled with tips and character specific help than the opening tutorials. However, it is the sort of game that you learn from just trying things out with the little information you have and see what works.
J-Stars has a variety of modes to choose from. J Adventure is the story mode of the game, you choose a path to play focusing on Jump’s biggest names such as One Piece or Bleach, and each path has a different selection of characters to play with. You can level up characters, unlock new characters, take on quests or map encounters to earn new items and upgrades. Next is a victory mode, which is essentially an challenge mode. You take on battles and try to win under set conditions. There’s also an arcade mode that consists of six matches and a free battle mode, where you can set all the fight conditions yourself.
The battles are fun, but as you perform your attacks they don’t feel like they flow together particularly well. Individual sections of an attack flow, such as combining your weak attacks and strong attacks together to pull off certain moves but when you try to pull off these moves as part of a larger offensive plan, it feels more broken up into sections instead of one long string of attacks. During your approach where you’re dashing towards your opponent and launch into an attack, you can’t immediately follow up or give chase. It doesn’t ruin the game by any means, but it does makes the whole thing feel a lot slower than it actually is.
While the battle system isn’t perfect, I enjoyed what I played of J-Stars. In the J Adventure mode, it’s fun to see all these different characters from a variety of eras interacting in one game. Each character has their own set of abilities and combos to use. I feel like out of the selection of characters I got to play with, they were well represented in the game. Each artist’s style has been faithfully recreated and look impressive in 3D. If you’re looking for a deep fighter, this probably won’t do it for you. That said, if you’re familiar with some Jump characters and want to see them in action then you’ll probably enjoy the game, too.