As I started playing J-Stars Victory Vs. as Monkey D. Luffy (on a team with Son Goku), I was immediately reminded of Anarchy Reigns. It’s an arena brawler set in an abandoned city, light and strong attacks are mapped to square and triangle, and with the first couple of hits I landed on the CPU-controlled Ichigo Kurosaki, I thought it might just work the same way.
I locked on by tapping L1, held R2 to dash towards Ichigo, and laid into him with a stretchy dashing punch. I followed it up with a couple of light strikes, and used a heavy attack to knock him into the air. My Anarchy Reigns instincts kicked in, and I jumped up to start an air combo, only to have my attack completely miss Ichigo’s airborne body.
“Okay,” I thought to myself, “I probably can’t pick him up off the ground with an attack, but let me try to ready a special attack for when he does stand up.” So I press forward and circle, Luffy reaches his arms back for a Gomu Gomu no Bazooka, and Ichigo stands up just as Luffy launches his hands forward: I expect a direct hit.
However, J-Stars Victory Vs. is very generous with invulnerability after you’ve been knocked down. So much so that Ichigo had enough time to stand up, completely ignore my attack that sent two arms through his face, and ready a special attack that covered the screen in purple slashes and sent me flying through the building behind me before he’d even stopped blinking.
At first I thought that this was a fluke, but every time I’d knocked someone down, they had an extended period of invincibility, so instead of trying to stay on the aggressive, it was smarter to stay back and wait for the several seconds it takes for them to lose their invincibility. If the game used a traditional health bar system, I would be more empathetic to that. They probably don’t want some players completely dominating others in a game that targets such a broad audience in Japan.
However, as we’ve discussed before, victory doesn’t come from knocking out your opponent, but rather filling the win gauge by beating them up… which already takes a long time. Being knocked out leads to a brief wait on the ground and more invincibility time, so the amount of invulnerability upon getting off the ground normally seemed excessive, and discouraged more aggressive play.
It’s weird, because things like the partner mechanic (where you can press L2 to call in a third, support character to jump in and keep attacking your opponent to extend a combo) would seem to reward aggression.
Aside from just filling the win gauge, the more you beat up your enemies, the more the gauge in the middle of the screen filled. When it was at maximum, the game prompts you to hit R3 to throw your team into a super attack mode. In that mode, you can hit R3 again to use an area-clearing special attack. Luffy turned his hands giant and black and laid waste the surrounding area from above (in a cutscene, not in gameplay proper) and Goku (naturally) tossed a Spirit Bomb, shortly afterwards turning Super Saiyan (in a different cutscene). It seemed as though you could use these attacks as much as you wanted before your gauge drained, and using them ultimately won me the match.
Food for thought:
There were only six playable characters in the TGS demo: Luffy (from One Piece), Goku (from Dragon Ball), Naruto from his series, Ichigo (from Bleach), Toriko from his own sow, and Gin (from Gin Tama). I did see Himura Kenshin, Gon (from Hunter X Hunter), Yusuke Urameshi (from Yu Yu Hakusho), and Kankichi Ryotsu (from Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen Mae Hashutsujo) in the advertising at the booth though.